In the world of global development, it’s a race between nations. Some cross the finish line with ease and grace, like Olympic sprinters, while others struggle to keep pace. But what separates the developed nations from the developing ones? Is it just resources, or are there other factors at play? In this exploration of Southeast Asian development, we delve into the complex dynamics that shape a country’s journey toward progress and ask the question: what does it truly mean to be a “developed” nation?
Southeast Asia, home to more than 650 million people and some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, has the potential to become a major player on the global stage. However, for many countries in Southeast Asia, the journey from developing to developed status is still ongoing.
One of the key factors in this transition is the rapid growth of the region’s economies. In recent years, countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have seen GDP growth rates of over 5% per year, while the Philippines has grown at a rate of around 6%. (We’re not counting 2022 — it was a down year for everyone…) This growth has been driven by a combination of factors, including rising exports, growing domestic consumption, and foreign investment.
The journey towards becoming a developed nation is not without its obstacles, and for Southeast Asian countries, a major challenge lies in improving infrastructure. Despite advancements in technology and industry, basic necessities such as dependable electricity and efficient transportation systems are still lacking in many parts of the region, hampering economic growth and limiting the ability of local businesses to compete on a global scale. Addressing these infrastructure gaps will be crucial in realizing the full potential of Southeast Asian countries as developed nations.
One example of this is Vietnam. Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, the country still lacks basic infrastructure such as reliable electricity and adequate transportation networks. This can limit economic growth, especially where logistics are concerned. For example, Vietnam’s power infrastructure is unable to meet the increasing demand for electricity, which has led to frequent power shortages and blackouts. Additionally, the country’s transportation infrastructure is inadequate and congested, which makes it difficult for goods to be transported efficiently and can increase the cost of doing business.
To overcome these challenges, Vietnam has been investing heavily in infrastructure development. The government has implemented policies such as the National Power Development Plan and the Transport Development Strategy, which aim to improve the country’s power and transportation infrastructure. However, there is still much work to be done to fully realize the country’s potential as a developed nation.
Another major challenge is education. While many Southeast Asian countries have made significant progress in increasing access to education, the quality of education remains a concern.
One example of this is the case of the Philippines. The country has made significant progress in increasing access to education by implementing policies such as the Universal Kindergarten Act and the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. However, despite this progress, the quality of education remains a concern. A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that Filipino students scored significantly lower than their peers in other Southeast Asian countries in reading, mathematics, and science. This highlights the need for the Philippines to invest in improving the quality of education in order for its workforce to be competitive in the global economy and for its citizens to have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century.
A third challenge is building a strong and innovative private sector. Many Southeast Asian countries still have large state-controlled economies, which can limit the ability of the private sector to drive economic growth.
Indonesia is the perfect example. Despite being the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the country still has a large state-controlled economy and a relatively small private sector. This has limited the economic growth potential of the country. Recognizing this, the government has been implementing policies to promote private sector development, such as the Omnibus Law on Job Creation, which aims to ease investment and business regulations.
However, there are still challenges to be addressed— such as corruption, red tape, and lack of access to credit and infrastructure — that limit the ability of the private sector to innovate and grow. It is essential that the government continues to implement policies that give the private sector the freedom and resources it needs, and address the challenges that the private sector is facing.
As the global landscape shifts and competition for economic dominance intensifies, the question of what it means to be a developed country is taking center stage. While some may argue that China’s approach is sufficient, the truth is that striving for developed status brings with it a host of benefits that cannot be ignored. Being a developed country opens doors to vast improvements, from quality education to healthcare access, not to mention technological advancements, more jobs, business growth, fortification of the economy, and a steady increase in tax revenue. In short, the pursuit of developed status is not just a matter of prestige, but a means of ensuring a brighter, more prosperous future for all.
All opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of KrASIA. Questions, concerns, or fun facts can be sent to [email protected].