Comparative Development - South Asia, East and South East Asia

By Huda, S. M. | Economic Review, June 1994 | Go to article overview
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Comparative Development - South Asia, East and South East Asia


Huda, S. M., Economic Review


Before any analysis is attempted in regard to development in East Asia, South East Asia and South Asia, it would be appropriate to mention some of the special features of the countries in the region. The countries in East Asia are small in size and have a total population of 91 million, the largest being South Korea with a population of 42.79 million. All of them had a high rate of education and an industrial structure inherited from the past because of policies of the former colonial power. In addition, they have the Chinese culture of hard work and labour discipline.

South East Asia has a total population of 387.79 million with the largest concentration of population in Indonesia. Historically, the countries in the region have been governed by different colonial powers in the past inheriting their economic system as suppliers of raw materials to the metropolitan power with less attention paid to social and industrial sector. The only exception is Thailand which has not been under any colonial power. Further these countries differ in culture and religion among themselves. Another feature of these countries is the existence of a strong minority of Chinese with their culture of hard work and labour discipline.

South Asia is different to East Asia and South East Asia. It has a population of more than 1 billion except for Nepal and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are far bigger in size and population than the countries of East Asia. The same situation holds in comparison to countries of South East Asia except Indonesia. India alone has a population of 828 million followed by Pakistan 112 million and Bangladesh 111 million. They have a population with varied religion and culture. The large size in area and population has demanded greater development of resources to meet the domestic as well as external requirements. However, there is one common element in all these countries except Nepal that it has been under the British rule. While they inherited the British colonial system of administration, social and economic sectors were neglected resulting in low percentage of literacy and other social indicators. Even the industrial structure was far incommensurate with the size and population of those countries. They mainly served as suppliers of raw materials and consumers of manufactured products from the metropolitan power.

East Asia

The remarkable success of the East Asian countries is attributed to a number of factors like political stability, high literacy rate and the adoption of an outward looking development strategy along with flexibility in adopting to external and internal change.

The political stability in these countries was achieved during the long period of authoritarian regimes. It ensured economic policies with objectives of long term growth. Further by not allowing trade union activities production was not disturbed in the initial stages of development. It had a salutary effect on investment as it encouraged high level of foreign investment in those countries. They had of course, the support of the western powers particularly of USA.

Besides political stability, these countries had extensive primary and vocational education during the pre war period. By 1940s attendance was more than half of primary school age children in public schools. In fact, these countries had, in the post war era higher literacy levels than any other developing countries in Asia with the exception of Philippines.

As mentioned earlier flexible economic policies have helped in their economic development. These policies included high rate of savings, stable exchange rate, reduced deficit on revenue account and controlled income policies. It is important to point out that in the miraculous success of the economy of South Korea conglomerates have played a very vital part in contributing towards the economic growth of various sectors of the Korean economy. No doubt, five year plans were drawn up by the government but big corporations took the challenge and far exceeded the targets laid down under the various plans.

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