Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Looking beyond high growth in Bangladesh

Workers weld iron sheets as they build a new ferry at a dockyard in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 7 February 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain).

Author: Fahmida Khatun, Centre for Policy Dialogue

In 2018 Bangladesh began its graduation process from least developed country to developing country status. Bangladesh has now met the criteria for graduation set by the United Nations Committee for Development Policy in terms of gross national income per capita, human assets index and economic vulnerability index. Politically, the country held its 11th national elections on 30 December 2018. Read more…

Laos’ rapid economic growth path has so far avoided macroeconomic cliffs

Laos’ Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith speaks at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN at the Convention Center in Hanoi, Vietnam, 12 September 2018 (Reuters/Kham).

Author: Buavanh Vilavong, Vientiane

Laos is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. On average the country’s economy has grown by 7.5 per cent per year and trade by 17 per cent per year since 2000, reflecting the importance of trade as a key driver of its growth. While Laos is on its way to graduating from ‘least developed country’ (LDC) status, the nation still needs to overcome ongoing macroeconomic and structural challenges. Read more…

The Mekong region is caught in a tug-of-war

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Prime Ministers Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, Li Keqiang of China, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Myanmar's Vice President Sai Mauk Kham (L-R) hold hands as they pose for pictures during Lancang-Mekong cooperation leaders' meeting in Sanya, Hainan province, China, 23 March 2016 (Photo: Reuters/China Daily).

Author: Nguyen Khac Giang, VEPR

For the Mekong countries, including Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, 2018 was a big year both domestically and regionally. Key developments from last year will inevitably continue to shape the politics of the region in 2019. In terms of domestic affairs, the most worrying trend is the consolidation of autocratic power in almost all countries. Read more…

Ardern’s Labour-led government delivers on policy promises in New Zealand

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks to representatives of South Pacific island nations during the APEC Summit, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 17 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Stephen Levine, Victoria University

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has continued with her ‘relentlessly positive’ approach in both rhetoric and policy, demonstrating poise and grace while dealing effectively with an opposition National Party. Opposition leader Simon Bridges is a distant second (in single digits) in ‘preferred prime minister’ polls, with his continued leadership in jeopardy. Read more…

Duterte’s ailing presidency

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a ceremony marking the return of the three Balangiga bells taken by the US military as war booty 117 years ago, Balangiga, Eastern Samar, Philippines, 15 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro).

Author: Mark R Thompson, City University of Hong Kong

It would be premature to claim that Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency in the Philippines is in trouble. Despite a temporary drop in his approval ratings last year, three-fourths of Philippine citizens still approve of his performance in office, with his violent drug crackdown considered his ‘top achievement’.

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Mongolia hamstrung by political paralysis and corruption

Protesters attend a demonstration to demand the resignation of Mongolia's parliamentary speaker Enkhbold Miyegombo at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 27 December 2018. The sign reads, "We demand Enkhbold to resign!" (Reuters/B. Rentsendorj).

Author: Julian Dierkes, UBC

After the excitement of the 2016 parliamentary and 2017 presidential elections, and the 2017 International Monetary Fund-brokered bailout, Mongolia’s relatively quiet 2018 was welcome respite. Rather than continuing to follow the meandering path of political advancement of previous decades, Mongolia is getting bogged down in an unhealthy mix of popular frustration, corruption and a powerful party duopoly. Read more…

New Zealand policymakers need runs on the board

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, 27 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Caitlin Ochs).

Author: Gary Hawke, Victoria University of Wellington

The soft diplomacy of New Zealand’s new government — exemplified by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who smiled and exuded friendship and compassion throughout 2018, her first full year in power — has so far not been used to implement strategic changes. The year was one of preparations rather than initiatives. Read more…

Thailand’s elections in 2019 will test Prayuth’s political strategy

People protest against Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun).

 Author: James Ockey, University of Canterbury

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) continues to extend its term as Thailand’s longest coup regime since the 1960s. Whether junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha will succeed in perpetuating his power will be determined through elections expected in March 2019. Accordingly, Prayuth has sought a balance between power and popular support. The General spent much of 2018 campaigning for the promised election, even as political parties faced a ban on political activities. Read more…

Sri Lanka’s political problems imperil a fragile economy

A dock worker is seen on top of shipping containers in a ship at the main port in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 21 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Dushni Weerakoon, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka plunged into a political crisis in October 2018 when President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly and unexpectedly sacked the sitting prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his former partner in the National Unity Government formed in January 2015. It could not have come at a worse time for the Sri Lankan economy.

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Nepal shifts rightwards after the revolution

Protesters take part in a rally organised by the Sister organisations of Nepali Congress Party, the main opposition party to the government, in support of a doctor who is staging a hunger strike to press for better medical education in the country and government decision to ban public protest in some areas in Kathmandu, Nepal, 21 July 2018 (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Author: Rumela Sen, Columbia University

Ten years ago Nepal became a federal democratic republic when the Maoists gave up armed struggle and signed a comprehensive peace agreement. The subsequent overthrow of the monarch was hailed worldwide as an exemplary case of successful democratic transition. Read more…

Buoying Malaysia’s debt-heavy economy

A supporter of Malaysia's opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), waves the party flag a day after general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 10 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, Malaysia Institute of Economic Research

The victory of Pakatan Harapan in Malaysia’s May 2018 general election led to the shock discontinuation of 61 years of Barisan Nasional rule. It set the country on course for an exciting year. Read more…

India grows despite inter-government woes

Shaktikanta Das, the new Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor, gestures as he attends a news conference in Mumbai, India, 12 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui).

Author: Raghbendra Jha, ANU

All indications are that the Indian economy is poised to do well in 2019. Outgoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld praised India in late 2018 for four years of robust economic growth. Read more…

The untapped wealth of Cambodia’s third sector

A Buddhist monk holds a riel banknote with the image of Buddha at a store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 22 August 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Heidi Dahles, Griffith University

Economic growth in Cambodia remained robust in 2018 at a projected rate of 6.9 per cent, compared with 6.8 per cent in 2017. But it is unlikely that Cambodia’s model of export-driven economic growth will bolster Cambodia’s economic prosperity in the future.

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Moon’s popularity wanes as South Korea’s economy stalls

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers his speech on the government's 2019 budget proposal during a plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, 1 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool).

Author: Kim Kee-seok, Kangwon National University

South Korean politics is spinning once again as President Moon Jae-in’s approval ratings continue to decline sharply. An offspring of the candlelight revolution, the Moon government has enjoyed exceptionally high popularity for a relatively long time based on three pillars — a strong sense of political legitimacy, domestic reform of ‘past accumulated evils’ and diplomatic missions aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Read more…

Election anxieties in India stoke religious tension

A supporter of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shouts slogans as he is stopped by police during a protest against what they call 'disinformation' by India's main opposition Congress party on a deal to buy Rafale fighter planes from a French company, in Chandigarh, India, 19 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Ajay Verma).

Author: Arun R Swamy, University of Guam

India’s two main parties can arguably be described as ‘a fascist party posing as a conservative one and a royalist party posing as a liberal one’. True to form, as Indian elections scheduled for early in 2019 approach, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is falling back on religious and ethnic polarisation while the once-dominant Indian National Congress (INC) clings ever more fervently to political dynasties. Meanwhile, various regional, caste and ethnic parties negotiate alliances on largely tactical grounds. Read more…