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

Nepal walks a social and political tightrope

Uttara Saud, 14, sits inside a Chaupadi shed in the hills of Legudsen village in Achham District in western Nepal, 16 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar/File Photo).

Authors: Rumela Sen, Columbia University and Richard Bownas, University of Northern Colorado

The more things change, the more they stay the same — this rings true for politics and society in Nepal. Former Maoist rebels, along with the moderate Communist Party of Nepal, are now part of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. It was fair to expect that the rebels-turned-rulers would implement some of their radical programs. But little headway has been made on political and social issues. Read more…

Bhutan: Chasing development in the Dragon Kingdom

The Buddha Dordenma statue overlooks the town of Thimphu, Bhutan, 16 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton).

Author: Susan Banki, Sydney University

Two photographs encapsulate the complexity of Bhutan’s 11-year-old democracy. In the first, the King of Bhutan accepts an award from the United Nations Development Programme for advancing human development and the wellbeing of the people of Bhutan. In the second photograph, a few lone yaks graze at the base of a massive mountain under the caption ‘Yak Herding on the Decline’, symbolising the decline of rural livelihoods, the degradation of the natural environment and advance of rural–urban migration.

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ASEAN’s RCEP and sustainability challenges and achievements

Author: Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, RSIS

As the end of 2019 drew near, Thailand hosted two ASEAN summits under the theme ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’. Looking at how the meetings unfolded, one may ask: what were ASEAN’s major economic achievements in 2019? And what key challenges remain for 2020? Read more…

Pakistan’s hybrid ‘civilian–military’ government weakens democracy

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan, 29 January 2019 (Photo: REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir).

Author: Ayesha Siddiqa, SOAS

Pakistan enters 2020 slouched under the burden of a weak democracy with a strong military, a tense neighbourhood and a geopolitical environment under pressure from US–China great power rivalry. With political instability and a plummeting economy weakening, the civilian government’s dependence on the military has grown. Pakistan also faces deteriorating relations with India and amid growing concerns regarding US hostilities with neighbouring Iran blowing into its territory

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Difficult times for China’s political elite  

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China, 5 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song).

Author: Ryan Manuel, Official China Ltd.

In Zhongnanhai, the Beijing compound where China’s Communist Party leaders reside and conduct business, 2019 was a bad year. The trade war with the United States dragged on  — an accountability issue for President Xi Jinping who’s responsible above all for foreign policy. Despite common perceptions that he’s an autocrat with a totalitarian’s attitude to power and a bureaucrat’s attention to detail, Xi couldn’t easily get his cabinet to sign off on the US–China trade deal. The proposed text fell apart amid bitter debate about whether it was sufficiently nationalist.

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The challenge for Jokowi 2.0: How to revitalise the economy

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gestures as Governor of East Kalimantan Isran Noor stands during their visit to an area, planned to be the location of Indonesia's new capital, at Sepaku district in North Penajam Paser regency, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia, 17 December 2019 (Photo: Antara Foto/Akbar Nugroho Gumay/Reuters).

Author: Hal Hill, ANU

Viewed in the long sweep of history, Indonesia’s first two decades of democracy have been quite remarkable.

In the late 1990s, the economy was in the midst of the one of the deepest economic crises in recent global history. The 32-year authoritarian rule of former president Suharto ended ingloriously, with no political roadmap for succession. There were various ‘Yugoslav’ scenarios of territorial disintegration. Read more…

Taiwan’s growth up despite trade war hit

Nan Shan Plaza and Taiwan's landmark building Taipei 101 are seen during sunset in Taipei, Taiwan, 27 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Min-Hua Chiang, NUS

Taiwan’s growth figures surged unexpectedly in the second half of 2019 from 1.84 per cent in the year’s first quarter to 2.99 per cent in the third. The official estimate for the full year’s economic growth is 2.64 per cent, higher than Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. Like most Asian countries, Taiwan’s exports have suffered from the US–China trade war. But overall the economy has held up relatively well thanks to Taiwanese firms’ substantial investment at home. Read more…

Preserving the political status quo in Mongolia

Author: Julian Dierkes, UBC

Mongolia’s economy hummed through 2019 on the strength of brown coal exports, regaining some footing following the near-disaster state of government finances in 2017. Repayment of several sovereign bonds looms in coming years and coal and copper prices will have a major impact on Mongolia’s finances, as will the ability of political parties to resist the temptation to buy victory in the 2020 parliamentary election with populist presents. Read more…

Finding economic growth in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook wave national flags during a ceremony to mark the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 rule, Choenan, South Korea, 15 August 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Jung Yeon-je).

Author: Hwa Ryung Lee, Korea Development Institute

South Korea experienced low GDP growth in 2019, recording only 1.7 per cent in the second quarter and 2 per cent in the third quarter. The low growth rate does not necessarily indicate that the economy is heading in the wrong direction, but designing and implementing effective economic policy in a period of low growth is certainly more difficult.

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An eventful year in Papua New Guinea

Residents hold a Bougainville flag at a polling station during a non-binding independence referendum in Arawa, on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, 26 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Melvin Levongo).

Author: Ronald May, ANU

It was an eventful year in Papua New Guinea in 2019. What happened was not so much a change of government but a convoluted change of leadership from Peter O’Neil to James Marape. In early statements, the new Prime Minister spoke of a ‘change of direction’ and a commitment to ‘take back the economy’, which he said was ‘bleeding and struggling’. He also spoke of a wish ‘to diversify Papua New Guinea’s [foreign] relationships’. Marape described his government as ‘pro-investment and pro-business’ but looking to shift focus from mining and petroleum to agriculture.

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The price of accountability in Hong Kong

A man walks between stalls in an alley in the Central business district in Hong Kong, 22 August, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Dominic Meagher, Australasia Strategy Group

It was a year like no other for Hong Kong in 2019. At its core, Hong Kong has been riven by a dispute over government accountability: should Hong Kong’s government be accountable to the people it governs, or only to the central authorities in Beijing? Failing to resolve this question has exacted a high price. Continued failure will only see that price grow. Read more…

A resilient year in Vietnam’s economy

A woman wearing a traditional non la hat sells food for breakfast in Hoi An, Vietnam, 5 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Suiwah Leung, ANU

Once again, the Vietnamese economy has shown itself to be resilient in the face of a falling manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index and dwindling business confidence globally. According to the World Bank, Vietnam in 2019 is likely to be among the top three fastest growing economies in East Asia.

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China’s economy needs reform, reform, reform!

People walk in Beijing's central business area, China 13 December 2019 (Photo:Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Jiao Wang, University of Melbourne

As we enter the 2020s, the Chinese economy is facing an extraordinary moment.

In March, the Government Work Report for 2019 announced the Chinese government’s tasks for the year: continuing state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform, reducing restrictions on foreign investment and promoting financing and market access equality for public and private sectors. Read more…

Sri Lanka marching towards authoritarian security politics

Sri Lanka's former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed as the new Prime Minister, looks on during the swearing in ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 21 Novermber 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits, Erasmus University Rotterdam

It was an eventful year in Sri Lankan politics in 2019. If not a year of crisis, perhaps the term chaos sums it up most accurately.

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Hope amid political, geopolitical and investment challenges in Nepal

A tree line is pictured between the densely built houses and buildings of Kathmandu Nepal 14 November, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Chitrakar).

Author: Sujeev Shakya, Beed Management

When Nepal’s Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, finally made it to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, it seemed that the communist government was considering opening Nepal for foreign investment. The Nepal Investment Summit was held in March 2019 and a buzz arose in the international media as many foreign investors thought Nepal was now ready for investment.

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