The Development Challenges of Post-Socialist Southeast Asia: The Politics, Economics and Geography
Time & LocationSession 8
Thu 15:30–17:00 Room 1.201
- Andrzej Bolesta United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
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- Barriers to Agricultural Development in Vietnam: Who Farms in the Future? Nguyen Thi Dien Vietnam National University of Agriculture
Without a thorough understanding of the opportunities and barriers faced by youth and women to effectively participate in and benefit from agricultural value chains, it is challenging for development agencies to design and implement a meaningful approach in its programme of rural development. This paper based on a survey in Vinh Phuc province with 208 persons by sex and age and the interview with 28 key informants as well as 8 focus group discussions to distinguish the gender and generation dynamics in vegetable value chains in Vietnam. The results show that the already low levels of agricultural activity in rural areas are likely to drop further, imperilling any hope for rural development in the future is the main drive of young people living in rural areas to migrate to cities. However, although finding the non-farm jobs outside villages, the increasingly married youths in Vinh Phuc engage more in agricultural production and the female labours contribute a larger extent of time to the vegetable value chain than their male counterparts. The paper argues that youth is not homogenous and the contribution of youth and woman on agriculture, especially in the smallholder agriculture is underestimated by the common perception. The development in Vietnam creates the dynamics and flexibilities of labour across the sectors with the largely meaning self-employment and multi-jobs in which both male and female youth are not choosing to take up agriculture either as a career or as a key component of a livelihood strategy. The non-interest of the youth in agriculture is exacerbating the youth unemployment crisis in countryside. Although young people do not find enough incentives, profitable economic opportunities and attractive environments in rural areas, agriculture is still valued as an essential and respectful profession in livelihood. The process of differentiating gender and generation contributions to agriculture production is also a process of self-realizing the importance of agriculture of rural labours.
- Development Challenges in the Post-Socialist Laos Supitcha Punya Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Lao People’s Democratic Republic or Laos is land-locked, least developed, highly aid-dependent and remains a socialist country, which the state power is dominated by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (the LPRP or the Party – in short), in Southeast Asia. Prior to 1986, the failure of the Soviet Union, as a major aid provider, and central-planned economy adopted by the Party had caused an economic downturn in the country. As a consequence, the Party had no choice left but unprecedented integrated itself with the global economy under the New Economic Mechanism policy in 1986. After that, capitalism and international development assistance from the international community (e.g., international organizations and financial institutions) have been influential in Lao development to improve economic growth and people’s livelihood. Currently, for example, the Party has promoted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs – in short) and graduation from the Least Developed Country by 2024 throughout the country. There is no doubt that the Lao government so far attempts to accelerate economic growth, improve human and institutional capacities, and bring sustainability to the country through a countless number of development projects in hydropower dams, education, transportation routes resulted from the regional and sub-regional economic integration, and foreign direct investment. However, it could be argued that it seems out-of-reach for the Party to achieve the development goals as long as worrying issues from development (e.g., environmental degradation, human capacity, drug trafficking, human right, and corruption issues) remains challenging. This paper thus seeks to analyze development challenges of Lao development in various notions from Lao development protagonists, such as Lao policy-makers, and representatives from the international community and the civil society.
This paper will start with brief information on Lao development since the New Economic Mechanism policy in 1986, in which how the open economy has changed Lao development policies and strategy. Then, this paper will present a debate on Lao development challenges based on interview information acquired from my field research in Laos and documentary research. According to this information, there are four development challenges in socio-economic, environmental, and political aspects which should take into consideration. These challenges include: 1) hydropower dams and environmental degradation; 2) human right issues; 3) institutional and human capacities for economic integration; and 4) good governance.
Lastly, this paper aims to make a further discussion for the policy recommendation in multidisciplinary approaches that will hopefully contribute to long-term sustainability to the country.
- Not Only Rakhine: The Developmental Challenges of Post-Socialist Myanmar Michal Lubina Jagiellonian University in Krakow
The Rakhine crisis has internationally dominated the spotlights on Myanmar. It is, too, widely considered – among other ethnic conflicts (Tatmadaw’s clashes with the Northern Alliance) and together with the alleged political instability – as the major challenges on the way to develop the country. Notwithstanding the gravity of the Rakhine conflict, as well as other challenges, such as re-emerging sectarian conflicts, environmental issues and other social problems, this paper claims that the biggest obstacles to Myanmar’s development lie in the complexities of deep-rooted Burmese political culture, especially in the protectionist nature of Burmese civil servants.
The members of “the heaven-born” (to quote Maung Maung Gyi) Burmese civil administration have a deep-seated anxiety towards non-controlled business activity. This is an old phenomenon that goes back to the precolonial economic activity of the Burmese monarchy, colonial socio-political structure of the state and the postcolonial failure of nation-building and economic development, but nowadays it manifests itself in protectionism, regulatory measures, inertia, lack of clarity, red tape, economic nationalism and in other aspects. Consequently, such economic spheres as healthcare, retail banking and shipping remain heavily protected by the state, there is no liberalization of transportation and retail/wholesale sectors; and there is a lack of clarity in the mining, oil and gas sectors. Add other problems, such concerns about labour contracts and judicial independence, as well the key obstacles in doing business in the country indicated by the World Bank (problems with the access to land, utilities, finance and poor human capital) to see the grim picture. When taking this all into consideration, it is unsurprising that these – not the Rakhine crisis – are the main reasons why investors either pull out of the country or refrain from investing there, instead preferring other Southeast Asian countries.
Michal Lubina is Assistant Professor at Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His research interests are in the fields of Burma/Myanmar and Russia-China relations. His publications include 6 books, e.g. his recently published monography The Moral Democracy. The Political Thought of Aung San Suu Kyi (2018) as well as the first history of Burma/Myanmar in Poland and the only biography of Aung San Suu Kyi in Polish. Currently he is preparing the English version of his political biography of Aung San Suu Kyi.
- Structural Transformation to Reduce Poverty in Least Developed Countries: The Cases of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar Andrzej Bolesta United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar, jointly referred to as CLM, belong to the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The development challenges of LDCs are well known and concern the high incidence of poverty. Indeed, while many countries within the group have made considerable development gains in recent decades, in some, extreme poverty remains an issue. In part, this is because as far as structural transformation is concerned, transition to services has bypassed the relatively higher-productive, employment-generating dynamism of the manufacturing sector. Consequently, rural poverty has been replaced by urban poverty. Also, little progress has taken place in within-sector upgrading in the agriculture sector, failing to facilitate value added activities in rural areas. Using the findings of the Asia-Pacific Countries with Special Needs Development Report 2019, this presentation discusses the linkages between structural transformation and poverty reduction and puts forward relevant policy considerations to align structural transformation and poverty reduction. Policy recommendations for CLM include: (a) building productive capacities to allow for effective structural transformation to increase productivity; (b) strategizing FDI to targeted sectors relevant for the overall development trajectory through special economic zones; (c) improving the quality of human capital and enabling policies to create decent employment; (e) enhancing the process of rural modernisation.
Scholarly literature often considers Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam as post-socialist countries of Southeast Asia that have been undergoing a systemic transformation. Indeed, CLMV, as the countries are often referred to, have a number of institutional features in common. They have also been the fastest growing economies in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in recent decades. However, despite their development achievements they remain among the poorest countries in the region. What are then their specific development challenges that impede their ability to accelerate poverty reduction and how can these challenges be addressed?
Sectoral research tends to produce generic analyses and generic policy recommendations confined to a specific scientific discipline. These analyses often draw on the fact that CLMV share common intuitional and systemic features. However, to understand the development predicaments among post-socialist Southeast Asian countries one needs a multidisciplinary approach, as each country is different and there is no effective one-size-fits-all policy. This multidisciplinary approach needs to consider economic, political, social and even geographical factors. For example, it is believed that for Myanmar the biggest issue concerns political instability and ethnic conflict therein, for Laos – geographical predicament related to “landlockedness” and lack of access to international sea routes, for Cambodia – social tensions related to growing disparities, whereas for Vietnam – the economic obstacles in the form of an inefficient banking sector. All of these states also suffer from inadequate foreign investments targeted to specific sectors, which would more effectively accelerate the process of poverty eradication. This list of political, economic, social and geographical challenges specific for CLMV is not exhaustive. There are indeed others, and to identify them and address them means going beyond the confines of one particular discipline.
This panel will discuss the multidisciplinary predicaments related to development challenges in CLMV. It will use a broader comparative analysis to illustrate the cases and provide policy recommendations.