Day in and out I spend a majority of my time glued to a screen–typically the computer (since I no longer own a smartphone). From my morning YouTube workout, to the TDRI office and back home in the evening, my life basically revolves around a screen. So when I came into work this morning and discovered my computer not functioning, I thought it could be fun to spend a day without computer access. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the IT guy was going to take several hours to reboot my entire hard-drive (or something– I still don’t understand what went wrong.) Turns out, it was not fun. Aside from becoming terribly bored once returning from lunch, I ended up losing all my files. Fortunately many were backed up, except for my two most recent—which I actually needed.
While the IT guy was working away on my computer I retreated to the library. Truthfully I can barely remember the last time I read something other than a magazine in hard copy; I always read on a screen. I also always write via keyboard. Sometimes I jot down notes in my miniature notebook– but typically only reminders. But without computer access I began to write this post by hand.
In the library I picked up the latest issue of “Asian Economic Policy Review,” (AEPR) which had been published June 1. Most of what I will talk about in this post comes from this issue. Unfortunately it is not free online, meaning you will have to take my word for it because I cannot link back..
This issue is centered on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV). These four countries were the last to join ASEAN in the latter half of the 1990s. Because CLMV had delayed integration there is a “development divide” between them and the rest of the ASEAN members. This lag may cause unification problems in the future, especially with 2015 ASEAN Economic Community goals.
The AERP issue contained articles on each of the four countries where they addressed specific economic development issues. It is actually ironic that the June AEPR handled such a matter because I was planning on writing my next post on Cambodia and Laos. However, I wanted to put emphasis on the similarities and differences between the two, especially regarding services and tourism. Unfortunately this publication did not give any look at tourism. Nevertheless it did provide some valuable insight on development among all four of the CLMV.
First, let’s look at some ASEAN indicators for 2011. (Which I added in when transcribing my post to WordPress!)
As you can see, Cambodia’s population is more than twice the size of Laos. Yet both have populations on the smaller side in relation to the rest of ASEAN. Myanmar’s population is quite large at around 60 million. Furthermore, Myanmar’s total land area is the second largest in all ASEAN, only Indonesia ranking ahead.
Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are the only three ASEAN members still on the UN’s least developed countries list.Laos has the lowest GDP out of the country group, with Cambodia not much better. While Myanmar’s GDP is in fact significantly higher overall, their larger population contributes to the lowest per capita GDP of all.
While the ASEAN table is informative, it does not include human development. Thanks again to the UN Development Program “Data Explorer” for the following:
(Unable to load? Click here to see the UNDP data.)
Out of the CLMV, Vietnam is the only country closing in on the development divide; Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are far behind.The thing with Myanmar is that it is basically just opening its doors for the first time; it can only go up from here. Also, Myanmar has a great location between India and China as well as a large land area and population size. Make no question about it: Myanmar has some key factors on its side.
I have more concern over Cambodia and Laos catching up.
Cambodia and Laos have some commonalities. Aside from being neighbors, both were colonized by the French. The Mekong river is vital to the population and ecosystem of each country and both have had some level of communist-based policies. Looking at each economy, the two are still very rural and rely highly upon agriculture.
Cambodia, though, has suffered from a much more tumultuous past. The 1970s Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 2 million people, or 1 in 4 of the population. Afterwards came Vietnamese control. Cambodia finally gained independence in the early 1990s.
Laos on the other hand has been taking open market strides since the mid 1980s. Whereas Cambodia’s garment and service industries are stronger, Laos gains most revenue from hydropower and mining.
By this point in drafting the post, my computer became fixed once again. (Which was very lucky because my hand was starting to cramp.)
Today I was old-fashioned; I picked up a book and read rather than skimmed various articles across the internet. I actually believe I absorbed more than usual–probably because I did not have Gmail, Twitter and so on for distraction. Even though it was painful to go sans-internet, especially towards the end, I should probably unplug more often.
Image Credit – Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net