By Wang Jiping
“One of the key challenges for the South-East Asian sub-region is narrowing the development gap within ASEAN between the later-entrants − Cambodia, Laos , Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) − and those which had become members of ASEAN earlier,” according to a UN report, The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2017, released on May 8 in Beijing, China. It also suggested that one way to solve the above-mentioned problem is “narrowing the development gaps through better governance”.
According to the report, in income terms, the gap in the ratio of GDP per capita between the early-entrants of ASEAN and CLMV remains wide, although it has been gradually narrowing. The ratio stood at 10.6 in 2015 and 4.1 if the highest-income economy in the sub-region, Singapore, is excluded. If concerted and coordinated measures are not taken to accelerate the narrowing of the income gap between the ASEAN-4 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand) and CLMV, it may take another 40 years to eliminate the gap completely.
Apart from income gaps, development gaps also exist in major socioeconomic areas. For instance, in the wake of technology-driven economic growth and the desire to integrate deeper into ASEAN, there is a need for CLMV to pay attention to their widening skills gap. Access to basic education has increased, but higher education and the quality of education remain a challenge. Similarly, while indicators of health in CLMV have improved significantly since 2000, the large gaps with other ASEAN countries remain. Active policy interventions will be required to ensure that higher income growth translate into lower poverty, less income inequality and better social outcomes.