In the past few years, the pace of economic growth in South Asia has slowed considerably for two reasons: unfavourable global economic environment and the slowing pace of economic reforms that once were the key drivers of the region’s dynamic economic performance and resilience. This paper focuses on the latter and following Rana (2011) and Rana and Hamid (1995), it argues that South Asian countries have not sequenced their reforms properly. The first round of reforms in South Asia that began in the 1980s and the early 1990s focused on macroeconomic reforms — monetary, fiscal, and exchange rate management, as well as reducing rigid government controls — which led to private sector driven economic growth. These should have been followed by the more microeconomic reforms — sectoral and the so-called “second generation” reforms to strengthen governance and institutions — to sustain the higher growth levels. But they were not and reforms ran out of steam because of, among others, lack of law and order, and corruption in the public sector. This paper finds a significant “governance gap” in South Asia that refers to how South Asia lags behind East Asia in terms of various governance indicators and how within South Asia some countries are ahead of others. The paper argues that in order to revive economic growth, South Asian countries must implement microeconomic reforms: it identifies the remaining policy agenda for each South Asian country. However, implementation of microeconomic reforms poses a difficult challenge as they require a wider consensus and political support and have a longer term focus. The recent election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India with a strong mandate for economic reform provides an environment of “cautious optimism” for all of South Asia.
About the Authors
Dr Pradumna B. Rana is an Associate Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He is also the Coordinator of the Master of Science in International Political Economy programme and the Coordinator of the Economic Multilateralism and Regionalism Studies at RSIS’ Centre for Multilateralism Studies. Prior to this, he worked for 25 years at the Asian Development Bank. His last appointment at the ADB was Senior Director of the Office of Regional Economic Integration which spearheads ADB’s support for Asian economic integration. He obtained his PhD from Vanderbilt University where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Masters in Economics from Michigan State University and Tribhuvan University. He has authored/edited 15 books, and published over 50 articles in peer-reviewed international academic journals.
Dr Wai-Mun Chia obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of London with First Class Honors in 1996. She was then awarded the Datuk Paduka Hajjah Saleha Ali Academic Outstanding Award for her exceptional academic performance at international level in 1997. In 1998, with the support of the London School of Economics (LSE) Scholarship, she pursued her Master’s degree at LSE. In 2006, she graduated with a PhD degree from NTU. She is currently associate professor at the Division of Economics, NTU. Prior to joining NTU, she was an industry analyst at the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers. Her current research interests are international macroeconomics, economic integration in East Asia and cost-benefit analysis. She is an associate editor to the Singapore Economic Review and a research consultant to the ASEAN Secretariat. She has published widely in internationally reputable journals such as Economic Record and Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control.
Country and Region Studies / International Political Economy / Regionalism and Multilateralism / South Asia / Working Papers
Last updated on 01/10/2015