Singapore’s transformation into a trade and finance hub that leads global rankings of competitiveness often prompts observers to ask: What is its secret sauce? We at the Singapore Hub for Infrastructure and Urban Development asked Kelvin Wong, Assistant Managing Director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board, or EDB, to share with us the country’s journey in developing its logistics sector, considered among the world’s most competitive and innovative.
Robots will take over our jobs, disrupt our industries and erode our competitiveness.
Such were commonly expressed fears about advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing – key representations of exponential technologies – during the inaugural Global Innovation Forum that took place in Singapore.
While robots continue to bear the brunt of public skepticism, participants at the Forum also expressed optimism about the emergence of innovations that could dramatically transform the quality of life for the poorest people in society, particularly in Asia, the region that was acknowledged by many participants as leading the pace of innovation around the globe.
The Philippines is at a fork in the road. Despite good results on the growth front, trends observed in trade competitiveness, Global Value Chain (GVC) integration and product space evolution, send worrisome signals. The country has solid fundamentals and remarkable human assets to leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution – where the distinction between goods and services have become obsolete. Yet it does not get the most out of this growth, especially with regards to long-term development prospects. In order to do so, the government will have to make the right policy choices.
In the past several decades Malaysia has witnessed strong economic growth and has become one of Asia’s newly industrialized countries. In one generation it transitioned successfully from low to upper-middle-income status, due in large part to outward looking policies, trade, and foreign direct investments (FDI) — which contributed to the successful diversification of the economy. Today, Malaysia faces the challenge of escaping the middle-income trap as its productivity slows and it becomes less competitive.
Free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Malaysia EU-FTA bring the potential for greater market access for Malaysia. This new generation of free trade agreements offers opportunities for Malaysia to strengthen reforms beyond tariff reduction, covering commitments such as competition and investment policies, non-tariff measures, intellectual property rights, labour standards, and opening up government procurement for competition. With a market-friendly government and a strong track record of reforms, there are new opportunities for reinvigorating structural reforms to support private sector-led economic growth. Accelerating productivity growth is a key element of the 11th Malaysia Plan, which aims to bring Malaysia to high income status by 2020.
Malaysia is already a very competitive country. Today it ranks 18 out of 189 economies in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index. Yet, its ambition is to become more competitive. And it wants to overtake some countries on the way up. Malaysia has long recognized that a concerted cross-ministerial and public-private collaboration is needed to do just that.
Malaysia’s Special Task Force to Facilitate Business (PEMUDAH), was established in 2007 to improve the ease of doing business in Malaysia. Testament to its success was Malaysia’s surge to 6th position in the 2014 Doing Business, up from 12th place in 2013 and 18th in 2012, placing it in the same league as Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. But since then, Malaysia has been challenged to keep up with the rapid pace of business reforms across the globe.
Vietnam has achieved remarkably high and inclusive GDP growth since the late 1980s. GDP growth per capita increased three-and-a-half-fold during 1991-2012, a performance surpassed only by China. The distribution of growth has been as remarkable as its pace: the bottom 40% of the population’s share in national income has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1990s, ensuring that the rapid income gains got translated into shared prosperity and significant poverty reduction.
GDP growth, however, has been operating on a lower trajectory since 2008. This has led to questions regarding the sustainability of the growth process, and, with it, Vietnam’s ability to bounce back to about 7-8% per capita growth. Analysts have voiced concerns over declining total factor productivity growth and growing reliance on capital accumulation. Moreover, a number of competitiveness issues routinely get raised by private investors, including: a widening skills gap, limited access to finance, relatively high trade and transport logistics costs, an overbearing presence of the SOEs, and heavy government bureaucracy that makes it difficult for businesses to operate in Vietnam.
Kể từ cuối thập kỷ 80 của thế kỷ trước, Việt Nam đã có tốc độ tăng trưởng kinh tế cao với lợi ích bao trùm. GDP bình quân đầu người tăng 3,5 lần trong giai đoạn 1991-2012 — chỉ sau Trung Quốc. Cùng với tốc độ tăng trưởng, phân bố tăng trưởng cũng là một thành tích rất đáng ghi nhận: phần thu nhập quốc gia dành cho nhóm 40% dân nghèo nhất hầu như không thay đổi kể từ đầu thập kỷ 1990 tới nay, điều này đảm bảo rằng tăng trưởng kinh tế được phân phối cho mọi tầng lớp và giảm nghèo một cách đáng kể.
Tuy nhiên, kể từ 2008, tăng trưởng GDP đã đi theo một quỹ đạo thấp hơn. Qua đó đã nảy sinh một số câu hỏi về mức độ bền vững của tăng trưởng và liệu Việt Nam có thể khôi phục mức tăng GDP bình quân đầu người 7-8% hay không. Các nhà phân tích quan ngại về xu thế giảm tăng trưởng năng suất nhân tố tổng hợp và mức độ phụ thuộc ngày càng nhiều vào tích tụ vốn. Thêm vào đó, các nhà đầu tư tư nhân cũng thường xuyên nêu các vấn đề liên quan đến năng lực cạnh tranh như kỹ năng ngày càng thiếu, khó tiếp cận vốn, chi phí thương mại và kho vận tương đối cao, độc quyền của các doanh nghiệp nhà nước và bộ máy hành chính cồng kềnh gây cản trở hoạt động của doanh nghiệp.
|A challenge for Chinese businesses is to re-capture the vast domestic market owing to the recent food scares that have seriously undermined the domestic brands.|
After several high-profile food safety incidents, according to one recent survey, around 64% of Chinese consider food safety as the number one priority that affects their daily lives and requires immediate action by the government.
The Chinese government is taking these concerns very seriously and has launched important reforms in its system of food control. It promulgated a new Food Safety Law in 2009, and created a new food safety authority in 2013 to deal with these issues. These reforms are now rolling out to provincial and local levels. These reforms will eventually affect more than one million state officials, restructure more than a dozen government ministries, and revise more than 5,000 regulations. The reforms will result in a complete overhaul of the food control system and introduction of new global best practice policies for food safety.
Can Indonesia’s economy move from a situation of investment in flux to an investment influx? This is one of the questions posed by the World Bank’s March 2014 edition of the Indonesia Economic Quarterly.
Why is Indonesia’s investment growth in flux? First, there has been a slowdown in fixed investment, due to lower terms of trade and tighter external financing conditions. This has helped narrow Indonesia’s external imbalances.
Second, while foreign direct investment—an important source of investment financing—has remained solid so far, the rapid growth of FDI inflows seen in recent years shows signs of plateauing.
Third, Indonesia remains reliant on external financing from portfolio investment inflows. These have surged in recent months, but they can be volatile.
Finally, recent policy developments have increased regulatory uncertainties. Add to that the usual difficulty of predicting policy ahead of elections, which may impact on investment of all kinds.
Given uncertain prospects for global investment flows to major emerging market economies like Indonesia, the good news is that Indonesia’s external balances are adjusting. The current account deficit shrank significantly in the fourth quarter of 2013, to $4.0 billion, or 2% of GDP. This is a welcome reduction from the record high of $10.0 billion in the second quarter of 2013—that’s 4.4% of GDP. The stock market rallied, gaining 9% in local currency terms, bond yields fell, and the Rupiah climbed back by 7% against the USD, year-to-date, recouping some of last year’s significant losses. Banking and portfolio inflows also rose in the final quarter of 2013*.
But some caution is warranted. The adjustment has been narrowly based on tighter monetary policy and currency depreciation over the second half of 2013, and slower investment growth. Indonesia remains vulnerable to a renewed deterioration of global market conditions.