Stable macroeconomic environment

This stable macroeconomic environment had beneficial consequences for Asian economic performance. Low inflation promoted high savings rates and investment (World Bank 1993, 12). Savings rates in the Asian NICs averaged more than 20 percent of GDP per year, almost twice the level attained in other developing countries, whereas investment rates were 7 percentage points of GDP higher, on average, than in other developing countries (World Bank 1993, 16, 221). A stable macroeconomic environment also made it easier to open the economy to international trade. Because inflation was low and ex- change rates were maintained at appropriate levels, trade liberalization did not generate large current-account deficits. Finally, the ability to maintain rel- atively stable and appropriately valued real exchange rates encouraged private actors to invest in export-oriented industries.

The interaction between the export orientation, the relatively liberal im- port policy, and the stable macroeconomic environment promoted economic development. As Doner and Hawes (1995, 150) summarize the World Bank perspective, the

pattern of limited government intervention in the market, coupled with cheap labor and an open economy, [has] guaranteed the private sector stability and predictability, the means to achieve competitiveness on a global scale,

 

 

The East Asian Model 141

and access to the international market so that entrepreneurs could actually discover areas where they have comparative advantage. In shorthand, the model is often reduced to “getting the prices right” and letting market-based prices determine resource allocation. Doing so results in export growth that is in turn positively correlated with broader economic growth.

According to the World Bank and the IMF, East Asia succeeded because markets played a large role, and states played a small role, in allocating resources.

Other scholars have argued that East Asia’s success had less to do with al- lowing markets to work and much more to do with well-designed government industrial policies (see Wade 1990; Amsden 1989; Haggard 1990). In what has come to be called the East Asian model of development, economic develop- ment is conceptualized as a series of distinct stages. Government intervention in each stage identifies and promotes specific industries likely to be profitable in the face of international competition. In the first stage, industrial policy promotes labor-intensive light industry, such as textiles and other consumer durables. In the second stage, industrial policy emphasizes heavy industries such as steel, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, and synthetic fibers. In the third stage, governments target skill- and research and development (R&D)- intensive consumer durables and industrial machinery, such as machine tools, semiconductors, computers, telecommunications equipment, robotics, and biotechnology. Governments design policies and organizations to promote the transition from one stage to the other (Wade 1994, 70).


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