Seminar: Southeast Asia’s Half Miracle



About the Seminar

In a well known paper (“Catching up, forging ahead, falling behind”) originally published in 1986, Abramovitz argued that all countries which are relatively backward in terms of levels of productivity had the potential for rapid advance, and indeed could catch up quickly with the leading economies if they could realize this potential. This seminar examines the “catch-up” hypothesis in the context of the ASEAN countries in the 50 years from 1960 to 2010. It is argued that the ASEAN countries present a very mixed picture; the two economies which already had the highest per capita GDP in 1960 (Singapore and Malaysia) have both forged ahead over the past 50 years. But the Philippines which was well ahead of both Thailand and Indonesia in 1960 has fallen behind both countries while the CLMV countries also fell behind until 1990; while they have grown rapidly since then there is a wide gap between them and the leading economies in the region. The paper offers some explanations for these outcomes.

About the Speaker

Anne Booth is the Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Distinguished Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia at Shorenstein-APARC, Stanford University, during October and November 2015, and at NUS in July-August 2016. She was Professor of Economics (with reference to Asia) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London from 1991 to 2013, and is now Professor Emeritus. Before moving to London, she held posts at the University of Singapore and the Australian National University. She grew up in New Zealand, and graduated from Victoria University of Wellington, and the Australian National University in Canberra. Her main research interest is the modern economic history of Southeast Asia, and the impact of different colonial legacies on post-colonial development across East and Southeast Asia. Her book, Colonial Legacies: Economic and Social Development in East and Southeast Asia, was published by the University of Hawaii Press in 2007, and she has just completed a study of Indonesian economic development which has been published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. She is using her time at Stanford and at NUS to gather material for a study of changing living standards in Southeast Asia from the early 20th century to the present.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 11 August 2016.


Aug 12 2016


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2