Education About Asia: Online Archives

Teaching About Southeast Asian Transition Economies: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and East Timor

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By R. L. Curry, Jr.

Most transition economies are countries that are in the process of reforming their institutional structures that rely extensively upon centralized government planning agencies and state-owned enterprises to allocate scarce national resources and distribute the resulting output. These countries are in the midst of shifting responsibilities for allocating and distributing resources to institutions that feature decentralized markets, private business enterprises and a supportive legal system that protects private property rights, enforces contracts and protects consumers. In Southeast Asia, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are in the process of this type of transition because market oriented economic structures are deemed to be more efficient. However, institutional change within them is extremely difficult because of economic, political and administrative constraints. East Timor, on the other hand, is in the process of transition from being part of Indonesia to a sovereign, newly independent nation-state that features market-based economic institutions and faces constraints identical to those that constrain economic development in the four other countries.