08/15/2019?Political Economies of Asia
Lecture Topic: The Relationship Between Politics and Economics
Class taken by Dr. Tin Htoo Naing
Dr. Tin Htoo Nain is a research fellow at Yangon Institute of Economics in Myanmar. He specializes in economic policymaking, law drafting, and project evaluation in Myanmar. His lecture centers on the changing international political economy in East Asia.
He starts his discussion by asking the participants on their views regarding the relationship between politics and economics. He then explains that economics affects politics, and politics affects economics. Thus, he said, that economics and politics are inseparable because their interactions go both ways. Just as fiscal policy and monetary policy have a huge impact on economics, foreign policy, environmental policy, infrastructure policy, and many other government decisions indirectly affect the economy. Likewise, the performance of the economy shapes political decisions as well.
He also asked the students whether they believe in the statement that the Asian century has begun or whether they think that the Asian century will be over before it even begins. To answer the question, he notes the four determinants of Asia’s destiny: (1) the ability of Asian leaders to persevere through ups and downs and focus on the long term; (2) the willingness of other Asian countries to emulate the success of major East Asian economies in adopting pragmatic rather than ideological approach to policy formulation and keeping a laser-like focus on results; (3) Asia’s success in building mutual trust and confidence among its economies, which are vital for regional cooperation; and (4) the commitment and ability of Asian leaders to modernize governance and retool institutions, while enhancing transparency and accountability. He argues that the emergence of an Asian century will depend on these four overriding intangibles.
Moreover, he highlights the fact that increasing economic interdependence among countries in East Asia has provided momentum for economic integration, which is driven by both market forces and state efforts as well as globalization and regionalization. The economy of Myanmar depends on other economies in East Asia for trade and investment. He explains that although Myanmar is less competitive in production, it has an important role in improving connectivity in the region. The country’s location at the tri-junction of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia holds a huge potential as a connectivity hub for exchange of goods, services, and technology, according to him.
He then links the connectivity issue with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In Myanmar, there are several BRI projects in the pipeline; however, he affirms that concerns remain. For one, BRI projects in conflict areas can lead to China’s involvement in the peace process including Rakhine issues, which are considered an internal matter. Other issues include the lack of transparency and unclear financing plans of BRI projects. Another major concern is that the Myanmar government currently has no external public debt policy.
He concludes his lecture by stressing the importance of inclusiveness in East Asia economic cooperation. He notes that economic development should be equitable by providing opportunities that reduce income gaps within and across countries.