The Five Tiger Cub Economies of Southeast Asia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The economies of five developing Southeast Asian nations are referred to as the Tiger Cub Economies: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These developing economies are following the export-driven economic model that enabled the Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) to become highly developed industrial economies. Therefore, these aspiring Tiger countries are referred to as “cubs.”

1. Indonesia

Indonesia is the world’s largest island country and is an emerging market economies that currently has the 16th highest nominal GDP in the world. Despite a high nominal GDP, Indonesia's per capita GDP is well below the global average. Historically, the Indonesian economy was heavily dependent on agriculture. However, the current economy is more diversified. Estimates suggest Indonesia’s GDP (PPP) is $3.481 trillion and GDP per capita is $4,116. The country is the largest economy in Southeast Asia in terms of GDP.

Palm oil production is an important economic activity in Indonesia, and is the world leader in this sector. The country has a well-developed automotive industry and is the 17th largest motor vehicle producer in the world. Indonesia is the world's second biggest instant noodle producer. Palm oil, coal briquettes, motor vehicles, telephones, computers, and jewelry are the top exports of the country. China, the USA, Japan, Singapore, and India are Indonesia's top five export partners.

2. Malaysia

Another Tiger Cub nation, Malaysia is the world’s 35th largest and 23rd most competitive economy. Malaysia's GDP (PPP) was $0.816 trillion in 2016 and its per capita GDP was $28,281. The country is the third most prosperous Southeast Asian nation, and a significant proportion of Malaysia's citizens here enjoy a relatively high standard of living. Malaysia's economy is market-oriented, relatively open state-oriented, and diversified.

Malaysia is the world’s second biggest palm oil products exporter. Liquefied natural gas, petroleum, machinery, vehicles, wood and wood products, chemicals are some of Malaysia's other top export products. Malaysia’s main export partners are Singapore, China, Japan, USA, and Thailand.

3. The Philippines

The Philippines is the world's 34th biggest economy in terms of nominal GDP, and it is the sixth richest Southeast Asian economy in terms of GDP per capita. The economy of the Philippines is in a transitional phase, moving from a high reliance on agriculture to a service-sector and manufacturing based economy. The GDP (PPP) of the Philippines was $0.961 trillion in 2017, and and the GDP per capita is estimated at $3,429. Wide income disparities exist between the country's various socioeconomic classes. Growth disparities between the different regions of Philippines are also a reality.

Electronics assembly, food manufacturing, chemicals, fishing, petroleum, business process outsourcing are some of the biggest industries in the Philippines. Semiconductors, electronic equipment, garments, coconut oil, transport equipment are some the top exports to the nation. Japan, USA, European Union, China, and Hong Kong are the top five export partners of the Philippines.

4. Thailand

Thailand has a highly export-oriented economy, as two-thirds of the country's GDP is derived from exports. Thailand's GDP (PPP) is US$1.108 trillion, and its GDP per capita is US$15,319. The hotel and restaurant sector is the biggest contributor (24.9%) to Thailand's GDP. The next biggest sectors are trade and logistics, which account for 13.4% of GDP, followed by agriculture (8.4%). In terms of GDP, Thailand ranks as the second largest of Southeast Asia’s economies. The country has achieved a dramatic decrease in poverty levels between 1988 and 2011, when the percentage of population living below the national poverty line decreased from 65.26% to 13.15%. The unemployment rate in Thailand is very low, but a significant proportion of the population have very low paying jobs.

Automobiles, financial services, tourism, electrical equipment, and cement are some of the biggest industries in Thailand, while machinery, electronics, chemicals, automobiles and parts, textiles, and furniture are the country's top exports. China, USA, Japan, Malaysia, and Australia are Thailand's five top export partners.

5. Vietnam

Vietnam has the world’s 47th biggest economy in terms of nominal GDP. Although the country had a highly centralized planned economy prior to the mid-1980s, it has now shifted to a mixed economy. Vietnam's economy relies heavily on foreign investment for growth, and several predictions suggest that the Vietnamese economy could soon be one of the fastest-growing in the world. The country had a GDP (PPP) of $704.507 billion in 2017, and its GDP per capita was $2,459.

The following sectors are significant contributors to Vietnam's GDP: services (44%), industrial (39%), and agricultural (17%). Agro-based industries are the biggest industries in the country, and rice, coffee, clothes, crude oil, and electronics are Vietnam's top exports. China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are the biggest markets for Vietnam’s exports.


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