Skills and Upgrading in Southeast Asia
Chapter 1: Introduction
Recognize that the only resource you have is your people, their brains, and their skills. E.J. Mayer, former director of the Industrial Planning Department of Israel’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry The quality of a people determines the outcome of a nation. Lee Kuan Yew, Senior Minister of Singapore According to one prominent development economist, economic development has been an ‘elusive quest’ (Easterly, 2001). But while this is true in many regions of the world, there is one region where at least five countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – have averaged over 6 percent growth since 1970 (World Bank, 2005) and one country, Singapore, is achieving levels of technological capacity found in developed countries. In all five countries the manufacturing sector has expanded, a broadening and diversified range of goods is produced and exported, and a growing emphasis has been placed on technology products. Such diversification or ‘structural change’ is a significant achievement. In fact, the World Bank (1993) was so impressed by this diversification that it suggested that Southeast Asia was an example other developing countries should emulate. But diversification may no longer be enough for sustainable development. This is not to argue that diversification or even large infrastructure and other heavy industrial developments are not evidence of economic progress. But although second-generation development projects typically have high capital and management requirements, their technology requirements are well known and can often be acquired and used ‘off the shelf’ even if only contracting outside consultants. By comparison, ‘new...