Dr. Gloria Emeagwali says more on South East Asia:
A distinction has to be made between Southeast Asia before 1997 and South East Asia at the present time. The tigers became pussycats with the crash of 1997. In recent years they have recovered some tigritude, so to speak, but the effects have not vanished. Between 1945 and the 1990's the region had grown in the context of a high savings rate, low inflation, export oriented industry, the high exploitation of labor, the kind of authoritarianism that Assensoh has pointed to and state capitalism as a whole. 1997 changed that to a large extent. Currency speculation by George Soros and others triggered a devaluation of the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah between 1997 and 1999.Other causes included the Japanese recession, internal corruption and over spending on high prestige projects, unproductive high rises etc. Some blamed the 1997 crash also on the increased liberalization of the Plaza Accordwhich some of these nations had recently adopted under outside pressure to liberalize. Southeast Asia at the present time is not the same as in the 1980's. I don't have the figures for Malaysia but in Thailand and Indonesia alone more than 3 million layoffs took place after 1997.This was followed by a hike in food prices, pay cuts, job sharing and increased tension between the various ethnic groups. In fact thesecessionist movements in Thailand, Indonesia and other areas as well as inter-ethnic tension in Malaysia and Indonesia have direct connections with the downturn of the economy of the mid-1990s. There is a growing pool of recruits for Maoist/Islamic movements such as Al Qaida at the present time. Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia refused to submit totally to the IMF, which tried to force the country to adopt a full blown structural adjustment program. That probably saved Malaysia from the kind of gloom that Indonesia is actually witnessing at the present time.Indonesia moved from the dictatorship of the US backed Suharto to Sukarno's daughter Sukarnoputri who on the other extreme,seemed to lack direction. The good news is that endogenous technology is still manifested in the 'pineapple and several other juices; banana pudding;rice pudding, coconut products' and so on, and the infrastructure from the pre-1997 days of prosperity remains an asset. I fully agree with Assensoh on this issue. They made much more progress on this score than the average African economy. Having said that, though, let me point out that there seem to be several potential areas of danger on their path to recovery. The declining standards of living and uneven income distribution could trigger more inter-ethnic tension and they still have a lot to do in terms of the decolonization of textbooks, museums and music and so on, on the path to full decolonization. We also have to look out for the leadership changes taking place and what kinds of policies the new regimes proceed to implement at this critical moment. On a different note, let me thank Dr. Falola for making this kind of dialogue possible.
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali