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Abstract

The unprecedented, rapid growth of economies in East and Southeast Asia since the 1960s has been both a ray of hope and a taunting mirage to other countries whose development has proceeded fitfully, or hardly at all, over the past 30 years. The contrast with Africa has been especially stark. Yet there was nothing pre-ordained about this divergence. In the 1950s and 1960s, most observers thought Asia's economies were destined for prolonged poverty, while Africa's independence spurred great optimism. Moreover, the endowments of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in the 1960s were not too different from those of several African countries in the 1980s. The differences in performance can be traced to political leadership that was more attuned to development in Asia and to better economic policies, especially macroeconomic management, flexible factor markets and outward-looking, if still protectionist, industrial policies.

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