Socialism or Free Markets? Consider Myanmar and Thailand
Lee Kuan Yew opines in Forbes:
IN TERMS OF LAND area and population Myanmar and Thailand are close in size, and i n the 1960s both countries had similar rates of growth.
But in 1962 Myanmar’s General Ne Win led a coup d’état, establishing a nominally socialist military government that followed an economic policy of autarky. The country closed its doors to the world and expelled the Indians who had come with the British to help in the retail industry many decades before. Although Ne Win resigned in July 1988, the military junta remained firmly in control of the country.
During the same period Thailand experienced multiple army coups, but its leaders chose a different economic path. Thailand became a free-market economy, open to all investments from all countries, and it absorbed its Chinese immigrants, who had arrived during and after British rule. Today Thailand is one of Asia’s busiest manufacturing hubs. …
Thailand itself transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Regular and rambunctious elections are held, but the army continues to stage coups whenever it considers the government unreliable or going against the monarchy. Over the last 80 years there have been 11 successful coups and 7 failed ones. The most recent was the ouster of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006. The military’s interference has resulted in a perpetual state of political uncertainty and has shaken investor confidence.
Both countries’ governments would do well to remember that it was the open-door policies of free trade and investment that made Thailand prosperous and the passive closed-door policies that held Myanmar back for 50 years.
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