Does Southeast Asia need a new development model?

Southeast Asia is one of the most economically and developmentally successful regions in the world. Yet, like the rest of the world, it has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and will likely suffer long-lasting economic, social, and political scars. Government budgets will be under pressure for years to come, contending with higher spending pressures, lower revenues, and elevated debt. Moreover, recovery from the pandemic has barely begun but already been made vastly more difficult by the Ukraine crisis, disrupted energy and food markets, high inflation, and rising global interest rates. 

The challenges facing Southeast Asia are not solely about these destabilising external developments. They are equally about developments internal to Southeast Asian nations, going to the heart of matters of domestic reform, governance, and politics and whether these countries can escape the “middle-income trap” to successfully transition to high income status.

The key question then is, does Southeast Asia need a new development model? In a new digital debate feature, the Lowy Institute has enlisted six of Southeast Asia’s most interesting economic thinkers to share their perspectives on what is needed. 

The online feature includes contributions from:

  • Chatib Basri – former Finance Minister of Indonesia
  • Yuen Yuen Ang – Professor of Politics at the University of Michigan
  • Jomo Kwame Sundaram – former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, United Nations
  • Tiza Mafira – Director, Climate Policy Initiative Indonesia
  • Tricia Yeoh – CEO, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Malaysia
  • Vasuki Shastry – Asia-Pacific Program at Chatham House

“Clearly, there is no shortage of ideas in terms of how the region’s approach to development needs to change, and each perspective prompts its own additional questions,” said Roland Rajah, the director of the Lowy Institute’s International Economics Program. “The perspectives in this debate series provide plenty of food for thought and further discussion.”

The debate feature is now available to read or download at the Lowy Institute website. It was coordinated by the Lowy Institute with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.



Shane McLeod
Director, Media and Communications
+61 409 461 795