Growth forecasts for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) over the medium term is expected to be between 6-7%, outperforming economies of the ASEAN-6 countries according to the OECD Southeast Asian Outlook 2013: Narrowing the Development Gap. Growth momentum remains robust and should pave the way for the CLMV countries to pull within the ranks of the other Member States.

At the inaugural NDG (Narrowing the development gap) Lecture Series, organised at the ASEAN Secretariat in collaboration with the OECD Development Centre, speakers from the OECD Development Centre, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia and the ASEAN Secretariat tackled policy issues facing growth in the CLMV countries.

“Disparities need to be examined beyond income level differences and also directed towards areas where gaps are largest, such as poverty and human capital development”, says Kensuke Tanaka, Head of Asia Desk, OECD Development Centre based on the latest report of the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013.

According to the Narrowing the Development Gap Indicators (NDGIs) recently created by the OECD Development Centre and the ASEAN Secretariat, in an index scale of 0 to 10 – where 0 denotes no gap and 10 the widest gap – the gap between CLMV and ASEAN-6 are widest at 4.4 and 4.0 in poverty and human resource development indicators, respectively. Gaps in other indices are at 3.5 in infrastructure, 3.1 in trade and investment, 2.9 in ICT, and 1.5 in tourism.

“Evidence suggests that welfare gains from the AEC can reduce economic disparities in the region”, says Dr Aladdin Rillo, Head of the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Office (AIMO) at the ASEAN Secretariat. “To this end, Member States must pursue with vigour its implementation of the programmes in the AEC Blueprint as a strategy for sustained growth in the region.”

ASEAN’s launch of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in 2000 was specifically meant to deal with issues on narrowing the divide where equitable and inclusive development will be a defining feature of ASEAN’s integration efforts. The IAI Work Plan II (2009-2015) serves as the main tool to remove obstacles standing in the way of an equitable growth path in key sectors such as trade, investment and tourism.

Implementing structural policies necessary for enhancing productivity is equally critical to the success of the CLMV countries and ASEAN as a whole, contends Dr Sothea Oum of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. Higher investment in social infrastructure, especially in education and health is of particular importance.

Dr Pitchaya Sirivunnabood, Senior Economist of AIMO, stressed that promoting productivity among CLMV officials is also necessary because limited capacity at the national level will mean less effective integration at the regional level.

The journey of building an ASEAN Community by 2015 requires countries, including the newer members, to not only stay on the same track but to also keep pace. Narrowing the Development Gap, thus, remains essential to the ASEAN integration process.

More information on the NDG Lecture Series and speakers’ presentations are available here.

The NDG Lecture Series will continue to tackle contemporary topics of interest to ASEAN in the coming months as the ASEAN Secretariat intensifies its public outreach efforts to promote the IAI and the work of ASEAN. If you would like to be included in the mailing list, kindly submit your name to the IAI&NDG Division of the ASEAN Secretariat at iai.asec@asean.org .