Money Matters: Democratization and Economic Growth in Southeast Asia Report

This report focuses on how Southeast Asian economies can more effectively attract the vast monetary capital circulating in today’s global market by embracing a new political economy that prioritizes financial inclusion, investment attraction, marginal productivity, trade expansion, political stability, and talented leaders able to facilitate the achievement of these goals. This report contends that for this new political economy to flourish in Southeast Asia, the distribution of power and other essential public goods will not be effective without the meritocratic selection of talent for positions of leadership and governance—a fundamental dimension of robust liberal democracies. More monetary capital through foreign direct investment (FDI), borrowing, and trade will allow Southeast Asian governments to bolster their domestic liberal democratic systems—enhancing their rule of law, transparency, ease of doing business, and political stability. These factors increase countries’ trustworthiness, which will then enable them to consistently benefit from the tremendous global financial capital that has historically failed to funnel into the region. Despite the fundamental challenge of finding the right balance between talent and power to promote liberal democratic values and institutions in order to attract monetary capital, one can be cautiously optimistic about Southeast Asia’s prospects in the long run. 

This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

Gita Wirjawan

Visiting Scholar, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University