In the minds of ASEAN stakeholders, the ASEAN development gap is the disparity that exists between the ASEAN-6 and CLMV groups — that is between the original members of ASEAN (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, plus Brunei Darussalam) and the latter joining members (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam). The narrowing of this gap has been a focus of ASEAN since the launch of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) at the Fourth Informal ASEAN Summit in 2000. Narrowing the development gap is a cornerstone of the equitable economic development agenda within ASEAN and forms an important part of the ASEAN Roadmap. ASEAN recognises that the gap between its member countries needs to be narrowed if it is to move forward in a more unified manner towards the achievement of an equitable ASEAN community.
This chapter provides a definition of the development gap that is consistent with current international thinking on the meaning of development. In line with the writings of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, and widely accepted quality of life or standard of living conceptualisations, it treats development as an end or as an outcome in which people are provided with the opportunity to exercise their reasoned agency. As such it does not define the development gap in terms of the many drivers of development in ASEAN member states, but as the quality of life outcomes that these drivers generate.
The drivers of development identified in this chapter are those for which there is both robust theoretical and empirical support, as well as those with broad acceptance in policy circles. These drivers will differ in importance among ASEAN countries. All these drivers are important in all countries, although their relative importance to countries at varying stages of development may differ. The identified drivers include trade openness, investment in human and physical capital, governance and institutions, labour mobility and external development finance. Processes through which these drivers contribute to development and to development gaps are identified.
Development, broadly speaking, is seen as multidimensional, involving achieve-ments in universally valued quality of life outcomes. Defining development in terms of achievements in or levels of health, education and income has clear implications for how development gaps are defined and measured. As these achievements differ among individuals according to the country in which they live, development in this sense varies among countries.