Did Stable Regimes Affect Development?


I was supposed to work on my paper today. But I randomly came across the data from world development indicators of World Bank which I found very useful. There are thousands of variables which come in handy. You can do interactive comparison on selected variables and countries of interest (you can also adjust the chosen years). So I compared the growth of Indonesian GDP per capita (at nominal level) from 2000 – 2014 to other “commensurate” countries in SE Asia. I added to all developing countries in East Asia and Pacific to get a sense of the rates of overall growth of the region. Developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore are excluded.

One thing that pops up directly is that how the growth of per capita GDP in East Asia and Pacific outweighed all countries in SE Asia throughout the years. The gap was even wider before the coming of the financial crisis in 2008. Then the crisis kicked in and all countries suffered so badly. The Philippines,  Malaysia, and Thailand were the most affected countries while Indonesia and Vietnam were relatively ok. But interestingly, a year later these three countries rebounded enormously and overpassed Indonesia and Vietnam in 2010 (yes, both Thailand and the Philippines fell down again greatly in 2011). All countries in the region had been recover in 2010, but then the rates of growth were in steady declined. And since then the rates tended to converge at the same pace.

The paper that I am supposed to write seeks to make sense the effects of regime types, if any, on income distribution. But this graph puzzles me on another thing, which doesn’t necessarily address to the question in my paper: To what extent we can theorize the relationship between stable regimes and certain economic development indicators (such as GDP growth, income per capita, income distribution, etc?). Of course before we proceed, I need to clarify what do I mean by “stable regimes.” I cannot think of any data or articles that address this term specifically. So I’d rather think about it on my own.

I intuitively think about stable regimes in terms of the ways the regimes exit or not exit power at certain periods of time. They could either be democratic or authoritarian countries. For authoritarians, it could be soft authoritarian like that of Malaysia or Singapore and probably Vietnam, which always been governed by the same regimes, or Indonesia under Suharto’s rule. For democrats-alike countries, we have to look at the ways the transfer of power have been done, was it really peaceful or not? Some democratic countries underwent democratic drawbacks and some other experienced reversal to authoritarian government. So it’s important to note the baseline years of classifying “stable democracies”; how many years countries could be counted as stable are more, I think, a matter of choice (one can say 10 or 15 years, or based on a minimum number of peaceful elections that have been held). On the other hand, the “unstable regimes” would be countries in which the transfer of power ensued either forcibly (like via coup or war, for example) or through regimes overthrown (be it to democratic or authoritarian reversal). Again, the definition of stable and unstable regimes will be hinged on the extent of time we’d prefer to employ. One country can be classified as a stable regime, but also can be counted as an unstable in any other time.

Once the data holds, then we can test the relationship of this stable regimes to our economic indicators of interest. Many big questions in comparative politics can be drawn from this. For example, what are the differences of growth in stable authoritarians and stable democracies? To what extent regime types affect the levels of development? Or what conclusions can be raised about country’s levels of development when one country has an authoritarian system in the past compared to its current democratic system (like Indonesia?).

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