You probably already know that Asia is growing quickly. It’s the fastest growing region on the planet with countless opportunities spanning 48 different nations.
Some have better opportunities for investors than others though. There’s even a few places which are now in recession such as Brunei and Macao.
It’s important to understand which places you should avoid. Of course, you’re here to see the fastest growing countries in Asia – not the weakest ones.
With that said, here are the five strongest economies in this dynamic region.
Myanmar: 6.5% Growth
Myanmar’s gotten a lot of media attention media over the past decade. Recently, they’re in the news for other, less positive reasons. But you’ve probably heard of the nation’s economic and political reform since the late 2000s.
Once among Asia’s wealthiest countries, a military junta ruled over Myanmar since the early 1960s. This led to an economic disaster which continued throughout the following decades. Free elections finally came in 2011, giving some people hope for the future.
Investing in Myanmar might seem like a great idea on paper. The problem is that foreign investors have very few options.
Myanmar has one of the world’s smallest stock exchanges with only four listed companies. In addition, you can’t buy property in practice despite laws existing which allow foreign real estate ownership.
Doing business in Myanmar is also a hassle. Meanwhile, political and continue problems continue to plague the nation. I’m not saying you can’t make money in Myanmar. There’s just better places on this list.
China: 6.7% Growth
Analysts have talked all about China’s “slowdown” in recent years. However, cries of doom and gloom are mostly overdone. The fact remains: China is still one of the fastest growing countries in the world despite its slightly weaker economy.
Most central bankers would kill for their nation’s GDP to rise in the high 6% range annually. Granted, China has some serious long-term problems to face. But tepid GDP growth in the short-to-medium term is not one of them.
China’s demographic issues are much more concerning. You can blame their infamous “one-child policy. The government, in an effort to reduce population growth, only allowed each couple to have one child between 1979 and 2013.
Every two people must have at least two children for a population to replace itself though. As a result, China will see its population start to decline in 2030. This, along with an aging population, will soon put pressure on the Chinese economy.
Furthermore, rising labor costs, unfriendly policies toward foreign investors, and other factors are forcing manufacturers to leave. Other places on this list will gain from China’s loss.
Philippines: 6.9% Growth
The Philippine population, in contrast to China, will increase more than anywhere else in Asia over the next few decades.
This bodes well for the nation’s future – if they can manage it properly. The Philippines now has a population of just over 100 million. That’s expected to rise by almost 50% to over 150 million by the year 2050.
Yet the Philippines’ greatest strength is probably its skilled, English-speaking workforce. There’s nowhere else in Asia (except India) where Western multinationals can find tons employees who speak their language at such a low price.
Because of this, the Philippines is a major hub for technology and business process outsourcing (BPO). Firms like IBM, Accenture, Microsoft and many others are setting up call centers throughout the country. This trend looks to continue in the future.
The Philippines isn’t without its problems though. Unemployment and household debt-levels are improving but still pose major challenges. Population growth can be a good thing – but only if citizens are employed and taken care of.
Cambodia: 6.9% Growth
Cambodia might have the best prospects of all five places on this list, despite ranking second in terms of growth. Economic growth and government policies are both headed in the right direction, making Cambodia attractive to investors.
Along with the next country on this list, Cambodia hasn’t suffered a recession in over two decades. It missed the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, skipped the tech bubble of the 2000s, and outgrew the recent Global Recession of 2008.
Frontier markets such as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos have potential for strong growth. But they often need foreign capital to jumpstart their economy in the first place. This helps them become an emerging market, and if they can get past the middle income trap, eventually a developed nation.
Cambodia is fortunate because they have something few other frontier markets do: a tourism sector. Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world, is part of a well-established tourist route in Southeast Asia. More than 2 million people visited in 2016.
Places like Kenya, Mongolia, and Armenia aren’t so lucky. They must climb the economic ladder “the hard way”, so to speak.
Laos: 7% Growth
Laos tops our list of the fastest growing countries in Asia. This small, landlocked nation of around 7 million people is positioned in the heart of Indochina.
However, despite a central location bordering five other countries in Southeast Asia, Laos is at a disadvantage. That’s because Laos is landlocked with no access to the ocean.
It’s difficult for Laos to export goods and trade with the international community because of this. They depend on neighbors for access to shipping lanes which makes the Lao economy inflexible and less self-reliant.
Furthermore, and similar to Myanmar, those wanting to invest in Laos have few viable options. Foreigners can’t own freehold property, there’s no stock exchange, while running a business involves tons of bureaucracy.
It’s proof that economic growth isn’t everything. You can’t invest somewhere if there’s barely any options available.
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