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Explaining South Korea’s Economic and Social Development #2

South Korea is one of the real success stories of development post world war two, but what policies led to it rapid economic and social development?

NB – you might like to read part one of ‘Explaining South Korea’s Development‘ first!

During the early phases of its economic development, there were few vested interests In South Korea to oppose Import Substitution Industrialization: there was no landlord class (like in South America) and no foreign ownership of industry (like in much of Africa), so there were no vested ‘extractive’ interests to block the consumption of imports which was required to boost manufacturing.

During the 1980s South Korea also benefited from global political and economic trends: it gained an ally in America who wanted a stronghold in Asia to prove that a free-market economy was a viable alternative to communism; it was also able to benefit from the increasing global demand for cars and other industrial products – cheaper labour in South Korea meant it was eventually able to build a very successful automobile industry, spruing on the decline of manufacturing in places like Detroit.

The Hyundai factory in Ulsan is now the biggest automobile factory in the World, an honor which used to belong to the River Rouge Ford Factory in Detroit.

By the 1990s South Korea was being categorized as a Newly Industrialized Economy…however, the idea that this success was because of neoliberal policies is a myth. Rather, the strong economic growth post WW2 was because the authoritarian government (not beholden to either of the vested interests above) was able to protect industries, much in the same way as Britain and America did during their strong phases of economic growth.

In short, South Korea’s economic success is because the state played a highly interventionist role in steering, stimulating and constraining the market.

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Explaining South Korea’s Development #1

Korea was a Japanese Colony from 1910 to 1945, providing food and fuel for the ‘motherland’.

Following the fall of the Japanese Empire at the end of World War II, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel into North and South Korea, North Korea controlled by communist Russia, and South Korea governed by the United States, pitching Communist and Capitalist modes of development against each other.

Following the brutal Korean War of 1950 to 1953 (which was the first war of the ‘cold war’ and was brutal enough to result in 4 million deaths) both North and South Korea lay decimated: plundered by 50 years of colonial rule and then a decade of fighting their infrastructures lay in ruins.

South Korea’s economy stagnated in the decade following the Korean war, but then grew rapidly, and today South Korea is one of the world’s leading economies, whereas North Korea stagnated under hard-line communist rule.

Given the fact that the two countries share common histories up until the end of WW2, and given that they share similar cultures and climates, these things cannot explain their divergent experiences in development since 1950 – and thus South Korea’s development (and North Korea’s lack of it) can only be explain by the social and economic development strategies (and their consequences) adopted by the South Korean government since the 1950s.

Following the war South Korea received some support for reconstruction from the US. As a percentage of gross national income South Korea received a very similar level of support to Kenya in the 1960s. But International Development Assistance was not the answer to Korean poverty. USAID reported that Korea was a ‘bottomless pit’ that could not be helped by development funding.

In 1961, when General Park Chung-Hee came to power in a military coup, South Korea’s yearly income was just $82 per person (for comparison Ghana’s was $179 at the time). In 1962 Park turned civilian and went on to win three elections before seizing the presidency for life. His rule was strict and South Korea was a highly disciplined society.

Park surrounded himself with able colleagues and made some astute political moves: During the Vietnam war, South Korea sent troops to support US efforts and was richly rewarded. In the mid 1960s, revenues from the Americans for Korean troops in Vietnam were the larges single source of foreign-exchange earnings.

Park was authoritarian and stifled liberties, but he put in place policies which effectively modernized South Korea.

Five year plans for economic development were at the heart of his strategy. Growth was steady during the 1960s as new factories producing basic goods were built, and in 1973 Park launched the ‘Heavy and Chemical industrialization programme’ which estalished the first steel mills and car manufacturing plants, which formed the backbone for industrial development and moved South Korea away from reliance on agricultural products.

As a result of Park’s economic policies, Per Capita income grew by more than 5 times between 1972 and 1979, reaching $1000 per capita by 1977, and all of this with very little reliance on aid.

Growth depended on Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), which mean reducing dependence on imports and replacing them with domestically produced products. In practice this meant protecting basic goods such as clothing, hand tools and processed food.

Citizens were also heavily disciplined: they were mobilized like soldiers into factories and consumption was also tightly controlled: for example, foreign cigarettes were band, and citizens were encouraged to report anyone smoking imported tobacco products.

Every spare cent of foreign exchange earned from exports was used to import new machine imports to further industrialization and over many years South Korea’s manufacturing processes evolved to become more and more technologically sophisticated and eventually the nation transitioned to producing manufactured goods for export to foreign markets.

The history of the Samsung Corporation illustrates the successful development of the South Korean economy.

Samsung began selling dried fish, fruit and vegetables to China in 1938, before moving into flour milling and confectionery manufacturing, then textile weaving. In the early 1970s it invested in heavy, chemical and petrochemical industries and produced the first black and white television for domestic sale in South Korea in 1972. In the second half the 1970s Samsung moved into producing home electronics for export, and today is one of the world’s leading technology companies.

The result of all of this is that South Korea has seen one of the fastest rates of economic growth since WW2 – it’s GDP was over $28 000 in 2016.

However, South Korea’s development did come at a cost: political freedoms were limited (although Korea is now a democracy) working hours were very long, and gender inequality high. Today, South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and widespread alcohol dependency.

Sources:

Summarized from Brooks (2017) The End of Development.

 

 

 

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The Scale of the World’s Largest Corporations

I thought it’d be useful to do a little post on the sheer scale of global corporations, so below I simply list the top 10 by revenue and then in italics next to them I’ve put the countries who rank immediately below them by nominal GDP* at 2016 figures.

The Fortune 500 magazine publishes the list of the top 500 global corporations by revenue annually.

wal-mart.jpg

The Fortune Global 500 top 10 list by annual revenue (published 2017) are:

  1. WalMart Stores (US)  – $485.8bn (Poland – $467 bn, GDP rank 35 )
  2. State Grid (China) – $315.1bn (Denmark – $306 bn, GDP rank 24 )
  3. Sinopec (China) – $267.5bn
  4. China Natural Petroleum (China) – $262.6bn (Chile – $247 bn, GDP rank 44)
  5. Toyota Motor (Japan) – $254.7bn (Finland – $246 billion, GDP rank 45)
  6. Volkswagen (Germany) – $240.2bn
  7. Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands) – $240bn
  8. Berkshire Hathaway (US) – $223.6bn
  9. Apple (US) – $215.6bn
  10. Exxon Mobil (US) – $205bn (Portugal, $204 billion, GDP rank 47)
  11. (The 10 poorest countries in Africa – approx combined GDP = $190bn)

The top 10 companies in the list above consists almost entirely of Chinese and American firms – just three are from different countries: Germany, Japan and The Netherlands. The largest British firm on the list by revenue – BP – comes in at number 12.

More than a fifth of those on the latest list – 109 companies – call China home, up from only 29 companies a decade ago.”

Banking was the industry with the most number of companies on the list, at 55, followed by automakers/parts suppliers with 34, and petroleum refiners with 28.

In terms of countries, all of the very large population countries are way more economically powerful than any of the TNCs, and nearly every relatively large population Western European countries are richer than those TNCs.

However, there are plenty of European powers which are mixing it in with these corporations and only TWO African countries which mix it with the top ten TNCs – Nigeria and South Africa.

POLA0001
Walmart – had a higher 206 Revenue than Poland’s 2016 GDP

*I know there are problems comparing GDP and Revenue! I covered that in a previous post

Just for contrast… the Top 10 Largest UK companies by revenue are:

  1. BP – $186,606m
  2. Legal and General Group – $105,235m
  3. Prudential – $96,965m
  4. HSBC Holdings – $75,329m
  5. Aviva – $74,628m
  6. Tesco – $74,393m
  7. Lloyds Banking Group – $65,208m
  8. Vodafone Group – $58,611m
  9. Unilever – $58,292m
  10. SSE – $37,813m

It’s probably worth noting that 5 out of 10 on the above list are finance related companies (banking or insurance), while the rest really just provide ‘basic’ products – energy, communications and retail products. So the top end of the UK economy consists of a wierd combination of companies producing ‘the basics’ and ‘the evil dark arts of finance’. Thus you might say that our economy is 50% tangible or real.

Are Corporations more Powerful than Nation States?

This is all very well and good, but what does all this tell us about the power of TNCs compared to countries? Are TNCs actually more powerful, or is using revenue and GDP misleading? While they do both provide a measure of money flowing into a Corporation or a country on a yearly basis, they don’t take into account the nation state’s power of taxation and its (supposed) monopoly on certain forms violence…

Of course if we take the countries which rank above the top 10 companies – the USA, China and so on, it seems sensible to suggest that these two entities work hand in hand (Rex Tillerson being just the most obvious example), but when it comes to African nations, who barely register among the big boys, do they have any chance of standing up to such huge TNC entities?

Or is all of this moot with the rise of alternative economies, given that all of the above is measured in dollars?!?

 

 

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What is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is the idea that less government interference in the free market is the central goal of politics.

Neoliberals believe in a ‘small government’ which limits itself to enhancing the economic freedoms of businesses and entrepreneurs. The state should limit itself to the protection of private property and basic law enforcement.

Neoliberalism is most closely associated with Thomas Hayek and Milton Friedman, and the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Milton Friedman.png

Neoliberals advocate three main policies to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society: privatization, deregulation and low taxation.

Some examples of Neoliberal Policies include:

  • Lowering taxes on income, especially high income earners. When Thatcher came to power in 1997 she reduced income tax on the very highest earners from 83% to 60%.
  • Lowering Corporation tax – The government reduced the main corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to just 21% in 2014.
  • Privatising public services – Privatisation began under the Thatcher government of 1979 and continues today (2017). Britain’s rail, energy and water industries all used to be run by the state, but now they are run by private companies. Education and Health services are also being ‘privatised by stealth’, as more and more aspects of these services are contracted out to and run by private sector companies.
  • Reducing the number of rules and regulations which constrain businesses: This involves national and local governments monitoring private businesses less: by reducing the number of ‘health and safety standards’ businesses need to conform to and doing fewer health and safety and environmental health inspections for example.
deregulation UK.jpg
The ‘Red Tape Challenge’ offers some good examples of deregulation…

Further Background on Neoliberal Thought 

Neoliberalism emerged in the 1950s as a reaction against ‘Keynesianism’ – the idea that nation states should play a significant role in managing free market capitalism through high taxation in order to provide public services such as unemployment benefit, free health care and education (‘the welfare state’).

Keynsianism itself was a development of the earlier doctrine of ‘Liberalism’ which believed that individual freedom was the central goal of politics. Obviously the question of what kind of society allows for the most or best freedom is open to debate, but by the 1950s a consensus had emerged that ‘liberty’ was best guaranteed if the state provided a high degree of regulation of the economy and investment in social welfare.

Neoliberals such as Friedman believed that this ‘Keynesian’ model of organising the economy was inefficient, one of the reasons being that it restricts the freedoms of successful economic actors to reinvest their money as they see fit, because the state takes it away from them through taxes and gives it to the less successful, which in turn can create a perverse situation in which society punishes success and rewards laziness.

Evaluations of Neoliberalism

Arguments for neoliberalism

  • What right does the state have to tax money earnt through individual effort, innovation and risk?
  • Neoliberals argue that the private sector run services more efficiently than the state sector.
  • The argument for deregulation is that red-tape stifles business.

There are many critical voices of neoliberalism, mainly from the left and from within the green movement. Some of the main criticisms can be summarised as follows:

  • Cutting taxes on the rich has resulted in greater inequality and a lower standard of public services, especially for the poor.
  • Privatisation of public services has resulted in a massive transfer of wealth from the majority to the rich –
  • Deregulation has made society less safe and stable – critics blame deregulation of the finance sector for the 2007 financial crash and the deregulation of health and safety legislation as being linked to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Critical Points

It can be difficult to evaluate the impact of neoliberalism because the term is so broad, and there is actually quite a lot of disagreement over what it actually means.

Even if we just focus on the policy aspect of neoliberalism – and try to evaluate the impact of lowering taxation, privatisation and deregulation, you would almost certainly need to break these down and look evaluate the impact of each aspect separately, and maybe even subdivide each aspect further to evaluate properly.

Selected Sources used to write this post…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch37-thatcher.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

http://www.slobodaiprosperitet.tv/en/node/847

https://fee.org/articles/what-is-neoliberalism-anyway/

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20150326105407/https://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/themehome/rtc-results-2/

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What are the Most Useful Indicators of Development?

There are hundreds of economic, political and social indicators of development, ranging from ‘Hard’ economic indicators such as Gross National Income (and all its variations), to various poverty and economic inequality indicators, to the Sustainable Development Goals, which focus much more on social indicators of development such as education and health, all the way down to much more subjective development indicators such as happiness.

In this blog post I consider what the most useful indicators of development are for students of A level sociology, studying the excellent module in global development.

I’ve thus selected the indicators below to try and represent:

  • the most commonly used indicators collected by some of the major development institutions, both multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, as well as NGOS.
  • The indicators you need to know for the ‘indicators of development topic – most obviously GNP, the HDI and the MDGs.
  • Other indicators which are useful to know for different sub-topics within the global development course (health, education, gender, conflict, the environment etc…)

Taken together these indicators should provide enough breadth of measurements to gain a very good (for A level standards) insight into the level of development of a country, without resulting in information overload and mental meltdown…

Most of the above indicators below have been developed and are monitored by either the World Bank or the United Nations, but I’ve also included others, such as the Global Peace Index, which are collated by other agencies, so as to broaden out the data sou

The indicators I consider in more detail below are as follows.

  1. Total nominal Gross Domestic Product
  2. Gross National Income per capita (PPP)
  3. The percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day
  4. The percentage of people living below the poverty line within a country.
  5. The unemployment rate.
  6. The Human Development Index score
  7. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (overlaps with many other aspects)
  8. School enrollment ratios
  9. PISA educational achievement rankings
  10. Percentage of population in tertiary education.
  11. The infant mortality rate.
  12. Healthy life expectancy
  13. The gender inequality index
  14. The global peace index
  15. Total military expenditure
  16. Carbon Dioxide emissions
  17. The corruption index
  18. The Happiness Index.

NB – As with many other posts on this site, this is a work in progress, to be gradually updated as and when I get a chance!

Nominal Gross National Income

Nominal Gross National Income is the total economic value of domestic and foreign output by residents of a country.

It roughly works out like this: Gross National Income = (gross domestic product) + (factor incomes earned by foreign residents) – (income earned in the domestic economy by nonresidents).

Nominal Gross National Income rankings (2015)

  • 1st – USA = $17 trillion
  • 2nd –  China – $$10 trillion
  • 6th – UK = $2.8 trillion
  • 7th – India = $2.0 trillion

Nominal GNI is useful for giving you an idea of the ‘economic clout’ of a country compared to other countries. The real global power players (in terms of military expenditure) are all towards the top of this.

These figures, however, tell you very little about the quality of life in a country…. for that you need to divide the figure per head of population and factor in the cost of living in the country….

Gross National Income Per Capita (PPP)

Gross National Income Per Capita – is GNI divided by the population of a country, so it’s GNI per person.

(PPP) stands for Purchasing Power Parity – which alters the raw GNI per capita data to control for the different costs of living in a country, thus modifying the GNI figure in U.S. dollars to reflect what those dollars would actually buy given the different costs of living in different countries.

Gross National Income Per Capita (PPP) rankings (2013)

  • 1st – Qatar – $123 000
  • 11th – United States – $53 000
  • 23rd – Finland – $38 000
  • 27th – United Kingdom – $35 000
  • 126th – Nigeria – $5360
  • 127th – India – $5350
  • 185th – Democratic Republic of Congo – $680

More up to date data sources for various GNI stats:

GNI per capita (PPP) gives you a general idea of what the general economic standard of living is like for the average person in a country, however, there are serious limitations with this indicator – the main one being that it does not tell you how much of that income actually stays in a country, or how income is distributed. Quality of life will thus be a lot better for some people, and a lot worse for others than these gross statistics indicate.

The Percentage of People Living on Less than $1.25 a day

There are still around 800 million people around the world living on less than $1.25 a day (PPP), the figures for some of these countries are below:

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (88%)
  • Bangladesh (47%)
  • India (26%)
  • China (6%)

Looking at absolute poverty statistics like this gives us a much fuller understanding of the lack of development in certain countries – in DRC, you can clearly see that poverty is endemic (absolute poverty is a significant problem in many Sub-Saharan African countries), and we can also see that absolute poverty is still a significant problem in India (mainly rural India) and while the 6% is quite low in China, this 6% represents 10s of millions of people, given the large overall population size.

Proportion of population living below the poverty line within a country

The UN sustainable development goals states that one of its aims (under goal 1) is to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’. (Source – The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals)

The United Nations collects this data for countries will lower human development, but not for countries with high human development, and so here we are reliant on data from national governments or other agencies  – and the problem here is that different countries measure their ‘poverty line’ in different ways, so this means making cross national comparisons are difficult. Some sources are below:

Selected Stats on the Proportion of People Living Below the Country’s own poverty line:

  • Most low income countries with high absolute poverty rates register percentages of between 30-60% living below their own poverty lines.
  • The USA has 15% of its population living below its poverty line (a household income of around $24000 per annum)
  • The UK also has around 15% of its population living below its poverty line, although its line is higher than the US – around $30000.

So how useful is this ‘relative measure of poverty’ as an indicator of a country’s level of development?

  • They give us far more insight than the GNI per capita PPP figures, because they tell us about income distribution. Can you really call a rich country developed if 15% of its population aren’t earning enough of an income to fully participate in that society?
  • We also need them as an addition to the absolute figures of poverty – absolute poverty doesn’t exist in the wealthiest countries, but clearly relative poverty does.
  • HOWEVER, the differences in how relative poverty figures are calculated does make it difficult to make comparisons.
  • Also, some figures in the UN’s data just don’t seem believable – some ex-communist countries (such as Kazakhstan) report that only 5% of the population live below the country’s poverty line – either than line is extremely low or there’s maybe a little bit of mis-reporting going on?

The Human Development Index

The Human Development Index is compiled annually by the United Nations and gives countries a score based on GNI per capita, number of years of actual and expected schooling and life expectancy, or in the words of the UN itself – the HDI is ‘A composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.’

Selected Countries by Human Development Index rankings (2015)

  • 1st – Norway
  • 8th – United States
  • 14th – United Kingdom
  • 24th – Finland
  • 32nd – Qatar
  • 39th – Saudi Arabia
  • 55th – The United States
  • 56th – Saudi Arabia
  • 90th – China
  • India – 130th
  • 137th- Bhutan
  • 176th – DRC

For the strengths and limitations of the HID, please see my aptly titled post: ‘the strengths and limitations of the Human Development Index’.

Percentage of children enrolled in secondary school

The Gender Inequality Index

The United Nations defines the Gender Inequality Index as ‘A composite measure reflecting inequality in achievement between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market’.

More specifically, it gives countries a score between 0-1 (similar to the HDI) based on:

  • The Maternal mortality ratio: Number of deaths due to pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births.
  • The Adolescent birth rate: Number of births to women ages 15–19 per 1,000 women ages 15–19.
  • Proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament expressed as percentage of total seats.
  • The proportion of the female population compared to the male population with at least some secondary education
  • The comparative Labour force participation rate for men and women.

2015 Gender inequality index rankings

Selected countries according to their rankings for the Gender Inequality Index

  • 1st – Slovenia
  • 11th – Finland
  • 39th – The United Kingdom
  • 55th – The United States
  • 56th – Saudi Arabia
  • 97the – Bhutan
  • 127 – Ghana
  • 130th – India

The obvious strength of this is that we get to compare the life chances of women in a country to those of men. What’s (maybe) surprising is that while there does appear to be a general correlation between high GNI per capita (PPP), high human development and low gender inequality, the correlation is not perfect: as is evidenced by the USA being just one place above Saudi Arabia and Ghana being just a few places above India, despite these two pairs of countries having quite divergent levels of ‘human development’.

Notes 

Composite Versus ‘Single Variable’ Indicators

Some of the indicators above are ‘composite’ indicators – which are formed when individual indicators are combined into a single index, giving countries a simplified score, such as the Human Development Index, the Gender Empowerment Index and the Global Peace Index; others are ‘single variable’ indicators – such as the Child Mortality Rate, which just measure one thing.

My reasons for considering both composite and single indicators of development are that while composite indicators crunch more data into a single figure, and thus allow you to make more ‘in-depth’ snap-shot comparisons, single numbers simply don’t give you a sense of the real difference between countries, so these are necessary to highlight the extent of the difference between countries in terms of economic, social and political development, or lack of it.

(1) of course, studying development comparatively may or may not, in itself be useful!