Sources of developmental ambition


Tracking Development (TD) research concluded that the mark of the successful Southeast Asian developmental states is that they set out to generate growth with equity by sustainably raising the earning capacity of very large numbers of poor people, as urgently as possible, by whatever means were immediately available. African regimes have not only failed to do this; they have very seldom seriously attempted or intended to do it.

This research stream investigates why not. What was it about political elites in Thailand and Malaysia in the 1950s, Indonesia in the 1960s, and Vietnam in the 1980s which inspired them to embark on broad-based, inclusive developmental efforts that were at once urgent and sustained? Contending explanations include differences in political ideology, in ethical principles, in views regarding the nature of development, in social cohesion, and in the political and economic strength of rural and urban interest groups.

Some commentators have tried to trace these factors in turn to underlying differences in geography, demography, and history between the two regions. We investigate the question with special attention to contemporary statements by key decision-makers themselves, regarding their aims, their motives, and the scope and limitations of their power to shape the future.


Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Vietnam.

Stream leaders:

Prof David Henley, University of Leiden, with Ahmad Helmy Fuady, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Jakarta.

Initiating and sustaining developmental regimes in Africa was funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The views expressed on this website and in material published by the Developmental Regimes in Africa project are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any of DRA's member organisations.