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‘South East Asian industrial revolution hinged on resolute character’

PEssential character traits and resolute attitude such as discipline, sacrifice and hard work embedded in the cultural set up of South East Asian countries have been identified as pivotal in propelling their industrial growth.

A Professor in Economics at the Takasaki City University of Economics, Japan, Prof. Motohiro Kurokawa, made this known at a public lecture in Accra, on: “South East Asian Industrial Policies and the Implications for Ghana and Africa”.

He said creating an identity for a country was very crucial because it aided in building a resilient economy and underlined the need for every developing nation to create a niche for itself devoid of corruption.

He said Japan was not a perfect nation but with tenacity of purpose, Japanese made headway in industrialising their economy, thus attracting millions of dollars in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which enabled them to industrialise between 30 and 40 years, as against other nations that achieved the feat in 200 years.

Prof. Kurokawa said at a point in time, some employees in Asian countries did not receive salaries or wages for months, but they worked very hard to sustain their companies, and when the firms expanded and became profitable, their incomes were improved by their employers.

He said developing countries must ensure creativity, innovative technology and quality government and improve infrastructural facilities, with the right policies to create the enabling environment for accelerated industrial development.

“Every country must look at its strength and take advantage of it just like what the Asian nations did because we can’t impose our experiences on you,” he added.

The event, organised by IMANI Africa, a policy think tank, in collaboration with the Japanese Embassy, attracted captains of industries, chief executive officers and heads of public institutions, including the National Development Planning Commission, One-District-One-Factory Secretariat, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana-Israel Business Chamber and Ghana Investment Promotion Centre.

It was on the theme: “Setting the Right Stage for Industrialisation: Customising Asian Experience for Ghana and Africa”.

Prof. Kurokawa said it was necessary for developing nations to protect their infant industry with strategic subsidies like non-cash incentives and “soft skills”.

He said they must as well be knowledgeable about the industry and ensure quality communication between public institutions and the private sector to make domestic businesses competitive on the global market.

Prof. Kurokawa asked developing economies to institute strong local content policies, by setting high standards for FDI, saying that Japanese invested heavily in her human resources, which aided in the production of high quality products to the international market.   

He explained the benefits and weaknesses of two industrial strategies – Import Substitution Industry (ISI) and Export Oriented Industry (EOI) strategies – and how Thailand and Malaysia adopted them to grow their respective automotive industries.

He said, for instance, that the Malaysian adopted the ISI strategy by establishing a national car brand, which they produced in large quantities and sold them on the domestic market, while Thailand also produced cars as a national enterprise and sold them outside.

Prof. Kurokawa said as much as both industrial strategies have some advantages and weaknesses, it was prudent to merge the two strategies at a point in time in order to accelerate economic growth, instead of sticking to one.

While comparing the two industrial strategies, Prof. Kurokawa was of the belief that the ISI strategy was not sustainable because when the national industry expanded, the domestic market would not absorb them all and, thus, expressed preference for the EOI strategy since a global market is unlimited.

Answering a question on whether the quality of government could play a role in a country’s economic growth, Prof. Kurokawa explained that although most of the Asian nations had autocratic governments practicing Communism or Socialism during their industrial revolution, they implemented policies to engender economic growth.

He called on African governments to create the enabling economic environment and infrastructure to facilitate economic growth.

He said public-private partnership was essential in attaining economic growth, but there should always be a good public sector to work together for growth.

Prof. Kurokawa was of the belief that after setting up a business for five years, it should be competitive at the national level in terms of pricing and production. GNA

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