Southeast Asia – The Land of Opportunity - Caleb Jones

The United States, Canada, and Europe are all in a slow state of collapse. South America has opportunities but is still a land of up-and-down chaos. Russia is a crap shoot. China is having problems. India has lost its mind. The Middle East is full of wars and death, as always. Africa is, well, Africa. New Zealand and Australia aren’t collapsing but aren’t growing either. The Asian Tigers like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and so forth are already at the top and have nowhere to go. 

There is one region in the world, and just one, that is going to experience explosive and near-guaranteed economic growth over the next few decades: Southeast Asia. Unlike anywhere else in the world, these countries are likely going to experience high single-digit and likely double-digit annual GDP growth for many, many years to come. There are many reasons for this including regional, demographic, economic, and cultural. Regardless of the reasons, SE Asia is the place for creative, international entrepreneurs and investors to focus on for the foreseeable future. 

When I say “Southeast Asia” in this growth context I’m talking about mainland SE Asia meaning Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and partially the western half of Malaysia (officially known as “Peninsular Malaysia”). Some people consider nations such as Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia as part of “Southeast Asia,” but I do not, at least not when talking about economic growth. 

I’ll overview each country in SE Asia below in order of GDP (except for Malaysia). I used Wikipedia for all economic stats and all GDP figures are nominal. 

Malaysia, the only Islamic country on this list, only partially fits into this growth category as I said above. Its GDP sits at just over $373 billion. It’s been growing strongly for a very long time at around 6.5% annually for almost 50 years(!). Unlike the rest of SE Asia, it is a Muslim nation rather than embracing the Buddhism that encompasses the other SE Asian nations, though it is a much milder and more inclusive version of Islam than is used in most of the Middle East. 

My personal opinion is that Malaysia is a decent bet, but I don’t think it will grow nearly as fast as the other nations in SE Asia primarily because it’s already grown so fast for so long. Don’t get me wrong, Malaysia will still grow, just not as fast as the other nations listed here. I also know a lot of guys who live in (or spend a lot of time in) Kuala Lumpur and really love it, so I have no doubt it’s a good place to live. 

Thailand is the king of SE Asia with a GDP of over half a trillion. It’s the “anchor” economy for SE Asia the way that Japan and China used to be for greater Asia before moving to first-world status. Already a favorite for many Western travelers and expats, the people and culture of Thailand are extremely friendly and welcoming to foreigners as compared to other Asian nations; this is reflected in its business culture which grew by double-digits annually during most of the 80s and 90s and by strong single digits post-2002. Their economic growth has slowed a little lately but is still light-years ahead of the Collapsing West. 

My personal opinion regarding Thailand is almost the same as my view on Malaysia. Thailand will continue to grow strongly but I don’t think it will experience the explosive growth of the other nations listed below mostly because it’s already number one and has already grown so much. However, Thailand is a really good place to invest for many Westerners since the currency is more solid and so inexpensive as compared to the US Dollar, making it perhaps a safer investment than the more wild-west nature of other SE Asian nations. 

Vietnam is the next largest SE Asian nation with a GDP of around $260 billion. Vietnam is badass. It’s ranked as the ninth fastest growing country in the entire world. It was a socialist shithole for many years, but it finally got its act together several decades ago and has surpassed powerhouses like China and India in terms of reducing poverty rates. Very impressive. Vietnam is predicted to have 10%+ annual growth rates starting in 2025(!). It’s even predicted to surpass all the nations in Scandinavia and even Singapore(!). 

My personal opinion is that Vietnam is going to continue to explode, in a good way, and will do extraordinarily well, barring something unusual and unforeseen. Go for it. 

Myanmar is the most interesting, risky, dangerous, and perhaps exciting of the SE Asian nations. For the past several years, at least until 2011, Myanmar was a hellscape of violent civil war and brutal ethnic violence. Thousands upon thousands of people were slaughtered, raped, and/or became refugees. Economic sanctions crushed much of the economy. Thankfully, they’ve calmed down in recent years. There are still many problems but they’re improving. In 2016 they actually opened their first stock exchange.  

My personal opinion is that Myanmar will grow faster and sooner than any other SE Asian nation, but the risks are still high and doing business there or investing for Westerners will be difficult. Consider any investing or business operations there as purely speculative and be prepared to work very hard. 

Cambodia is an economic baby with a GDP at only $24 billion. However, because of this smallness it is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, growing even faster than Vietnam(!). It’s averaged 7.6% growth over the past decade. Staggering! It’s also a world leader in poverty reduction.  

My personal opinion is that Cambodia is my favorite country in SE Asia. I think that Cambodia will become the next Singapore or Hong Kong in our lifetimes, though growth will be choppy at times. I think amazing things will happen there over the next few decades. I plan on investing there heavily and doing business there. 

Laos is the economically smallest country in SE Asia with a GDP of barely $20 billion. Guess why. Because it’s socialist, even communist in certain respects. Despite all of that, it is still growing faster than most other countries in the world, but not nearly as fast as its other SE Asian brothers. 

My personal opinion is to stay away from Laos and instead focus on the more exciting nations like Vietnam or Cambodia. With its backward communist bent, there’s no reason to screw around with Laos when other SE Asian nations are better bets. At some point Laos will become more capitalist and then it will be a good time to look at it. 

Southeast Asia, folks! That’s where the growth will be over the next few decades. With the possible exception of Africa, it’s the only place in the world where this kind of growth is virtually guaranteed. I have extensive business plans and investment plans for SE Asia. You should too. 

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18 Comments on “Southeast Asia – The Land of Opportunity

  1. You’re optimistic about these countries’ futures despite most of them rank pretty low on the Economic Freedom Index – care to expand on this?

     

    Also, your thoughts on the Eurasian  -stan countries?

  2. You’re optimistic about these countries’ futures despite most of them rank pretty low on the Economic Freedom Index – care to expand on this?

    Great question. Countries already very high on the freedom indexes end up going in which direction? Downward. Hong Kong, USA, Singapore, etc, it’s happening to all of them, albeit some more slowly than others.

    Countries currently low in the indexes experiencing economic growth tend to go in which direction in terms of freedom? Dramatically upwards. Look at China now vs China in the 1970s. Chile, Estonia, Vietnam, etc.

    This article isn’t about the best places in the world right now. It’s about what will be the best places in the world later. It’s about growth.

    Also remember what I’ve said many times about how the individual Western man can often experience more personal freedom living in a low-freedom second-world country than living in a bloated, high-tax, first-world country.

    Also, your thoughts on the Eurasian -stan countries?

    The -stan countries can’t seem to get their fucking acts together for some reason. I’m not well versed in that part of the world so I don’t understand why. I hear a few tiny possible rays of hope for Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, but that’s all they are.

    That being said I think Georgia and Armenia are going in the right directions; I plan on planting flags in both of those countries. They’re not quite -stan countries but they’re close. The problem with those countries is that they’re part of Europe, and you know where Europe is going.

  3. The United States, Canada, and Europe are all in a slow state of collapse

    I’d say Western Europe’s rate of collapse is more medium paced than slow; I expect Western and Central Europe to be a pile of bricks and ruble by the end of next decade. Italy and Greece are goners while France and Germany are next. Britain is the only Western nation that might grow (slowly) if (and that’s a big IF) they actually manage to push Brexit through. Eastern Europe, on the other hand, seems to be on an upward economic streak, still reeling from the horrors of the USSR’s communist economy.

    India has lost its mind.

    I can see India cleaning their act up over the next few decades, but they are indeed decades behind China today.

    New Zealand and Australia aren’t collapsing but aren’t growing either.

    Given that we can except these countries to adopt more socialistic policies like the rest of the West over the next few decades, they’ll probably start collapsing around the middle of this century (possibly earlier) and will be where the USA is today (20 years into its collapse) around the 2060s-2070s. Barring some major technological advancement, I’ll be nearly dead by then.

    I agree with the remainder of the assessment.

  4. Caleb what would be an easy way to invest and take advantage of growth rates in this region? Bonds, currencies etc?

  5. Wow, maybe it’s time for the Dead Kennedys to write an unironic version of Holiday in Cambodia.

    Also, bonus: Who wrote the following?

    “The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.”

    If you guessed Caleb, you guessed correctly (duh). But if you guessed Nassim Taleb, bestselling author, decamillionaire, world-renowned anti-economist and codifier of the “Black Swan” effect in statistics, then you also guessed correctly (verbatim quote from his latest book Skin in the Game, near the end of book 3… can’t tell the exact page since I’m listening on Audible).

    Skin in the Game came out in 2018. Which of the following do we think explains this?

    a) Two intelligent, highly analytical, free-thinking guys came to the same conclusion independently; or

    b) Taleb’s a lowkey Alpha 2.0.

    The real answer’s probably a, but I’m gonna go ahead and say b.

  6. I get the economic growth part but ehat about yhe actual conditions of living for the time being? I’m thinking of setting up a base in singapore or Malaysia.

  7. I’d say Western Europe’s rate of collapse is more medium paced than slow

    Correct.

    Eastern Europe, on the other hand, seems to be on an upward economic streak, still reeling from the horrors of the USSR’s communist economy.

    I have nothing against Eastern Europe and plan on planting a flag or two over there next year, but you’ll have a hard time explaining why Eastern Europe will prosper when Western Europe collapses.

    Caleb what would be an easy way to invest and take advantage of growth rates in this region? Bonds, currencies etc?

    Bonds or currencies, no. Three best ways in my opinion:

    1. Start a small Alpha 2.0 business over there.

    2. Invest in stock-based ETFs over there.

    3. Purchase or invest in real estate over there.

    “The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.”

    If you guessed Caleb, you guessed correctly (duh). But if you guessed Nassim Taleb,

    Yup. It’s obvious to anyone who has a decent brain and is politically objective.

    Lots of people have decent brains. Very few people these days are politically objective.

    Taleb’s a lowkey Alpha 2.0.

    You’re not the first to make that observation. 🙂

    How do the northeast countries Japan and South Korea compare?

    As I’ve explained several times before, Japan is completely fucked long-term economically and demographically and is the only nation in Asia that is on the decline. In 100 years there will be no Japan as we understand it today.

    South Korea will maintain its spot at the top and not grow much… until it reunifies with North Korea. Then you’ll see a massive economic boom of China-like proportions. The problem is that we have no idea when/if that will happen and predicting the timing of such a thing is impossible.

    I get the economic growth part but ehat about yhe actual conditions of living for the time being? I’m thinking of setting up a base in singapore or Malaysia.

    If quality of life is the most important thing to you, then yes, Malaysia would be the best of the countries I listed in the article.

  8. South Korea will maintain its spot at the top and not grow much… until it reunifies with North Korea. Then you’ll see a massive economic boom of China-like proportions.

    Why do you believe that, I wonder. East Germany was dragging reunified Germany down for decades, in some regards still is, and the disparity was nowhere as drastic.

    Eastern Europe, on the other hand, seems to be on an upward economic streak, still reeling from the horrors of the USSR’s communist economy.

    Movement from rock bottom to mediocre is upward, sure.

  9. Why do you believe that, I wonder. East Germany was dragging reunified Germany down for decades, in some regards still is, and the disparity was nowhere as drastic.

    Koreans are not politically correct, guilt-ridden, hard-left, suicidal Germans. Virtually no comparison.

    Could you elaborate please.

    You mean a country where half a billion people shit in the street? Well, read exhibit A here.

  10. Caleb, what about the Philippines?

    The Philippines isn’t in SE Asia.

    My general guess is that the Philippines will just bounce up and down forever, somewhat like like Brazil.

  11. Why do you only consider mainland south Eastern Asia to be SE Asia and exclude Philippines and Indonesia?

    what’s your opinion on the future of the Philippines?

  12. Why do you say the Philippines is not in Southeast Asia?

    I realize that technically people consider it part of SE Asia, but it isn’t a part of the economic zone I’m taking about. Re-read the first part of this blog post.

    The Philippines will experience moderate growth as it slowly moves from an agricultural nation to an more urban one, but it will not experience any of the explosive growth the nations I documented here will.

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