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The Emerging World’s High Achievers

Development economists have long sought to identify the “secret sauce” that enables certain economies to achieve more stable and robust growth than their counterparts. A comparison among the 18 highest-performing emerging economies provides powerful insights into what that formula might be.

MUMBAI – Emerging economies are often grouped together as something of a monolith. But when it comes to economic performance, they diverge widely, with only some countries achieving rapid and relatively consistent growth over long periods. What is their secret?

In the McKinsey Global Institute’s recent review of the per capita GDP growth of 71 emerging economies, 18 stood out. In seven – China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand – per capita GDP grew by at least 3.5% annually over the half-century from 1965 to 2016.

The other 11 high performers tend to get less attention, as their per capita GDP growth began to accelerate more recently. Yet Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Laos, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam all achieved per capita GDP growth of at least 5% for 20 years, from 1996 to 2016.

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