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This Decade’s Growth Champions

Summary:
Which countries will be the big economic success stories of the next ten years? South Korea is a safe pick, while Vietnam and Mexico also are poised to prosper, whereas India’s divisive politics put that country out of the running for the time being. ITHACA – With 2021 still young, and hope in the air thanks to new COVID-19 vaccines and a new occupant of the White House, we can finally stop covering our eyes in horror and peer furtively into the future. As the decade unfolds, which countries are likely to be the biggest economic success stories? Can Cheap Countries Catch Up? MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images Biden Goes

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Which countries will be the big economic success stories of the next ten years? South Korea is a safe pick, while Vietnam and Mexico also are poised to prosper, whereas India’s divisive politics put that country out of the running for the time being.

ITHACA – With 2021 still young, and hope in the air thanks to new COVID-19 vaccines and a new occupant of the White House, we can finally stop covering our eyes in horror and peer furtively into the future. As the decade unfolds, which countries are likely to be the biggest economic success stories?

My bet is on South Korea, Vietnam, and Mexico, three countries at markedly different stages of development. South Korea is an advanced economy, while Vietnam is what the World Bank calls a lower middle-income economy, like India or Bangladesh. Mexico, an upper middle-income country like Colombia, Botswana, or Indonesia, is somewhere in between. I predict that each of these economies will outperform others in its cohort over the next ten years.

South Korea is the safest pick of the three. Beginning in the late 1970s, during the last years of Park Chung-hee’s presidency, its economy gathered steam and sustained a two-decade-long growth run, before hitting the roadblocks thrown up by the 1997 East Asian financial crisis.

Rich countries have less growth potential than poorer ones. But among rich countries, South Korea’s prospects stand out – mainly because of its investment in human capital. With 3,319 patent applications per million population in 2019, South Korea is head and shoulders above other countries. Japan had the second-highest number, with 1,943, while China and the United States had 890 and 869, respectively. In April 2019, South Korea became the first country to launch a nationwide 5G campaign, and South...

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