The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program was established in 1992 among countries that share the Mekong River—Cambodia, People’s Republic of China (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The GMS Program has focused on promoting connectivity as a means of accelerating trade and investment, consequently stimulating economic growth, and ultimately helping to reduce poverty. The areas of cooperation include agriculture, energy, environment, human resource development, investment, telecommunications, tourism, transport infrastructure, and transport and trade facilitation.
In recent years, Cambodia has moved closer to lower-middle-income status through resounding economic growth. This has been driven by solid performances in garment manufacture, tourism, paddy and milled rice, and construction. While this growth is expected to continue in 2016, the economy remains vulnerable to external shocks and natural disasters. Although the poverty rate fell between 2007 and 2012, from about 50% to below 20%, more than 70% of Cambodians still live on less than $3 a day, which means that many of them remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty.
Following 3 decades of rapid economic growth, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is now an upper middle-income country. The country is transforming to a new growth model that emphasizes quality and sustainability, supported by innovation. Addressing climate change-related concerns is also recognized as high priority.
The economy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) continues to grow vigorously. However, because it is a resource-rich country with an economy heavily reliant on mining and hydropower, more focus on diversifying the economy is needed. The government must strive for strong macroeconomic management, a sound fiscal framework, and effective budget management. While the government has consolidated expenditures to contain the deficit, it needs to increase fiscal and foreign reserves to absorb any future shocks.
Having attained upper-middle-income status in recent times, Thailand aspires to reach higher-income status within the next decade. With its strategic geopolitical position and significance as the second-largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the country plays a major role in promoting regional cooperation and integration.
Viet Nam’s economic growth has been increasing since 2011, while inflation has remained in single digits. Well-balanced macroeconomic policies have helped restore stability and investor confidence, with growth being propelled by a surge in foreign direct investment and export-oriented manufacturing.
Emerging from decades of economic and political isolation, Myanmar is striving for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. The country has strong potential for broad economic expansion, possessing abundant natural resources, a strategic location at the crossroads of Asia, a young population, and a sizable market with wide-ranging investment opportunities. Successful national elections, held in November 2015, represented an important milestone in Myanmar’s transition.