Research Analyst
May 2 - 15, 2011

South Asia is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and the adjoining countries to the west and the east.

According to the United Nations geographical region classification, Southern Asia comprises the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Afghanistan, Iran, and Sri Lanka. Myanmar and Tibet are also sometimes included in the region of South Asia. South Asia is home to well over one fifth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and most densely populated geographical region in the world. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) is an economic cooperation organization in the region.

South Asia is the poorest region on the earth after Sub-Saharan Africa, and it has the lowest GDP per capita. Poverty is the deep-seated menace in the region. According to the poverty data of the World Bank, there was more than 40 per cent of the population in this region living on less than $1.25 per day in 2005, compared to 50 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Maldives has the highest GDP per capita in the region, while Nepal has the lowest. India is the largest economy in the region (US$1.54 trillion) and makes up almost 82 per cent of the South Asian economy; it is the world's 10th largest in nominal terms and 4th largest by purchasing power adjusted exchange rates.

Pakistan has the next largest economy and the 5th highest GDP per capita in the region, followed by Bangladesh. If Iran is counted, it will become the second largest in terms of region and the economy. South Asia is the least integrated region in the world; trade between South Asian states is only two per cent of the region's combined GDP, compared to 20 per cent in the East Asia while 70 per cent of the South Asian population and about 75 per cent of South Asia's poor live in rural areas and most rely on agriculture for their livelihood.

According to the Global Hunger Index, South Asia has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. In a report published by UNICEF in 2008 on global hunger showed that the actual number of child deaths was around 2.1 million. As of 2008, India was ranked 66th on the global hunger index. It was estimated in 2006 that the low status of women in South Asian countries and their lack of nutritional knowledge were important determinants of high prevalence of underweight children in the region. Corruption and the lack of initiative on the part of the government has been one of the major problems associated with nutrition in India. Illiteracy in villages has been found to be one of the major issues that need more government attention.


Southeast Asia is a sub-region of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India and north of Australia. Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia. Even prior to the penetration of European interests, Southeast Asia was a critical part of the world trading system. The Ryukyu Kingdom often participated in maritime trade in Southeast Asia. A wide range of commodities originated in the region, but especially important were such spices as pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Indian and Arab merchants initially developed the spice trade, but it also brought Europeans to the region.

First Spaniards (Manila galleon) and Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British and French became involved in this enterprise in various countries. The penetration of European commercial interests gradually evolved into annexation of territories, as traders lobbied for an extension of control to protect and expand their activities. As a result, the Dutch moved into Indonesia, the British into Malaya, the French into Indochina and the Spanish and the U.S. into the Philippines.

Downtown Singapore: Despite small size, the city-state has the most vibrant economy in the region, including the world's busiest port. The region's economy greatly depends on agriculture, manufacturing, and services are becoming more important. An emerging market, Indonesia is the largest economy in this region. Newly industrialized countries including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei are affluent developed economies. The rest of Southeast Asia is still heavily dependent on agriculture, but Vietnam is notably making steady progress in developing its industrial sectors. The region notably manufactures textiles, electronic high-tech goods such as microprocessors and heavy industrial products such as automobiles. Reserves of oil are also present in the region. Seventeen telecommunications companies have contracted to build a new submarine cable to connect Southeast Asia to the U.S. This is to avoid disruption of the kind recently caused by the cutting of the undersea cable from Taiwan to the U.S. in a recent earthquake.

Tourism has been a key factor in economic development for many Southeast Asian countries, especially Cambodia. According to UNESCO, tourism, if correctly conceived, can be a tremendous development tool and an effective means of preserving the cultural diversity of our planet.

In 1995, Singapore was the regional leader in tourism receipts relative to GDP at over 8 per cent. By 1998, those receipts had dropped to less than six per cent of GDP while Thailand and Lao PDR increased receipts to over seven per cent. Since 2000, Cambodia has surpassed all other ASEAN countries and generated almost 15 per cent of its GDP from tourism in 2006. Indonesia is the only member of G-20 major economies and considered as the largest economy in the region.

Stock markets in Southeast Asia have performed better than other bourses in the Asia-Pacific region in 2010, with the Philippines' PSE leading the way with 22 per cent growth, followed by Thailand's SET with 21 per cent and Indonesia's JKSE with 19 per cent.