What Are Tiger Cub Economies?

The term Tiger Cub economies refers collectively to the strongest five economies of Southeast Asia. This includes the economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The name is meant to imply that these economies follow the same growth model as the economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, which are also known as the Four Asian Tigers. As such, the Tiger Cubs are using exports to drive economic growth to develop their economies. Indonesia is the largest Tiger Cub, while Vietnam is the smallest.

Key Takeaways

  • The Tiger Cub economies are the economies of the five strongest Southeast Asian nations—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The term was coined to reflect the hope that these developing nations evolve along the same path as the Asian Tigers
  • The economies of the Tiger Cubs are still in the early stages of development.
  • Tiger cub economies have export-driven models that stress the importance of technology to achieve similar results as their ancestors.
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Tiger Cub Economies

Understanding Tiger Cub Economies

The term Tiger Cub was coined to reflect the hope that the economies of the dominant Southeast Asian nations would evolve in the same fashion as the Four Asian Tigers. These countries—Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—experienced substantial economic growth between 1950 and 1990 due to a huge push by the government and corporate sectors to promote industrialization.

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam all follow a similar path of growth. These economies adopted an export-driven model that stresses the importance of technology to achieve similar results as their ancestors. Growth in the Tiger Cub economies has been steady, unlike the rapid growth seen in the Asian Tigers.

The five Tiger Cub economies vary, where some are larger and further along in the development process, whereas others are in the early stages of growth. For instance, Indonesia is among the world's top 20 countries based on gross domestic product (GDP), ranking in 16th place at $1.119 trillion. The other nations in the group were listed as follows:

  • Thailand: $543.5 billion
  • The Philippines: $376.8 billion
  • Malaysia: $364.7 billion
  • Vietnam: $261.9 billion

Indonesia is the largest Tiger Cub economy with a population of more than 275.1 million people as of 2021, making it the world's fourth most populated country, behind China, India, and the United States.

As noted above, exports are a big part of the Tiger Cubs' growth strategy. Here are some of the most important exports for each individual country:

  • Indonesia: palm oil, telephones, automotive parts and motor vehicles, computers, jewelry
  • Malaysia: palm oil, petroleum, wood, liquified natural gas
  • The Philippines: electronics, petroleum, semiconductors, coconut oil, transport equipment
  • Thailand: textiles, machinery, chemicals, electronics
  • Vietnam: clothing, rice, crude oil, coffee
Tiger Cubs
Tiger Cubs (2/11/2020).

Special Considerations

The Tiger Cub economies are an attractive destination for continued foreign direct investment (FDI) as they exhibit the qualities necessary for maximizing external investments. This includes large and growing domestic markets, infrastructure improvements, developing investment conditions, sound economic management, and available low-cost labor.

You can also invest in Tiger Cub economies through mutual funds.

Investors who want to gain exposure to these growing economies can invest in country-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The following are some of the most popular ETFs on the market today, which are offered by iShares:

  • iShares MSCI Indonesia ETF (EIDO)
  • iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (EWM)
  • iShares MSCI Philippines ETF (EPHE)
  • iShares MSCI Thailand ETF (THD)

As of Feb. 11, 2020, THD was the best performer, as it continues to ride the strength of exports and tourism sectors to higher economic growth, while Malaysia (EWM) has been the clear laggard. This was, of course, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed down virtually every economy in the world.