Across the Mekong region, ‘development’ has become synonymous with rapid economic growth, to be achieved through predominantly large-scale, private investments. The development model promoted by the region’s governments prioritizes trade and investment liberalization, and privatization. Private investment is sought in virtually every sector of the economy from energy, oil, minerals, agriculture and food processing to education, health, tourism, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transportation and urban infrastructure.
This paper presents an overview of these investment trends in the Mekong region, the regulatory and policy changes designed to facilitate large-scale foreign and domestic investment, and the impacts of such investment on the living and working conditions of workers in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). It offers a critical perspective on the scale and range of large-scale investments in the region, and how these investments privilege large investors over local populations and public interest.