Wednesday, March 01, 2017

BWorld 112, Asia Liberty Forum 2017 in Mumbai

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 15, 2017.


Mumbai, India -- The title of this piece is from JP Narayan of the Lok Satta Party in India, who made that comment during the Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) that was held from Feb. 10 to 11, 2017 in Mumbai.

That remark seems to apply in many countries where the rule of law is weaker and the rule of men -- especially those in charge of several forms of regulations -- are stronger. These are the types of people who also impose restrictions and prohibitions on their political enemies and ordinary folk but exempt themselves, their friends, supporters, and families.

Below are other insightful quotes and comments from other speakers during the ALF. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Center for Civil Society (India), Atlas Network, John Templeton Foundation, Smith Family Foundation (USA), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Germany).

1. “The word ‘Freedom’ has been lost because we mean ‘freedom from’ while an enormous number of people mean ‘freedom to.’” -- Linda Whetstone, Network for a Free Society (UK).

That quote is correct and the confusion may be rooted from the common definition of freedom as “freedom from coercion” (by the State or government, clan, church, gang, etc.) and is similar to Friedrich Hayek’s definition of liberty as “absence of coercion.” Linda also added that “Trade and exchange is not a zero sum game... both sides can be better off.”

2. “Inequality is not the issue; what bothers people is the ‘psychological threat to my perceived status.’” -- Tom Palmer, Atlas Network.

Again, I agree.

Take note that free people are not equal and equal people are not free. Freedom allows people to be super-efficient or be super-mediocre or absolutely irresponsible in their own lives. This personal decision automatically results in material inequality among people. The only equality that matters is equality before the law, or the equal application of the law on unequal people. Thus, the law against robbery should apply to all, from the President to the richest people to middle class, down to the poorest people.

3. “What we have in India is a PPP -- Perpetually Planned Poverty” -- Rajesh Jain, Free a Billion (FAB).

This is a funny but brutal parody and satire of an otherwise famous catchword in the Philippines and other countries of PPP (Public-Private Partnership) for big infrastructure projects. Rajesh was referring to various laws and restrictions by the government of India that he also called as “like air, it is all around you in India.”

4. “Top communist individuals in this country come from the upper class of society... Capitalism and Caste cannot coexist.” -- Chandra Bhan Prasad, a public intellectual and commentator, India.

He is referring to the various privileges and perks that cronies and state-protected corporate interests enjoy but are withheld from the rest of society. This is true because competitive capitalism is driven only by endless innovation and is anathema to state protectionism.

5. “Demonetization is the biggest assault on property rights in India... Nehru nationalized industries, Indira nationalized banks, and Narendra Modi nationalized private cash holdings.” -- Barun Mitra, Liberty Institute, India.

In November 2016, the Modi government pursued demonetization, a policy to remove all 500 and 1,000 (about $15) rupees from circulation to supposedly curtail the huge black market economy and counterfeit currency that funds illegal activities. These are exactly the currencies that hundreds of millions of poor Indians hold because of their low income and government has disallowed use of these. Very autocratic indeed.

6. “Globalization of capital is the most liberating force particularly for the poor.” -- Christopher Lingle, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala

Contrary to common belief that globalization only favored big capitalists and businesses, globalization has benefitted the poor more in the form of (a) being employed locally by foreign investors that were otherwise prevented from coming in, (b) being employed abroad as they were assigned by their multinational firms or being hired by competing foreign firms, (c) being stockholders through time of both local or foreign firms as enterprise competition intensifies.

7. “Regulatory focus is to tap down on innovation because nobody understands something new. Lack of rule of law leads to adverse selection. Legitimate firms exit, leaving only bad actors.” -- Susan Thomas, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, India.

This is true. The implicit or explicit purpose of regulation is to limit and restrict innovation that can lead to business disruption and more income inequality. Some regulations simply kill innovation and we do not see or realize it because it was not initiated in the first place. Lack of rule of law means high rule of men; only friends and cronies of rulers will prosper while the non-cronies will remain small or exit the market.

8. “There is a messianic belief among regulators that if there is any money made in India it must be taxed. Also underlying core belief among regulators that India is the fastest growing economy so the world owes us investments.” -- Sudeepto Deb, Minerva Consulting, India.

This attitude by regulators of tax-tax-tax whenever there is perceived new income seems to apply in many other countries too. Former US President Ronald Reagan has a good summary of this when he said: “If it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

9. “There are only two political philosophies: liberty and power.” -- Simon Lee, cofounder of Lion Rock Institute, Hong Kong.

Ultimately, yes. It is a battle between state-worshippers and regulators and the public or regulated parties who want more economic freedom. There are in-betweens of course, like people who move from the regulated to becoming regulators and vice versa.

There were many other useful comments and ideas during the conference but there is not enough space for this column. I am simply thankful to the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia for giving me the travel grant to attend the event.


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of EFN Asia.
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Mining 47, JB Baylon on the DENR Secretary

I am reposting here two of JB Baylon's facebook postings about the new DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and the mining industry. These 2 papers were posted by JB last February 26. 

For me, there are two issues here in the on-going controversial policies of Sec. Lopez: (1) heavy government regulations and taxation of the mining industry, and (2) rule of law, when government revokes the mining/business permits that itself has granted.
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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CBCP

It seems that some members of your ranks are raising the flag of LAUDATO SI to call for the confirmation of the DENR secretary designate.

Please ask these individuals to make sure they have read it and read it well.
Because if they did they should have noticed this:

1. The Holy Father mentions mining directly ONLY ONCE - on Paragraph 51 where he rails against the harm caused by mercury pollution in gold mining and sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining.
That's in one line in one paragraph out of 246.

2. But the Holy Father mentions "impulsive and wasteful" consumption (par 162), "scandalous level of conusmption" (par 172), the need to modify consumption (par 180) over THIRTY TIMES!!

That's THIRTY TIMES versus ONCE.
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WHY SHE IS A BAD CHOICE EVEN IF SHE IS A LOPEZ
(Or maybe because she is one?)

SHE SAYS: : mining is damaging our environment! If you love your country, really really love your country, you should be against mining. The environment is more important than the money the miners make!

THE TRUTH: mining covers less than 3% of our TOTAL LAND AREA - so if as she claims that mining does damage the environment in 3% of the country. who inflicts the damage on the rest, on the 97%???

But more importantly RESPONSIBLE MINING means PROGRESSIVE REHABILITATION... and over the last five or so years mining firms have planted over 20 MILLION TREES nationwide.
Not to mention coral reef rehab.

Finally she has not acted against illegal mining especiallly the small scale operations that pollute the environment, are not required to rehabilitate their mining areas and do not pay taxes properly!

SHE SAYS: Mining makes communities poor. Look at Caraga it remains the poorest region in the country!

THE TRUTH: Mining communities are far better off with responsible mining that brings electricity, schools, Clinics, scholarships, roads and other businesses. Mining firms spend BILLIONS to fill the void that Government misses in remote areas. Without mining, the residents of these otherwise remote communities will have to fall back on subsistence farming or subsistence fishing. Most mining areas are inhospitable areas or areas whose soil is not loam soil that is perfect for agriculture.
Without mining they won't be poor - they'll be dirt poor!

SHE SAYS: There is no such thing as RESPONSIBLE MINING.

THE TRUTH: On her first day in office (July 1) she was told by Leo Jasareno that all mining firms had to undergo ISO 14001 certification which is the HIGHEST international standard. She hailed ISO 14001 as "another way of saying responsible mining." But maybe the next day she found out that most mining operations obtained their ISO 14001 certifications - so she scrapped that and conducted her own audit. But if ISO 14001 is the HIGHEST standard, then her audit has LOWER STANDARDS, yes?

SHE SAYS: Embrace Laudato Si, the Papal Encyclical on Climate Change! Those against mining use Laudato Si to condemn the industry.

THE TRUTH: Laudato Si is made up of 246 paragraphs. The Holy Father only mentions mining ONCE, in paragraph 51. But he lambasts wasteful and shameful consumption more than 30 times and points out that MEDIA fuels the consumption mindset.

She should be LAUDED for her passion.
But she should be REJECTED for the position she aspires for because her PASSION colors her MINDSET.
Just because she is passionate and a Lopez do not make her a good choice to be Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources.

We need a better one/ someone who knows the Law, is incorruptible, has a fear of God and is no-nonsense. Like lawyer Tony LaViƱa or geologist Caloy Arcilla. You cant run circles around either of them even if you tried.

Reject Gina Lopez.
Let the DENR's loss be the ABS CBN Foundation's gain!
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See also:

Mining 44, Presentation at the Mining 2015 Conference, September 17, 2015 

Pol Ideology 69, Math can show that small or minimal government is optimal

As humanity modernizes further, complexity and diversity among people increases. Forcing a big number of people into a centrally-planned design to achieve social coherence will only mean more bureaucratism if not dictatorship. Here's one proof.
                                           
Mathematicians Prove Society is Way Too Complex to Have A President
November 18, 2016 at 11:18 am
Written by Alice Salles

“[T]he concept of civilization as a complex organism,” mathematicians concluded, “is qualitatively different than either [democracy or communism].”

According to NECSI’s director, Yaneer Bar-Yam, “[t]here’s a natural process of increasing complexity in the world” that at some point will “run into the complexity of the individual.” Once we reach that point, Bar-Yam added, “hierarchical organizations will fail.”

From The Mind Unleased,

“There’s a natural process of increasing complexity in the world that at some point will run into the complexity of the individual. Once we reach that point, hierarchical organizations will fail.” http://themindunleashed.com/.../society-complex...



From Motherboard,

"It is absurd, then, to believe that the concentration of power in one or a few individuals at the top of a hierarchical representative democracy will be able to make optimal decisions on a vast array of connected and complex issues that will certainly have sweeping and unintended ramifications on other parts of human civilization." https://motherboard.vice.com/.../society-is-too...

The full paper by Bar-Yaam is 23 pages long, http://www.necsi.edu/research/multiscale/EOLSSComplexityRising.pdf

I like this chart. As society progresses, as humanity modernizes, we need more lateral connections and network, not vertical hierarchical ordering. Only ego-tripping central planners and dictators would love more hierarchy.


A friend Eric T asked, "What if, instead of forming a network with lateral connections, each new state ended up operating in a silo?"

From this chart, Eric is referring to the hybrid set up, somehow vertical and horizontal, pwedi, but I think modern societies with small population like SG, HK, Switzerland, are in a hybrid state now.

Another friend, Winthrop added, 

The danger of 'silos' has made the lateral linkages even more important. Even in civil society - old-style 'united fronts' are increasingly being superseded by 'dynamic coalitions', hindi na uso yun one-size-fits-all.... In the end -- individual effort by key persons within the various companies, organizations and institutions.But the organization culture will have to be flexible and open to these dynamic linkages and engagements - it cannot be - "you're either with us or against us"

Good points there by Wyn, the hybrid is the optimal set up for societies in the present. My article last Monday in BusinessWorld was about federalism and disintegration of the Philippines.  To have one President or PM over 103 M people is lousy. Whereas it is more manageable to have 1 PM over 5.7M people (SG) or 1 Chief Exec over 7.5M people (HK) or 1 King/PM over 0.4M people (Brunei), they would somehow fall under the hybrid set up.
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BWorld 111, Electric cooperatives and unstable power supply

* This  is my article in BusinessWorld last February 08, 2017.


Almost everything we do now requires energy and if we stay in non-mobile structures like buildings and houses, everything requires electricity. Energy precedes development so unstable and expensive energy means unstable and poor economy.

Given the technological revolution the world has experienced in recent decades, it remains a tragedy that many countries still have low electrification rates and very low electricity consumption per capita.

Unfortunately, the Philippines is among those countries with still not-so-high electrification rates until today and its electricity use is among the lowest in the ASEAN (see table).


Electricity consumption in kWh per capita is high for the following developed and emerging Asian economies: Taiwan, 10,460; South Korea, 10,430; Brunei, 9,550; Singapore, 8,840; Hong Kong, 5,930; Malaysia, 4,470 (6.5x of PHL); China, 3,770; Thailand, 2,490 (3.6x of PHL). These countries and economies also have 100% electrification rate except perhaps China.

There are two reasons why the Philippines has a relatively low electrification rate and low per capita electricity use.

First is due to its archipelagic geography.

Many municipalities and villages are located in islands that are off-grid and, as a result, their residents rely on biomass like firewood for cooking and gensets running on diesel for lighting although some do use solar.

Second is due to politics.

There are not enough base-load power plants that can provide electricity 24/7 even in major islands like Luzon and Mindanao. This is because of political opposition by certain groups to cheap and stable fossil fuel sources like coal. Also, there are many bureaucracies (national and local) that discourage the quick construction and commissioning of new power plants. There are also weak, inefficient, and even corrupt electric cooperatives (ECs) that are given monopoly privileges to serve certain provinces and municipalities.

There are 119 ECs in the country from Luzon to Mindanao plus private distribution utilities like Meralco and those in PEZA/ecozones. All ECs are supervised and regulated by the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Of the 119 ECs, some remain financially weak and problematic until today, like the Abra EC (ABRECO) and Albay EC (ALECO). These two ECs are so deep in debt they are unable to provide stable electricity to their customer-members and have arrears with power generating companies (gencos) that supply them electricity at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

According to National Electrification Administration (NEA), from 2004 to 2014, it has released subsidies to ABRECO worth P56.6 million for the implementation of the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP), Barangay Line Enhancement Program, and its procurement of a modular generator set.

For ALECO, it was badly managed and was on the brink of bankruptcy that local business and political leaders proposed and supported its corporatization and take over by more established energy players.

In January 2014, ALECO was acquired by San Miguel Energy Corp.’s subsidiary Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) and renamed it as Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC). ALECO then was the first EC in the country that was corporatized.

Upon takeover, SMC Global and APEC inherited a P4-billion debt by ALECO including overdue payments at WESM of nearly P1 billion.

More than two years after the takeover, the debt ballooned to P5.6 billion, mainly due to low collection efficiency. APEC said its database of customers has been sabotaged since about 80% of its customers are not on the database.

APEC resorted to disconnecting some big customers that do not pay but disgruntled ALECO employees and officers have resorted to reconnecting them.

The ball and accountability is in the hands of NEA. Why are these things allowed to continue for years, to the detriment of paying customers and generation companies that are not paid on time.

In 2015, NEA reported that it lent a total of P2-billion loans to 51 ECs to finance their capital expenditure projects, rehabilitate their power distribution systems, among others.

NEA should perhaps consider slowly stepping out of the sector and push all the ECs to move towards full corporatization with full exposure to expansion or bankruptcy. The sector that needs protection should be the electricity consumers, not the ECs.

Consumers should be protected from expensive and unstable electricity as well as disconnection because the DU or EC has been disconnected by gencos and WESM for huge unpaid accounts.

The NEA, along with other government agencies in the energy sector, should look at the above table again, and try to find out why our electrification rate and electricity use are at the level of Pakistan and Mongolia instead of at the level of Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.


Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the President of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET and Stratbase-ADRi.
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Trump's Joint Address at US Congress today

I watched US President Donald Trump's Joint Address in the US Congress today. There were lots of applause and frequent standing ovations, mostly from the Republican legislators. I know that many people, many friends included, hate this leader but he seems to deliver powerful messages that get through the hearts of many Americans.

He is stoking American nationalism to a high level. Whether this implies trade protectionism or not is a matter of debate, but he seems to be effectively stoking that #Americanspirit. Am not American nor do I live in the US so I cannot fathom these things well.

On the “rise once again of ultra-nationalism”, I think Obama did the same, stoke American nationalism with the slogan "Hope and change" for 8 years. But the unconventional style and messages of Trump seem to show that Obama failed to sustain his nationalism call with the voters.

My quick impressions of his speech:

1. He wants more government in defense and military, immigration and border control, rule of law.
2. He wants less government in healthcare (repeal and replace Obamacare), in regulations, bureaucracies and taxes.
3. Mix message in trade: less or zero export taxes but more bilateral engagement in trade.
4. In foreign aid (USAID, US contributions to UN, WB, ADB, etc.), I think there will be a shrinkage in funding in the next 4 years. He said,

"And we've spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.... Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways..."

Being an advocate of less/minimal government, for me these pronouncements are good. Former President Ronald Reagan's ideals are somewhat revived?

"We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials --- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.... reduce jobcrushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners....

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies... massive tax relief for the middle class....

our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan's life, from reaching those in need. If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan."

Larry Reed of FEE made this good observation:

"Trump's economic nationalism (especially as it takes the form of tariffs and bullying companies about where they want to locate) is a big problem but he gave the best speech of his political career tonight. Certainly there were things a liberty lover should take issue with but I hope the good things he talked about are given praise, attention and encouragement. Deregulation. Hiring freeze. Getting rid of Obamacare. Gorsuch, etc."

Another friend and fellow BusinessWorld columnist Jemy Gatdula observed,

"damn fine speech. the best part about it is the litany of failures that the progressive policies wrought and seeing the democrats' reaction as it was being read to them. a boffo performance by a man just a month into his presidency."

Jemy added that he's far from being a Trump fan but he gives credit when it's due. Meanwhile, here are US stock market performance over the past 6 months ending yesterday. Business optimism is sustained by Trump? Charts from WSJ Markets.



 Am not really a fan of Trump but I like many of his policies -- on energy, deregulation, debureaucratism, tax cut, etc.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Free Trade 65, On the US withrawal from the TPP

Last month, US President Donald Trump issued this Memorandum to the US Trade Representative. Part of it said,

“it is the intention of my Administration to deal directly with individual countries on a one-on-one (or bilateral) basis in negotiating future trade deals. Trade with other nations is, and always will be, of paramount importance to my Administration and to me, as President of the United States.

Based on these principles, and by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct you to withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to permanently withdraw the United States from TPP negotiations, and to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.”

Global media outlets, even free market groups and leaders called this act as "US protectionism" and I disagree with this assessment. The US, the EU, ASEAN countries, all other countries in the planet have their own sets of protectionism, usually in the form of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) or non-tariff measures (NTMs). But withrawal from a regional free trade agreements (FTAs) = protectionism?

The purpose of regional  FTAs is to have free trade, freer mobility of services/people among member-countries in the region while retaining or expanding protectionism to non-member economies. Thus, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is free trade, zero tariff among the 12 member countries across the Pacific but not to other countries outside the agreement.

I see four implications of this move by Mr. Trump.

1. "Trade diversion" from non-members to TPP-members won't happen anymore. TPP is US + 11 other countries, of which 4 are from the ASEAN (MY, SG, VN, BR). So others not included in the TPP (ID, TH, PH, CM, SK, TW, etc) that are supposed to experience lower trade with the US will be spared of some negative effects due to trade diversion. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38721056

2. The biggest winners may be Asian countries that were left out of the  TPP (PH, TH, ID,...) and not China, so this article is wrong. https://hbr.org/.../if-trump-abandons-the-tpp-china-will...

Papers by Dr. Ramon Clarete of UPSE, Dr. Cesar Cororaton (formerly with PIDS, now in a US university) have computed the trade diversion effect. Something like -0.3 to -0.6% of potential GDP reduction in Asian countries not part of TPP.

3. More countries will realize that they need to push the multilateral, global free trade agenda under the WTO, instead of creating or expanding regional FTAs. If they can't do (a) multilateral free trade or (b) regional free trade, then (c) unilateral trade lib will become more attractive to them. ASEAN countries have done this step, across the board reduction in tariff even for non-ASEAN countries, but not towards zero tariff though, unlike SG and HK.

4. Japan will be pushed to the front to lead the TPP, http://www.wsj.com/.../japan-to-keep-pushing-free-trade....While China will continue pushing for RCEP, much bigger than TPP.

So, does stepping back from a regional FTA like TPP automatically means protectionism? If yes, how to explain HK which does not seem to belong to any regional FTA in the planet except with China, and HK is the most free trade economy in the world?

Stepping back from a regional FTA (TPP, TTIP, EU, NAFTA, AFTA, MERCUSOR, etc) may mean expanding free trade with more countries outside the region. Of course it may also mean further protectionism.

Bilateral FTA means that trade deals will be customized with each country's security and diplomatic offers or services. I think this means that there will be more trade and business diplomacy, less military/climate/political diplomacy. The top US diplomat, State Sec, is a big businessman, not big politician or big foreign affairs bureaucrat.
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BWorld 110, Should we go federal or not?

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 02, 2017.


Whether to move from devolved unitary to a formal federal state, this is among the big political questions in the Philippines today. There are two related questions here: (1) If federalism is the answer, what is the question? (2) if federalism is not the answer, is a reformed devolution the solution?

The first question I borrowed from a big forum several months ago from my alma mater, the UP School of Economics. The second question is my reformulation of the arguments by the anti-federalists.

By definition, federal states are those whose national governments share power with semi-independent or semi-autonomous regional or provincial governments.

To further contextualize the national debate, let us view some global data about federal states compared to non-federal states.


Other federal states and economies that are too small (GDP size less than $1B) and not included in the list are Saint Kitts and Nevis, Comoros, and Micronesia.

The above numbers tell us that while there are huge and rich federal economies like the US, Germany, and Canada, there are also huge and rich non-federal economies like Japan, United Kingdom, and France. And there are many poor federal economies like South Sudan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Venezuela.

So the promise of “more development if we go federal” is highly questionable. There are more important factors that are directly related to the economic wealth and prosperity of countries other than the forms of government like federalism vs. unitary, presidential vs. parliamentary, centralized/socialist vs. decentralized. And those factors always include the rule of law, the sanctity and respect for laws, laws that apply to both rulers and ruled, to both governors and governed.

A debate on federalism will take place on Feb. 2 at Vivere Hotel, Alabang. It is organized by the Rotary Club of Muntinlupa North, PCCI-Muntinlupa, both presided by Ms. Elvie Sanchez-Quiazon, and the Muntinlupa City government.

The generally pro-federalism speakers will be Dean Pacifico Agabin of UP Law Center and Jonathan Malaya of PDP. The generally anti-federalism speakers will be Ambassador Hermenegildo Cruz, Prof. Gene Pilapil of UP Political Science Dept., and Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government will also speak but he considers himself as more on the listening mode than being identified as pro- or anti-federalism.

I will be there as one of two reactors. This role is cut out for me because I am agnostic about the issue, so I can listen more to the two camps with no personal bias.

My bias is towards disintegration of huge countries -- huge population, huge land area -- into newer countries, to accommodate competing cultures and political and religious beliefs.

Consider Brunei with only 0.4M people, Maldives with only 0.5M, and Bhutan with only 0.8M people. They are fine as countries, they have their own currencies, tax system, national governments, international airports, etc.

Contrast with huge countries like China, India, Russia, USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines. The US in particular and its 320M people remain heavily divided for many months now over the Trump candidacy and presidency. The idea of initiating a secession of their states from the US like the California exit (“Calexit”) was revived again by some quarters.

If I were to answer the two questions above they will go like these: (1) If federalism is the answer, then the question is who are the better central planners, the national or regional/provincial planners? (2) If federalism is not the answer, then having rule of law and limited government is the more appropriate solution regardless of the form of government.


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of EFN Asia.
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ALF 9, Conference 2017 in Mumbai, India

The Asia Liberty Forum (ALF) is an annual 2-days conference jointly sponsored by the Atlas Network (US), Center for Civil Society (CCS, India) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF, Germany). Five ALF events so far from 2013-2017 and I have attended the last 3 -- 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal; 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and 2017 in Mumbai, India.

Some photos of the ALF 2017 last week, February 10-11 held at The Leela Mumbai Hotel. Below, Baishali Bomjan, a superwoman at the CCS, formally opening the conference on Day 1.

 

Speed networking, a traditional Atlas conference activity where participants introduce to each other one on one for 2 minutes, then move to the next person in front. Notice the background, "Freedom" translated in various Asian languages.


About 250 people registered, some they come and go. About 200 max at any one time.


Among the tweets on Day 1 under the hashtag #AsiaLF17:

"Trade and exchange is not a zero sum game ... both sides can be better off"…

"When you have free markets & property rights, you open up lot of opportunities" - Linda Whetstone

"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were intoxicated, thinking that our ideas had won...
I am a free market fundamentalist, I am also a democratic fundamentalist....
Populist trends did not happen on their own, they have been rising over the last ten years.... 
There is a huge political convergence that has taken placeThe traditional left and right agree on one point- use the state." -- Barun Mitra


Why #property rights matter for #India's poor: Give them rights and they turn rocks into a garden. -- #liberal activist Ambrish Mehta

One more #liberal bonmot: "Government is like air, it is all around you in #India." -- Rajesh Jain @freeabillion 

"Technology equalises power of communication and lowers role of money ... there would be no Tea Party without Facebook... "Every human being is fundamentaly a #liberal at heart. #Freedom is built into our DNA." -- Matt Kibbe @mkibbe

"why do we still turn our backs to private schools despite data that these schools are preferred choice for many?" -- Brajesh Mehra


Our panel on Deregulation, 4pm of Day 1.


From left: Vivek, Syed Mizanur, Seetha, Alex, me.

"Incentives for politicians have to be changed; data doesn't support reelection for good eco stewardship" --  Vivek Dehejia

"Standardised containers did more to reduce trade costs than lowering trade tariffs…  Exits are important for Liberty because it disciplines firms." Alex Tabarrok


My 19-slides presentation, Electricity deregulation and re-regulations in Asia, Philippines in particular.

My article in BusinessWorld last February 15 about the ALF17, The public sector is the private sector of those in public offices. It is reposted at the EFN Asia website.

A good keynote speech during the farewell dinner, Day 2 of ALF given by Amit Varma, The landscape of freedom in India.

Thanks to Simon Lee for this photo, with Parth Shah, President of CCS. I met Parth for the 1st time in April 2004 during the Mackinac Leadership Conference in Michigan conducted by Lawrence Reed, Joe Lehman, other great Mackinac guys. Andrew Work, Ellen Sandig Cain, Manali Shah were also our batchmates in that great conference. Andrew is represented in this photo by Simon who was 1 of 3 co-founders of the The Lion Rock Institute in HK.


Below: standing are me and Barun Mitra. Seated are Mohit Satyanand and Julian Morris. In June 2005, the International Policy Network (IPN, UK) organized the Global Development Forum in London, a conference in support of more free trade, less aid. It was held 2 weeks before the G8 summit in Scotland where the main agenda was more foreign aid (or simply more govt to govt aid) to "make poverty history". IPN Exec Dir then was Julian, I and Mohit Satyanand were 2 of about 6 speakers.


Flashback 2014, EFN Asia Conference in HK. Parth, Andrew and me, batchmates in Mackinac Conference 2004. Barun joined us.


I am very thankful to EFN Asia for providing me the travel grant to attend ALF 2016 (KL) and ALF 2017. Thank you Pett, Siggi. My attendance of ALF 2015 (Kathmandu) was courtesy of Media 9/Business 360, thank you Charu; and partly by Samriddhi, thank you Robin.
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