Economic freedom, taxes and tariffs in Asia

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last December 01, 2016.


Human prosperity is not possible if there is no economic freedom, if people do not have the freedom to own private property and have freedom to trade. Misery is the result if people live under political dictatorships and bear the effects of the state’s economic central planning.

These, among others, were the topics discussed in the two-day Economic Freedom Network Asia (EFN Asia) Conference 2016 last Nov. 22-23, 2016 at Dusit Hotel, Makati City. The event’s theme was “Economic freedom and human rights in business,” primarily sponsored by EFN Asia and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).

The event also launched the results of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) 2016 Report by Fraser Institute in Canada. The EFW index is measured by getting the scores (0 to 10, zero is totally unfree and 10 is full economic freedom) of countries covering five criteria: (1) Size of government, (2) Legal system and property rights, (3) Sound money, (4) Freedom to trade internationally, and (5) Regulation.

Countries with big governments and high taxes get low scores in the first measure while nations with highly corrupt legal systems and unstable property rights protection will receive low ratings in the second, and so on. The composite score of the five criteria covered is generated and countries are ranked from highest to lowest (see table).


The numbers on the right show the following.

One, for many years now, Hong Kong and Singapore are recognized as the two freest economies in the world. Their governments are strong in enforcing the rule of law and protecting property rights, have low income tax rates, zero or near-zero tariff rates. They may have many non-tariff barriers (NTBs) but that is for another paper.

Two, many ASEAN countries are in the middle tier in global ranks out of 157 countries covered. Outliers are Singapore which is high up there, and Vietnam and Myanmar which are among the bottom-ranking countries.

Three, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries’ score and global ranking do not significantly move up or down and I think there are flaws in the scoring made by Fraser. Here’s why.

In sub-area “Freedom to own foreign currency bank accounts,” the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam got 0 (out of 10). Similarly, these four countries also posted low scores in criteria 3, Sound Money. I think foreigners and foreign corporations can own forex bank accounts here in the Philippines, also in Malaysia, so why did Fraser give a score of 0?

In sub-area “Capital controls,” the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam scored only 0.77 while Indonesia and Thailand scored 1.54 (again, out of 10) such that their scores under Area 4, Freedom to Trade Internationally, are again low.

Perhaps the capital control that Fraser refers here is the maximum amount of Pesos (about P10,000) and dollars ($10,000) that Filipinos and foreigners can bring in or out when they travel abroad. But many travelers hardly use big cash for their transactions, they use credit and debit cards. People can also send huge amounts of money anytime via banks or money couriers from abroad to the Philippines and vice versa, without capital control limits.

Since countries’ global ranks are separated only by one or two decimal places, significant low score in Areas 3 and 4 in this case would mean overall low score. As a result, the Philippines’ overall score of 7.01 made it rank 80th while Taiwan’s score of 7.65 made it ranked 23rd. A difference in score of 0.64 already spells a huge difference of 67 places in global ranking.

Fraser should either check its data properly or adjust the scoring.

Instead of 0 or 10 for “freedom to own forex account,” “capital control” and other sub-areas, it may adjust the score to 0 or 4 or 5. This will reduce the distortion in overall score and hence, in global ranking.

Nonetheless, Fraser is doing a good job in promoting the philosophy of economic freedom, free trade, rule of law, low taxes and limited government. Its annual EFW report is being cited in various international studies and helps guide civil society and corporate leaders, government and public policy makers in instituting reforms towards a freer, more prosperous world.


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of EFN Asia.


Day 1 of Conference 2016

efn0The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference 2016 at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati ended last Wednesday. Thanks again FNF and EFN for another wonderful conference.

Here are some tweets from #efnasia2016 and my own thoughts about the event.

Protection of human rights is part and parcel of EU policy – Walter van Hattum, EU Delegation to the Philippines.


It’s a responsibilty of businesses to respect human rights… It is state duty to protect and defend human rights in its territory.

Nobody can seriously suggest that businesses can opt in and out of respecting human rights as they wish… There is legal obligation for businesses to respect HR.

Businesses should be as transparent as possible so they will be less likely to be attacked by false news. Business leaders are often uncomfortable explaining to the public how they work. It’s understandable but unwise. — Markus Leöning, former Himan Rights Commissioner in Germany.


Increasingly populist goverments a threat to human rights and economic freedom. The pendulum has swung as globalization has failed in its promises to those who have lost out in its benefits. Food for thought. — Frank Largo

For me, among the important human rights of the people is freedom to choose in the market place, freedom to sell or not sell, freedom to buy or not buy. Political human rights like the right or freedom from theft (especially organized criminals), murders, prosecution and harassment, that is where the state should come in.

A minimal government focused on enforcing the rule of law, enforcing contracts between and among people, is consistent with economic freedom and human rights protection. That minimal govt should have no business creating and expanding lots of endless welfarist programs. Prosperity is not an entitlement or privilege. Lazy and irresponsible have no right to a prosperous life, they deserve poverty. Politically incorrect statement, as usual.

Rule of law means the law applies equally to unequal people. So the law should apply to both rich and poor people, to big/giant and small firms. A law or contract can be written, verbal, done by govt or private entities. Basic human rights then means that people have access to such equality before the law.

Below, Rainer Heufers moderating, with Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Peter Kompalla, Rishi Sher Singh, Dr. Manzoor Ahmad in the new panel.


People’s definitions of human rights vary. What may be HR violations to some can also be another’s sole income sourceDefinitions of human rights vary. What may be HR violations to some can be another’s sole income source. — Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Good point. Some westerners may consider temporary child labor as HR violation already but for some households, it is ok and necessary. If a sole family breadwinner is gone for instance, the young need to work to help sustain the family. Harsh but necessary.

Stakeholder values, not just shareholder values. — Rishi Sher Singh

Barun Mitra tweets:

Business of business is indeed business! Inclusive of profitability for investors, benefit to consumers, add values to society.

Better protection of human rights, improved environmental quality, higher sense of justice, necessary social value additions.

Value added products, economic and social, become affordable with prosperity, and necessity in a free competitive market.

Implentating Rule of law carries cost, level of effective enforcement has to be affordable, economically socially politically. #EFNAsia2016

I think corporate branding will help global firms stay the course in HR and econ freedom protection, respecting #ruleOfLaw. Firms would dislike to be associated with bad products, bad services, bad corporate image. So they will try to be as transparent as possible, to be accountable to their products and practices. Transparency is good protection vs negative image/attacks.

Session 2 Panel speakers: H.E. Franz Jessen of EU, Dr. Lee Taekyu of KERI, and Atty. Arpee Santiago of Ateneo Human rights Center.


Govt and countries don’t trade, individuals and businesses do. Govt negotiating trade treaties leading to anti-trade backlash.

Free trade is voluntary, so win win. Govt negotiations may liberalise trade, but legitimises govt in trade n economy, corruption.

Environment, labour or human rights standards in national trade treaties, focus on outcomes, give advantage to large, richer cos!

Society / govt benefit most if they adopt unilateral free trade. All politics is local, a local decision will minimise backlash.

Govt negotiating trade, inevitably adopt export is good, import is bad outlook. Free trade is beneficial when govt has no role.

Access to internet can’t be a “Right”. Political rights are negative rights. Any +ive right paid for by others can’t be a RIGHT.

TPP may be good agreement, but has lost legitimacy because govts. no longer carry credibility among large sections of people. –– Barun Mitra

As usual, I agree with Barun’s ideas and observations: unilateral trade liberalization; countries and governments do not trade with each other, people do; so governments, national and multilateral, should step back from trade negotiations as much as possible. Let companies and people organizations negotiate with their suppliers and consumers abroad and keep prices low via low or zero tariff, minimal non-tariff barriers


Program of Conference 2016 in Manila

The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference 2016 will start in two days, November 22-23, 2016 at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati. It is organised by EFN Asia and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), with support from four organizations: the Philippine Economic Society (PES), EU Delegation to the Philippines, Ateneo Human Rights Center, and Bloomberg TV Philippines.

The program is here, Below, I just copy-pasted the program minus the time and some space.

MC for Day 1 will be Minnie Salao, Program Manager, FNF – Philippines, and Pett Jarupaiboon, Regional Program Manager (Economic Freedom and Human Rights), FNF Southeast and East Asia (based in Bangkok).

Good line up of speakers from many countries on Day 1.

I think President Duterte’s admin might raise their eyebrows on the subject of “human rights”. But the conference will talk less, if ever, of murders and large deaths in the on-going “drugs war” of the government, more on the conduct of business in the age of expanding trade and business globalization.

Day 2 of EFN conferences are always devoted to the launching and discussion of the annual EFW reports by Fraser Institute, based in Vancouver, Canada. Fraser is almost always represented by Fred McMahon for several years now.

Session 9 will be a more political discourse of human rights but not necessarily mentioning the Philippines. This is because the three speakers — Tom (US), Razeen (Sri Lanka) and Barun (India) — are long-time fighters of individual freedom, dating back to 3 decades ago or more.

Economic freedom, not economic central planning. Rule of law, not rule of men and dictators. Looking to another exciting conference next week.


Economic freedom and human rights

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 18, 2016.


Economic freedom is the ability and privilege of people to engage in various social and economic activities without unnecessary restrictions and prohibitions. Such freedom is guided by voluntary exchange, open markets, personal choice and accountability, and clearly defined private property rights.

People are economically free if they can choose to buy or not buy certain goods and services from various sellers, when they are not forced and coerced to buy something expensive and/or poor quality. Freedom is not absolute though and free people have no freedom to harm other people nor destroy, burn or steal their private properties.

Human rights include the right to life, right to private property, and right to liberty and security of person. Thus, even a person who has committed a wrong act should be given due process to defend him/herself from false or exaggerated accusations. Murders of individuals based on flimsy or unsubstantiated accusations like what is happening in a number of instances in the on-going war on drugs are deprivations of those people’s human rights.

Combining these two concepts is very important for people to live with freedom and dignity.

And these two concepts will be tackled in a big international conference by the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia on the theme, “Economic freedom and human rights in business” this coming Nov. 22-23 at Dusit Thani Manila Hotel, Makati City. The conference is jointly organized by EFN Asia Economic Freedom Network Asia (EFN Asia) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), supported by four local organizations, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippine Economic Society (PES), Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), and Bloomberg TV Philippines.

Among the key speakers and major resource persons in this event will be Siegfried Herzog, head of Regional Office, FNF South East and East Asia; Ms. Rosemarie Edillon, president of PES; Markus Loening, former German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, and Vice-President Leni Robredo.

Other speakers will be Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Malaysia; Chito Gascon, chairperson of CHR; Franz Jessen, ambassador and head of Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines; Nicholas Sallnow-Smith, chairman of the Lion Rock Institute, Hong Kong; and Peter Perfecto, executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC).

So, how economically free are the people of the Philippines and big nations of the ASEAN? How free or unfree are they from heavy regulations that tend to restrict entry into markets and interfere with the freedom to engage in voluntary exchange?

The Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) 2016 report give scores to countries (0 most unfree, 10 most free) based on five criteria and areas: (1) Size of government, (2) Legal system and property rights, (3) Sound money, (4) Freedom to trade internationally, and (5) Regulations. Then they are ranked from the most free to the least free economies.

For this short paper, only the performance in Area 5 will be tackled and in particular, sub-areas on labor regulations and business regulations.


The Philippines has a modest score in both labor and business regulations, meaning not yet choked by those multiple bureaucracies and permits. In particular, the country has a good score in labor hiring regulations and enforcement of the minimum wage, but it has a low score in hiring and firing of employees.

From some existing policy debates in the Philippines today, we can apply the principles of economic freedom and human rights on these issues.

(1) On labor contracting including endo, being hired for short-term labor contracting is a privilege, a human right for new job entrants and the unskilled. It is much better than being rejected and not hired by employers because of the high cost of hiring new additional workers and the threat of government harassment for firing the un- or less-experienced, less skilled people.

(2) On a nationwide minimum wage and abolition of regional wage disparities, this one-size-fits-all policy will make hiring people in the provinces become more expensive, and, as a result, there will be fewer hiring of lesser-skilled, lesser-experienced people. There are now more machines and robots available that can slowly replace more laborers.

(3) On entrepreneurship, it is a privilege and human right for the more hard-working, more ambitious people and they should not be deprived or discouraged to try that route because of heavy government regulations, bureaucratism, and taxation.

Increased market dynamism and fewer government regulations and taxation are the keys to ensuring economic freedom and protection of human rights.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a SEANET Fellow. Both organizations are members of EFN Asia.


EFN’s panel on TPP at Jeju Forum 2016

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last June 13, 2016.


Free trade means free individuals and a free society.

People who cannot find certain goods and services at specific quality from local producers given their limited personal or household budget may be able to find those from foreign producers. And people who cannot sell their products or services to local buyers may find those buyers abroad.

And this highlights the beauty of free trade: No trade will occur unless both parties, the buyer and seller, will benefit. There are losers and gainers in free trade of course, the same way that there are losers and gainers in no trade (autarky) or restricted trade. Overall, there are “net gains” in free trade where the advantages outnumber the disadvantages.

Global free trade is supposed to be facilitated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) when it was created in 1995. But 21 years later, this is far from happening.

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) and even trans-continental agreements were invented such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This topic was discussed during the recently concluded big annual international conference, “Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity 2016,” held in Jeju, South Korea. The forum also had a panel that had the theme, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: an Assessment of its Political Economy” sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the Economic Freedom Network Asia (EFN Asia) last May 26, 2016.

The discussion moderator was Dr. John Delury, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. The discussants were Dr. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, Executive Chairman of the Thailand Future Foundation (TFF), Kwon Tae-shin, President of the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) in Seoul, and Dr. Keisuke Iida, Professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, Japan. The opening remarks was given by Dr. Lars-Andre Richter, Resident Representative of FNF Korea Office.

Panel Rapporteur was Pett Jarupaiboon, who is also the also the Program Manager of EFN Asia, based in Bangkok, Thailand. Pett shared his notes with me.

The three discussants are all liberal economists and are pro-free trade, pro-WTO, but they disagree and debate on the role of the TPP.

In particular, Mr. Kwon and Dr. Iida were critical of the WTO because of the lack of progress in global free trade. Dr. Sethaput argued that RTAs like TPP would undermine the progress of the WTO.

Here are the main arguments of the discussants.

(1) Mr. Kwon, KERI, South Korea. TPP members will enjoy an increase in exports and income from an enlarged market size, and they will also enjoy more consumer welfare due to a decrease in import prices and intensive competition. According to a recent study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, if TPP takes effect in 2017, the GDP of TPP member countries is likely to increase by 0.5%-8.1% in 2030, compared to the GDP forecast in an event of non-adoption of TPP.

(2) Dr. Iida, Univ. of Tokyo, Japan. TPP has a rule-making function, and these rules as provided in international relations as well as who wrote them are important issues. For the US, joining TPP is part of a larger strategy of “pivoting” to Asia or rebalancing to Asia. The US was preoccupied with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and was not paying enough attention to Asia. Therefore, TPP was part of the toolkit to achieve this new policy for the Obama Administration. For Japan, which has to rely on the US for security, TPP meant mending the fences with the US following a series of recent frictions including the planned relocation of one of the most important marine bases in Okinawa to outside Okinawa.

He added that TPP is seen to benefit Japan, projected at 2.6% of GDP (accordingly to the Cabinet Office), a significant number considering that its potential growth rate minus TPP membership is mere 0.5%.

(3) Dr. Sethaput, TFF, Thailand. A multilateral system with non-preferential treatment covering many countries like the WTO is better than mega-regional trade regimes like TPP and RCEP. Why?

(a) TPP is subject to the usual problems of trade diversion: increased trade among members, lesser trade with non-members.

(b) TPP is not just about trade, it also includes other issues like investor and intellectual property protection, labor and environmental standards, etc.

(c) The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism provides international arbitration that benefits US corporates. The US Trade Representative notes on its Web site that “the United States has never lost an ISDS case.”

(d) RCEP is a better alternative, has less non-trade baggage, uses the best elements of the multilateral system, like WTO dispute settlement, TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

(e) Ultimate goal should be the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which includes all the existing members of APEC including China and Russia. This can be achieved through either expanding the TPP or merging TPP and RCEP.

Personally, I believe that the best trade policy is unilateral trade liberalization. Be friends to all countries and economies who can bring in the best products and services at best qualities and at the best or most competitive prices into our shores and shops. This will bring down the cost for all local manufacturers in need of cheaper capital goods, cheaper raw materials, and intermediate products, which will result in cheaper production processes. Local consumers will also benefit for obvious reasons. And those countries will likely return the favor with zero or very low tariff for Philippine exports too.

Since this is far from happening, the second best policy is multilateral and global free trade. This is not happening too. So the third best policy is joining mega-RTAs like the TPP and RCEP. The worst policy of course is autarky or no trade, or even very restricted trade.

The Philippines and all ASEAN members are already RCEP members. The Philippines should proceed applying for TPP membership. The dreaded provision ISDS is actually important and useful. It simply protects foreign investors who come to other TPP member-countries based on TPP rules, when other member-countries will suddenly change the rules midway. The ISDS in effect will help prevent members from arbitrarily changing rules on trade, investments, IPR, competition and other policies.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is a Fellow of SEANET, President of Minimal Government Thinkers, which is a member of EFN Asia.


Jeju Forum, Report on “Free Market Environmentalism”

* Originally posted on May 29, 2015.

Last week,  Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia and Friedrich  Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) participated at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity 2015, with its own session about free market environmentalism, held  last May 21 afternoon.

Welcoming Remarks were given by Rolf Mafael, German Ambassdor to S. Korea, and Siegfried Herzog(speaking in this photo), FNF Regional Director for Southeast and East Asia, based in Bangkok, Thailand.

2Session speaker was Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, President of the UN Environmental Assembly; Former Minister, Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Green Development.

Panelists were:

(a) Henning Hoene, Member of Parliament, North Rhine-Westphalia; Spokesperson for Climate & Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection,

(b) Sunil Rasaily, Founding Partner, QED Consulting Group, Bhutan; and

(c) Dr Yun Sangho, Research Fellow, Division of Public Policy Research, Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI).

Moderator was Matthias Grabner of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in S. Korea.

Photo below, from left: Sungho (hidden), Rasaily, Hoene, Sanjaasuren, and Grabner.



Rapporteur’s Report

by Miklos Romandy, FNF Southeast and East Asia office, Bangkok

Session 4-C: “Free Market and Environmentalism: Why They Should Love Each Other”

– The world population stands at about 7 billion today. The UN predicts that by mid-century it will have grown to more than 9 billion. This will lead to an immeasurable growth in resource consumption and put significant pressure on the planet. If this trend continues then “business as usual” has to be changed in order to sustain further growth.

– The Asia-Pacific region consumes more than 50% of the world’s resources and is responsible for more than 50% of world-wide emissions.

– It is important to keep in mind that pollution “knows no boundaries”. Therefore, environmental protection has to be viewed as a global concern that can only be achieved through international cooperation, using the most efficient means.

– Keywords: resource consumption, pollution, environmental protection, cooperation,

(Policy Suggestion & Lessons)

– The role of governance (e.g. through regulations or incentives) is very important in succeeding to protect the environment and bring about sustainable development. But lasting success can only be achieved if businesses embrace sustainable practices. This is where free market practices come in. A good example is the European Union Emission Trading Scheme because it is an incentive for businesses to be more efficient and clean.

– To achieve environmental protection solely through regulatory means can be problematic, for example in developing countries where extractive businesses (e.g. mining) are often state-owned. This leads to the government’s being both a regulator and an operator (through ownership) and therefore to a conflict of interest.

– Environmental protection can therefore be better achieved by a market-based approach, meaning that businesses should be given the incentive to regulate themselves. Market forces compel businesses to become more efficient and less wasteful. This argument is supported by a recent study by the Heritage Foundation which shows the clear correlation between economic freedom and environmental protection. Economically free countries perform better when it comes to environmental protection.

– Market-based approaches to environmental protection should be supplemented by regulatory measures only where it is necessary for governments to step in.


Below, from left:  ???, Lars-Andre Richter, FNF Country Director for S. Korea, Sungho, Pett Jarupaiboon, EFN Asia Program Manager in Bangkok, Sanjaasuren, Ms. Kim of FNF-Korea, Hoene, Rasaily, Herzog, Grabner, and Miklos Romandy.

4Thanks to Pett for sending me the report. All photos here from the FNF regional office’s facebook page.


Growth, inequality and the Philippines

* Originally posted on November 14, 2014.

During the “Asian Cafe”, Day 1 of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference 2014 last week in Hong  Kong, I was the speaker for the Philippines. About 10 Asian countries were discussed very quickly, 10-15 minutes including open forum. So there were 10 speakers, each with own rapporteurs from their own countries.

1The theme was observation about growth and inequality in our respective Asian countries. My thesis is simple: It is not inequality per se that is the problem, but the condition of the poor, if it has improved through time or not. And I argued that Yes the condition of the poor has improved. Why? See this illustration, partly discussed in my brief talk.


Even the super-rich a century or many decades ago would be lucky if they live up to 60 years old. Average life expectancy in the world was only 48 31 years. Now, even the poor can expect to live up to 80+, 90+. Average life expectancy in the Philippines in 2010 was 69 years (67 for males, 71 for females). By now, average life expectancy should be almost 70 years. Infant mortality declining too; poor children dying less than before.


Inequality is inevitably a result of individual freedom and people diversity. As my riend, Lawrence “Larry” Reed of FEE (USA) emphasized. “People who are free are not equal, and equal people are not free.”

In the photo, among those who attended our group, from left: Arpita Nepal of Samriddhi-Prosperity Foundation (Nepal), Olaf Kellerhoff of FNF in Potsdam, Germany; Amir from IDEAS (Malaysia).

4Below, the Philippines’ richest families and their estimated wealth as of 2013, data from Forbes. Many of them were rags to riches people. Migrants from mainland China, about five to seven decades ago, poor, but very entrepreneurial at a young age. Others though are Spanish colonial descent, but showed high entrepreneurship  skills too.


Whereas many rich and big business names in the 50s to 70s are gone or not so rich now compared to  the new rich by the 90s up to the present.

Prosperity and poverty is generally a result of various system of “rewards and punishment” in society, which corresponds with individual freedom. People have the freedom to be hard working and efficient, or the freedom to be lazy, complacent and subsidy-dependent.

Of course some or all of these super-rich families were protected by the government via Constitutional restrictions to  foreign investors  and  competitors, and Congress-created monopolies.

To break this less- or non-competitive way of getting rich, those Constitutional restrictions, Congress-created monopoly system should be removed or relaxed.

My non-cute video in youtube uploaded by Jadranco Brkic. Thanks Jad.


Other speakers and rapporteurs in Conference 2014

* Originally posted on November 04, 2014.

In two days, the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference 2014 will start here at Harbour Grand Hong Kong. Here are the speakers and rapporteurs of Session 2: Reality Checking in Asia, Asian Cafe. This will be on Day 1, November 6.

First sub-session:

– Hong Kong/Peter Wong, Executive Director, LRI/TBC

– Thailand/Dr. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, Executive

Chairman, Thailand Future Foundation/Armin Reinartz, Senior Analyst, FNF Southeast and East Asia

– Bangladesh/Dr Naushad Faiz, Economic Consultant, Mir Shahabuddin Mohammad, Secretary General, FBCCI (TBC)

– Myanmar/Aye Kyaw, Principal of Myanmar Human

Resource Institute/Nway Nway Soe, Programme Manager, FNF Myanmar

– Sri Lanka/Dr Harsha De Silva, Member of Parliament, UNP,

Sri Lanka/TBC

I gathered photos from the web and facebook of these people. In case there are mistakes in the photos that I showed here, my apologies to the person/s concerned.

Photos by row, 1st row: Peter Wong, Naushad Faiz, Shahabuddin Mohammad.
2nd row: Armin Reinartz, Sethaput Narueput, Aye Kyaw.
3rd row: Nway Nway Soe, Harsha De Silva, Mao Shoulong.


Second sub-session:

– China/Dr Mao Shoulong, Professor, Academy of Public Policy, Rennmin University/Rachaphum Panichsombat, Senior Analyst, Sasin Institute for Glabal Affairs, Thailand

– Indonesia/Ulil Absar Abdalla, Freedom Institute,

Indonesia/Raja Juliantoni, the Indonesian Institute

– Pakistan/Dr Ayub Mehar, Director General (R&D),

Federation of Pakistani Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI)/TBC

– Mongolia

– Vietnam/Dr Le Dang Doanh, Senior Economist, Association of Vietnam’s Economists /Dau Anh Tuan, Director General of the Legal Department of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry

– Bhutan Sunil Kumar Rasaily, Senior Partner, QED Group/TBC.

Third sub-session:

– Korea/ Dr Choi Byung-il, Professor, Ewha Womans University, Korea/ Dr Lars-Andre Richter, Resident

Representative, Korea

– Malaysia/Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Malaysia/ Fareeza Ibrahim, Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET)

– The Philippines/Nonoy Oplas, President, Minimal Government Thinkers, The Philippines/

Rhea Lyn Dealca, Administrative and Operations Manager, Foundation for Economic Freedom, The Philippines

– India/Dr Sumita Kale, Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics/TBC

– Nepal/Arpita Nepal, Director of Research and Development, Samriddhi Foundation/TBC

– Cambodia

Photos by row.
1st row: Ulil Absar Abdalla, Raja Juliantoni, Ayub Mehar.
2nd row: Le Dang Doanh, Dau Anh Tuan, Fareeza Ibrahim.
3rd row: Rhea Lyn Dealca, Sumita Kale, Arpita Nepal.


On Day 2, November 7, Session 5 key speaker will be Dr. Tom Palmer of Atlas, USA.

In the afternoon, Session 6 key speaker will be Dr. Munir Majid, IDEAS Council member.

Then a special CALD-EFN Joint Session. Welcome Remarks to be given by Hon. Oyun Sanjaasuren, MP Chairperson, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), Bill Stacey of LRI, and

Hon. Markus Löning, Former German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid.

They Keynote Address will be given by Hon. Emily Lau, MP Legislative Councillor, Hong Kong.

A panel discussion will follow with the following speakers:

Hon. Sin Chung Kai, MP Legislative Councillor, Hong Kong

Dr. Parth Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society, India

Hon. Saumura Tioulong, MP Member of the Cambodian National Assembly

Dr. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, Thailand Future Foundation.

Photos by row.
1st row: Tom Palmer, Munir Majid, Oyun Sanjaasuren.
2nd row: Markus Löning, Emily Lau, Sin Chung Kai.
3rd row: Parth Shah, Saumura Tioulong, Kenneth Chen Wei-on.


There will be a visit at the Hong Kong  Legislative Council (LEGCO). Speeches to be given by Hon. Kenneth Chen Wei-on, SBS Secretary General of the Secretariat Hong Kong Legislative Council, and Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary General, Singapore Democratic Party.

A Gala dinner for CALD, EFN and Liberal International (LI) participants will follow with speeches by four key personalities.

Dr. Juli Minoves – Triquell, President of LI, Bill Stacey of LRI, Siegfried Herzog, Regional Director for Southeast and East Asia, and Martin Lee,  Founding Chairperson, Democratic Party of Hong Kong.

From left: Chee Soon Juan, Juli Minoves – Triquell, Martin Lee.

Lots of bright speakers to look forward to by Thursday and Friday. Excited to hear and learn from them.


Program of Conference 2014, Hong Kong

* Originally posted on September 30, 2014.

The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference 2014 will be on 6-7 November at the Harbour Grand Hong Kong Hotel, Hong Kong. The theme of the conference will be “Liberalism: Promoting Growth, Reducing Inequality”. The event is jointly sponsored by the Lion Rock Institute (LRI), EFN Asia, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).

Here is the Conference Programme as of this week. There could be minor changes in the list of speakers and facilitators in the coming weeks as people confirm or change their participation. I got this program from the Program Officer of EFN, Pett Jarupaiboon. Thanks Pett. The photos, I added them here.

(First, second and third rows, respectively: Bill Stacey, Siggi Herzog, Razeen Sally, Choi Byung-il, Pham Chi Lan, Wan Saiful Wan Jan)

Day 1

(MC for Day 1: Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Malaysia)

Welcoming remarks:

-Bill Stacey, Chairman, LRI

-Siegfried Herzog, Regional Director, FNF Southeast and East Asia

Opening Keynote Address

“Economic Growth and Inequality”

– Dr Razeen Sally

Visiting Assoc. Prof, The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, The National University of Singapore and Director, European Centre for International Political Economy

Session 1: Insights from the Keynote Address

– Pham Chi Lan, Member of the National Council for Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Enhancement, Vietnam

– Dr Choi Byung-il, Professor, Ewha’s Womans University, Korea

– Hong Kong resident (TBC)

Moderator: Bill Stacey

Session 2: Reality Checking in Asia

Asian Cafe

(Facilitator: Introduced and facilitated by Miklos Romandy, Regional Programme Coordinator, FNF Regional Southeast and East Asia and Traon Pongsopon, Programme Assistant, FNF Thailand)

First round:

– Hong Kong/Peter Wong, Executive Director, LRI/LRI rapporteur

– Thailand/Dr Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, Executive Chairman, Thailand Future Foundation/Armin Reinartz, Project Assistant, FNF Southeast and East Asia

– Bangladesh

– Myanmar/Aye Kyaw, Principal of Myanmar Human Resource Institute/Nway Nway Soe, Programme Manager, FNF Myanamr

– Sri Lanka

Second round:

– China/Dr Mao Shoulong, Professor, Academy of Public Policy, Rennmin University/Rachaphum Panichsombat, Senior Analyst, Sasin Institute for Glabal Affairs

– Indonesia/Ulil Absar Abdalla, Freedom Institute, Indonesia/Raja Juliantoni, the Indonesian Institute

– Pakistan

– Mongolia

– Vietnam/Dr Le Dang Doanh, Senior Economist, Association of Vietnam’s Economists /Dau Anh Tuan,

Director General of the Legal Department of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry

– Bhutan

Third round:

– Korea/Dr Kim Chung-Ho, President and CEO, Freedom Factory ltd., Korea (TBC)

– Malaysia/Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive, IDEAS, Malaysia/ Fareeza Ibrahim, Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET)

– The Philippines/Nonoy Oplas, President, Minimal Government Thinkers, The Philippines

– India

– Nepal

– Cambodia

(By row: (r1) Andrew Work, Barun Mitra, Xingyuan Feng; (r2) Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Ken Schoolland, Ronald Meinardus; (r3) Fred McMahon, Andrew Shuen, John Tsang)


Session 3: Property Rights and Equality

– Andrew Work, Co-Founder, LRI

– Professor, Michael X.Y. Feng, Vice President, Cathay Institute for Public Affairs, China

– Barun Mitra, Director, Liberty Institute, India

– Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director, Institute of Security and International Studies, Thailand

Moderator: Ken Schoolland, Associate Professor of Economics and Political Science, Hawai‘i Pacific University

Cocktails, Dinner

The Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Report 2014

Introduction of Speaker:

Dr Ronald Meinardus, Regional Director, FNF South Asia

Introduction to the EFW report, Briefing

Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute Resident Fellow and holder of the Dr Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom, Canada

Presentation of EFW Report 2014 to H.E. John Tsang, Financial Secretary, Hong Kong SAR

Introduction of Speaker:

Andrew Sheun, Co-Founder, LRI

Special Address

H.E. John Tsang, Financial Secretary, Hong Kong SAR

Day 2

(MC For Day 2: Andrew Work, Co-founder, LRI)

Session 4: Conference speed dating for all participants

Facilitators: Miklos Romandy and Traon Pongsopon

Topics discussed

 What do you think about the previous presentations?

 What critique do you have?

 What is your own argument?

Session 5:

Dr Tom Palmer, Executive Vice President for International Programs, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, USA

Session 6: The AEC: opportunities and challenges

Organised by South East Asia Network for Development (SEANET)

CALD-EFN Asia Joint Session

Welcome Remarks

Hon. Oyun Sanjaasuren, MP Chairperson, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats

President, United Nations Environmental Assembly

Minister of Environment and Green Development, Mongolia

Co-Chair, Civil Will Green Party of Mongolia

Bill Stacey, Chairperson, LRI, Hong Kong

Hon. Markus Löning (TBC) Former Commissioner for Human Rights, Free Democratic Party of Germany

Keynote Address

Hon. Emily Lau, MP

Legislative Councillor, Hong Kong

Chairperson, Democratic Party of Hong Kong

Panel Discussion on the Liberal Economy and Wealth Disparity

Hon. Sin Chung Kai, MP

Legislative Councillor, Hong Kong Democratic Party of Hong Kong

Individual Member, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats

Dr Parth Shah (TBC)

President, Centre for Civil Society, India

Hon. Saumura Tioulong, MP

Member of the Cambodian National Assembly

Cambodia National Rescue Party

Former Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia

Dr Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput

Executive Chairman, Thailand Future Foundation

Moderator: Jules Maaten, Project Director, FNF Philippines

Leave for the Hong Kong Legislative Council

Gala Dinner for CALD, EFN Asia and LI Participants

(MCs: Armin Reinartz, Project Assistant | China Analyst, FNF Southeast and East Asia Office, and

Jaslyn Go International Liaison and Assistant Treasurer, Singapore Democratic Party)

Dr Juli Minoves – Triquell

President, Liberal International

Bill Stacey (TBC)

Chairperson, LRI

Siegfried Herzog

Regional Director, FNF Southeast and East Asia

Martin Lee

Founding Chairperson, Democratic Party of Hong Kong

Individual Member, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats and Liberal International


Pett Jarupaiboon and secretariat work

* Originally posted on April 24, 2014.

I have written a number of papers about the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia, especially its annual conferences in different cities in Asia. Such big regional event for many independent think tanks and academics is made possible not only by the financial support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) but also by the hard work put by the EFN Secretariat staff.

The head of the Secretariat is the Regional Program Officer for EFN, Pett Jarupaiboon. Here, Pett is talking to Fred McMahon of Fraser Institute (Canada) during the EFN 2013 Conference in Bangkok last year.

Pett joined the FNF in 2009 I think, taking the place of Gorawut Numnak. I met Pett first time in 2010 during the EFN Confernce in Jakarta. The guy is your typical silent, always smiling but very hard working person. Aside from being the regional officer for EFN, he is also the regional officer for Human Rights campaign of the FNF.

Last year, EFN participated for the first time in the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, a big annual international conference held in Jeju island, S. Korea  Photo in one of the three dinners in the conference, the EFN video was shown on the stage. Barun Mitra, Pett, me.

EFN sponsored one panel in the 2 1/2 days conference about the dangers of economic nationalism and protectionism. Pett worked hard for that event, in coordination with FNF Seoul office, especially with Ms. Sung eun Lim, another hard working staff of the foundation.

At Jeju conference, below. From left: Sung-eun Lim, me, Ms. Kim, Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Malaysia), Lars Richter (Country Director for S. Korea), Pham Chi Lan (Vietnam), Feng Xingyuan (China), Tricia Yeoh (Malaysia), Pett, Barun Mitra (India), Miklos Romandy (Austria), Liu Junning (China). Not in the photo with our group was Sam Raimsey (Cambodia).

EFN 2013 Conference in Bangkok, farewell dinner. From left: Mao Shoulong (China), Barun, Rainer Adam (outgoing FNF Regional Director for Southeast and East Asia), Xingyuan, Wan Saiful, Pett, Tricia, Sung eun, me.

Thanks for all the hard work Pett. Happy birthday.