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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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, http://efnasia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/EFN-Asia-Conf-2016-Full-program-as-of-17.11.pdf. 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.

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Economic freedom and human rights

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

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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.

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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.

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