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Governance and public sector management

Think Tank challenge: Surviving the competition

Think Tank challenge: Surviving the competition
The growth of public policy research organizations, or think tanks, over the last few decades has been nothing less than explosive. Not only have these organizations increased in number, but the scope and impact of their work have also expanded dramatically. The potential of think tanks to support and sustain responsible governments and civil societies is far from exhaustive as policymakers worldwide face a common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear in their decision making.

Governance and public sector management

How sustainable are the BRICS economic and social policies?

How sustainable are the BRICS economic and social policies?
The BRICS countries—Brazil, Russian Federation, India, People’s Republic of China (PRC) and South Africa—have been the recipients of much admiration for their high growth rates, which have helped to increase their share in the world economy and reduce global poverty. However, doubts have grown as to whether the process of income convergence will continue. “Sustainable governance” in the BRICS, or rather the lack thereof, lies at the heart of these doubts. The Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German think tank, sheds light on the status of sustainable governance among the BRICS countries. The study found that economic and social governance appears sustainable in Brazil and the PRC, India is in the middle, and the Russia Federation and South Africa follow the least sustainable economic and social policies among the five BRICS.

Governance and public sector management

Asia’s addiction to fossil fuel subsidies continues unabated

Asia’s addiction to fossil fuel subsidies continues unabated
At the 2009 G20 Pittsburgh Summit, leaders recognized the problem of fuel subsidies and made a commitment “to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” (G20 2009). But Asian economies have gone the other way, and are pushing economic growth at a breakneck pace underpinned by fuel subsidies not only to consumers, but also to oil companies, mostly through production incentives. These subsidies have created an expectation that gas and oil are cheap and plentiful fuels available on demand. Yet without oil, the world would grind to a halt and chaos and social upheaval would probably ensue. Alternative and renewable energy resources are simply not yet available on a large commercial scale, leaving many people without recourse.

Governance and public sector management

Have APEC Five been penalized for not achieving the Bogor Goals?

Have APEC five been penalized for not achieving the Bogor Goals?
This is the first question I have met across at the ADBI seminar on APEC on January 28th. Of course they have not. Nobody raised this within APEC, because APEC is a non-binding organization. But so long as APEC sticks in its weak modality, it may get left behind mushrooming FTAs. What is the APEC’s raison d’etre nowadays? Established in 1989, APEC seeks to promote trade and economic cooperation in the Asia and Pacific region. In 1994 in Bogor, Indonesia, APEC leaders pledged to achieve free and open trade and investment in the Asia and Pacific region by 2010 for developed members and by 2020 for developing economies.

Governance and public sector management

Is political union Europe’s solution to the eurozone crisis?

Is political union Europe’s solution to the eurozone crisis?
Is fiscal and/or political union, where more sovereignty is shared among countries in Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, the way forward for the eurozone to stay together and deal with economic and financial divergences among member states? Differences in size, development, and institutions present the monetary union with a policy coordination dilemma, as countries often tend to let domestic interests prevail on agreed commitments. At the current juncture, and learning from the sovereign debt crisis, the countries of Europe need to consider what is the best institutional framework for the monetary union. Such a framework should avoid the building up of imbalances and help countries to live with the euro and within the currency union. Is political union the way forward for EMU? Surely continuing the status quo is not an option.

Governance and public sector management

Indonesia’s fuel subsidies benefit the rich far more than the poor

Gasoline Nozzle - Image by tome213 - http://www.sxc.hu/profile/tome213
Although it is widely considered to be an ineffective policy, a number of developing countries offer universal fuel subsidies. However, the prolonged implementation of fuel subsidies creates a misallocation of resources as a subsidy targets the fuel rather than the consumer. Consequently, fuel subsidies benefit the affluent more than the poor. A number of countries implement fuel subsidies, including Algeria, the People’s Republic of China, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Venezuela. Granado et al (2010) reported that in countries that have subsidized fuel, on average, the top income quintile consumed about six times more subsidized fuel than the bottom quintile.

Governance and public sector management

G20 membership: horses-for-courses

G20 Membership
The G20 leaders group achieved several significant examples of international economic cooperation in the first few meetings during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. In the fraught crisis atmosphere, the G20 discussion encouraged bolder fiscal expansion, discouraged trade protectionism, spurred the world’s financial regulators into action to re-write the inadequate rules, and drew attention to the antiquated governance structure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With the immediate threat of global depression averted and the eurozone crisis not amenable to a global approach, many commentators observe that more recent meetings have lost a sense of urgency and purpose. This group has been successfully established as the paramount international economic coordination body (taking over that role from the G7 and G8) with a far more representative membership, but with the urgency of the immediate crisis gone, critical attention is focusing on the G20’s composition and agenda.

Governance and public sector management

Asia’s growth, production networks, and SMEs

Asia’s growth, production networks, and SMEs
The escalating Eurozone crisis and signs of spluttering world growth have put Asia and its manufacturing enterprises into the spotlight again. Part of Asia’s rapid trade-led growth over several decades is associated with production networks and a regional division of labor. An expanding literature suggests that the region’s trade is increasingly made up of growing intraregional trade in intermediate inputs (Athukorala 2011). Production activities are increasingly being geographically fragmented across countries and linked by a dense network of trade in intermediate goods (Baldwin 2008). Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are viewed as the backbone of national economic development in many Asian economies, accounting for the majority of firms and a large share of employment (Harvie 2010).

Governance and public sector management

Asia in the 21st century: the challenge of good governance

Asia in the 21st century: the challenge of good governance
The concept of good governance has many aspects. I will focus on two here: corruption and the rule of law. All Asians aspire to live in a society in which they do not have to offer a bribe to anyone in order to obtain what they are entitled to under the law. They want to live in a society in which the policeman, prosecutor and judge are not corrupt. They want to live in a society in which licences and contracts are granted and policies are made in a transparent manner and based on merit and nothing else. Corruption is a cancer eating at the heart of Asia. It is one of the most shameful of Asia’s failings.

Governance and public sector management

Asia in the 21st century: the challenge of equality

Eighteen years ago, the World Bank published a landmark book, The East Asian Miracle. The report praised eight Asian economies for their rapid and sustained economic progress and highlighted the fact that they seemed to have evolved a model which combined growth with equity. What is the situation today? Today we have growth, but with much less equity. All our societies have grown more unequal, as measured by the gini coefficient and the ratio of average incomes of the top 20% and the bottom 20%. According to the World Bank’s latest statistics, the gini coefficient for Singapore was 0.48 in 2010. In the case of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the gini coefficient has risen from around 0.30 in the early 1980s to around 0.47 in 2009. Some social scientists have warned that inequality which exceeds the gini coefficient of 0.4 could lead to social unrest. Even without social unrest, great inequality is a threat to social cohesion and harmony. The current trend in Asia is fundamentally objectionable because it is inconsistent with the very purpose of development which is to benefit all citizens. ADB is, therefore, right to make inclusive growth one of its three agendas in its Strategy 2020 document.