Singapore, Democracy, and Economic Development

Jasper WongBy Jasper Wong, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.

In this decade, perhaps the defining story of global significance is the rise of China in the global economy as it displaces Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy. It is no coincidence then that the prevailing view that democracy should go hand-in-hand with development was seriously challenged at the time as China’s economic success overshadowed U.S. culpability in the Global Financial Crisis (some say, Western Financial Crisis),  which saw the “largest and sharpest drop in economic activity of the modern era.”

Yet China’s development wasn’t the first to challenge the link between economic and political freedom, as it sits fittingly in the context of East Asia’s developmental trajectory, most exemplified by the phenomenon of the Four Asian Tigers during the 1970s and 1980s. Similarly, the accompanying story to their remarkable growth was the political environment in which growth took place under authoritarian leaders like Park Chung Hee and Lee Kuan Yew.

While South Korea and Taiwan have gained strides in being more democratic, Singapore appears to be stuck in limbo, classified as a “hybrid regime” and  ranked at 81st position, well below countries like Indonesia and Malaysia in the latest 2012 Democracy Index published by the EIU.

In global surveys, Singapore has consistently ranked top in governance as its zero-tolerance for corruption, coupled with meritocratic efficiency, are the usual suspects in explanation. Yet ironically, recent times have not bode well for the ruling party of the Singapore government, having just emerged from the latest election with its lowest support ever since independence (60.14 percent of total votes) and facing an increasingly critical electorate.

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The Energy Source of the Future

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“Scientists have discovered an enormous energy source for the world…located in the poorest countries in the world,” announced  Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) President John Hamre recently. “If we tap it, this energy source will double or triple GDP growth in those countries.”

The resource Hamre was discussing is not a fossil fuel like coal or oil and is not a new form of renewable energy.  His remarks were a reference to the 1.8 billion young people in the world between the ages of 10 and 24.  This youth population is the largest the world has ever seen and their contributions to society have drastic implications for the development of emerging markets and fragile states.  If youth become productive civic and economic participants in their communities, the benefits are immense. However, when young people are forced to the fringes of society and do not have sufficient opportunities to participate in society the consequences can be devastating.

In order to help policy, society, and business leaders better understand how to ensure that young people are best positioned to be drivers of growth and development, CSIS recently developed the Global Youth Wellbeing Index in partnership with the International Youth Foundation and Hilton Worldwide.

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Democracy and Economic Freedom in Venezuela

Recent developments concerning property rights violations and popular riots in Venezuela remind us that democratic and economic development is not always a gradual forward-looking process but instead is characterized by periods of progress as well as setbacks. Separation of powers, property rights, the rule of law, the respect of human rights and the rights of minorities are essential components of a functioning democratic and free market system.

Reflecting on the challenging situation in Venezuela and the business community’s experience of threats to private property rights, Jorge Roig, President of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce FEDECAMARAS, was invited by the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network to share his views in the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article

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“This Land Not for Sale”: the Importance of Digitizing Property Records in Kenya

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By David Owiro. This post originally appeared on IEA Kenya’s blog.

If you have ever taken a walk around the major towns in Kenya you will come across warning notices and signboards announcing to the world that “this plot/land is not for sale” or that “this property is not for sale.” Also, if you are a keen reader of the daily newspapers you will come across, in the back pages, notices announcing “caveat emptor or buyer beware” on some parcels of land. These are often put up by individuals seeking to enforce their property rights by deterring members of the public who are likely to be defrauded by unscrupulous groups or individuals.

And now, the National Land Commission, which is the body mandated by the constitution of Kenya to hold public land in trust, has also began placing adverts warning members of the public against buying land without carrying out background searches or relying on certificates of titles.

The reason all this is happening is that people have taken advantage of the previously weak property rights regime that allowed for exploitation and manipulation of official land and property records in order to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

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What is the Role of the Private Sector in Open Government?

By Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang

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The Open Government Partnership has become a leading force for advancing transparency and civic engagement in 63 countries. It was founded on a strong partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Recognizing the implications of open governance for economic and democratic development, CIPE has helped to establish an independent Council for Engaging the Private Sector in the Open Government Partnership. The Council is a joint initiative coordinated by the National Information Society Agency of Korea, Microsoft, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. CIPE’s Andrew Wilson, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, is co-chair. The Council welcomes input from private sector and other stakeholders on the future of engagement in open governance.

Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Head of the Korea Big Data Center at the National Information Society Agency, introduces this exciting initiative on the Open Government Partnership blog.

Open government is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment. For decades now, the emergence of Freedom of Information legislation and  e-government initiatives have propelled a trend toward building transparent, accountable, and responsive governments.

However, open government has acquired new meaning in the 21st century, facilitated by the development of information technology. Whereas open government in the past meant access to information inside government, it now means not only access but also active sharing of information and collaborative governance between government and civil society. The distinction is that access is a one-directional relationship in which the government side opens up. In contrast, sharing implies bi- or multi-directional relationships and requires opening up and engagement by all sides.

The new version of open government, which aims for shared governance, can be named as open government 2.0. As Tim O’Reilly, advocate of Gov 2.0, puts it, open government 2.0 seeks to “redefine the relationship between citizens and government officials, engaging the citizen as a full participant rather than an observer. Citizens are not passive consumers of government services anymore. Instead, they are actively engaged in producing and delivering government services and sharing the results.

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Welcoming Future Business Association and Chamber Leaders

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Washington, DC area ChamberLINKS participants (from left to right): Frida Mbugua (Kenya), Mariana Araujo (Venezuela), and Nini Panjikidze (Georgia).

This week five young professionals from different countries arrived to the U.S. to partake in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program. The program, which is taking place for the fifth year, matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S.

This year’s participants and placements include:

For the following six weeks, these participants will shadow senior staff of their host organizations to observe and take part in the daily operations of successful associations.

Through the ChamberLINKS experience, the participants will gain valuable skills such as advocacy, membership development, and events management. At the same time, these international participants will provide their U.S. hosts with intercultural understandings such as insights into how associations operate in other nations.

The program also has a long-term impact because the participants bring back what they learned from their experiences to their home organizations after the program ends. For instance, Kipson Gundani, a 2012 ChamberLINKS program participant, raised funds and created momentum to start several new initiatives at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) based on his experience at the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. This included internship programs connecting 50 university students with ZNCC members, evening networking events for ZNCC members, and improving the Chamber’s governance systems by making the board selection process more transparent.

Everyone involved in the program –the international participants, the host organizations, and CIPE – are excited to see what the participants will learn from the next six weeks.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Voices in the Web – Creating E-Platforms for Socioeconomic Discourse

Dotun Olutoke's Photographby Dotun Olutoke, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.

When I was younger, the riddles and jokes section of Kiddies magazine oozed out an aroma that satisfied my reading pleasure. Of all the riddles I read as a kid, one remains memorable to me. It goes thus:

I am something. I am a good servant but a dangerous master.

What am I?

Electricity – was the answer I got after moments of a brain-tussling exercise.

As I grow older in this information-driven age, the relevance of this riddle came to the fore when social networking platforms were used as a mobilization arena for people to  protest against the removal of fuel subsidy in the ‘wee-days’ of 2012, specifically January 2-3. What used to be a platform where people share pictures, post comments about events, and connect with friends metamorphosed into a potent tool for rallying Nigerians of different religious, political, and social inclinations.

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