President Benigno Aquino III with “Team PNoy” candidates (Photo: Yahoo)
The recent mid-term elections in the Philippines brought both change and continuity. At stake were 12 of the 24 senate seats, 229 district seats in the House of Representatives, and more than 18,000 local posts, including mayors and governors. President Benigno S. Aquino III and his political allies, Team PNoy, gained important wins, notably in the Senate. This augurs well for the advancement of the President’s anti-corruption and economic growth program of the “straight path” or “tuwid na daan.” Many credit these policies for the March upgrade of the country’s sovereign borrower rating to an investment grade by Fitch for the first time in history. But is the top-level commitment to make government more effective through good governance and economic reforms enough to affect change on the ground? The peculiar kind of continuity in Philippine politics poses that question.
The election results indicate that, as in the past, the biggest winners were the political dynasties and their often questionable tactics involving “guns, goons, gold, and glitter” to mobilize voters. There were, however, some significant upsets by candidates who ran on a good governance platform and won against entrenched political dynasties. Leni Robredo’s win of the congressional seat in Naga City ended the 35 year reign of the Villafuertes family, and Rolen Paulino’s mayoral win against Anne Marie Gordon in Olongapo City ended the quarter-century rule of the Gordon family. But many other dynasties still continue to dominate.
Just 29% of Shanghai’s college graduates had jobs on graduation.(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This week marks another anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which were brutally suppressed by the Chinese government. Not surprisingly there isn’t much talk on the subject in China, where search terms such as “June 4,″ “Tiananmen,” or even “uprising” censored on China’s Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo. One factor contributing to the atmosphere of forced silence is the fact that about 500 million of China’s billion-plus population is under 25 years of age, i.e. born after 1989. Most of them simply don’t know what happened and are preoccupied with more immediate concerns such as finding a job, which is becoming harder and harder for young college graduates.
In an age of unparalleled opportunity for women, female empowerment has become a diverse proposition. Women are changing the world in business, government, the NGO world, and media. And they are re-defining what it means to be entrepreneurial in every field, from starting their own businesses and social ventures, through being successful corporate intrapreneurs, to innovating in other ways that give women a voice and a equal role in the society.
The power of social media, and in particular Twitter, has allowed these empowered women to share not just their big ideas, but the daily details and information sources they rely on to advance the issues they care about. As we get ready to celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s harness the power of social media to connect with such women and share their work.
Crowdfunding has taken the cyberspace by storm. Through platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, innovators can pitch their ideas and like-minded individuals around the world are able to come together to pool their resources toward a specific goal. Crowdfunding advocates say it is an entirely new model that goes beyond traditional types of investment — but regulators do not always agree.
From non-profit causes to art projects, crowdfunding has been a powerful force. But in the U.S., and in many other countries, it encountered a serious barrier when it comes to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs: 80-year-old securities laws which made it illegal to publicly solicit money from unaccredited investors. As a result, Americans could use their money to help entrepreneurs in developing countries through platforms such as Kiva.org but were unable to invest in their local restaurant or gym.
Even though there are, in theory, many sources of funding available to such small businesses, in practice banks are often reluctant to lend to them and angel and venture capital options are also limited outside of fast growing sectors such as IT. This made changing the antiquated law an imperative. But how to do it? The story of how crowdfunding became legalized in the U.S. is the story of how 3 guys changed the rules of the game in 460 days.
From board selection and strategic decision making to day-to-day operations and legal compliance, corporate governance is a way for companies to create a framework for sound business practices, sustained growth, and risk management. At its core, corporate governance entails an internal control system for transparent decision-making that protects shareholders’ value. However, the significance of corporate governance goes far beyond this basic definition.
First, even though corporate governance has traditionally been associated with large publicly listed companies, it is also of crucial importance to other types of businesses, including family firms, state-owned enterprises, and even small businesses. Those companies also need good corporate governance for long-term sustainability and to become integrated into the global supply chains.
Not all entrepreneurs are like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: BBC)
When you think “entrepreneur” what image comes to mind? Celebrity IT entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Larry Page seem to be the automatic associations. Yet, focusing just on big names and one sector overlooks the vast majority of self-starters out there who successfully founded their own business. Their importance to the economy is crucial. In the U.S., small firms with fewer than 500 employees represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, employ half of all private sector employees, hire 43 percent of high tech workers, produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms, and generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship set out to explore in more detail who the owners of these firms are. Their 2009 report “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur” was based on a survey of 549 company founders across different industries and revealed some interesting facts that challenge many entrepreneurship stereotypes. I found these findings most interesting – and often unexpected:
Discovering Freedom book cover (image: www.for.org.pl)
While spending this holiday season in my native Poland, I added a new book to my Christmas gift wish list: Odkrywając Wolność – Discovering Freedom - by Leszek Balcerowicz. After 1989 Balcerowicz shaped Poland’s economic transformation from communism to market economy, facing difficult reforms along the way in the context of building young and fragile democratic institutions. The book is not an autobiography detailing his personal account of the transition. Nor is it a technical textbook for fellow economists or political scientists. Instead, the book is meant for every citizen as a foundation of knowledge on political and economic freedom.
As Poland’s Finance Minister in the first post-communist government during the crucial period from 1989 to 1991, then again from 1997 to 2000, and as the Chairman of the National Bank of Poland 2001-2007, Balcerowicz has been one of the most influential policymakers in the country. In recent years, he successfully tried another role – as the head of a new think tank, Civil Development Forum, or FOR (Forum Obywatelskiego Rozwoju). FOR’s stated mission is to protect liberty and promote truth and common sense in public discourse. What the organization believes makes it distinct is effectiveness. In FOR’s own words, “We do not exist to simply publish texts and hold conferences, though we use these tools. We aim to amend existing laws, influence decision-makers considering new laws and to educate the general public, because well informed citizens are the best bulwark against despotism.”
In this spirit of making the principles of liberty easily understandable and accessible to the general public, Discovering Freedom is a extensive compilation (over 1,000 pages!) of writings by the greatest free thinkers, from Adam Smith and Milton Friedman to Karl Popper and Mario Vargas Llosa. Balcerowicz made the selection and wrote the introduction. Many of these texts had not been previously widely known in Poland and the book’s objective is to popularize them because, as Balcerowicz put it, societies must constantly strive for freedom.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.