Category Archives: Asia

Democracy that Delivers #96: Citizens Stand to Benefit from Improving the Way the Indonesian Government Buys Goods and Services

From left: podcast guests Jeanmarie Meyer and Troy Wray, and host Ken Jaques

Public procurement—when governments purchase goods and services —directly affects drinking water, healthcare, roads, and many other aspects of citizens’ day-to-day lives. Good public procurement saves tax dollars, while weak public procurement drains governments’ coffers. According to Millennium Challenge Corporation, about forty percent of Indonesia’s national budget continues to leak every year because of a poor procurement system.

In this week’s podcast, Jeanmarie Meyer and Troy Wray discuss the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) efforts to update Indonesia’s purchasing processes through the Procurement Modernization Project. The MCC, a U.S. foreign aid agency, works with local government representatives to increase efficiency in order to improve infrastructure.

Since launching the project in 2013, Meyer, senior director of program procurement policy, and Wray, country director for Indonesia, have provided procurement professionals with modern technical tools and guidelines to assistant them in their purchasing decisions. One of these tools is the Institutional Development Modeling Framework, which measures institutional maturity based on five levels.

Institutional Development Modeling Framework

Visit the Millennium Challenge Account-Indonesia for more information about the MCC’s procurement initiative and other MCC projects in Indonesia.

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SMEs: the Intersection of Economic Development and Democratization

Small and medium-sized enterprises make a significant contribution to the economies of Southeast Asia.

Because small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are measured according to the size and level of development in a particular country, the definition of an SME varies from country to country. This is one of the main reasons that SME research and data analysis entail serious impediments. Despite debate over whether SMEs are beneficial compared to multinational corporations, there is no denying that SMEs drive sustainable growth and positively affect the economies of individual countries and the global economy.

First of all, SMEs play a significant role in national economies around the world, according to a June 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In many countries, SMEs represent 98 percent or more of all businesses. They are also great economic engines, accounting for an average of 70 percent of jobs in OECD countries and 45 percent of net total employment and 33 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in emerging economies. Moreover, the World Economic Forum and the National Center from the Middle Market (NCMM) have shown that SMEs, as the main source of economic growth, produce the region’s middle class and consequently contribute to poverty reduction.

Additionally, SMEs are central to efforts to achieve more inclusive growth. They create opportunities for upward mobility in society by allowing disadvantaged or marginalized groups including youth, women, seniors, migrants, and minorities to actively participate in a country’s productivity. By employing broad segments of the labor force, including low-skilled workers, SMEs provide employees with access to social services, such as improved health care. For example, as part of its efforts to increase SMEs’ participation in the macroeconomy from 20 to 35 percent by 2030, Saudi Arabia’s government announced that four in 10 startups launched in 2017 were owned by women.

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Safeguarding Democracy and Free Markets in Southeast Asia

A floating market in Vietnam. Survey findings show that people in Southeast Asia place more emphasis on economic development and free markets than on the values traditionally associated with democracy.

Some Southeast Asian countries are plagued by pessimistic views of democracy, as the system of transparent elections and/or government accountability are severely lacking in certain contexts.

In determining how to bolster democracy in places where it faces many threats, it is important to first take a step back and ask the bigger questions.

For example, does economic growth trigger democratization? Or does a democratic society spur economic growth? According to the World Economic Forum, democratic societies are based on policies and institutions that lay the foundations for democratic principles, such as liberty and equality. These democratic policies and institutions benefit firms and individuals, who in turn act as engines for the overall economy. On the contrary, the Brookings Institution has articulated the reverse theory, demonstrating that economic institutions are the source of democratic growth around the world.

At the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), we believe that functioning democracies and market economies are essentially two sides of the same coin, as they commonly share principles of transparency, fairness, accountability, and responsibility. This post will focus on how democracy is generally recognized in Southeast Asia and will highlight CIPE’s endeavors to build market-oriented democracies in the region.

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Women’s Business Resource Center Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea Succeed Against the Odds

Children and women make up the majority of market life in Gerehu, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Ness Kerton for AusAID.

Women in Papua New Guinea face distressing obstacles to achieving leadership roles in business, politics, their communities, and their families. Two-thirds of women there are victims of domestic violence, according to reports. Women and girls are frequently treated like property, and it is not uncommon for them to be bought and sold. Men are twice as likely as women to hold a formal job. It is also very difficult for women to access credit, receive bank loans, and even open a bank account.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others have identified a potential solution this problem: women’s economic empowerment. Research shows that when women have greater economic opportunities and better access to financial resources, they face less risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. If women are able to engage in commerce and earn their own paychecks, they will no longer be financially dependent on their partners. Boosting women’s economic opportunities and gender equality leads to gross domestic product growth, increased income per capita, and greater competitiveness for countries, according to the World Bank.

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Confronting Corruption in Asia’s New Democracies

Corruption is detrimental to countries’ economies because it leads to reduced productivity, high unemployment, and poverty. In addition to the economic cost, corruption corrodes democracies by weakening citizens’ confidence in their governments. This distrust and disenfranchisement can drive people to join extremist groups. “In conflict-affected areas, especially where Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State are trying to set up shop, economic grievances make it much easier to recruit local nationals into their fight,” commented Jennifer Anderson, CIPE’s senior program officer for South Asia. “Not only is corruption debilitating democracy in Afghanistan, it’s also leading to recruitment. Right now in Afghanistan, the Taliban has either control or influence over 40 percent of the country.”

Anderson spoke in a CIPE panel discussion in July that examined the issue of corruption in Asia, with a focus on Afghanistan and Cambodia. Other panelists included experts from CIPE’s Asia Department; the Hudson Institute; and SILAKA, a Cambodian nonprofit organization.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #77: Thida Khus on Democratization in Cambodia

From left: podcast guest Thida Khus, with hosts Sarah Yun and Ken Jaques

Thida Khus is the founder and executive director of Silaka, a non-profit organization in Cambodia.
Khus and her family migrated to the United States in 1979 to flee the Khmer Rouge regime. From 1993 to1996, she organized 80 Cambodian-Americans to move to Cambodia to counteract the lack of human resources.

Khus states that Cambodia’s government continues to suffer from corruption, lack of good governance and an unreliable justice system. She believes citizen education and government transparency are needed to see a change in the national government.

Despite the problems in the national government, Khus discusses the positive changes in local government. For the first time in local elections, an opposition party won a significant amount of votes. She credits a large population of young people and social media for the election results. She believes Cambodia’s younger generation is positioned to bring about change because younger people there do not fear war like the older generation and social media has made it easier to share information.

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Democracy That Delivers Podcast #58: Eli Webb on the Challenges Women Face in Papua New Guinea

Podcast guest Eli Webb

On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, CIPE Country Coordinator for Papua New Guinea Eli Webb discusses the challenges women face in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the work being done to empower women from all levels of society. Webb talks about efforts being made to bolster women’s rights in the country where she said 98 percent of women have been victims of gender-based violence. She discusses legal reforms and development programs that address the issue. Webb also talks about “good news” stories of positive achievements that are being made.

Creating economic opportunities for women is another key element of development work in the country. During his recent confirmation hearing before Congress, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted the importance of women’s empowerment programs in Papua New Guinea. Webb discusses the international community’s focus on PNG and the work that CIPE is doing to help women succeed by supporting the establishment of a women’s chamber of commerce and a women’s business resource center. Webb tells inspiring stories of women being helped by the Center, including illiterate women who are brought to the Center by their husbands to access training opportunities.

Learn more about the Women’s Business Resource Center on the WBRC Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pngwbrc/

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes to help other listeners find the show.