Category Archives: Asia

Corruption Allegations Roil Thailand — Again

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This article originally appeared on the Thomson Reuters TrustLaw Governance blog.

Thailand lifted its state of emergency, and the February 2 elections have been annulled.  Encouragingly, the leaders of the government and the opposition are signaling – albeit tentatively and obliquely – a willingness to negotiate an end to the country’s ongoing political crisis. But even if Thailand can extricate itself from its latest political quagmire, the next crisis is probably not far off if the underlying problems are not addressed.

More than any other issue, corruption has served to delegitimize successive governments in the eyes of competing segments of Thai society. In 2006, the military ousted an elected government and in 2008, the Supreme Court disbanded an elected government; in both cases, the stated justification was corruption. Likewise, allegations of corruption are among the paramount drivers of the anti-government protests taking place in Bangkok today, just as they were in the color-coordinated protests of recent years.

And this frustration with corruption is not limited to corruption in electoral processes or campaign fraud. Corruption is a daily phenomenon for many citizens and businesses, and people are fed up with it.

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Achieving Inclusive Growth

By Dan Erwin Bagaporo, 2013 CIPE Blog Competition Winner. Read the other winning blogs here.

The Philippines has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, recently registering 6.6 percent GDP growth (second highest in Asia). However, few Filipinos experience its benefits, as 76 percent of this growth went to the richest 40 families in the country. While the government is doing its best to promote “inclusive growth,” 26 percent of Filipinos still live on less than $1 a day. As large companies swallow up wealth, many Filipinos are left out, especially the indigent, young, and elderly, who find securing employment difficult. A few years ago, I witnessed this tragic reality firsthand.

My friends and I went to visit an old retirement home for abandoned senior citizens. We were set to conduct interviews with residents for my friends’ thesis about geriatric loneliness. It turned out, loneliness was the least of their problems. Going around the compound, we saw that it was very ill-maintained. Corridors and rooms were dirty, and pungent. The retirement home was clearly understaffed and lacked necessary funding to maintain an acceptable standard of living for its residents.

After we left, I did some research and discovered that the retirement home has constantly been the recipient of numerous social programs, from food distribution to privately-sponsored Christmas parties. I also found that many other public retirement homes experienced the same situation. My question was: despite all of the largesse, why was the quality of life of residents in these retirement homes still poor? I must admit; it took me a while to answer this question.

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The Contest of the Century

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In a recent forum held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Christopher Johnson led an open discussion with Geoff Dyer on Dyer’s new book, The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China, and How America Can Win. This book, according to CSIS, “gives an inside account of Beijing’s quest for influence and an explanation of how America can come out on top.”

Dyer opened up the conversation with a glaring fact that China’s role in the international realm has evolved tremendously over the past five years — that it began to assume more characteristics of a major global power. What triggered this change, Dyer argues, is related to two major phenomena: the financial crisis in 2008 and the pressure from below (from the citizens).

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Pathway to Accountability: “Accountapreneurs”

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Two words always come to my mind when talking about accountability: “power” and “holders.” In principle, power comes from the people (the constituency). In a representative democracy, people are the source of power and they hold it by choosing their delegates through elections.

More often than not, however, the officials who get a mandate from the people hold power against the interests of electorate. Consequently, the power dynamic changes alongside the changes in attitudes, behaviors, and interests of the power holders. The cycle then repeats itself. For example; the recent constituent assembly election in Nepal resulted from the failure of the first assembly to promulgate a constitution.

For many Nepalese, democracy is a tool used to subjugate human beings to operate within certain norms, guided by the rule of law and constitutions. It only gives a framework, not an inclusive picture to judge and regulate the behaviors and relationships between individuals as members of a larger society. Democracy without accountability does not achieve equality, but rather degrades morality, integrity, and ethics. Accountability is more than just transparency and anti-corruption. It gives strength to democracy to be a foundation in society and to inspire people to become responsible citizens.

Today, corruption continues to be the biggest challenge worldwide. Corruption distorts development, undermines trust between citizens and government, and produces structural violence. Corruption also carries huge costs. The European Union spends close to 120 million Euros every year fighting corruption. According to World Bank, corruption is one of the largest “industries” with a scale of $3 trillion every year.

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Nepal Moves Forward on Reform Agenda

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Last month more than 1,000 people gathered for the 2014 Nepal Economic Summit,a  historic event hat brought attention to the challenges and opportunities to Nepal’s economic development.

More than 30 international speakers participated in the event including government officials, key ministers, business leaders, and civil society representatives. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also attended the event and gave some closing remarks.

CIPE partner Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation was the knowledge partner of the event  and has been working closely with the government and stakeholders in formulating the reform agendas over the last two years, preparing discussion papers on key issues such as agriculture, energy, and tourism, outlining major challenges and making recommendations. The papers build on Samriddhi’s Nepal Economic Growth Agenda, launched in 2012. Samriddhi’s economic research has become an important source of independent policy analysis in Nepal.

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CIPE Helps Inspire Leaders of Papua New Guinea’s First Women’s Chamber

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In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the development of the recently-established Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI), the first and only women’s chamber in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

CIPE arranged for the senior leadership of PNGWCCI to attend a CIPE conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka that convened a network of women’s business groups from across the region. At this conference, which the Papua New Guinean participants described as “inspiring” and “eye-opening,” PNGWCCI saw first-hand that women’s chambers can be hugely successful even in difficult national environments for women, and relationships were established with other Asian chambers that could be invaluable mentors for PNGWCCI.

The women from PNG told CIPE that “we came home more enthusiastic than ever!”

More recently, at a training program in Port Moresby, a CIPE delegation worked with the leaders and members of PNGWCCI to develop an organizational vision, strategic objectives, along with tangible short and medium-term action plans to accomplish them.

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A Big Step Forward for Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender equality, including gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion, and economic marginalization. The lack of prominent, respected, capable, and well-organized advocates for gender equality and women’s rights directly contributes to the sociopolitical and economic marginalization of women in Papua New Guinea.

In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the efforts of a pioneering group of women who recently established the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI). These visionary Papua New Guineans seek to change the operating environment faced by women in PNG, and this week saw a major step forward in this effort. From February 17-21, a CIPE delegation conducted the first of several planned training programs for the leaders and members of PNGWCCI.

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