Category Archives: Asia

Case Studies: Advancing Anti-Corruption Efforts in Armenia and Thailand

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Corruption is a systemic problem that plagues many transitional countries across the world, rooted in weak rule of law and lack of private property rights. Not only does corruption erode trust in public institutions, such practices also hinder economic growth and weaken democratic governance.

The corruption challenge can be addressed by building responsive institutions that offer basic assurances of private property rights and ensure law and order. CIPE programs address the root causes of corruption through a multi-pronged approach. CIPE programs mobilize the private sector to raise anti-corruption standards and advocate for reforms; streamline regulations and reduce implementation gaps to limit opportunities for corruption; improve corporate governance to strengthen firm-level integrity; facilitate collective action to level the playing field and coordinate company efforts; and equip small and medium-sized enterprises to resist bribery and meet the requirements of global value chains.

Two recent case studies, described below, show these CIPE approaches in action.

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Corrrupt Land Grabs Imperil Burma’s Democratic Transition

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The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to own property [and] no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” In Burma, a country in the early stages of its emergence from a half century of military rule and central economic planning, property rights violations could threaten democracy itself.

Burma lacks many institutions necessary for a market-oriented democracy, such as a reliable court system, dependable electricity, and accessible financial services. The country’s physical infrastructure is also woefully inadequate. Paramount among these issues is rampant corruption and terrible public governance – issues that manifest in the “land-grabbing epidemic” which is sparking protest and civic unrest.

Read the rest of this article at the Thomson Reuters blog.

Learning to Start a Business in Papua New Guinea

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“The recent workshop by CIPE on the 19th of May 2014 in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea is important as firstly puts our vision into action but most importantly it gave a boost for those women to take a bold step towards starting a business or “enterprise”. The women learnt how to transform their ideas or hobbies into a business. They learnt the importance of innovation, implementation, ability to market products and to understand numbers in a business environment. The breakaway discussions and activities were not only fun but useful in emphasis important business skills like to know how to negotiate pricing in a business time management and knowing specifications before you start dealing with suppliers. So many positive feedback from the participants. Can’t wait for the next one.” – Janet Sios, Interim Vice President PNGWCCI

CIPE is working with a newly established women’s chamber of commerce in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to become a strong voice of women-owned businesses a country that is known for its unequal treatment of women.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report, PNG is getting worse in areas such as Starting a Business (101st in the world, down 9 places from 2013) and Getting Credit at 86th in the world (down 4 spots from 2013). In such an environment, it is extremely challenging for women to start an entrepreneurial initiative. This forces many women to remain in the informal sector.

During the course of recent capacity building sessions held in May 2014, CIPE organized a workshop for Papua New Guinea Women Chamber of Commerce members titled “Starting Your Own Enterprise.” CIPE Deputy Country Director for Pakistan, Hammad Siddiqui led the session that covered basic concepts of starting a business, challenges for small businesses, analyzing market opportunities, etc.

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Business Women Take Charge in Papua New Guinea

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The first shipment of liquefied natural gas is set to leave the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in late May. This multi-billion dollar project is among the largest investments in the country’s history, and its success contributed to the country’s strong GDP growth in recent years. Foreign direct investment is up, and the current government is pursuing a largely free-market and pro-investment economic strategy.

This good news has an unfortunate caveat, however: women have had virtually no input in the country’s policy dialogues, and the country’s economic performance is occurring despite the continued economic marginalization of women.

Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender inequality. This sad reality is manifested in shocking statistics of gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion and economic marginalization.

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How Does Corruption Affect the Alibaba IPO?

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Last week Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering (IPO). As one of the largest companies in the world’s second largest economy, Alibaba represents an enormous opportunity for investors. They are expected to raise between $15 and $20 billion, making this IPO potentially bigger than Facebook’s.

While Alibaba already handles more sales volume than eBay and Amazon combined, there is added room for growth as internet penetration in China is only around 45 percent. Online shopping is projected to increase at a rate of 27 percent per year as the still-poor country grows richer and more connected.

Regardless of the perceived opportunities, foreign investors are not entirely convinced that Alibaba will be a good buy. The attitude toward Chinese companies in general is one of skepticism and uncertainty — perpetuated most recently by concerns about the transparency in auditing practices. Alibaba’s complex network of businesses and a lack of details surrounding partnerships with domestic logistics companies also raise some questions for potential investors.

In all the buzz surrounding Alibaba’a IPO, however, there is a missing element that could be cause for additional concern. By selling shares in the U.S., Alibaba opens itself to more exposure to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a piece of legislation that makes it illegal for companies to bribe officials of foreign governments. A number of multinational companies from around the world have already been ensnared in FCPA investigations as a result of corruption in China and the idea that Alibaba has grown within a market rife with corrupt acts could be cause for increased suspicion. Compounding this risk is the fact that the company has been the subject of investigations by domestic authorities in the past.

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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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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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