Thursday, November 20, 2014

EFN and LRI's Workhorses

The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia annual conferences, the various big events of the Lion Rock Institute (LRI), like other major events in the world, would not be possible without the efficient hands and minds behind them. I am referring to the workhorses of EFN and LRI, Pett Jarupaiboon (FNF's Regional Program Officer for EFN and Human Rights) and Wilson Li, respectively.

Above photo, Wilson and Pett at the dinner gala and last day of EFN Conference 2014 in HK, at the famous racetrack. They could afford to smile widely then as the bulk of many work has been done. Lower photo, also with Wilson and Pett, on the evening of the last day of EFN Conferencce 2012, also held in HK. I see how these two guys work and I call it the "duopoly of micro labor" :-) Great work as usual, Pett and Wilson.

Supervising Wilson and another workhose is LRI Executive Director, Peter Wong. He succeeded Andrew Work who then went to become the Exec. Dir. of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in HK, before starting his own publishing business, The Harbour Times. Above photo, with Fred McMahon of Fraser Institute (Canada) and Peter, at the dinner and end of EFN Conference 2014. Below photo, with Peter and Grover Norquist, President of the Americans for Tax Reforms (ATR), during the 4th Pacific Rim Policy Exchange, Sydney, Australia, September 2010.

Above photo, LRI co-founder Simon Lee, with Barun Mitra.  Taken during the LRI 10th anniversary dinner gala last November 05, 2014. Lower photo, with Andrew Work andEMHN's Philip Stevens, also at the end of EFN conference 2012 in HK. Also in the photo was another good friend Cathy Windels plus her Indian friend.

During the LRI's 1st Reading Club Salon in 2012 in HK, two interns helped us. Janice Fung and Jude Law (at Barun's left). These two young interns appeared at HK Legco public hearing and argued on certain issues, they are very articulate and brave. Above photo taken during LRI gala 2014, lower photo taken during EFN conference 2012.

Two other guys who helped LRI during the Reading Club Salon 2014 and EFN Conference were Jadranco Brkic, beside me at an escalator ride when we went to  the Admiralty to watch the HK protesters. Also in the photo were Wan Saiful Wan Jan (IDEAS, Malaysia) and Ken Schooland (Hawaii Pacific Univ., USA). Jad has been taking lots of photos and videos during the two events and posted them in youtube and facebook. Lower photo, with Laurence Milton Pak, another LRI intern.

Thank you for all the hard work you have put in making EFN and LRI remain dynamic organizations -- Peter, Wilson, Pett, other friends.

See also:
2004, MG and LRI Were Born, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2004, MG and LRI Were Born

The Lion Rock Institute (LRI) held its 10th year anniversary Dinner Gala last November 06, 2014, at Harbour Grand Hong Kong, the same venue for the EFN Asia Conference 2014. Among the most memorable photos for me that night is this. From left: Parth Shah, President of the Center for Civil Society (CCS) in India, Andrew Work, co-founder of LRI, HK, me, and Barun Mitra, founder and Director of Liberty Institute, India.

Parth, Andrew and me were batchmates at the "Mackinac Leadership Conference 2004", held in April 2004 at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midlands, Michigan, USA. More than ten years have passed and we are still around  fighting for free market, free trade, limited government, rule of law, individual freedom and personal responsibility.

Minimal Government (MG) was only one month old and LRI was possibly two-three months old then. I and Ellen Cain of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), Andrew and a few others, were granted an International Fellowships by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. So  it was my first exposure to the international free market movement. Thanks to Atlas and Priscilla Tacujan who recommended us to Atlas.

Our batch photo, 10 years and seven months ago at Mackinac Center. 

Mackinac President at that time was Larry Reed, VP was Joe Lehman. Around 2007, Larry became President of a bigger free market think tank in NY, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and Joe became Mackinac President. At one of our evening events at Mackinac. The "Asians table" plus our batchmate from Italy (to my left) and Larry Reed, beside Parth.

After Mackinac, we went to Chicago to attend the Atlas Liberty Forum, April 2004. I shared a room in the hotel and my roommate then was Barun Mitra! Barun is perhaps the most veteran (and most prominent) among all Asian free marketers, having been in the movement for about three decades now. When I was still a socialist and a great fan of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in the 80s, Barun was already spreading the ideas of Hayek, Mises, Ayn Rand, Friedman, among others.

These are portions of the Atlas Year in Review, Fall 2004. Page 14.

And on page 15.

After the event in Chicago, we went to Virginia, stayed at the Atlas staff house in Fairfax and we started meeting various market-oriented think tanks and research institutes in Washington DC, Arlington, etc. I came back after a month, May 2004.

In October 2004, the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference was held in Hong Kong. LRI was part of the team who helped organized it of course. Out of the eight Asian participants who went to  Mackinac, six of us went to HK as well. From left: Cuoung, Joe Lehman, Ellen, Jargal, Parth and me. Andrew was there of course but we could not  find him as he was moving around when we assembled for this photo.

The group photo of the EFN 2004 conference. Taken from the Atlas 2004 report.

Thanks to Atlas, thanks to EFN and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), for their support to advocates and fighters for limited government and free market in Asia. 

See also:

Monday, November 17, 2014

IPR and Medicines 31: Trademark Stealing and Counterfeit Medicines

Today, I will attend the 1st day of National Consciousness Week against Counterfeit Medicines, Theme: Kapakanan ng Pamilya Alagaan, Huwad na Gamot Labanan, to be held at the JY Campos Hall, Bayanihan Center, Unilab Complex in Pasig City. The event is sponsored by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and today's event is mainly for civil society organizations (CSOs), including Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc.

Production of counterfeit, fake and substandard medicines is generally stealing the trademark and logo of famous pharma companies, both innovators like Pfizer and GSK, and generics like Unilab, then selling those fakes. Patients and their family/guardians think that they are buying the real products of these known companies and the patients end up getting some adverse side effects, or they don't get cured and the disease in their body mutate or expand into something more serious. So counterfeits is costly in terms of expanding the treatment, and can be fatal.

As an advocate of rule of law as the main function of government, I believe that government, both national and local units, should be serious in fighting this crime because it endangers public health. This is a more useful function that imposing drug price control and mandatory, forced priced discounts for senior citizens and perons with disabilities (PWDs). Of what use to certain sectors are cheap, forcibly discounted medicines, if they some of them are fake and substandard and  hence, can cause more health problems? Declining prices of  medicines and healthcare can be done by having more competition among more pharma players, among drugstores and hospitals, among physicians and other health professionals.

The topics and speakers for today's event are:

1. Keynote Address by DOH Assistant Secretary, Atty. Nicolas Lutero, OIC of the FDA.

2. "Global Perspectives on Counterfeiting Medicines and the Current WHO Initiatives on SSFFC" by Mr. Michael Deats, Group Lead, SSFFC Medical Products Safety and Vigilance Essential Medicines and Health Products, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland

3. "A Multistakeholder Approach to Strengthening Community Advocacy for Safe and Quality Medicines (Highlights of the MeTA Discussion Series)" by Ms. Cecilia C.  Sison, Country Coordinator, Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines

4. "Impact of counterfeit medicines to public health and patient safety" by Dr. Maria Minerva P. Calimag, President of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA)

5. "Counterfeiting and its impact to national security and public safety" by Mr. Eric McCloughlin, Deputy Attaché, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Embassy in Manila

6. "Understanding the problem and working together to combat counterfeit medicines" by Mr. Samson Chiu, Director, Asia-Pacific Region, Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI)

7. "Food and Drug Administration process and initiatives in combatting counterfeit medicines" by Ms. Maria Lourdes C. Santiago, OIC, Center for Drug Regulation and Research

8. "Enforcement Policies and Regulations on Medicines Anti-Counterfeiting" by Atty. Edna Valenzuela, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor, Department of Justice (DOJ)

9. "Initiatives of Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines in combatting counterfeit medicines" by Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, Director General, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO)

10. Industry’s effort in combatting counterfeit medicines proliferation: 
Best Practices in private industry enforcement programs to stop counterfeit medicines from endangering public

a. Mr. Tetsuda Ikeda, Director Global Security, Asia Pacific Region, Pfizer, Inc.
b. Mr. Teodoro Padilla, Executive Director, Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP)
c. Ms. Dolora P. Cardinal, Head, Public Affairs Committee-FDA, Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, Inc. (PCPI)

Closing remarks by Dr. Ariel I. Valencia, FDA Deputy Director General for Field Regulatory Operations

On the 2nd day tomorrow, the same speakers from the WHO, PSI, US Embassy, others, to be held at Diamond Hotel, Roxas Blvd, Manila. Target audience are mostly government enforcement agencies. And the 3rd day on Wednesday, it will be a pledging session by various groups at the FDA office in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Meanwhile, some materials on counterfeit medicines I found several years ago:

1. Coalition Against Fake Medicines Launched

The medicines we take for day-to-day ailments and life-threatening conditions should make us feel better or save our lives. But because of the presence of counterfeit medicines in the country today, we should be cautious as to the medicines we buy.

This was the warning issued by the Department of Health (DOH), which noted that about ten percent of medicines bought in pharmacies today are fakes. Fake medicines, which are not registered with the Bureau of Food and Drugs, may be useless, harmful, or even deadly.

This dangerously widespread occurrence pushed similarly-minded government agencies, and private institutions to form a coalition group to help combat and eventually eliminate this illegal trade. The Coalition Against Fake Medicines is composed of ten organizations - the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Drugstores Association of the Philippines (DSAP), Mercury Drug Corporation, Zuellig Pharma Corporation, GMA 7 Broadcast Network, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Pfizer. Inc..

Present during the MOA signing were (standing from left): Manuel Quiogue, President, GMA 7 Network, Inc.; Celine Madamba, AVP-Strategic Marketing Communications, PDI; Jack Concepcion, VP-Merchandising, Mercury Drug, Inc; Dr. Jose Sabili, Vice President, Philippine Medical Association. 

Seated from left are Celia Carlos, President, Drugstores Association of the Philippines; Hon. J. Norman Jocson, Assistant Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry; Hon. Manuel Dayrit, Secretary, Department of Health; Rey Gerardo Bacarro, President and Country Manager, Pfizer, Inc; Hon. Macabangkit Lanto, Undersecretary, Department of Justice; and Michael Becker, President and CEO, Zuellig Pharma Corporation.

2. From The News Today, 2006.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fresh Market Capitalism

Fresh food is among the foundations of good health of the people. The more fresh the food, the more nutritious it is. But fresh food should also be affordable to more people. That way, good economics (stable, affordable prices) meets good health (fresh, nutritious food that help strengthen our immune system).

Last week, on our last day (November 08) in Hong Kong after attending the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference, November 6-7, 2014, a friend Simon Lee, organized a "fresh market tour" for interested EFN conference participants. It was a short, 1 1/2 hour tour as some of us have to catch our flight back to our respective countries in the afternoon or evening.

Simon and his two staff, Lisa and Paul, brought us to Lok Fu fresh market in Kowloon.

It was not a supermarket inside a big mall. Rather, just an open space on the ground floor of a ahigh-rise HK government housing. As these two pictures show, the vegetables are fresh, they did not look like they came from a freezer, unsold items the previous day/s.

Upon arriving at the site, Simon turned over the briefing to  Myron, a sharp, articulate, bright man who is an officer of The Link, the owner and administrator of the Luk Fo fresh market.

Below, our team. Simon Lee standing on left most, Myron is 3rd from right, with a portable microphone. More should have joined but our departure from the hotel was delayed by almost one hour because the bus that would pick us from our hotel somehow went to another location.

Myron quickly started the briefing. His English is good and fluent. He must have studied in UK or the US. Anyway, the place is very clean. No foul smell whatsoever, something that is familiar in public markets, non-mall supermarkets in the Philippines

This shop of dried food is cool. Neat and clean and only one person manages the  whole  store.

The fresh seafood  section. The floor is not wet, no mud or scattered fish body parts.
Crabs, seashells, other crustaceans. Some of those sea creatures I don't see in Philippine seafood markets. I would assume that some of these products are grown via aquaculture and not caught in the open sea.

Wow, those huge sea cucumber-looking creatures, I don't know their name. Although I am from a coastal city of Negros island in the Philippines and fishing is the main industry there, I don't see these products, nor in Manila's seafood markets.

Karthik Chandra from India, a fellow conference participant, was also amazed at the sights of fresh seafood that greeted us that day.
Another friend, Lorenzo Montanari from the Americans for Tax Reforms (ATR) in Washington DC seemed awed by the variety of these live sea creatures sold at affordable prices.

Friday, November 14, 2014

EFN Asia 45: Growth, Inequality and the Philippines

During the "Asian Cafe", Day 1 of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference 2014 last week in Hong  Kong, I was the speaker for the Philippines. About 10 Asian countries were discussed very quickly, 10-15 minutes including open forum. So there were 10 speakers, each with own rapporteurs from their own countries.

The theme was observation about growth and inequality in our respective Asian countries. My thesis is simple: It is not inequality per se that is the problem, but the condition of the poor, if it has improved through time or not. And I argued that Yes the condition of the poor has improved. Why? See this illustration, partly discussed in my brief talk.

Even the super-rich a century or many decades ago would be lucky if they live up to 60 years old. Average life expectancy in the world was only 48 31 years. Now, even the poor can expect to live up to 80+, 90+. Average life expectancy in the Philippines in 2010 was 69 years (67 for males, 71 for females). By now, average life expectancy should be almost 70 years. Infant mortality declining too; poor children dying less than before.

Inequality is inevitably a result of individual freedom and people diversity. As my riend, Lawrence "Larry" Reed of FEE (USA) emphasized. “People who are free are not equal, and equal people are not free.”

In the photo, among those who attended our group, from left: Arpita Nepal of Samriddhi-Prosperity Foundation (Nepal), Olaf Kellerhoff of FNF in Potsdam, Germany; Amir from IDEAS (Malaysia).

Below, the Philippines’ richest families and their estimated wealth as of 2013, data from Forbes. Many of them were rags to riches people. Migrants from mainland China, about five to seven decades ago, poor, but very entrepreneurial at a young age. Others though are Spanish colonial descent, but showed high entrepreneurship  skills too.

Whereas many rich and big business names in the 50s to 70s are gone or not so rich now compared to  the new rich by the 90s up to the present.

Prosperity and poverty is generally a result of various system of "rewards and punishment" in society, which corresponds with individual freedom. People have the freedom to be hard working and efficient, or the freedom to be lazy, complacent and subsidy-dependent.

Of course some or all of these super-rich families were protected by the government via Constitutional restrictions to  foreign investors  and  competitors, and Congress-created monopolies. 

To break this less- or non-competitive way of getting rich, those Constitutional restrictions, Congress-created monopoly system should be removed or relaxed.

In the other panel on HK also during the "Asian Cafe", Andrew Work of LRI speaking. Beside him were Dr. Razeen Sally of the National University of Singapore, and Dr. Vic Abola of the Philippine Economics Society (PES), also Economics Prof. at the Univ. of Asia and the Pacific in Manila.

My non-cute video in youtube uploaded by Jadranco Brkic. Thanks Jad. 

See also: 

Mining 42: Presentation and Debate at UP PALS-NCPAG

Last month, I participated in an open debate on mining held at UP Diliman. Three of us pro-mining including Dr. Arcilla  (4th from left in this photo) of the UP National Institute for Geological Studies (NIGS), and three anti-mining including Mr. Garganera (3rd from right), National Coordinator of the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM, Alliance to Stop Mining).

The theme of the debate was "Mining: Boon or Bane?". Nice forum and debate.

Below are some of the major arguments of the anti-mining groups.

Good audience, should be 200+ students and teachers/professors, including some UP Mining Engineering students, and guests from other universities invited by the sponsor, UP PALS.

The anti-mining groups would clarify that "we are not anti-mining per se, we recognize the contribution of mining to society but certain conditions should be met like..." and such list can be long and/or very stringent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

EFN Asia 44: Day 2 of Conference 2014

It was a dynamic start on Day 2, November 7. A speed dating where participants and speakers were lined up on chairs facing each other and talk to each other for about three minutes and when  the bell rings, move to the next chair and talk to the next person. This way, participants are "forced" to talk to other people whom they may be shy or unwilling to talk to :-)

One of the key questions to discuss was, what do you think of the sessions and topics the previous day. For new faces participants, the immediate questions of course were the names, institutes or groups in their countries, what they are doing, and so on.

Not enough time to spare, the speed dating was stopped after several rounds and the hosts asked for volunteers what they can share from this experience. I was among those who volunteered and I said that while I agree with Dr. Razeen Sally's conclusion the other day that the "good news" is that materially and healthwise, we are better off today compared to our predecessors a century or many decades ago, I disagreed with his "bad news" that continued restrictions and bureaucratism by many governments may also limit and restrict innovation and individual freedom. I think that freedom has already gained enough momentum that as governments regulate more, tax and control more, civil society and average individuals will resist more because they are better informed, better networked with other friends and sympathizers around the world, thanks to modern technology and social media.

I shared this opinion to the  participants that I talked to during the speed dating, so far many of them agreed with my observation.

Fred McMahon of Fraser Institute (Canada) was one of the other guys who volunteered to share.

The next session was a Keynote speech by Tom Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (USA). He talked about "radical equality" and that is equality before the law. He also criticized Thomas Pikkety's book and his arguments for more forced equality. That we should work for a world where the poor can  rise up instead of tearing down and demonizing the rich.

The next panel was a special session launching the South East Asia Network for Development (SEANET) initiated by IDEAS in Malaysia. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, IDEAS CEO introduced and moderated the panel. Speakers were the young President of IDEAS, Yam Tunku Zain (left) and Kriengsak Chareonwongsak of the Institute for Future Studies for Development in Thailand (right). Dr. Kriengsak focused on the potentials of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) coming by the end of 2015.

Then delegates and participants of the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and Liberal International (LI) came and joined us for the special EFN-CALD session.

Opening speeches were given by Dr. See Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, Bill Stacey of LRI, Markus Lonning, a former German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, Olaf Kellerhoff of FNF Asia and Human Rights Department, and Emily Lau (below) of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong. She is a very articulate, warm and passionate speaker and she shared her experience when she and other leaders were arrested by the HK government for many hours and the protesters were teargassed by the HK police. It was the first time that I heard her and I became an instant fan of her.

Then a panel discussion was briefly held. From left: Jules Maaten, FNF Philippines Country Director, was the moderator. Parth Shah of CCS-India, Jay Kun Yoo of Uri Party in S. Korea, Saumura Tioulong of Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sin Chung Kai of Democratic Party of HK and MP member, and Sethaput Narueput of Thailand Future Foundation.

A group photo before we went to the HK Legislative Council (LEGCO) for a tour and meeting by some delegates. Then a dinner gala sponsored by FNF and LI.

Good conference and networking, as usual. Thanks to EFN and FNF. Meanwhile, a former FNF official, Stefan Melnik, noted in fb that
reducing inequality is not a prime concern of liberalism, reducing poverty is. the reduction of inequality might be a side effect of liberal policies promoting growth, but there's no guarantee. to GUARANTEE a reduction of disparities you would need massive state intervention. this would undermine the prospects for economic growth and we know that the less state intervention we have, the better the prospects for growth. and we know that economic growth in most cases leads to a reduction of poverty. this is what empirical research tells us. Like this one.

Amen to Stefan's observation. I highlighted in my brief talk during the Asian Cafe on Day 1 of the conference, that it is not inequality per se that is the problem, but the condition of the poor if they have not risen up after decades of economic growth, especially in fast-growing economies in Asia. I will discuss that in my next blog post.

All photos from FNF East and SEast Asia fb page. Also from Jadranco Brkic. Thanks.

See also: