Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free Trade 12: Trade and World Peace

Last April 02, 2009, I wrote this:

Today, leaders of the world’s largest economies, both rich and developing, will meet in London to "save" the world economy in general, and their respective economies in particular.

The G20 summit is a high profile meeting; there are lots of demands and expectations, lots of lobby interests to be resolved and pleased. Among such groups are the protectionists and anti-free trade interests.

This group reasons out that since the economy is bad and lots of jobs have been lost and are threatened to be lost further, consumers should patronize locally-made products and services. The group further posits that governments should reduce, if not prevent, huge importation of competing goods and services made from other countries. This way, local jobs will be preserved and/or created, and the economy will recover.

There is one huge fault in this kind of reasoning: It does not recognize that people trade with each other voluntarily because they realize there are "net gains" for them. By choosing the best quality product (raw material or final consumer item) at the lowest price possible, a consumer benefits. By having huge number of potential buyers, a producer continuously improves on his product or service to please consumers who want the “best product at the lowest price possible”.

The International Policy Network and the Atlas Global Initiative teamed up to launch the Freedom to Trade Coalition (F2T) and the Free Trade Petition to pressure G20 leaders not to give in to strong protectionist moves in their respective countries and regions.

When the Petition was launched in London yesterday, it has attracted more than 2,000 signatories from many countries around the world. The Petition categorically declares the following, among others:

“Trade’s most valuable product is peace. Trade promotes peace, in part, by uniting different peoples in a common culture of commerce – a daily process of learning others’ languages, social norms, laws, expectations, wants, and talents.

Trade promotes peace by encouraging people to build bonds of mutually beneficial cooperation. Trade unites the economic interests of the peoples of all nations who trade with each other.

A great deal of rigorous empirical research supports perhaps the most tragic example of what happens when the proposition that "trade promotes peace" insight is ignored is World War II.

International trade collapsed by 70% between 1929 and 1932, in no small part because of America’s 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff and the retaliatory tariffs of other nations. Economist Martin Wolf notes that "this collapse in trade was a huge spur to the search for autarky and Lebensraum, most of all for Germany and Japan."

The most ghastly and deadly wars in human history soon followed.”

A number of leaders of member-institutes of the F2T Coalition – including this writer – believe that for free trade to succeed, it should be done unilaterally. Problems arise when people accept the idea that countries should first restrict trade, and then negotiate for some alleged reciprocal benefits, because this legitimizes the role of the State in trade. Countries and governments do not trade with each other; people do. So governments have no legitimate role in restricting or negotiating trade.

Unilateral free trade means that business and political leaders of an economy simply declare, "We want more choices of goods and services from anywhere. Come bring them here, zero (or near-zero) tariff, zero or near-zero non-tariff barriers, and very little bureaucracy (trade facilitation)." Hong Kong does that. North Korea and Myanmar do not do that.

Meanwhile, the US President, the British Prime Minister, and other G20 leaders are busy convincing each other and the public that the world needs now more deficit spending, more borrowings, and more government debts, to "save" the world economy. Huge debts of the past were not enough; they need even bigger debts and bail-outs.

But some European leaders prefer equally threatening moves like the creation of a new global financial regulation framework or mechanism. One such mechanism is large-scale harassment of so-called "tax havens". The US, EU, Japan, and other rich countries that are on the "more-debts-more-bail-outs" train know perfectly that they are heading to the "more-and-higher-taxes" direction, to pay past and present debts. Hence, economies that offer some "tax relief" to global corporations should be pounced. Everyone should pay the high cost of "saving" the global economy, now and in the future.

At the end of the day, people around the world only need free trade, bigger choices of which products and services they will buy or not buy, of which type of employment arrangement they can accept or reject, and of which technology they will need or ignore. People do not need more deficit spending and more debts by governments. They do not need more financial and economic regulations. They do not need more aid or government-to-government transfer of taxpayers’ money.

People need greater control of their own lives. They need global peace to allow them to pursue their professions, to pursue their business and consumer interests, with the least taxation, regulation and intervention by governments and bureaucrats possible.

Today, writing this in Los Angeles, California, USA

Free Trade and Liberty Forum

Trade is the process or mechanism by which people can sell their extra output of goods and services, use the money from such sale to buy the extra goods and services by other people that they need for their household and work needs. Thus, a rice or chicken farmer can sell their extra rice or chicken to other people, they use the money proceeds of such sale in order to buy fuel or spare parts for their hand tractors or fertilizers or animal feeds, to buy new dress, shoes and school supplies for his children, to build a new or repair and old house, to buy beer and pork barbecue, and so on. This important and common sense function of trade and voluntary exchange, is the main reason why trade should be left unrestricted, why trade should be as free as possible. 

Unfortunately this thinking is not shared by certain sectors of our societies. There are many alibis against free trade, foremost of which is that it steals local jobs. By buying goods made abroad and imported into the country, local manufacturers are deprived of additional revenues, some of them will close shop, resulting to job lay-offs and hence, higher unemployment, higher poverty.

Fighting trade protectionism is among the panel discussions tackled in the recently concluded “Atlas Liberty Forum” held at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles, California, April 24 to 25, 2009. It was sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Atlas gave me a travel scholarship and hotel accommodation, that is why I was able to attend this event, and I was the only Filipino among nearly 300 participants from more than 30 countries around the world. 

The speakers from this panel were Alec van Gelder from International Policy Network (IPN) in London, Dan Grisworld from Cato Institute in Washington DC, and Seyitbek Uzmanov from Central Asia Free Market Institute (CAFMI) in Kyrgyztan. The panel moderator was Tom Palmer, the new Atlas VP for the Atlas Global Initiative.

Mr. van Gelder talked about the global campaign for free trade initiated by Atlas and IPN, the Freedom to Trade coalition that has attracted the participation of about 70 independent institutes and think tanks from nearly 50 countries, among others. Mr. Grisworld talked about the various tariff and non-tariff barriers that the American protectionists have put up against certain imported commodities, to the disadvantage of American consumers who have to pay higher for otherwise cheaper goods made abroad. And Mr. Uzmanov talked about the free trade coalition they are building in Kyrgyztan with a single mission: to make their country the “Dubai of central Asia” within the next 2 to 3 years. 

This goal by CAFMI is indeed laudable and ambitious, despite the fact that it is a very young think tank and its two top leaders are young too, only in their mid-20s. I asked them why they chose Dubai as their model for free trade when Hong Kong is more famous in having a unilateral free trade policy, they replied that many people in their country do not know Hong Kong much while Dubai is more known to them. Hence, the “Dubai inspiration” for a unilateral free trade project.

There were many other interesting panels in the Atlas Liberty Forum, like “The financial crisis and the attack on sound money” and “Fund raising” for free market think tanks. 

Trade protectionism is one aspect of dictatorship. The protectionists and their implementers in government dictate to the consumers what goods and services they can or cannot buy from abroad, if allowed to import, by how much quantity, from where and at what price. People just do not realize the dictatorship aspect of trade protectionism.

There is a new shade of protectionism that is recently shaping up: green or eco-protectionism. This type of protectionists argue that while rich countries keep their environment clean and refrain from using dirty and highly polluting technologies, the producers from poorer countries do not. Thus, the goods are produced cheaply there because they are using old and dirty technologies, they do not strictly control air quality in manufacturing plants, and such production processes emit plenty of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to greenhouse gases (GHGs), which contributes to global warming and climate change. 

The solution therefore, is to impose a “carbon tax” on imported manufactured goods from poorer countries that do not strictly limit their carbon emission. This tax is meant to “compensate” for the use of dirty manufacturing technologies that “contribute to global warming”, resulting in lower amount of importation (since the imported goods have become more expensive), lower amount of carbon emission in the world.

This reasoning is faulty on two counts. One, it is wrong to restrict international trade because it reduces or kills the right of choice of the local consumers. And two, it is wrong to blame carbon dioxide as the “cause” of global warming. See my article last week on this, “Cooling reality vs Warming politics.”

It is important that Atlas continues holding its annual Liberty Forum because the forum helps not only to discuss and clarify certain issues that affect the world, issues that affect the individual liberty of people around the world. The forum also allows liberty fighters to network with each other, to learn from each other.

See also:
Free Trade 6: Counterfeit Drugs Worldwide, December 21, 2007
Free Trade 7: Class War, Eco-protectionism and Climate, April 02, 2008
Free Trade 8: Global RIce Price, May 13, 2008
Free trade 9: Parallel Importation of Medicines, May 22, 2008

Free Trade 10: More on Unilateral Trade Liberalization, July 15, 2008
Free Trade 11: Global Petition, Keynes, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2008: Cooling Reality vs Warming Politics

It is Earth Day today, a day where people around the world are reminded once more that the Earth is “in danger” – from climate change, from global warming, from too much carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gases (GHGs), from rising seawater, and so on. Today, the climate change hysteria is further fanned.

On the other hand, this week, if not this whole month, a climate anomaly is showing – cloudy almost everyday, rain showers at least twice a week, tail-end of a cold front until middle of the month, then occurrence of low pressure area along intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in many parts of the country with threats of flash floods in some provinces. This week, April 20 to 26, 2009, Manila (Airport) temperature range on average including forecast is 30° C maximum, 25° C minimum. (Source: http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/98429.html).

But this month is one of two hottest months of the year. We are supposed to have lots of sunlight and cloudless sky. Having a cold front and cloudy skies in hot April is a climate anomaly that has not been seen for many years now. A review of the weather in other capital cities of south-east Asian countries that are near the equator also show similar pattern: maximum noontime temperatures of only 34 to 35 Celsius (except Bangkok that has been registering 37 to 38 Celsius lately).

Early this year, Europe experienced one of its coldest and nastiest winter in history. It was “record low” in some parts of Germany and there were a number of deaths reported in other European countries as the severe winter coincided with the Russia-Ukraine conflict and natural gas from Russia were not delivered to mainland Europe. In north America, many states in the US experienced some of their worst winter too.

What happened? Where is global warming? The UN’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report (AR4) projects global temperature to rise as a result of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW) between 1.4 to 5.8 °C (almost 10 °F) from 1990 to 2100. Their chart shows a steady upward projection of temperature for one century, a perfect way to really scare people.

Unfortunately for the IPCC and many people who peddle the global warming scare, recent data show cooling, not warming, in world temperature. Warming peaked in 1998 with the big El Nino, and all temperatures after that year were lower, not higher. The temperature drop was more pronounced in 2007 and 2008, and more so this year and the succeeding years. In addition, carbon dioxide (CO2) pathway did not correspond to global temperature trend.

Many physicists, geologists and other climate scientists point to the Sun – the number of solar spots, irradiation, solar cycles and length of such cycles (11 years, 24 years, etc.) – as the main driver of the Earth’s temperature. Solar wind controls the amount of galactic cosmic radiation coming into Earth’s atmosphere. An inactive sun results in more galactic cosmic radiation which creates more clouds which causes cooling. And we are in a period of inactive Sun these years.

A number of astrophysicists, scientists who study the Sun carefully, project global cooling in the next 30 years and possibly beyond.

People who say that “Debate is over, there is world consensus, this is an anthropogenic (man-made) global warming” are liars. There is a big debate that has been going on for many years now. But there is too much power and money involved in sustaining the warming hysteria. Billions of dollars of UN grants, rich governments’ climate research budget and/or subsidies to renewable energy sources, carbon tax being planned and/or currently collected by governments, carbon emission permits being traded and changing hands globally.

Global warming politics is the next communism of the current era. We no longer worry about economic central planning, but ecological central planning. National and international bureaucrats tell us what energy sources we can use or not, how much carbon taxes to pay and how much grants and subsidies to be given to renewable energies and environmental groups, to whom businessmen can buy or sell carbon permits, what new bureaucracies to be created and sustained, and so on.

At home, there is the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change (PTFCC), Presidential Adviser on Climate Change (PACC), Carbon Cutting Coalition (CCC), and a bill creating the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has been passed on 3rd and final reading in the House. Some provincial and city governments have created their local task forces on climate change. Lots of our tax money are being used to create new bureaucracies who are fighting a non-existent enemy.

Meanwhile, a number of scientists who are labeled “climate skeptics/realists” are warning of crop failures in some parts of the world this year due to severe winter, severe rains coming along. But the climate alarmists and bureaucrats will still be singing the same tune of scaring the public to extract more power to regulate our lives and more money from our pockets.

On December 13, 2008, I wrote this:

Climate Alarmism vs. Economic Recession

Yesterday, the United Nations’ 14th Session of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (UN COP-14) ended its nearly two weeks meeting in Poznan, Poland. Top UN leaders, top environment and climate change officials and bureaucrats of many countries attended that meeting. Their main goal was supposed to hammer a common agreement for “new emissions cut”, among others, when the Kyoto Protocol expires by 2012 or just 4 years from now.

They did not succeed in such a goal as the few “climate rebels”, energy and environment ministers from some countries who oppose drastic emission cuts, like killing coal and other cheaper energy sources and rush renewable but more expensive energy sources, become more assertive.

It is true that there is climate change. The same way that people change, cars and mobile phones change, sports and culture change, cities and communities change, the world and its geography change. Sunspots and solar rays change, expansion or contraction of the universe change, and earthquake belts change. So do climate change. And there are dozens of different factors that contribute to climate change, not just humanity’s economic activities.

Instead of planning how to “stop” climate change, humanity’s energy and effort would be better diverted to discussing how to adapt to climate change. People from the tropics adapt to weather and freezing temperatures in the norh and southern parts of the globe. And vice versa.

But some environment regulators and bureaucrats are salivating at new taxes, fees and fines, regulations and prohibitions to invent, to “stop” climate change. They will also plan what to do with existing high petroleum taxes, whether to retain or further hike them or not. Or plan what power sources to be allowed and subsidized, and what to be heavily-regulated, if not killed. Or plan and propose what new environmental bodies and commissions to be created, complete with big funding and big staff, or what new powers to be vested in existing environmental bureaucracies. People should be afraid of these bureaucrats instead.

The Philippine government recently added a new bureaucracy under the Office of the President called the “Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate” with Cabinet position. The head of this new bureaucracy is a former Senator and former Environment Secretary. He also went to Poznan with a very ambitious Philippine goal of “A 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050” or just 4 decades from now. See the news report here.

Here in the Philippines, there are just a very few people and groups who are not enamored by “principally human-induced climate change” theory. One of them is the Director of Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines (UP), Dr. Perry Ong. In May this year, he presented in one of UP’s big “centennial lectures” a paper entitled “Anthropogenic Global Warming: Beyond the Hype, Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”.

In that paper, Dr. Ong said “GHGs spawned by humans contribute merely 33 percent to global warming compared to the 67 percent traced to natural causes, which include changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions and the shifting of the Earth’s tilt and orbit… Climate change has become a convenient excuse when there are other [environmental] issues that need to be addressed… If we disproportionately blame ourselves for [climate change], our response will be different … we should look at the [bigger picture] and address other issues.” The news report can be viewed here.

Perhaps the world’s biggest coalition of independent think tanks and civil society groups that recognize there is climate change but does not believe in more government intervention and regulation to “stop global warming”, is the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change (CSCCC). Our think tank, Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc. is the only Philippine-based institute that is one of the 50 member-organizations of this coalition from 38 countries, all of which are non-profit institutes and independent of political parties and government.

The CSCCC recently released its newest report, “Which Policy to Address Climate Change?”, authored by Prof. Julian Morris, Executive Director of International Policy Network (IPN). Prof. Morris argued that “A cap on emissions of carbon would do little to protect humanity against the threat of climate change but would drastically increase the threat of global economic catastrophe…. For Ministers in Poznan to agree to cap carbon emissions in the near term would be economic lunacy. It would divert resources into ‘low carbon’ technologies and away from more productive uses – thereby slowing economic growth and harming the ability of the poor to address the real problems they face every day, such as diseases, water scarcity and inadequate nutrition.”

Incidentally, the Heartland Institute in the US will hold its second “International Conference on Climate Change 2009” on March 8 – 10, 2009 in New York. It has the sub-title, “Global warming crisis Cancelled: Was it ever really a crisis?” Visit here for details.

The current global financial turmoil would seem to be the biggest hindrance to new regulatory and bureaucratic plans by the climate change alarmists. To pressure developing and emerging countries to cut their carbon emissions by over-regulating, if not killing, coal and other non-renewable but cheaper energy sources within a short period of time, would be asking the humanity to further hasten economic recession to spread to more countries in the world.

At the back of the minds of the hard core climate change alarmists, economic growth from developing countries that use more energy, more mobility of trucks, cars and buses that spew out more pollution as they consume more petroleum products, is bad. They would rather see lack of growth and more unemployment, more poverty, in those countries than see more carbon emissions added to the planet’s atmosphere.

This kind of climate change alarmism, people should expose and reject.

Anonymous said...

Water vapour is the most important green house gas followed by methane. The third most important greenhouse gas is CO2, and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves in cold water and bubbles out of warm water. The equilibrium in seawater is very high, making seawater a great 'sink'; CO2 is 34 times more soluble in water than air is soluble in water.

Correlation is not causation to be sure. The causation has been studied, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome. As I understand it, the hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows:

Quiet sun → reduced magnetic and thermal flux = reduced solar wind → geomagnetic shield drops → galactic cosmic ray flux → more low-level clouds and more snow → more albedo effect (more heat reflected) → colder climate

Active sun → enhanced magnetic and thermal flux = solar wind → geomagnetic shield response → less low-level clouds → less albedo (less heat reflected) → warmer climate

That is how the bulk of climate change might work, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, the planets cool.

Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists traced the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy - the cosmic rays - liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than climate scientists have modeled in the atmosphere. That may explain the link between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change.

The ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that. In addition, although the post 60s warming period is over, it has allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with humidity, clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat. Check the web site of the Danish National Space Center. http://www.space.dtu.dk/English/Research...

Keeping in mind that windmills are hazardous to birds, be wary of the unintended consequences of the all-knowing environmental lobby groups.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Airports, seaports and local government

April 8, 2009

ILOILO CITY – It is Holy Week now, a period of long vacation for many people to visit their folks and relatives in the provinces. Naturally, public transportation – airlines, shipping lines bus lines, passenger boats, jeepneys, etc. – are very busy moving people to hundreds of destinations across the country.

For an archipelagic country like the Philippines with more than 7,000 islands and islets, airports and seaports are very crucial to facilitate the mobility of people and their goods across islands and provinces. Land transportation across islands before was impossible, but with the introduction of roll-on, roll-off (RORO) boats that transport both people and vehicles, this is now possible, although still limited to the major islands in the country.

Between national and local governments, it is the latter which has the greater interest to hasten the construction of more airports and seaports in their islands and provinces, or at least the expansion of existing ones. But interest and power are not the same. It is national government agencies and bureaucracies – Airport Transportation Authority (ATO) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for airports and airlines respectively, and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for seaports and shipping lines respectively – that have the power to allow or disallow, the construction of airports and seaports, of giving permission to airlines and shipping lines.

When I traveled from Manila to Iloilo City early this week, I took the bus, transported by RORO ships between Batangas to Calapan, Mindoro Oriental, and from Roxas, Mindoro to Caticlan, Aklan. This is the route taken by a number of tourists who are going to Boracay. And this is the fourth time I think that I took this route; my previous trip was about four years ago.

Batangas Port is a modern port compared to most seaports in the country. Wide and spacious, the road infrastructure inside is good. And there are plenty of RORO ships that transport people and vehicles from Batangas to Calapan. As long as a ship is filled up, it immediately sails, so there is no long queue of vehicles waiting at the parking area. So the system here is efficient, both in port infrastructure and services and competition by RORO shipping lines.

Roxas Port in Oriental Mindoro is different. It is not big enough for the huge volume of vehicles – buses, trucks, jeeps, cars and vans – that want to be moved across Panay Island. Thus, there is a long queue of vehicles waiting for their turn. Lucky for the buses, they are always prioritized whereas trucks and private cars are accommodated only when there still spaces left. A delivery truck driver I talked to said they arrived 6pm and as of 1am, they do not know when their truck can be accommodated. On some occasions, trucks have to wait for one day, whereas our bus arrived around 12 midnight and within an hour, entered the ship and by 1:45pm, our boat sailed.

Perhaps the port itself may be wide enough, but there are only a few ships from two shipping lines (Montenegro and Starlite) that ply this route. Add the fact that travel time between Roxas and Caticlan is 4 to 4 ½ hours, so it takes the ships longer time to make another trip, resulting in a huge backlog of un-transported vehicles on both Roxas and Caticlan seaports. Passengers meanwhile endure bad service because the ships have limited seats, so many passengers have to stand or sit in the floor. I sat on the floor during the entire 4 hours early morning trip and hence, was not able to sleep well.

There is a need to bring in another shipping line to bring in additional RORO ships and offer more competition and more choice for motorists and passengers. Or at least encourage the existing two players to bring in additional ships. Consequently, there might be a need to expand the port capacity of Roxas and Caticlan to accommodate more ships docking.

Another option is to build another port further south of Mindoro island, which is actually closer to Caticlan, than Roxas. Of course there are other navigational and engineering considerations like depth of a port, some cover from strong winds, etc. Nonetheless, local governments of both places (provinces and municipalities) will benefit more if more ships and vehicles will be using their ports and road network. It will mean more commerce and trade, more tourism and investments, as more people and prospective investors will spot new opportunities in their provinces.

In this season of long Lenten holidays and summer break, the issue of crowded seaports and airports is highlighted as more people and goods move across islands, even across the country. A country with more than 90 million people, the 12th largest in the world, in an archipelagic environment needs dozens of international airports too. For instance, huge islands and/or regional centers like Negros, Panay (Iloilo and Aklan especially), Leyte, Masbate, Camarines Sur-Legaspi, Cagayan, and Cagayan de Oro need their own international airports, even for a few Asian destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo.

Competition among local governments, among residents and entrepreneurs of various islands and regional centers, and not grand national plans by a few national bureaucracies, will drive and push seaports and airports development across the country.

Rule of Law 4: On Thailand Crackdown

Rule of law is perhaps the single biggest assurance of individuals to protect their liberty. This is because the principle explicitly specifies that "the law applies to everyone, rulers and ruled, no exception". The law applies equally to unequal people. So when the law says "no stealing", then no stealing should be allowed, either by a destitute and hungry man or by the President or Prime Minster of a country. When the law says "no killing", then no killing should be done, either by a hardened criminal or an ordinary man or by the military and the police, if there is no direct threat to them.

This makes the rule of law a dangerous principle and policy – dangerous to thieves and robbers, tyrants and dictators, liars and demagogues. Because whatever regulations and prohibitions they create will also apply to them, will also restrict them.

The continuing political instability in Thailand is another example of trampling of the rule of law principle. Of rulers and law implementers having discretionary power to decide whom the laws and prohibitions will apply, and to whom the laws will be relaxed and not implemented.

A few months ago, anti-Thaksin groups, particularly PAD and the Democratic Party who are now in government, blockaded some major roads in Bangkok for several months to force the government of former PM Samak to step down. The road blockade continued even after the Samak government was replaced by the short administration of former PM Somchai. PAD demonstrators also camped outside the Parliament and Government House for many days, and the worst action they did, they forcibly occupied the international airport which caused endless misery to stranded passengers, both local and foreign. PAD succeeded in bringing down the Somchai government and installed the current PM Abhisit government.

What you sow, you will also reap. Tens of thousands of supporters of former PM Thaksin also went to the streets of Bangkok late last month and blocked some roads, also to force the resignation of current PM Abhisit government. This is essentially doing what the last group of demonstrators did. But there is one big difference here: the current Thai government implored the "rule of law" and launched a military crackdown to implement “the law”.

Disrupting the ASEAN summit was a bad move by the “red shirts”, but my source in Bangkok said that prior to such action, the red shirts were attacked on April 11 by plainclothes security force, many were injured and there was no government action and investigation for the incident. Nonetheless, even for the sin of disrupting the ASEAN summit, killing ordinary civilians is not an appropriate response.

While the government of PM Abhisit said that there were no casualties during the April 13 military crackdown, my friend in Bangkok said scores were killed. On that day, troops north of Bangkok moved in and opened fire at a small group of red-shirts, killing instantly some people there. When the "red-shirts" fought back, more people were shot dead by the soldiers and many more injured. My friend added that armed gangs organized by government politicians roamed the streets and beat up any red-shirts they met and several were beaten to death.

When the PAD demonstrators blocked several important streets of Bangkok for several months, when the PAD demonstrators occupied the Government House and the international airport for several days, moves that were clearly violent and disruptive, they were never attacked or killed by the soldiers. PAD was even rewarded for such violent acts by awarding some of their leaders high positions in the current government.

It never fails. The rule of law is always "name-dropped" by politicians and political groups whenever it suits them. When it does not suit them, it's always easy to do unconstitutional, violent means, in the name of "people power" and "fight for democracy".

So, what's next for Thailand? I guess another round of street demonstrations and occupation of government buildings, or disruption of another high-level regional or international event in that country. Some of the leaders of the anti-Thaksin groups that occupied the international airport by force are in government now. Their mere presence there can re-ignite another political vendetta anytime.

The Abhisit government can do several ways to help reduce the tension and the desire for another political vendetta. One, by asking all PAD leaders, other political leaders who were closely associated with the half-year street occupations and take-over of the international airport, who are currently in government, to resign and leave their posts. This way, impressions of double-standard in the application of the law can be dispelled. When it's the anti-Thaksin group occupying airports and blockading streets, they get rewarded with government posts.

Two, make the responsible soldiers and their officers be held accountable for the killings. Killing ordinary and unarmed civilians in is a shameless and ruthless act that any government can do. And three, the government should refrain from media censorship, allow media and independent investigation on what really happened on the crackdown on April 13. The Thai government needs more transparency and accountability to avoid being compared as similar to the military junta governing Myanmar.

Countries that do not ensure the promulgation of the rule of law tend to suffer from continuing political instability.

A related note, I wrote this last December 01, 2008:

Bombay and Bangkok

The attacks in Bombay, I hope it can be a reminder to the Indian government, and all other governments around the world, that they must stick and focus on their most important function as government -- to protect the citizens' right to life, right to private property, right to dignity and expression.

Governments should over-regulate killers and terrorists, over-spy criminals and robbers, over-persecute rapists and kidnappers. And they should under-regulate and under-tax business and entrepreneurship.

The PAD demonstrators in Bangkok, it's very sad for Thailand's economy and tourism. I want to see a fellow Asian economy and country prosper more. Because when they prosper and grow more, they will import more from my country, they will invest more in my country, etc. And for Filipinos who are travelling to Europe or South Asian countries (and Europeans and S. Asians going to the Philippines), Bangkok airport (along with HK or Singapore airports) is a typical transit point for their final destinations.

Now people will rethink of flying to Thailand, or landing in Bangkok as transit point, because of the stand-off by the demonstrators. I think the Thai police, if they really understand their duty to the Thai constitution and the rule of law, should have dispersed those demonstrators at the airport on the first day they occupied it. Coercion by the minority demonstrators should be neutralized by the State's bigger coercive power, which is the police and the military.

See also:
Rule of Law 2: Property Rights and Lefts, March 02, 2009
Criminals 1: Killings in Thailand and Military Crackdown, April 16, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Criminals 1: Killings in Thailand and Military Crackdown

My friend from Bangkok made this observation. I cannot give his name because of security reasons due to the continuing military crackdown in Bangkok until this week.

The Democrat government came into power in December 2008 by rigging Parliament. About two week earlier, the People's Power Party (PPP) was disbanded by the Constitutional Court on the charge of election rigging, resulting in PM Somchai being disqualified and his cabinet dissolved. This happened amidst the seizure of the Government House and the two international airports by PAD. And even before that, in September 2008, PM Samak of the PPP was disqualified by this same Constitutional Court for a wrongdoing (i.e., making a cooking TV show!!!). The logic is clear: You win the election, but I use the judiciary power to destroy you and negate the will of the majority of the people!

Just days after the dissolution of the Somchai government and two days before the King's birthday, PAD abandoned the Government House and the airports.

The former PPP members tried to regroup and set up a new party, namely Peur Thai (For Thai) Party (PTP). But the military intervened and forced a large shunk of former PPP members to split and gave support to the Democrat Party Chief, Abhisit. So he became PM. And the PTP became the opposition. This was a 'silent' coup d'etat. The Abhisit government is a mere puppet, backed up the military under the skin of parliamentary democracy.

The Abhisit government is actually the PAD government. They gave support to PAD in taking over the Government House and the international airports. The Democrat Party members were part of PAD. One of PAD leaders is a Democrat member of parliament (MP). Three of PAD leaders got high-positioned jobs in the Abhisit government, one of them being Foreign Affairs Minister! The Democrats provided finance, personnel and mobilizing networks for PAD throughout, whereas both PAD and the Democrats, like the military and the judiciary, are just the arms of autocracy! You will NEVER see the prosecution of PAD leaders for all their crimes.

The red-shirts' originial intention of going to Pattaya on Friday 10 April was to present a message to ASEAN leaders that the Abhisit government was illegitimate. But, on the way back downhill from the hotel, the red-shirts were ambushed by a blue-shirt gang organized by government politicians and the Democrats in Chon Buri. Several red-shirts were hurt from beating and slingshots, two of them seriously injured by a pingpong bomb. The news reached the red-shirts in Bangkok. Everyone was angry. So more red-shirts were mobilized from Bangkok to arrive in Pattaya in the early morning of Saturday 11 April. They went back to the hotel and demanded that the government took responsibility for the attack. But there was no answer. The red-shirts became even more angry. They stormed the hotel and broke up the ASEAN summit. The red-shirts in Pattaya were unarmed. Of course, they picked up some sticks and stone when they encountered a blue-shirt gang again on the way back from the hotel that
same afternoon.

The Abhisit government, losing face and credibility, decided to use force to suppress the red-shirt protest in Bangkok. So Abhisit declared the state of emergency in the area of Bangkok and five surrounding provinces on Sunday 12 April. The violent crash at the Ministry of Interior on that day happened AFTER the declaration of the state of emergency. The red-shirts went to Ministry of Interior because they knew that Abhisit was there. After shouting, pushing and shoving by the red-shirts, the black car (NOT Abhisit's), trying to move away, accidentaly hit one red-shirt. The red-shirts were angry and began to attack the car. Then, a security guard open fires and at least two red-shirts were severely injured. More crashes in Ministry's compound followed.

The troop started to move in from the North of Bangkok in the early morning of Monday 13 April. At around 4:30 am, the soldiers open fires at a small group of red-shirt guards at Din Daeng. Several people were killed instantly and several dozen were injured. Then the troop drove the red-shirts towards the Victory Monument and beyond. Several crashes followed. The soldiers kept shooting at those red-shirts. Many more were killed and injured. Red-shirts gradually retreated and finally regrouped at the main protest venue in front of the Government House. The armed gangs organized by government politicians roamed the streets and beat up any red-shirts they met and several were beaten to death.

The troop surrounded the red-shirt protesters in front of the Government House from all sides. Behind them were armed blue-shirt and plaincloth gangs organized by government politicians. TVs and the media showed hate messages and negative reports against the red-shirts throughout 13-14 April. They planned a remaking of the 6 October 1976 Student Massacre in the afternoon of Tuesday 14 April. At the last minute, there were around 8,000-10,000 red-shirts in front of the Government House. But, at 11:30 am of 14 April, the red-shirt leaders announced to "suspend" the protest and negotiated with the police to allow red-shirt people to go home unharmed. Five leaders were arrested immediately and are now jailed in military compounds around Bangkok. Around 20-25 arrest warrants have been issued to wipe out the whole lot of red-shirt leaders in one go. They are now seeking the charge of "high treason" (punishable by death) against the whole group. They expect the red-shirts, without leaders, will not be able to launch a new movement in the future. Then provincial red-shirts will be dissolved by the security network later on.

One point must be emphasized. The press and the media, particularly TVs, have been strictly censored and controlled by the government as a result of the state of emergency. So all reports are one-sided and are mostly propaganda. The government's insistence that there were no serious casualties is a lie. Soldiers are still stationed in the streets. The situation now is like a rule by a military government with the face of Abhisit on it. It is actually another military coup.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

G20 but 29 leaders

(picture from The Economist)

The G20 Summit in London that ended the other day was supposed to be a gathering of the leaders of 20 most powerful countries, rich and developing alike.

But as usual, a G8 is not only composed of 8 leaders of 8 industrialized countries. There are always other "equally important" leaders. So the G20 final pictorial has more than 20 leaders, I counted 29 heads or leaders in the stage, shown in this picture. I guess the 9 "extras" would include the EU President, the UN Sec-Gen, another British official (UK was the host government), who else are the other 6?

Meanwhile, they agreed that the IMF will need more capital injection, and the IMF will become the top monitoring and regulating body. The IMF bureaucrats are happy I guess, they become relevant again.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

PH Population 1: as of August 2009

The Philippine government, through the National Statistics Office (NSO, www.census.gov.ph) conducted a nationwide population and household survey in late 2007. The result, the Philippine population count as of August 1, 2007, is posted in its website.

This table that I constructed below is projecting Philippine population (and its regions and big provinces) for August 2009, using the actual population growth rate for each respective region and province, for 2000-2007. That is, I assumed here that the growth rate in those period would remain the same for 2007-2009 projection.

Projected Population, August 2009

Philippines, 91.83

NCR, 11.61
Cordillera/CAR, 1.51
Ilocos region, 4.54
Cagayan Valley, 3.05
Central Luzon, 9.77
4A Calabarzon, 11.88
4B Mimaropa, 2.56
Bicol region, 5.11
Western Visayas, 6.85
Central Visayas, 6.41
Eastern Visayas, 3.91
Zambo Peninsula, 3.23
Northern Mind., 3.95
Davao region, 4.17
SocSKSargen, 3.84
ARMM, 4.17

Biggest provinces

1. Cavite, 2.88
2. Bulacan, 2.84
3. Pangasinan, 2.64
4. Laguna, 2.48
5. Cebu, 2.44
6. Negros Occ., 2.37
7. Rizal, 2.29
8. Batangas, 2.24
9. Pampanga, 1.91
10. Nueva Ecija, 1.85

11. Camarines Sur, 1.69
12. Leyte, 1.72
13. Iloilo, 1.69
14. Quezon, 1.65
15. Isabela, 1.40
16. Tarlac, 1.24
17. Negros Or., 1.23
18. Bohol, 1.23
19. Bukidnon, 1.19
20. Albay, 1.19

21. Lanao del Sur, 1.14
22. N. Cotabato, 1.12
23. Cagayan, 1.07
* Davao City, 1.36

I wrote this last January 08, 2009

Philippine Population, 2009 and Beyond 

Philippine population, in million; in parenthesis are average annual growth rate.

1995 Sep 1, 68.62
2000 May 1, 76.50 (2.36%, 1990-2000)
2007 Aug 1, 88.57 (2.04%, 2000-2007)

2009 Aug 1, 92.19
2013 Aug 1, 99.43
2013 Dec 31, 100.18

source of census years data:
National Statistics Office, www.census.gov.ph

The Philippines is the 12th most populatous country in the world.
Figures for 2006 (in million)

1. China, 1,320
2. India, 1,130
3. US, 304
4. Indonesia, 232
5. Brazil, 187
6. Pakistan, 163
7. Bangladesh, 159
8. Nigeria, 148
9. Russia, 142
10. Japan, 128
11. Mexico, 107
12. Philippines,89
13. Vietnam, 84
14. Germany, 82
15. Egypt, 81

source: Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org

The advantage of a high population country is that there are millions of new and continuing workers and entrepreneurs producing more goods and services both for the domestic and international market. The main disadvantage is when a big portion of that country's labor force is not skilled and not entrepreneurial enough. The implication is there will be big demand for "government support and welfare", which gives more alibi for the government to create new taxes or hike existing taxes and fees, to finance its expanding "government responsibility".

School Choice: DepEd Bureaucracy, Classroom Language

About 2 years ago, I met a Canadian couple, retired, voluntary missionary workers, living in some God-forsaken municipality in Busuanga island, Palawan. Coron is already far, but their town is 3 hours from Coron because of the bad roads.

I met them in Manila through a friend, Jules. The couple wanted to buy high breed goats in Luzon and bring the animals to their town to help the folks there (goat milk, meat, clear grasslands, etc.).

They have to change their project. Their original project was to build a school -- for every young folks there, but still free. Their missionary in Canada has some money to finance and sustain such project. They choose a school project because according to the man, "I haven't encountered a single high school graduate in that municipality who could answer me correctly, what's 8 x 4? Or any other simple multiplication!"

Noble project, right? So they went to Puerto Princesa and Manila, Department of Education (DepEd) offices, to fulfill certain requirements how to put up a school. And to their surprise, they were given a kilometric list of requirements and certifications before they can put up a free school for poor people who were greatly "served" by government schools. They were so turned off by the bureaucracy they abandoned the school project.

The couple went to Paradizoo farms in Tagaytay, I and Jules joined them. The goats there were really high breed, healthy and can give lots of milk and meat compared to the native goat varieties. But the price were outrageous, they did not buy any goat there. When we parted ways, they planned to visit Laguna, even Quezon to look for other farms that can sell good quality goats at cheaper price because they plan to bring several pairs to Busuanga.

Most government bureaucrats hate competition, especially from efficient competitors. Maybe in their minds, the DepEd bureaucrats were thinking, "what if these guys can produce good quality students at no cost to those students, our public schools there will be ridiculed? The taxes and perks that support us might be endangered!"

School Choice and Classroom Language

The old debate of what language should be the medium of instruction in Philippine schools keeps on resurfacing. There are 3 dominant groups and lobbyists: the English group, the Filipino or Tagalog group, and the vernacular group.

I strongly believe in more personal and parental responsibility, I do not agree with many public policies that ask for "more government responsibility". Education is primarily parental responsibility, but with the triumph of forced collectivist thinking, we all now believe that education should be government responsibility.

I also believe in diversity, not uniformity. People like diversity, that is why there are millions of t-shirts designs, jeans designs, running shoes and basketball shoes, etc. With diversity, individuals express their specific preferences and desires, as well as express their financial constraints.

With more government role, there is more uniformity and very often, with uniformity comes closely mediocrity. Pull down the most ambitious and the brightest and pull up the laziest and the zero ambition people. Then there will be equality and uniformity in society.

The use of whatever language in elementary education should never be a public debate. The old and current debate on what should be the main language as medium of instruction in schools, is a debate among different type of dictatorial tendencies.

Whoever wins, the losing dominant groups plus many other minor groups will feel unhappy. The will of the strongest lobbyists will prevail over others, and parents will have to send their children to public schools whose medium of instruction they are not happy with. Even if the vernacular group will win, it’s still not as democratic as proponents would want to show.

For instance, in my home province, Negros Occidental, Hiligaynon or Ilongo is the main language spoken and understood by most people. So the provincial or regional education department will order that Ilongo will be the medium of instruction for public elementary schools, say at least until Grade 3. But there are 4 or 5 cities and municipalities in Negros Occ. that are Cebuano-speaking. So the people in these places will be unhappy and may not understand the Ilongo language that will be used in the schools.

Only private schools catering to private and differing needs of parents and their children can sufficiently respond to such needs. If many parents want to have their elementary level children learn Ilocano or Cebuano or English or Mandarin or Arabic or French or Spanish or Ilongo or Waray, etc. etc., then there will be schools that will be more than willing to provide ALL such services at varying prices and standard of teaching. So there is no need for language dictatorship.

Parents would usually don't give a heck much about money, so long as they can provide good education for their children. They can work long hours, earn big, and send their children to the "best schools" as they define and perceive it. But government hates this. If parents earn big, the first thing that governments will do is confiscate a big portion of their income, then chop-chop the money to various services that politicians and bureaucrats, not the parents themselves, think are "important".

So to my mind, the “solution” to whatever language will be the medium of instruction in schools, is not what the politicians, education bureaucrats and other pressure groups would want it to be, then ram down the “winning” language on the minds and philosophical biases of parents and their children.

The solution is to have a wide variety and diversity of schools offering their own brand of education and using different medium of instruction to cater to the needs and educational training of parents and their children.

The Department of Education can be shrank to possibly only 1/5 of its current size, allow more private schools, from nursery and elementary to tertiary levels. Government can move to voucher system, or move to drastically cut income taxes, allow parents to keep more of their monthly and yearly income, and bring their kids to schools they think can give their kids the best education they want. Whether it’s a science and math school, or arts and culture school, or sports and ballet school, or Asian or European language school, etc.