Saturday, October 09, 2010

EFN Asia 4: Migration and Freedom, Jakarta Conference

The 11th Economic Freedom Network - Asia Conference here in Jakarta ended last night. Below is my article yesterday posted in the lobbyist.biz with original title, Migration and Freedom)

Jakarta, Indonesia – “If goods are not allowed to cross borders, soldiers will.” And “If goods are allowed to cross borders, then workers and entrepreneurs who create those goods be freely allowed to cross borders as well.”

The first quote is from a French free market intellectual in the 17th century, Frederic Bastiat. The second is from Simon Lee, a young intellectual from Lion Rock Institute, a free market think tank in Hong Kong. He showed that quote from Bastiat in one of his presentations in a conference here.

Simon and me are among the hundred-plus participants, speakers and moderators from many countries in the 11th Economic Freedom Network (EFN) – Asia Conference held here Sultan Hotel in the capital city of Indonesia, October 6-8, 2010. The theme of this year’s conference is “Migration and the Wealth of Nations”. The main sponsor is the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) and co-sponsored by six other free market-oriented think tanks – Institute for Economics and Social Research (LPEM, Univ. of Indonesia), Freedom Institute, Indonesian Institute, Atlas, Fraser Institute, and the International Policy Network. The first three are based in Indonesia and last three are based in the US, Canada and UK, respectively.

I was invited in the conference to be one of the 9 moderators in 9 panel discussions in the two-days conference. I moderated the panel on “Preparing migrants before departure” and the two speakers in the panel were Dr. Arianto Patunru, Director of LPEM and Economics Professor at the University of Indonesia, and Zubair Ahmed Malik, former VP of the Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The two speakers gave productive and engaging presentations as they gave their own country experiences in migration of their people to other countries. Indonesia and Pakistan are the world’s 4th and 6th biggest countries in population size, with estimated 2010 population of 231 million and 170 million, respectively. With such a huge population, it is expected that many of their people will be seeking work and other opportunities abroad.

Migration happens because people want freedom. Economic, political, cultural, religious, personal freedom. If they are not happy with their current state in their home province or country, they seek an opportunity to move out and start a new life. This is a perfectly rational human behavior and thus, restricting such freedom by individuals is not an appropriate role or function by governments. Unless of course, if some individuals have committed some crime against their fellows in their home country, they should clear their names first or serve the penalty before moving out.

Remittances by workers abroad to their home countries is growing to several hundred billion dollars a year now. In the Philippines alone, remittances by OFWs through the formal financial system was $17.35 billion last year, and is projected to possibly reach $19 billion this year.

People mobility across countries and continents is a fundamental human rights. With continuing innovation and modernization in information and communications technology, in aviation and the airline and related industries, the opportunities for people mobility is getting bigger and bigger. Some households and firms abroad want more new workers; some workers and managers in other countries want new jobs with better pay and working environment. Some students simply want to learn new things abroad.

It is good that the FNF has initiated this kind of regional conference. FNF is a good ally of freedom-loving people and independent institutes in Asia and other parts of the world.
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Among the old friends in our Asian liberty forum discussion yahoogroups who came here in Jakarta were -- Barun, Parth and Bibek (India), Xingyuan and Jude (China), Wan and Shankaran (Malaysia), Arianto and Luthfi (Indonesia) , Minh and Ha (Vietnam), Simon (HK), Gorawut (Thailand), Carlos and Alvin (Philippines), Robin (Nepal), Seyitbek and Michu (Kyrgyztan), Jyoti (Australia-Thailand), Tom and Kelsey (US), and Alec (UK).

Aco Patunru was a big guy in the conference, he gave the welcome address in behalf of the Indonesian co-sponsors, he presented a paper in a panel discussion (I was his moderator :-)), he talked again in the plenary on the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) 2010 report, and he gave the intro message of the EFW 2010 Report Indoneian edition.

The BIG institute in the conference was the Freedom Institute (deputy director is Luthfi). They hosted the farewell dinner last night, so we visited their one-year old office -- it's a big, 4-storey building with a big public library with a big collection of books on classical liberal ideas and modern liberal, libertarian, objectivist, other shades of free market ideas.

I told Luthfi I was super-impressed. The Freedom Institute could be the biggest free market think tank in the whole of Asia. They also have a creative source of funding. They put up a political consulting company that's making good money, and that company mainly finances or subsidizes the operating expenditures of the Institute. They also get some individual donors but not much.

There were two highlights of the farewell dinner last night.

First, the reading of the Conference Resolution on "Migration and the Wealth of Nations". The hudred-plus participants of the conference have issued a collective statement that migration is freedom, that government restrictions on the freedom of mobility of people should be relaxed. Simon Lee read the official, 2-page statement. It will be available at the EFN website soon, www.efnasia.org. Also the previous presentation materials.

Second, the live band singing and dancing. Freedom Institute got a local band playing beautiful Indonesian songs. But since the participants come from different countries, there were soon Indian songs, Chinese songs, Nepalese songs, and of course, western music. Many young participants, mostly university students who attended the 2-days Libertarian Youth conference before the EFN conference, also held in the same hotel, led the dancing. Lots of food, lots of singing and dancing, very merry atmosphere.

The EFN members' and observers' meeting will be held today in the same hotel. I told Jyoti, Gorawut, and Rainer Heufers that I cannot participate in the meeting. I left my wife at the hospital last Wed morning when our new daughter was only 2-days old. Have to be with them tonight and thus, must fly this morning.

I am super-grateful to Jyoti that she invited me to become one of the panel moderators in the conference. And of course the FNF for holding this kind of annual conference and for sponsoring my trip :-)
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See also:
EFN Asia 1: From HK to Phuket to KL, September 16, 2006
EFN Asia 2: Hayek in Asia, September 20, 2010
EFN Asia 3: Conference in Jakarta, October 06, 2010

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