EFN Asia annual conferences are sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF). My first exposure to EFN conferences was in 2004, also held in Hong Kong. When we formed Minimal Government in early 2004 -- not yet as a think tank, more of a small political movement for liberty and free market -- I have not met any free marketer yet outside of the Philippines, nor did I have any idea that there were existing regional and international network for free market.
When the Atlas Economic Research Foundation gave me an international fellowship for one month in the US in April 2004, I was amazed at the wide network of free market-oriented think tanks and groups worldwide. But I met only a few Asian free market leaders there. Like Parth Shah of the Center for Civil Society in India, Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute also in India, Andrew Work of Lion Rock Institute in Hong Kong, Jargal Dambadarjaa from Mongolia, Cuong Nguyen from Vietnam, and Ellen Cain of the Foundation for Economic Freedom here in Manila.
When the EFN Asia conference was held in Hong Kong six months after that, sometime in October 2004, Atlas, upon the initiative of its Vice President for Institute Relations, Jo Kwong, partnered with FNF and Jo Kwong brought to the HK conference some free market think tank leaders who were not members of the EFN Asia yet, including me. So the HK conference was my first exposure to the Asian free market network. Thanks to Jo Kwong and the FNF.
At the HK conference, I was able to meet free market thinkers from China like Dr. Mao Yushi of Unirule Institute, guys from NERI, Chinese Academy for Social Sciences (CASS) and the Cathay Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) like Xingyuan Feng. From Indonesia I met Dr. Chatib "Dede" Basri, also from India Mohit Satyanand, from Pakistan Dr. Khalil Ahmad, and many others.
Below, some of our photos in the HK conference in 2004. Upper left photo, from left: Ellen Cain of FEF, Colleen Dyble and Jo Kwong of Atlas, me, (I forgot the guy's name beside me) and James Lawson, co-author of the annual Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) annual reports.
Second row, left photo: Jo Kwong, me, Joe Lehman of Mackinac Center in Michigan, USA and Ugnius Trumpa of Lithuanian Free Market Institute. Bottom photo: Cuong Nguyen, Joe Lehman, Ellen Cain, Jargal Dambadarjaa, Parth Shah, me. Joe was a speaker in behalf of then Mackinac President Larry Reed who could not come.
Last row, from left: Cuong Nguyen, Joe Lehman, Ellen Cain, Jargal Dambadarjaa, Parth Shah, me.
I have also met many FNF officials in HK for the first time, like Dr, Hubertus Von Welck, then FNF Regional Director for East and South East Asia, Rainer Adam then Project Director Indonesia, Rainer Heufers from FNF Malaysia, Ronald Meinardus from FNF Philippines, Siggi Herzog who later replaced Ronald in heading FNF Philippines. Hubertus later moved to Africa and Rainer Adam took his post, until now. Siggi was promoted to become the FNF Regional Director for South Asia and Jules Maaten replaced Siggi in heading the dynamic and fun-filled Philippine office.
The theme of the HK conference then was something like "The Role of Asian Governments in Economic Development". The original plan, I learned later, was to hold the conference in Beijing and FNF would not be mentioned as the main sponsor, but Unirule, NERI, CIPA and Atlas. But the Chinese government showed a not-so-happy attitude in hosting such a possibly controversial conference. Sensing difficulties in securing a permit from the government, and the consequent difficulty in getting a visa for international participants, the organizers have to move the venue to Hong Kong, just a few months before the scheduled dates.
This year, the conference theme will be How Welfare Populism Destroys Prosperity-The Populist Challenge to Economic Freedom. This is a good theme, just look at Europe, the US and Japan now. Heavy welfarism, forced equality and forced collectivism policies are punching huge holes in the public finance position of these countries, also huge holes in the pockets and savings of many taxpayers in these economies.
The Lion Rock Institute (LRI) will be the co-host of FNF in organizing this conference. Big work for LRI Executive Director Peter Wong and other LRI guys like Simon Lee, Andew Work, Andrew Pac Man, Nicole. LRI was also formed in 2004 along with MG.
FNF and EFN Asia are the only institutes that consistently hold an important annual conference among free market-oriented think tank leaders and individuals in Asia. They are playing an important role in asserting the liberal, individual liberty, more personal responsibility, rule of law, and private property rights philosophies in our continent.
For interested think tanks, research institutes, especially the independent ones and not government-owned think tanks, that advocate free enterprise, free trade, rule of law, private property rights, check http://efnasia.org.
* Update: this article is also posted in the EFN Asia website,
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
EFN Asia 4: Migration and Freedom, Jakarta Conference, October 09, 2010