Sunday, November 17, 2019

Photos, IPRI 2019 launching in Singapore

Late post, photos during the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 launching at Singapore Management University (SMU), School of Law, last October 22, 2019. The event was locally sponsored by the Adam Smith Center (ADC) Singapore, the first free market think tank in that city-state.

From left: Donovan Choy, me, Dr. Linda Low, Dr. Sary Levy, Lorenzo Montanari, Bryan Cheang, and Dr. Chandra Kukathas. Donovan and Bryan are from the ADC

See also: 
Photos, IPRI 2019 launching in Manila, Oct. 16, October 27, 2019 
Photos, IPRI 2019 launching in KL, Oct. 19, October 29, 2019 
Photos, IPRI 2019 launching in Jakarta, November 06, 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019

BWorld 382, Energy matters ASEP, CELLS, INIR

* My column in BusinessWorld last October 31, 2019.

Upon the invitation of the Ateneo School of Government, I attended the project launch of the Access to Sustainable Energy Program-Clean Energy Living Laboratories (ASEP-CELLs) in Xavier University (XU), Cagayan de Oro City on Oct. 28. It is an EU-funded project that targets to achieve 100% rural electrification through renewable energy (RE).

The speakers at the launch were XU President Fr. Roberto Yap; Department of Energy (DoE) UnderSecretary Felix “Wimpy” Fuentebella; Program Manager of the Environment and Climate Change, EU in the Philippines, Giovanni Serritela; and ASEP-CELLs’ Senior Technical Advisor Dr. Josef “Jop” Yap. Jop has been my friend since the 1980s at the UP School of Economics (UPSE).

There was a brief press conference then two panel discussions, First about “Towards greater energy security,” and the second, “Building a low-carbon Mindanao.”

During the press conference, I raised two points, on prices and energy security. How the project can avoid proposing and advocating another round of subsidies to RE that can further jack up the monthly electricity bill of all consumers nationwide, and aim instead at lowering prices. And given the intermittency of variable REs like solar and wind, how to ensure energy stability and security, and how to get people to avoid using the really dirty energy — candles and gensets — due to frequent blackouts.

I checked the Philippines’ and other countries’ solar-wind generation. After decades of huge subsidies and other fiscal plus non-fiscal incentives to rich Europe, the share of solar-wind has not even reached one-fourth (25%) of total power generation in Germany.

Among Asians, many rich and emerging economies of the region hardly care about raising the RE components to no more than 0.5% of their total power production — HK, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam (see Table 1).

Yesterday, I attended the hand-over ceremony of the Official Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Report (INIR) Report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, at F1 Hotel in BGC Taguig City.

Nuclear energy remains taboo and a “scary” option for many Filipinos until now, or they may support it but “not in my backyard” (NIMBY). The technology for nuclear power generation and safety keeps improving such that many rich countries in the world continue to use nuclear power until now (see Table 2).

The speakers in the event were Miko Kovachev, Head of the Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, IEAE; Ambassador to Austria Maria Cleofe Natividad; Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General of IEAE; and of course DoE Secretary Cusi. Congressman Mark Cojunagco, the main nuke power advocate in Congress, and DoE Assistant Secretary Gerardo “Gerps” Erguiza Jr. also spoke.

Good move, Secretary Cusi. On these, may I mention these two energy-related events next month:

First, The Arangkada Philippines Project (TAPP) Conference on Nov. 21 at Marriott Hotel Manila. Theme is “Turning on the TAP – Tourism, Agribusiness, Power.”

Second, the 13th International Climate and Energy Conference on Nov. 22-23 in Munich, Germany, organized by the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE). The Secretary-General of EIKE, Wolfgang Müller, is my friend. We met at the Heartland Institute’s 4th International Climate Change Conference (ICCC) in Chicago in 2010, then in the 13th ICCC in Washington, DC in July this year.

Conventional energy sources should continue to be used in the Philippines alongside with RE. Secretary Cusi is correct in adopting a “technology agnostic” policy — let more power plants from different sources and technologies be built to further expand our power capacity and reserves. No special privileges and government mandates as much as possible, just give the consumers cheap, affordable, stable, and reliable electricity.

See also:

Catching up with Wan Saiful Wan Jan

After more than two years, I was able to see old friend Wan Saiful Wan Jan last October 21 at the KLIA. Me and Lorenzo Montanari of PRA were flying out of KLIA and going to Singapore that afternooon while Wan was arriving from Sabah, Malaysia.

Wan is the founder of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Malaysia's first free market think tank. He resigned as CEO of IDEAS around March 2018 to run for Parliament under now PM Mahathir's party. He lost but after a few months, he was appointed by PM Mahathir to head the government's student loan body, one of the problematic agencies in Malaysia. One of my Malaysian friends not affiliated with IDEAS said that if Wan won in the May 2018 elections, he could have been appointed as Education Minister.

The last time I saw Wan was September 16, 2017 in NYC. We attended an IPR-related roundtable that day. In the evening, our old friend Cathy Windels (leftmost in the photo) treated us to dinner. Here at the rooftop of the Yale Club. Beside Cathy is Barbara Kolm, head of the Hayek Institute in Austria.

Thanks again for that wonderful evening, Cathy.
And good to catch you up, Wan.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

BWorld 381, Airports, tourism and traffic: KL, Singapore, Jakarta, and Manila

* My article in BusinessWorld on October 29, 2019.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) published its annual Tourism Highlights and the good news about the Philippines is that international arrivals have reached more than 7 million in 2018. The bad news is that this is still small compared to what many of our neighbors in the region get: less than one-half of Vietnam’s, less than one-third of Malaysia’s, less than one-fifth of Thailand’s, and Cambodia might even overtake us in a few years (See table).

Over the last two weeks, I joined the team of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) in launching the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 in Manila, then Kuala Lumpur (KL), Singapore, and Jakarta. Among the things that I observed were the airports of these three cities and compared them with ours, NAIA.

KL and Jakarta International Airports are new and bigger, less congested and less confusing than NAIA where international flights are spread out among three separate, far away terminals. Singapore’s Changi airport is definitely modern and among the most beautiful and biggest airports in the world. Our flight was in Terminal 3 and I was very impressed by its modernity and size — the Hong Kong airport looks old compared to Changi. The “Jewel” near Terminal 1 is definitely a big tourist come-on with its tall man-made waterfalls and other attractions.

The Soekarno-Hatta airport of Jakarta has a new Terminal 3 that was opened in 2016 and it is big, long and modern enough. But it the Indonesian immigration bureaucracy seems backward. The immigration officer asked me what I would do in Jakarta, if I had any invitation letter as speaker, if I’d get paid as a speaker and how much. Weird. Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente, part of our team, was also asked the same questions by another immigration officer. These things are not asked by immigration officials in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, they just stamped our entry after getting our photo and/or e-thumb marks.

Traffic flow in KL is generally smooth as they have a continuously expanding and widening road network around the city. Few traffic lights. There are many elevated turns or underpasses, and no “traffic enforcers” visible.
Singapore has a similar situation and the roads from and to the airport are well-lit at night. Zero traffic enforcers too. They appear only if there are accidents.

Jakarta and Metro Manila have many similarities. One, they both have toll roads from the airport to the city and back, so there is little or no traffic congestion there. The problem is in the city centers where traffic gridlocks are bad. Jakarta has new, big and long MRT tracks under construction and it seems ready for operation perhaps in a year or two, this is good news.

Two, both have too many motorcycles including motorcycle taxis Go Jec and Grab in Jakarta, and Angkas in Manila. Go Jec seems to have more motorcycles as it is Indonesia-based while Grab is KL-based. People ride motorcycles for better mobility.

Three, both have many traffic enforcers, they stop vehicles and issue tickets, penalizing motorists I assume even for minor and mundane reasons.

From these, I draw these five lessons and possible policy reforms. Some have been started already.

One, we need bigger, more modern international airports. San Miguel’s Bulacan international airport and the big consortium’s expansion of NAIA should happen soon.

Two, we need more big and modern public roads and tollroads, less traffic bureaucracies and bureaucrats. The budget of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Metro Manila cities for too many “traffic enforcers” should be converted into capex to build more elevated and underground roads, build more bridges across the Pasig River.

Three, we need to privatize the country’s rail system — MRT, LRT, PNR. Government should focus on facilitating right of way (ROW) acquisitions for the trains’ expansion and have rule of law on the roads, not operating and subsidizing the train systems. The Pasig River ferry boats need modernization and expansion too — private investments are needed there.

Four, we need more airline competition, more big foreign airlines coming and expanding here as they also help promote the country to their nationals abroad. Liberalization of the Public Service Act (PSA), now a priority bill in Congress, should be enacted soon.

Five, we need to abolish unnecessary taxes like that extortionist travel tax for Filipinos travelling abroad. Its main purpose is to fatten Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) bureaucracy. The Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education have huge annual budgets and TIEZA’s claim of contributing to education is just palusot (an excuse) and lousy alibi to sustain its useless bureaucracy.

See also:

My good friends, Bart and Wads Wijnberg

Last week was a long holiday in the Philippines due to the All Saints Day then All Souls Day (Nov. 1 and 2). My father and mother have passed away, they were buried in our hometown, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental. Also my older brother and his wife, my sister in law.

Among my friends who have passed away and I deeply grieve, are the couple Bart and Wads Wijnberg. They are very special to me even for short periods that I have met them.

First in 1987, after I attended a Trotskyist school for 3 months in Amsterdam (I was a Marxist socialist in the 80s, from my UP student activism days until I was working and member of BISIG, the first openly socialist organization in the Philippines). When the course ended in mid-December that year, I have to stay extra for nearly two weeks in the Netherlands because my flight back to Manila was January 1 or 2 the next year. Four members of BISIG-Netherlands, all Filipinas married to Dutch men -- Au, Morita, Wads, another -- took turns hosting me for 2-4 days.

Wads and her husband Bart are a riot couple. Very warm, very friendly and welcoming to friends, especially those from the Philippines. Wads is an always-smiling and grinning lady, Bart often jokes and would happily listen to other people's jokes. But Bart has a "trap", an unwritten rule -- visitors are free to stay with them, free food and house and tour, provided that they go with him to nudist pools. Haaaa! I was super-shocked then that I must go with him.

So we were there in the pool complex, we have to take off all clothes and underwear, agh! Bart was grinning and laughing at my hesitance. No choice but take off everything and go to the pool -- men, women, children, young and old. People have no qualms swimming and walking nude. I tried to cover my thing with my hands when walking but Bart would laughingly say "Ahh-ahh, no cover."

In short, it was a "cultural baptism" for me. Very open, culturally tolerant Netherlands have those things. Before I moved to another house, Bart brought me again to another nudist pool. The 2nd time, I was less shy.

Then in 2003, I attended a 7-weeks agriculture and environment seminar in Lund, Sweden, September to mid-October. After my seminar, I went again to visit Bart and Wads in The Hague, Netherlands, I stayed there for two days and two nights. As I expected, Bart brought me again to a nudist pool, agh. But I was less shy and just enjoyed the pool with other nude people, especially watching some young Dutch women.

Few years after that, perhaps 2005 or so, Bart came to Manila. Wads is from Pampanga province so Bart would stay with Wads' siblings there. Then I asked Bart to tour him in Pangasinan and he gladly said yes. First I brought him to waterfalls then some small caves in Bolinao, then in the Hundred Islands in Alaminos. We rented a boat, we went to an isolated island with no other swimmers and we did what Bart wanted to do -- go swimming nude. I joined him in nude swimming of course, also our farm caretaker Nong Endring. The two boatmen were smiling to see us swimming nude.

In October 2008 I went to Gummersbach, Germany for a 1-week seminar by the FNF. While I did not have time to visit the couple in the Netherlands, I emailed them that I was nearby, Wads called me at the dormitory. Here's Wads' email to me then:

Wads Wijnberg-Tiongson <wadswijnberg@...>
Oct 27, 2008

great chatting with you last night, Nonoy! have a good and fruitful time in Germany.
octoberian din pala si elle - am sure you had a great party for her.
ingat lang, and hugs to the three of you, 

December that year, the couple or only Wads came back to the Philippines. I visited Wads early January, then she wrote to me.

Wads Wijnberg-Tiongson <>
Jan 5, 2009

Hi! Nonoy,

Happy New Year to the three of you and wish you all the best for the new year and the ones to come.

Thanks for coming over to the pensionne. We could at least chat even if only for a while. Am sharing with you the two pictures taken. How Marie Elle (now you have to tell me again if this is her name of Ella's or vice versa!) has grown from the tiny baby she was when Bart and I went visiting with you in
Makati. Such a lovely child!

Keep in touch and make sure you come over the next time you are on one of your trips to Europe.

Lots of hugs to the three of you,


Wads and Bart have a son, Quirien. I have not met him though, in the 2x that I stayed in their house. I think he was already working somewhere in Amsterdam or other parts of Netherlands. 

Wads and Bart lived in Celebestraat, The Hague. I don't have picture of the house, I got this from the web, their house is one of the units here.

In recent years, I failed to communicate with the couple, how they were doing. It's a big mistake and I cannot forgive myself for this. Because when I opened my yahoo mail late last month ((I seldom open my yahoo), I saw this bad, bad news -- email dated October 4, 2019 with a subject line, “Wads Funeral Announcement / Wads begrafenis aankondiging.” And I saw it towards October 30 perhaps.
The letter said, 

With great sadness, we send you the attached funeral announcement for Wads.
Wads fell ill on Sunday 29 September and was taken to a local hospital where a tear in her aorta was diagnosed. Unfortunately this would require major surgery, which was not an option given her wish and condition. Wads regained some strength and enjoyed the company of some friends and family before falling asleep forever. She was her jovial self all the way to the end. We miss her dearly.

We are sending you love and strength along with this announcement.

Warm regards,

Quirien Wijnberg & Shu Liang

Then I texted my friend Dr. Fidel Nemenzo about this, he knew. I asked Fidel how Bart is doing, and Fidel told me that Bart has passed away some 3-4 years ago.

Wads, Bart -- please forgive me. I have not written to you and Bart in recent years. Unforgivable. Am so sorry....

I saw this in youtube, "Funeral of Bart Wijnberg, October 28, 2015"

Wads, Bart, I miss you. 
Your laughter, your smiles, your jokes, your kindness and friendliness.
Goodbye, my friends.
I console myself that at least I have met you, see how wonderful life can be when we meet people like you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you....

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

BWorld 380, Prosperity and demography in Asia

* My article in BusinessWorld last October 24, 2019.

“The man of system… is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.”

— Adam Smith,
Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Part VI, Section II, Chap. II.

SINGAPORE — I came here to be one of the speakers in a forum on “Intellectual Property Rights and Economic Growth” organized by the Adam Smith Center, a new independent think tank headed by a young and dynamic leader Bryan Cheang. The event was held at the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law.

In my presentation on “Importance of Brands and Government Policy,” I used that quote from Adam Smith, the father of market economics, to highlight the fact that too much central planning and over-reaching regulations and prohibitions by governments are wrong, that they invite the law of unintended consequences.

The other speakers in the forum were Lorenzo Montanari of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente, author of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019, and Dr. Linda Low of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) School of Business. Dr. Chandran Kukathas, Dean of the School of Social Sciences of SMU gave the welcome message.

Among the things that Dr. Low discussed in her presentation was their ageing population and the rise of migrant workers from neighbor Asia engaged in “3D” work — dirty, dangerous, demeaning — that the locals are not inclined to take.

Having an ageing population when the economy is already prosperous and developed would invite cultural and fiscal problems someday. Who will take care of the many old and retired people when their children and grandchildren are busy in work or school, like changing adult diapers — robots or migrant health workers?

I checked data for age dependency of young people — the higher the number, the better for a future “army” of workers and entrepreneurs and hence, for economic growth — and here is what I got. (See Table 1.)
True enough, in our hotel here, while the concierge staff are young Singaporeans and some Filipinos, many in the restaurant are locals looking to be in their 40s to 60s. The room cleaners are young migrants perhaps from Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh.

Past policies of high government intervention in family planning can backfire today or tomorrow. And this reminds me again of state-sponsored and taxpayers-funded population control measures under the controversial RH Law of the Philippines. If it was a good idea, it would not require legislation and rely on civil society voluntary funding (like Gawad Kalinga, Rotary Homes, Books for the Barrios, etc.) but because it was a bad idea, it needed legislation to coerce more taxpayers funding.

One noticeable thing in highly developed economies like Singapore is the seeming absence of many informal enterprises that compete with the formal sector. Thus, the sidewalks are really wide and clean, with no ambulant vendors that spring up from anywhere and often impede the paths of pedestrians or cars.

One interesting bit of data I came across while I was scrolling the World Bank database is competition by unregistered firms (see Table 2). Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore have no data, so either they cannot get reliable data, or all firms there are registered.

And this further shows one result of too much business regulation by governments, especially by socialist ones like China, Vietnam, and Laos. India’s constitution also declares itself as socialist.

The Philippines’ three new laws — Ease of Doing Business (EODB), Anti-Red Tape, and One Person Corporation — would encourage more Philippine entrepreneurs to go formal while restricting the grubby hands of corrupt bureaucrats from prolonging the agony of business registration and renewal of permits to solicit extortion and bribes. Kudos to the Department of Trade and Industry and Secretary Ramon Lopez for leading these reforms.

We need more economic reforms like even lower personal and corporate income taxes. The ASEAN Economic Community has unleashed tax competition among member countries to attract more investors from the region and rest of the world.

See also:

Photos, IPRI 2019 launching in Jakarta

Thanks again to the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) and Paramadina Public Policy Institute for co-hosting with the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) the launching of IPRI 2019, at the auditorium of Paramadina University last October 24, 2019.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

BWorld 379, Energy security and fast growth

* This is my paper in BusinessWorld last October 22, 2019.

KUALA LUMPUR — I came to the capital city of Malaysia to speak at the Liberalism Conference of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) last Saturday, along with the launching of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 by the Property Rights Alliance.

Whenever I go abroad I always observe how high or low the energy use is of the cities that I visit. It is obvious that energy use here in Kuala Lumpur is high — streets, tollways, buildings and other structures are well lit at night, there are many MRT, LRT, and Monorail (running on electricity) trips per hour and the MRT/LRT stations underground are well lit and air-conditioned.

Malaysia has only 32 million people and its total electricity generation in 2018 was 168 tera-watt hours (TWH). In contrast, the Philippines has 108 million people and its electricity generation last year was only 100 TWH. Malaysia depends largely on natural gas plus coal (65 + 68 TWH) for power generation and this energy mix is similar to Japan’s.

I revisit two data sets that I put in my two recent energy columns here. Again, data on coal consumption in million tons oil equivalent (mtoe) is from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy (June 2019), data on population and GDP growth are from the World Bank, World Development Indicators database (August 2019). Dividing coal consumption over population, the kilos of oil equivalent (koe) per capita is derived. Growth rates in coal use and GDP are averaged per 10 years.

Three trends and facts emerge from the numbers in the table.
One, countries with high consumption of cheaper energy like coal, represented by their high coal koe per capita, also have higher income — Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, and Malaysia.

Two, the Philippines has the lowest, the smallest coal consumption among the major and emerging Asian economies — only 153 koe per person in 2018. Only one-fourth of Malaysia, one-sixth of Japan, one-ninth of China, and only 1/11 of South Korea and greenie Australia. Hong Kong’s per capita was 662 in 1998 and 837 in 2018 while Singapore’s was 0 in 1998 and 163 in 2018 or slightly higher than the Philippines. And the anti-coal groups and people in the Philippines say that ours is already high and scary that we should stop building new coal plants and retire soon existing ones? Lousy and idiotic argument.

Three, there is clear correlation between growth in cheap energy coal consumption and growth in GDP, at least for the countries covered above. Australia, Japan, and South Korea decelerated coal use from 2006 to 2018 and they also experienced growth deceleration. Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines retained their high coal use and they also retained their high GDP growth.

While most anti-coal groups are watermelon (green outside, red inside) activists, some are outrightly pushing for their natural gas business. Demonize coal, prevent the construction of more coal plants so that the big distribution utilities and electric cooperatives will be forced to buy from their soon imported and more expensive LNG power to prevent massive blackouts in the country due to insufficient power supply.

Again, climate change is cyclical and natural, the warming-cooling cycle having been going on since planet Earth was born some 4.6 billion years ago. This is nature-made global warming and global cooling, not man-made or anthropogenic. The deceptive and dishonest “man-made” Climate Change narrative is part of global and national corruption to justify endless and rising oil/carbon taxes, renewables subsidies, climate loans, climate bureaucracies, and junkets.

We need more energy security to sustain fast economic growth and job creation. Cheap, stable and reliable energy that is dispatchable on demand, requires less land per MW of power generation. It is not dependent on the weather and requiring huge tracts of land that can otherwise be used for more food production and forest protection.

See also: