Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ASEAN 1: Asian regional bureaucracies

As mobility of people, goods and services, around the world hastens, so have government bureaucracies expand. Not contented with “national planning”, governments extend to “regional planning” and “global planning”.

In Asia, as many Asian economies grow fast – ie, relative to other countries and regions or continent in the world – Asian governments also create new regional bureaucracies fast. Consider the following bodies in Asia:

1. ASEAN – Association of South East Asian Nations, 10 countries (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar). Presidents and/or Prime Ministers of these countries meet annually.

2. ASEAN Plus Three (APT) – composed of Asean10 + China, S. Korea, Japan. Since the late 90s, there has been no strict or exclusive “Asean summit” because they have always been APT. And more recently, it has become “Asean Plus Six”, composed of APT + India, Australia and New Zealand.

3. APEC – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. This is an expanded Asean + 6, to also include the US, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Chile, Peru, other Pacific countries. They hold summit meeting every 2 years.

4. ASEM – Asia-Europe Meeting; composed of APT + EU 25. They also hold summit meeting every 2 years.

5. CSCAP – Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific

6. NPCSD – North Pacific Cooperative Security Dialogue

7. NEACD – North East Asia Cooperation Dialogue

Proposed new bodies:

1. AMF – Asian Monetary Fund; this is different from the existing Asian Development Bank (ADB).

2. CNEA – Concert of North East Asia

3. NEASD – North East Asia Security Dialogue

Not included above are the various regional free trade agreements (FTAs) like AFTA (Asean FTA), SAFTA (South Asia FTA), NEAFTA (North East Asia FTA, and so on. Also not included are dozens of bilateral FTAs (existing and proposed), or EPAs (economic partnership agreement) by Japan with selected Asean countries.

Annual or biennial summit meetings of those heads of states and their ministers are never cheap. Taxpayers of host governments spend a lot for those meetings, including preparations and post-meeting monitoring.

The main goal of those various bureaucracies and trade agreements is “more economic and security cooperation” among governments of member-countries. This sounds lofty and holy, except that they are agreements AMONG GOVERNMENTS, and not exactly among the citizens of those countries. People to people voluntary arrangement is still restricted by their own governments. For instance, despite the Japan-Philippines EPA (JPEPA), an average old and aging Japanese household who cannot find younger private Japanese caretakers and nurses, cannot hire a Filipino caretaker or health professional anytime they want because the Japanese government has restricted to only X number the entry of Filipino (and other foreign) health professionals every year.

It has been noted that the single important rule of a bureaucracy, is that once created, it does not die on its own; rather, it seeks to expand and perpetuate itself. After all, the cost of maintaining and expanding it does not come from its own bureaucrats, but from the taxpayers in the private sector.

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