Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weekend Fun 50: Pacquiao, Rios and Pacman U.

Some jokes after Manny Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios last Sunday in Macau.

Brandon Rios started the fight looking like Dennis Trillo, in round 10 he's starting to look like Korina Sanchez. -- @djmotwister 

Dear Pacman, Congrats.
Stick to boxing, stay away from politics .
Yer a great boxer... but as a congressman, yer useless.
-- Monsignor Arturo

Manny Pacquiao will pursue putting up "Pacman University", but not in Gen Santos, it will be built in Tacloban, Leyte to help the typhoon victims. It will be called "Pac U" for short. Students will be called Pacquers. Univ. Administrator willl be Nanay Dionisia, she will be called "Mother Pacquer"
-- an old joke. 

The colleges at Pac U:

Pacman University neo-Mechanical Engineering (Pac U n ME)

Pacman University Academy of Social Sciences (Pac Ur ASS)

Pacman Arts, Letters and Literature of the University (Pac ALL of U)*

Pacman University Board of Investigative Reporting (Pac U BIR) *

Pacman University Kinetics Institute of Mechanics and Humanities (Pac U KIM H.) *

* I invented these three J

See also:
Weekend fun 1: Pac U, November 21, 2013
Weekend Fun 46: Pork Barrel's New Names, August 25, 2013 
Weekend Fun 47: San Miguel, Galman and Inuman, August 31, 2013 

Weekend Fun 48: On Being Old and Crazy, September 14, 2013 

Weekend Fun 49: Lefties Songs, October 12, 2013

Climate Tricks 23: Using Typhoon Haiyan for Climate and Energy Rent-Seeking

Below is an abridged article written two weeks ago by a friend, Vice President of Reason Foundation, Julian Morris. He is also the former Executive Director of the International Policy Network (IPN, London). The full article with two charts is here. I added the chart below and is not part of his original paper.

The Terrible Toll of Typhoon Haiyan Doesn't Excuse Bad Policy

Julian Morris
November 19, 2013

The terrible toll of Typhoon Haiyan—estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people—reminds us of the often awesome power of the weather. Some say the death and destruction in Asia are symptoms of climate change and that we can expect worse to come—unless we cut back on emissions of greenhouse gases. Coincidentally, negotiators from around the world are meeting in Warsaw, Poland this week and next to attempt to hammer out a deal that would do just that. But cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases may not be the best way to address the threat of hurricanes and typhoons, even if climate change is making them worse.

When it hit the Gulf of Leyte in the Philippines, Haiyan had sustained winds of 145 mph, with gusts of up to 170 mph, making it comparable in intensity to the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which had winds of approximately 145 mph at landfall on the Texas Coast. The loss of life in Leyte, currently estimated at between 3,600 and 4,500, may ultimately be as great or greater than Galveston, where between 8,000 and 12,000—a quarter of the town’s population—are estimated to have died, making it the most deadly natural disaster in U.S. history.

Some activists claim that Haiyan is a symptom of climate change and that it should be a wake-up call to take action to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. Even theologians are getting in on the act, saying that the typhoon is the result of the sin of climate denial! But those may not be the most appropriate lessons. First, because it is far from clear that global warming is leading to an increase in the number or intensity of typhoons and hurricanes. Second, and more importantly, even if global warming does result in more extreme weather events, cutting emissions will likely do little to reduce the damage they inflict, while potentially costing a great deal, thereby reducing people’s ability to take preventative or ameliorative action….

(Trend lines in global temperature, air (UAH and RSS), land + sea surface (HadCRU), land only (GISS) vs. global CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, January 1997 to October 2013)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Welfarism 27: On Support for Single Mothers and HIV Patients

Two stories here illustrates why state welfarism causes adverse selection problems. This problem shows when the things that are supposed to be avoided come out as a result of the government intervention.

Case one is giving long term child and family support for single mothers, USA. So more young women turn up getting pregnant with no husbands. Case two is giving monetary support plus other healthcare benefits for HIV patients, so some people injected HIV virus in their body to be entitled to these benefits.

(1) From Capitalism facebook page:

An emergency room physician told me that a woman in her late 20's came to the ER today with her 8th pregnancy.

She told the first doctor she saw: "My Mama told me that I am the breadwinner for the family." He asked her to explain. She said that she can make babies, and babies get money from the State for the family. It goes like this:

The Grandma calls the Department of Child & Family Services, and states that the unemployed daughter is not capable of caring for all of her kids.

DCFS agrees, and tells her the children will need to go into foster care.

The Grandma then volunteers to be the foster parent, and receives a check for $1500 per child each month in Illinois.

Total yearly income: $144,000 tax-free and nobody has to go to work!
In fact, they get more if there is no husband/father/man in the home!

Not to mention free healthcare (Medicaid), plus a monthly card entitling them to free groceries and a voucher for 250 free Obamaphone minutes each month. This does not include WIC and other welfare benefits...that they are "entitled" to. Indeed, Grandma was correct that her fertile daughter is the "breadwinner" for the family.

This is how the liberal politicians spend our tax dollars. When this generous program was invented in the '60s, the Great Society architects forgot to craft an end date... and now we are hopelessly overrun with people who vote only for those who will continue to keep them on the dole....

No wonder our country is broke!

(2) From RT, November 26, 2013,

…The WHO report ‘Review of Social Determinants and the Health Divide in the WHO European Region’ concludes that the staggering levels of unemployment and mandated financial austerity have hit European citizens hard, especially those in Greece, where the jobless level stood at 27 percent in September.

The economic crisis that began in 2008 has “exacerbated” health problems in parts of Europe, exposing “stark social and economic inequities within and between countries.” Greece is the hardest hit, with the country’s economy shrinking to the point of nearly knocking it out of the eurozone completely.

The report published last week says the HIV rates in Greece have risen “significantly” since 2008. It estimates about half of new HIV infections are self-inflicted “to enable people to receive benefits of 700 euro per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programs.” 

However, The Press Project has pointed out an inaccuracy in the WHO report, saying the organization was not correct while quoting a 2011 study published in the Lancet, which “described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals,” but did not give exact statistics -  “about a half,” as stated in the recent report. 

An hour later same day, this news from the same RT came out.

The WHO has mistakenly over exaggerated the data in its recent report on Greece, stating that half of new HIV cases are self-inflicted to receive benefits. The organization has apologized saying it was due to an editing error.

“The sentence should read: ‘half of the new HIV cases are self-injecting and out of them few are deliberately inflicting the virus’,” the WHO (World Health Organization) said in its correction. 

While the goal of the policy is noble, to help those who are suffering from HIV disease, it is an opportunity that some people, desperate or not, can grab to make money. When you support or encourage something, more takers will come. If you discourage something, less takers will come. One more reason why BIG government and state welfarism is inefficient.

See also:

Healthy Ageing 5: RHC Forum on Ageing Market and Geriatric Care

I am half a century old already and will soon become a “dual citizen” in a few years. That is, a Filipino citizen and senior citizen J. This plus the politics of government interventionism in the name of “helping” the senior citizens slowly get my interest on the literature of ageing.

Last October 29, 2013, I attended a forum by the Retirement and Healthcare Coalition (RHC) on the Ageing Market at Diamond Hotel, Manila.

The speakers and their topics were the following:

“Overview of the Philippine Ageing Market”
Dr. Miguel Ramos, Director, National Center for Geriatric Health (NCGH)

“The Geriatric Market from a Hospital's Point of View”
Dr. Liza Manalo, Head, Palliative Care Unit of The Medical City's Cancer Center

“The Geriatric Market from a Hospital's Point of View”
Dr. Marc Evans Abat, Head, Center for Healthy Aging of The Medical City's
Center for Wellness and Aesthetics

“Developing Aged Care Facilities in the Philippines”
Dr. Mary Jean Guno, Managing Director, Home Health Care

“The Philippine TeleGeriatric Project”
Davidson B. Teh, Program Coordinator
AIM Dr. Stephen Zuellig Center for Asian Business Transformation,
Asian Institute of Management

“PHI - 'Human Touch' Public Private Partnership Project”
Marc Daubenbuechel, Executive Director of RHC

Four of the six speakers, from left: Dr. Marc Abat, Davidson Teh, Dr. Mary Guno, and Marc D.

The Philippines has about 7 million elders aged 60 years old and above in 2011, and this sector is projected to increase up to  nearly 14 million (NCGH estimate) or nearly 20 million (RHC estimate) in 2040, a big number. The more substantial presentation came from Dr. Ramos of the NCGH. Among the information he shared were the following.

From 7 million in 2011 to 8 million by 2016-17 and further up to nearly 14 million by 2040.

Major diseases that affected the elderly in the Philippines as of 2007 were arthritis, hypertension and cataracts.

His presentation was substantial, lots of useful macro data of the senior citizens sector.

Marc D. spelled out the Philippine Health Initiative (PHI) and the geriatric needs. According to him, these are the strengths and weaknesses of the Philippine geriatric market.

The Germans and other Europeans are interested in tapping some Filipino healthcare talents to help take care of their ageing population. But they require highly-trained Filipino health professionals.

The Philippines has a unique role in the global geriatric market because it has a big and generally young population with an average age of only about mid-20s. Thus it can help supply the necessary healthcare professionals to countries with high elderly population like those in Europe.

The PH government since more than a decade ago has embarked on price intervention by legislating mandatory price discounts to the elderly by various private enterprises. It is 20 percent forced discount for the senor citizens in all drugstores, hospitals, restaurants, fare in airlines, bus lines and shipping line, etc. Another 12 percent VAT that private enterprises absorbed from suppliers but cannot be passed to senior citizens makes the forced discount at 32 percent or nearly one-third the price of various goods and services.

Price intervention is price dictatorship. It is an ugly characteristic by many governments. I believe that the law on benefits for senior citizens should be drastically amended, if not abolished. Let the private enterprises offer discounts or other privileges to the elderly on their own as a result of competition among themselves. Or if such forced discounts must continue, then it should apply only to the poor, not to all senior citizens including the richer ones.

See also:
Healthy Ageing 2: World Congress on Healthy Ageing, March 08, 2012
EMHN 10: Forum on Asia's Ageing Societies, Bangkok, October 08, 2013 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Business 360 13: US Government Shutdown and Lessons for Asia

* This is my article for the November 2013 issue of Business 360, a monthly business magazine in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The US federal government “shutdown” or more appropriately “slim down” looks confusing for many people around the world. For how can the biggest and richest economy in the world have its central government “shutdown” for two weeks due mainly to financial constraints? A government that can send tens of thousands of troops and heavy armaments in Afghanistan, Middle East and other countries around the world, is shutting or slimming down  because of lack of money?

Technically, not the entire federal government has shut down as many functions – police, defense/military, airports, seaports, state and foreign affairs, etc. – remain in operation. Only certain “non-essential” functions were shut down.  Besides, states, cities and counties are operating as they have their own functions and revenue sources. Thus, the appropriate term would be federal government “slim down”. 

Now, aside from the shutdown/slim down issue, the US government is also facing a constant or perennial debt ceiling issue. The US public debt is rising fast, the debt ceiling set by previous laws is being breached and so they have to pass new laws raising the debt ceiling anew, so that the government can borrow higher, mainly  to pay back old debts and give out more subsidies and welfare programs to its people, poor and non-poor alike.

The way the US government is borrowing endlessly and irresponsibly, with budget deficit of about $1 trillion a year, federal government alone, such practice must be controlled somehow. So the government "shutdown" is an inevitable thing to happen. The average Americans cannot be happy that their federal government has so much public debt, and ever-rising every year.

Figure 1. US Debt Ceiling or Limit

See that, the debt ceiling or limit has been raised 13 times since 12 years ago. The debt curve is getting steeper upwards.

Debt Ceiling/Limit

There are many reasons or factors why the US federal government’s spending and public debt is rising fast. This chart is too glaring as one of those reasons and explanations: the number of Americans working and paying more taxes is declining relatively while those receiving social security disability insurance (SSDI) and subsidy is rising.

Figure 2. US citizens working vs those receiving disability insurance.

Source: Cato Institute

The US politicians and government officials may be thinking that that American taxpayers are endless ATM machines whom they can fleece with more taxes to pay these uncontrolled spending.

Lessons for Asian emerging and developing economies

Governments should not become debt addicts, they should learn to live within their means. This is one of the more frank, more realistic assessments of the US government experience. Debts are not grants, they should be paid back in the future, not by current politicians and taxpayers, but by future taxpayers.

Figure 3. Gross Debt as Percent of GDP, Selected Asian Countries, 2000 and 2013


Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook 2013 Database

The above numbers show that there are more countries that have significantly reduced their gross debt as share of GDP. This is positive news.

Governments must resist populism and heavy welfarism, giving away one subsidy after another, as if the average citizens are idiots or lazy who must be given endless and forever subsidies and entitlements by the government just to survive.

Governments instead, must allow more room for the free market to fulfill certain social functions and expectations. Like job creation, raising labor productivity and hence, raising wages and benefits for the workers and their families. Producing more goods and services from the same number of workers,  entrepreneurs and machines.

See also:
Business 360 9: Free Trade and Economic Prosperity, July 03, 2013 
Business 360 10: Foreign Aid as Band Aid Solution, August 11, 2013 
Business 360 11: Avoiding Middle Income Trap, September 19, 2013 

Business 360 12: Optimum Size of Government, October 13, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Freedom Flame Awards 2: More Photos

It was a big day indeed, and a big night, November 10, 2013, at the beautiful San Diego Gardens, Intramuros, Manila. This is in an open area between Pamantasan ng Maynila and Manila Hotel. See my earlier story of the awards with photos

There were  many guests that night. The big event of the FNF was the 20th anniversary of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), Nov. 9-11 held at Manila Hotel. CALD is the organization of politicians affiliated with either a Liberal Party or Democratic Party in Asian countries. CALD is one of the two big projects of FNF in Asia, along with EFN, which is the organization for free market think tanks and individuals in Asia.

So the top officials of FNF in Germany, Prof. Dr. Jurgen Morlok, right, Chairman of the Board of Trustees who came to Manila for the 1st time, the head of FNF Asia Department, Olaf Kellerhoff, the President and Sec-Gen. of Liberal International (LI), were all there. Plus several officials of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), the counterpart of CALD in Europe, some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were there. Also the two FNF Regional Directors, Rainer Adam of East and Southeast Asia and Siggi Herzog of South Asia, and several FNF country directors from Thailand, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. They were all there.

Plus local guests. The four big events that night then were:

1. Freedom Speech by Sen. Bam Aquino. He spoke about his "Freedom from Poverty" vision and policy advocacies, including legislative agenda. Good speech though I think he did not mention "freedom from harassment" or similar things that happen if a country does not strictly implement the rule of law.

2. Freedom Project award, only one awardee, a civil society campaign against corruption by a media program "Diskarte".

3. Freedom Flame Awards, 14 of us local awardees, and

4. Freedom Sparkler Awards, about 8 or 10 of them from LI and FNF international offices

There was also a beautiful fireworks display to cap the evening. Nice venue, nice food and drinks, nice music. I jammed with the band of course, I dragged a participant from Singapore and from Sweden to the stage, we sang The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride”, hehehe.

All photos I got from the FNF Manila facebook page.

See also:
Freedom Flame Awards 2013, November 13, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mining 37: Adverse Selection of Anti-Corporate Mining View

* This is my article today in Mining Week.

In a Reuters special report, Philippines' black market is China's golden connection published on August 22, 2012, the story mentioned the following:

* Hundreds of small-scale mines in Mt. Diwata (or “Mt. Diwalwal”), Monkayo, Compostela Valley, Mindanao. One person  sold 5.49 grams of gold in his hand - his share of the day's output - for 8,260 pesos ($200). That's more than 16 times what a manual laborer earns daily in Manila.

* Up to 90 percent of small-scale Philippine gold production is being smuggled out, much of it to China.
Potential revenue loss is big.

* The Philippines, the world's 18th largest gold miner, produced just over 1 million troy ounces of gold in 2011, worth $1.6 billion at current prices. About 56 percent of that came from small-scale miners.

* A top central bank official told Reuters new taxes on gold sales imposed last year appear to be a key factor in the alarming rise in gold smuggling.

* “All the production of small-scale mines, almost all, now goes to the black market, because there is no tax in the black market," said Rex Banggawan, an accountant for a small-scale mining cooperative that buys and sells gold in the mountain city of Baguio in northern Philippines. "After that, smuggling is automatic."

* Arthur Uy, Governor of Compostela Valley, the top small-scale gold mining province in the Philippines, said the black market in gold is mainly based in the capital, Manila. "Most of the gold is being smuggled out to Hong Kong, that's the biggest market," said Uy, a two-term governor.

* The amount of gold sold by small-scale miners and traders to the Philippine central bank in the second quarter plunged 98 percent from a year earlier. By law, all gold produced by miners in the Philippines should be sold to the central bank at around world market prices. Small-scale gold mining output, is the main source of the central bank's gold reserves, which hit a record high of $10.4 billion early this year.

* Traders and officials say the biggest factor behind the spike in the gold smuggling trend the past year is a 2 percent excise tax and a 5 percent withholding tax approved in 2008 but which the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) only started enforcing last year. The tax is imposed on gold sales to the central bank, so is usually borne by the traders.

* Tagum city, the provincial capital of Davao del Norte, is the biggest gold-buying centre nearest to Mount Diwata. Gold traders in Tagum say if not for the tax, they would rather sell to the central bank than in the black market where prices fluctuate fast.

This development is what the public, the militant anti-mining environmentalists included, ironically get. A case of “adverse selection” problem in Economics. The things that they do not want to hear and see are what they get. When  large-scale and corporate mining is demonized, these firms that cannot avoid paying various taxes, fees and royalties because they are large enough to hide behind the mob, the firms that must comply with Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-DENR) requirements and LGU regulations on giving various CSR projects to communities, then less corporate mining will happen.

Many local politicians and businessmen who own the mines can afford to be less caring of the mountain and the personnel.

One way to bridge the huge gap between large-scale corporate mining and small-scale guerilla type mining, is to encourage the latter to pool resources and become more transparent, more accountable, for their activities. It can be in the form of mining cooperatives, or a hybrid of corporate mining with lots of small holder investors.

When a business enterprise becomes big, like the multinationals or local firms which have joint venture and corporate partnership with multinationals, they are forced to become more transparent. They have websites, their corporate officers are there, they report to the SEC, BIR, MGB, LGUs. Often they are also listed in the stock market and hence, they report publicly to their shareholders and potential share buyers. Then there is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that both public and private agencies must divulge and submit information.

With such multiple system of reporting to government agencies, private investors and third party information reporting system, a large scale mining firm cannot afford to be too secretive of its mineral output, its tax payment and CSR projects.

Where there is more transparency, more accountability follows. And less environmental destruction, less disregard for health and labor regulations can be expected.

See also: 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Demography 20: Presentation at ILS, DOLE, on Population and Growth

Yesterday, I was one of three speakers in a forum by the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on "From Challenges to Dividents: A New and Healthy Discourse on Gender, Employment, Population and Development" held at The Bayleaf Hotel, Intramuros, Manila.

Special thanks to a friend, Bryan Balco, focal point person of ILS on Gender and Development (GAD), for inviting me. The two other speakers were Dr. Juan Antonio Perez, Executive Director of the Commission on Population (PopCom), and Dr. Ramon Benedicto Marcelino, Director for Research, Planning and Development Center, San Beda College, Manila.

My 24-slides presentation is available in slideshare. It is composed of four major points: (a) Demographic deficit, demographic dividends; (b) Some say that big population is scary; (c) Labor and gender issues; and(d) Concluding notes.I am showing half of those powerpoint slides here. I started with Barun Mitra's slides when he gave a talk here in Manila sometime in 2011.

One  illustration on young vs. an ageing population.

I showed two charts from a report made by S&P last March.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Foreign Donations and Customs Bureaucracy

This is from a friend, JB Baylon of the I Am PGH (Person Giving Hope) Foundation. He posted this yesterday in his fb wall, about the Customs bureaucracy even for donations to victims of typhoon Haiyan.

EXTRAORDINARY CONDITIONS REQUIRE EXTRAORDINARY RULES. I just saw an email exchange between Gil Santos and someone based in Guam about an aborted effort to donate used X-ray equipment and other supplies from the US, aborted because Customs officials are allegedly assessing each of the four 40-foot containers $12,500.

This reminds me of a story of a ship laden with used hospital equipment that returned to the US without unloading its cargo for PGH also because Customs officials were imposing some tariff on the donations...

As if the PGH is not in dire need of help like this??

This is not the first time I've heard of things like these. When Enrique Zobel was trying to explore ways of helping fellow para and quadriplegics like himself we discovered that collecting slightly used wheelchairs and hospital beds from abroad would be subject to tax here at home.

I think it is time to review these policies and Yolanda provides us the perfect reason to do so.

I think any donation to a public hospital should be tax free. Any donation to a private hospital should be taxed at half or less than the normal.

Now anyone who tries to use this tax free or tax reduced donation system to smuggle items and/or somehow circumvent our Customs regulations should be dealt with firmly with the "guilty" institutions blacklisted and its officials criminally charged.

The default principle of government. policy should be to make it easier to donate. As it is now it seems the default principle of policy is to strangle the process so as to avoid any forms of smuggling... 

Four years ago, I wrote about the Books for the Barrios (BftB, donation of thousands of books, other education materials from the US to rural public schools here in the Philippines.

Those books from America were donated FREE.
Those books will be distributed to public elementary schools in rural areas of the Philippines for FREE.

But when those containers of books from the US reach the Philippine ports, BftB Manila pays for the following:
1. Customs duties around P65,000 -- yes there are taxes for donated and used books!
2. Customs broker around P60,000 -- an agency that deals everything with the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The BftB Manila staff who narrated me that story last year, said that what's worse, donated medicines and vaccines by volunteer medical missions from abroad, many of them are parked at the Customs area and allowed to deteriorate. Why? Those medical missions and volunteers have money for the airfare of the volunteers and shipment of free drugs and vaccines. But they never expected there are high taxes and Customs brokerage to pay for those donated medicines, so they did not bring money for such. Those vaccines are on refrigerated containers that run on electricity, of course. Since they cannot pay the taxes, and the medicines require continued electricity while the papers and payment are being processed, the BOC personnel disconnect the electricity as electricity charges are being borne by the Bureau. Within hours, those useful, essential, life-saving medicines become useless as they need to be kept at a particular temperature (say 0 or 10 Celsius). When the temperature goes up or down significantly, the medicines become ineffective for their intended patients.

I checked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) website and I saw this bureaucratic process, that donated goods must pass through the DSWD and must be cleared with lots of requirements. See here.

O, bureaucracy. One more reason why the BOC should be abolished, and a unilateral free trade, free movement of foreign donations, should be adopted.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Free Trade 29: ASEAN and Education Competitiveness

* This is my article yesterday in

We will have the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by January 2015 or just 14 months from now. This is a great opportunity for many of us in the region to experience freer movement of goods and services or people.

While some people see more threats than opportunities in regional free trade like the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the threats are too often exaggerated. Free trade means local producers and manufacturers will have (a) wider sources of production inputs that are cheaper and/or better quality, and (b) wider and plentier buyers and consumers as price-distorting schemes like import tariffs are removed or significantly reduced among members of an FTA.

Thus, if local carinderias and food shops can have wider sources of cheaper poultry, pork, rice and vegetable products, then their consumers and clients, mostly poor people like jeepney and taxi drivers, ordinary office workers, will benefit in the form of cheaper food prices.

The local producers of poultry, pork, rice and vegetable products will be challenged to improve their production and hence, sell cheaper too. They will compete product per product, not only here but in other ASEAN member-countries.

While free trade of goods is the more important aspect of an economic union like AEC, concerns on education, healthcare and other sectors are also important. Economic and business competitiveness is mainly a product of a competitive educational system. Internationally traded goods and services are embodiment of the skills and efficiencies of the people who produce them.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2013, Publicus Asia, Inc. will sponsor a big forum on Education Competitiveness in an ASEAN Integrated Era, to be held at Edsa Shangrila Hotel, Ortigas. The goal of the forum is to explore the various opportunities and challenges in the higher education system of the country as the AEC is fast approaching.

There is a good line up of high profile speakers. Like UP President Alfredo Pascual, Ateneo de Manila University President Jose Ramon Villarin, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) President Melito Salazar, Assistant Secretary of ASEAN Affairs Teresita Barsana, Cong. Roman Romulo, Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, and Sen. TG Guingona, Vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Education.

I will attend this forum. I am particularly interested in how the country’s colleges and universities are partnering with the private and corporate sector including multinational companies here, in producing well-trained personnel, equipped with sufficient technical, financial and cultural knowledge in maximizing the various opportunities while minimizing certain risks and threats in business and international trade.

We have to be prepared not only with the influx of better-manufactured products from our neighbors in the ASEAN, but also the influx of foreign talents who will come into the country as temporary visitors, or as long-term investors. Nationals of other countries outside the ASEAN like those from S. Korea, Taiwan, Japan, US and Europe, will also be expanding their businesses and manufacturing plants in any of the ASEAN member-countries in order to take advantage of the zero or near-zero tariff trading among AFTA members.

The key term is "education competitiveness". How competitive the country's tertiary educational system, both formal and informal, public and private, should be to enable our young people to adjust and even excel, in a huge, wide and diverse market. Within the ASEAN alone of 700+ million people, and the rest of the world. Even the short-courses vocational and technical education sector will have an important role in preparing a big, well-trained, pool of workers and entrepreneurs.

The forum next week promises to be a huge and wide platform to exchange ideas and observations, especially from the tertiary education and corporate sectors. There is also value for civil society leaders in exploring what are the various threats and opportunities in the AEC and help prepare and retool our people, to focus more on the opportunities than risks, the positive than the negative, of a free trade era.

See also:
Free Trade 26: "Buy Local" and Protectionism, June 24, 2012
Free Trade 27: Proposed EU-PH FTA and TRIPS Plus, September 24, 2012 
Free Trade 28: Exports and Prosperity, March 11, 2013

EMHN 7: Free Trade Improves Public Health, February 26, 2013
Business 360 8: TPP, RCEP, SAARC and Free Trade, June 17, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Healthy Ageing 4: GCOA-EMHN Meeting in Bangkok Last October

This is the continuation of my earlier article, GCOA-EMHN Policy Dialogue in Bangkok last month, on the Global Coalition On Aging (GCOA) - Emerging Markets Health Network (EMHN)  Policy Dialogue on Aging, held on October 23, 2013 at Plaza Athenee Bangkok, Thailand.

There were about 16 of us from eight different countries. The resource speaker was Dr. Anindya Mishra, a faculty member of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorke India. He gave  a 30 minutes presentation entitled “Social and Economic Challenges of Ageing in Asia: Special Focus on India.”

Among the points raised by Dr. Mishra in his presentation were the following:

·         Elderly in India, 8.95% of population in 2011, 108.33 M individuals
·         Healthcare (HC) for elderly is problematic, no geriatric specialists, there is shortage of qualified medical staff especially in rural areas
·         Most female elderly are widows or without children, have feelings of social isolation
·         Government HC programs compete with other sectors, that HC for elderly are sidelined, there is minimal public spending
·         There is a cultural expectation that children should take care of their elderly
·         Rise of old age homes, but there is not much choice in Homes for Elderly
·         Two options for the elderly – be independent from children, or continue the culturally prescribed care
·         On cultural expectation, forcing children to take care of their elderly alienates them
·         Migration of many young people to the big cities or other countries leave ageing parents behind, they develop an “empty nest” syndrome
·         Absence of emotional support and caregivers, the elderly are vulnerable to crimes and abuse by other people
·         Emigrant elderly, if they join their kids to their new work elsewhere, difficulty in adjustment with new culture, values and language
·         Active and healthy ageing must be promoted

Market Responses include (a) People saving, preparing for elderly/ ageing life; (b) retirement communities are growing; middle and upper class are looking for retirement homes someday, Indian real estate companies now are slowly developing retirement communities. Estimated demand of 312,000 elderly homes, there is a supply of only 10-15,000 new homes a year.

Key challenge is that the State cannot shoulder the entire responsibility  and hence, civil society, hospitals and philanthropic organization can step in

An open forum immediately followed. Among the key messages that arose from the participants were the following:

1. The one-child policy in China, other government-sponsored population control policies are  wrong.

2. Governments healthcare policy of one or single payer system like in UK is problematic too, not only clouds personal responsibility, also heavy fiscal burden.

3. Ageing is sometimes used by the government to further intervene in the pricing of private players in the sector. One example is the expanded senior citizens discount under RA 9994, where senior citizens (60 years old and above), rich and poor alike, must be given 20 percent discount in their food purchases in formal restaurants, in their purchases of medicines, vitamins and supplements, hospitalization, and so on.

4. Free market principles and healthcare competition can better respond to the ageing problem in many countries. Give the adult children and the elderly more options for their healthcare and retirement. A single provider system like government will not be able to provide flexible solutions to emerging problems.

See also:
Healthy Ageing 1: The Caregiver Village, February 13, 2012 
Healthy Ageing 2: World Congress on Healthy Ageing, March 08, 2012 
EMHN 10: Forum on Asia's Ageing Societies, Bangkok, October 08, 2013