Wednesday, October 28, 2020

BWorld 458, Property rights and lockdown lefts

 * My column in BusinessWorld, October 22, 2020.

An important indicator of an economy’s development and maturity is the degree of its protection of private property rights, both physical and intellectual property. And one measurement of such protection is the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) produced yearly by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA, Washington DC).

On Oct. 16 last year, the IPRI 2019 Report was launched globally in Manila at the Fairmont Hotel, Makati. PRA Executive Director Lorenzo Montanari and IPRI 2019 author Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente, an academic economist from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Boston University, Center of Polymer Studies, came to Manila. The local hosts and co-sponsors of PRA in launching the report were the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) and Minimal Government Thinkers. The Keynote Address was given by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, the Opening and Closing Remarks were given by FEF President Calixto Chikiamco and FEF Chairman and former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, respectively. I presented one study attached to IPRI 2019, “Banning Brand – Economic and Consumer Impact of Plain Packaging.”

After the global launch in Manila, IPRI 2019 was also launched in three ASEAN cities a few days later and Lorenzo had me tag along to present my paper. The first event was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Oct. 19 at Intercontinental KL and it was co-sponsored by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) then headed by its CEO, Ali Salman. Next it was launched in Singapore on Oct. 22 at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and co-sponsored by the Adam Smith Center (ASC) headed by Bryan Cheang. Then it was launched in Jakarta, Indonesia on Oct. 24, at Paramadina University; the event was co-sponsored by the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) and Paramadina Public Policy Institute. CIPS Executive Director Rainer Heufers gave the opening message.

Because of the pandemic and global lockdowns, there is no IPRI 2020. I review again the results of IPRI 2019 covering 129 countries and economies, and IPRI 2018 Reports covering 125 countries.

I also show here the results of Google’s Community Mobility Reports (GCMR) as measurement of changes in people mobility in certain places compared to baseline days, the median value from the fiveweek period from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020. The GCMR shows six areas but for brevity purpose, I show only two, Retail and Recreation (restaurants, cafes, malls, museums, etc.) and Transit Stations (train stations, taxi stands, seaports, etc.).

The table shows two important points about the Philippines. One, it has poor performance in IPRI, poor property rights protection, it ranked only 70th/125 in 2018 and 67th/129 in 2019.

And two in GCMR, the country indeed seems to have the longest and strictest lockdown policies in the whole world. Compare the Philippines with no or light lockdown Taiwan, South Korea, and Sweden, even fellow hard lockdown Malaysia and India. Ours is the highest in negative percent changes even until this month. Meaning people’s mobility and economic freedom to work and do business are still highly restricted by the Philippine government.

Now the Metro Manila Mayors have proposed the extension of GCQ until end December while the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has ruled no Christmas parties to be allowed in December. These are very insensitive policies by both national and local governments. The officials and personnel in charge of these policies and implementation should experience what millions of Filipinos experience — no salaries, no income while the lockdowns are implemented.

There are two important initiatives that do not share the lockdown leftism and alarmism. One, the Great Barrington Declaration ( initiated by three globally prominent academic epidemiologists Dr. Martin Kulldorff (Harvard), Dr. Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford) which said that “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health — leading to greater excess mortality in years to come…”

And two, the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH, which declared that “the Philippines adopt a national protocol for the prophylaxis and early treatment of COVID-19 that aims to reduce hospitalization and prevent loss of lives… lift all lockdowns to allow our people to begin to rebuild their lives.”

Restricting if not prohibiting the people’s right to work and earn money so they can feed their families, boost their immune system against old and new diseases, is a criminal “cure” that is worse than the disease it purports to solve.

The government should lift the lockdown. By end-October.

See also:
BWorld 455, No climate emergency, October 05, 2020 
BWorld 456, Flattening the rule of law, October 26, 2020 
BWorld 457, No to free electricity from Meralco, genco, October 27, 2020.

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