Yanuar Nugroho, Co-Founder and Advisor, Centre for Innovation Policy and Governance, and deputy chief of staff to the president of the Republic of Indonesia from 2015 to 2019, in Kompas (September 15, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: uyeah)
What should be the priorities in the remaining months of the Joko Widodo-Ma'ruf Amin administration?
Jokowi has been seen as working hard to fulfill his promises. Focusing on tackling poverty and inequality, his first administration devoted significant resources to human, village and infrastructure development programs. In his second term, the president presented five goals: economic transformation, continuing infrastructure development, developing human resources, bureaucratic reform, and simplifying licensing. In addition, there are the plans to move the capital to East Kalimantan and prepare a long-term development plan. All of this is aimed at strengthening the foundation for realizing the dream of 2045 when Indonesia will become the world’s fourth or fifth largest economy.
But then Covid-19 hit. The achievements of development that had been achieved were shattered. And the ability to fulfill the promises have also been affected – infrastructure may be stalled but still relatively on track. It could be that what once appeared to be the government's hesitation to prioritize health over the economy at the start of the pandemic actually reflected its trepidation that these promises could not be realized. Because, after all, the fulfillment of political promises is the key to gaining people's trust.
Therefore, the government must ensure that all these promises are attained or at least a roadmap to achieve them prepared. This must be done now, and in a more effective way. It cannot be business as usual. the promise of the five visions must be emphasized as the key target.
The true legacy is not the memories of the past that remain after death, but the provision for stepping into the future. Jokowi's best legacy through all his hard work must be the foundation for his successors to make this nation not only more advanced, but also more civilized and dignified.
Riaz Mohammad Khan, foreign secretary of Pakistan from 2005 to 2008, in Dawn (September 4, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Talk Media News Photo Archives)
The Afghan Taliban leadership faces huge challenges, internal and external adversaries, internal dissensions and divisions, riled-up human rights and liberal groups, powerful hostile lobbies and media – especially in the West – and the need for international recognition. But first and foremost, they have to put together an effective government with a semblance of the promised inclusiveness and reconciliation. They will need space to settle down.
Outsiders must show patience. The Afghan leadership, in particular the Taliban leaders, have the primary responsibility of averting a civil war. Their neighbors and the world community must do everything they can to help achieve that objective. The world community must be generous with humanitarian assistance to prevent further aggravation of the suffering of the Afghan people. Pakistan should also brace itself for a possible influx of refugees.
There is room for optimism in the current maelstrom of the worldwide discussion on Afghanistan. Arguably, a stable Afghanistan will remove a blockage and open up the entire surrounding region for economic activity. Much has already been said about opportunities, communications, trade and energy links and economic activity. Regional countries have a role and capacity, but all this will boil down to idle talk if there is an absence of purposeful engagement, or regional rivalries are reasserted for political influence or resources, and conflict returns to Afghanistan.
Among the neighbors, in a range of unique but familiar factors, Pakistan has an important role to play. It will require both circumspection and prudence to enable itself and Afghanistan to be sovereign co-partners for the benefit of the region. Past experience validates concerns regarding spoilers, but the new environment may well help mitigate the potential for mischief. Meanwhile, Pakistani policymakers need to be cautious about pushing the new Afghan government over bilateral issues.
Yang Xiyu, senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, in Global Times (August 11, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Republic of Korea Navy)
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, easing of relations between North and South Korea, and public sentiment in South Korea, many people expected that joint US-South Korea military exercises would be postponed or even cancelled. The fact that they have proceeded on schedule demonstrates the influence of the US. It also reveals that the essential nature of the military exercises is indispensable in the US toolbox against North Korea.
The US has expressed its position more than once, stating that all options for its North Korea policy remain on the table. In this sense, the US-South Korea military exercises on the Korean Peninsula have always had a special political angle unique to its specific geopolitical environment.
China clearly opposes such military exercises because it has become a major obstacle to the settlement of the peninsula issue. This kind of institutionalized “military exercise” is not for the sake of peace and stability on the peninsula, or even for the security of South Korea. Instead, it only makes the North and the South sink deeper into their security dilemma, which can only be resolved by enhancing mutual trust between North and South.
Moreover, behind the US’s insistence on holding the military exercises, there are hidden plans to expand the US-South Korea alliance or include it in its so-called "regional security pillar". As such, the interactions between the US and South Korea, including joint military exercises, are harmful to the security of the whole of East Asia.
Alex Magno, political scientist and professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, in The Philippine Star (August 31, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @AfghanUpdates on Twitter)
Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population is aged 25 and under. This large demographic segment has no memory of the last time the Taliban was in power. They grew up in the relative freedom of US occupation.
A Taliban spokesman shortly after the capture of Kabul tried to assuage the world by saying the new rulers will respect the rights of women within the framework of Sharia law. What that meant was never clear. Few believed the Taliban promise.
All the world’s powers and all the international organizations can only watch in horror as the Taliban begins exercising its gory power over an unwilling society. This is, after all, a movement driven by a primitive ideology trying to drag the rest of society back to the Stone Age.
All the secular powers of the world enjoy no leverage over a mindless movement such as the Taliban. But the Taliban, too, holds no leverage against the secular powers of the modern world. This situation will be harmful to the Afghan people most of all. Cut off from the rest of humanity, they cannot access humanitarian help.
To top it all, most of the world’s countries are busy fighting the pandemic. They have every excuse to ignore the plight of Afghans trying to survive a fanatical regime. Most of the countries around Afghanistan have closed off their frontiers, mainly to discourage a flood of migrants they could not possibly sustain.
The revival of US unilateralism and isolationism will imply huge costs for the rest of humanity. Unfortunately for the Afghans and the other countries threatened with terrorism, no other power is willing to step into the abandoned US role. Enough talk of a values-based global order. We are rushing headlong, not into a multipolar world, but into a basically ungoverned international (dis)order.
Ameya Pratap Singh, postgraduate student in area studies at Oxford University and managing editor of Statecraft, an independent daily on global affairs, in The Indian Express (September 1, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ministry of External Affairs of India)
Should the Indian government provide diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government in Afghanistan? Or should it refuse to do so on grounds of its violent overthrow of the previous Afghan government and the unreserved use of terrorism?
One line of thought is that the Taliban is in control and so recognition must logically flow from that. Consideration of values should not cloud New Delhi’s judgement. India has significant interests at stake such as cross-border terrorism and the drug trade that may be harmed by delayed recognition or non-recognition. Refusing to recognize the Taliban may strengthen the hand of its regional rivals – Pakistan and China – leading intensification of national security threats on its northern frontier.
India adopted this line of reasoning in 1949 with communist China and failed. The Jawaharlal Nehru government felt compelled to provide early recognition to the communists despite close ties with the previous Kuomintang government during the interwar period.
Did early recognition change anything in communist China’s policy? No. Communist China continued to be suspicious of India’s intentions in Tibet and the bourgeois nature of its regime and elites. Moreover, India’s early recognition gave Mao Zedong confidence in his plans to annex Tibet through force in 1950. Goodwill proved to be an ineffective tool of deterrence. The lesson is clear: In the absence of compelling shared interests, building mere goodwill through early recognition provides no returns. Does India have any such compelling shared interests with the Taliban?
With its rhetorical efforts to appear “moderate”, the Taliban has not demonstrated sincerity, but rather a reluctant acceptance that legitimacy on the global stage is a social good that cannot be achieved through force. New Delhi must engage the Taliban but in a manner that uses their need for recognition to draw concrete concessions in areas of key interest.
Darwin Darmawan, doctoral student in political science at the University of Indonesia, in Kompas (August 24, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Mohammad Rizky ramadhan)
Corruption in Indonesia is very concerning. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020 issued by Transparency International ranks Indonesia at 102nd out of 180 countries. This makes Indonesia a highly corrupt country. Over the past decade, Indonesia's CPI has only improved by five points. This means that efforts to eradicate corruption are far from effective.
Corruption is so very shameful. The elite predators of public money exist in almost all the political parties. Some are public officials. Those who are supposed to be role models have become perpetrators of violations. The punishment for corruption is relatively light, with some still receiving reduced sanctions. What a shame!
But why is it difficult for this country to get rid of corruption? What strategies need to be taken to succeed in its eradication? According to Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, the leader of a coalition for a clean parliament in Romania, before any anti-corruption program is carried out, it is necessary to determine whether the corruption that occurs is part of the culture or a deviation from it.
Indeed, we need to determine whether we dealing with corruption in a traditional society or in a democracy? In the first case, corruption is related to the culture of privilege, that certain social elites are naturally accorded benefits because of their status. In the second kind, corruption is seen as a violation of the law. Cultural and religious factors are indeed dominant in the practice of corruption in Indonesia. The culture of corruption is not visible. But it is lived by the people of Indonesia. Like the "devil within", it is evil and hated – yet it drives human corruption. It all works through a culture of prestige. This culture encourages people to want to exist through material possessions. And that inevitably leads to corruption.
Xie Nan, associate researcher at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in Global Times (August 2, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Chad J McNeeley/US Department of Defense)
In a move to provoke China, the US House of Representatives passed a spending bill that forbids the use of any funds to create, procure or display maps that depict Taiwan as part of China. Similar provocations include the American TV network NBC showing an incomplete map of China during the Olympics opening ceremony.
Many believed that President Joe Biden would work to ease the tense Sino-American relationship, and that Washington’s Taiwan-related policies would be revised. It is now clear, however, that little has changed and that these petty US provocations on Taiwan matters are in line with the overall strategy of putting pressure on China.
The US State Department Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell stated that the US did not support Taiwan independence. Washington is skilled at sending signals through petty provocations to suggest that the relationship between Taiwan and the US will continue to be strengthened. This allows the separatist forces on Taiwan to continue to dream of independence.
Some Taiwan voices have pointed out that the Biden administration’s China policy has simply focused on managing crises and avoiding conflicts. The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated in Singapore that he did not want conflict with China and "is committed to establishing a constructive and stable relationship". Meanwhile, he has repeatedly claimed that he will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense.
Taiwan has paid tens of billions of dollars in "protection fees" to Washington for the purchase of military equipment. Yet, there is still no defense guarantee or even a "Taiwan-US economic and trade cooperation agreement" to show for it.
While these petty provocations at most create some noise, they cannot shake the mainland's dominance in the development of cross-strait relations. The one-China principle will only become stronger internationally and will not be shaken.
Kim Hyung-tae, educationalist, in Pressian (June 26, 2021)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Screenshot from Yonhap on YouTube)
It always seems to take a tragedy to set the legislative wheels in motion. This time, it was Byun Hee-soo, 23, who was forcefully discharged from the army for undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Her death has sparked action on an Anti-Discrimination Bill. Much overdue, this legislation forbids discrimination based on attributes such as gender, disability, age, language and sexual orientation. It was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2007 but has repeatedly failed to pass.
Conservative and religious organizations are using the same extreme tactics that they used when he Seoul Ordinance of Students Rights was under discussion a decade ago. They warned that passing the law would lead to the proliferation of homosexuality, AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. They spammed legislators with messages and caused scenes. The ordinance was passed but it is sad that, ten years later, it still is the country’s most progressive legislation.
One would hope that the changing generations in national politics will lead to more support to do the right thing. Those who oppose the Anti-Discrimination Bill should reconsider their previous stand against the Ordinance of Student Rights and what was the actual result. What they predicted would happen on Seoul campuses did not take place. In any case, in line with Christian teaching, discrimination should not be tolerated. It is time to take our national consciousness to the next level and not let outdated ideas hinder progress.
Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (August 11, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: ian carolino)
Singapore authorities have announced that Covid-19 safety management measures will depend upon an individual’s vaccination status. This can be interpreted as a new stage in the fight against the pandemic and a prelude to coexistence with the virus. With nearly 80 percent of the population vaccinated, they will have a good immunity to infection. This means that Covid-19 would be seen as a type of flu.
Measures are already relatively loose for those who have been vaccinated, while stricter requirements are in place for those who have not been vaccinated. As they do not have the added protection of a vaccine, they will be more likely to be infected and have a higher probability of suffering from severe illness or even death. They must be more careful and must be better protected to minimize the risk of infection.
Some still think that doing so constitutes discrimination and is unfair. But from the perspective of society, these people are not being treated differently. Instead, they have actively chosen to differentiate themselves. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but providing they can look at the problem rationally, they should be able to make an informed decision. In Europe and the United States, the situation is different. Many oppose the vaccine, and the issue has led to a division in society. Fortunately, Singapore’s state machinery is functioning effectively, society is not polarized, and the government is also very capable of doing things. Singapore, therefore, has avoided a US-type situation.
As a country with one of the highest vaccination rates, the goal of herd immunity is just around the corner. We have the conditions that would allow us soon to enter a new normal of coexistence with Covid-19.
Hu Jwu-sheng, Vice President and General Director, Mechanical and Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratories, Industrial Technology Research Institute, in Liberty Times (May 30, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
With the intensification of climate change, many European countries have committed to creating low-carbon transportation and formulating strict automobile carbon dioxide emission standards. Some such as Norway, the UK and the Netherlands have already laid out plans for banning the sale of petrol vehicles. As a result, many traditional car manufacturers are now producing electric vehicles to meet future demand.
Charging has always been a topic of high concern in the development of electric vehicles. In terms of electricity, large-scale centralized super-charging points will need to be built to meet future demand. There are four mainstream electric vehicle charging standards in the world. Taiwan has industry players who have invested in the development of these, yet there is still no unified charging standard interface. To solve the problem, the Industrial Technology Research Institute has partnered with nearly 50 manufacturers within industry, government and research to establish the Taiwan Electric Vehicle (EV) Power Charging Technology Promotion Alliance.
The charging interface for electric vehicles at charging stations should largely adopt the international standard "CCS1", which is most used in Europe and the United States. It is hoped that public charging stations with a unified interface will create a friendlier domestic charging environment. Furthermore, as the demand for electric vehicle charging increases, some areas will face the challenge of whether supply can meet demand. Big data could be used to overcome this.
As the electric vehicle market expands, so will the development of charging equipment. In addition to grasping the demand for hardware, Taiwan should also invest in charging software, charging stations and other renewable energy channels. This will ensure that Taiwan makes the most out of business opportunities in the electric vehicle industry.
朱家健 (Zhu Jiajian), member, Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, in Hong Kong Commercial Daily (August 3, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
Hong Kong police arrested a man suspected of booing the national anthem while it was being played. The incident took place in a shopping mall that was broadcasting a medal ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics when the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flag was raised after a local fencing competitor won the gold.
This was the first time someone has been arrested on suspicion of violating the National Anthem Ordinance since its implementation. According to the law, the national anthem is a symbol and emblem of the People's Republic of China. All individuals and organizations should play and sing the national anthem on appropriate occasions and respect it. The law safeguards the dignity of the national anthem and regulates its use. It strengthens citizens' concept of the nation and promotes patriotism.
The act of booing the national anthem while it is played is a violation of the ordinance and anyone who commits this criminal offence, upon conviction, may be liable to a fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,400) and three years’ imprisonment.
Following the incident in the mall, the Hong Kong government should promote the national anthem so that all sectors of society can grasp its history and meaning. Respect for the national anthem should be demonstrated from the heart. When singing the national anthem, Hong Kong people must both appreciate and admire it.
Yu Peng Yi, writer, in Oriental Daily News (August 6, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Christian Junker)
The global aviation industry has been in trouble since the emergence of Covid-19. Within five months of the outbreak, 50 airlines worldwide filed for bankruptcy protection. Facing unprecedented challenges, few airlines will make it through the pandemic. Expanding into other industries or seeking government or private financial assistance has become their only way to survive.
The challenges facing the aviation industry are not just a sharp drop in the number of passengers and profits but also serious losses for the regional hubs, airports, aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers. Due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, the aviation industry has still not recovered, with many airlines not daring to resume operations let alone expand their fleets. Recently, Malaysia Airlines, which took 150 days to complete debt restructuring in early 2021, announced that it would sell its Airbus A380 aircraft.
According to the latest forecast of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of global flight passengers this year is expected to increase by more than 60 percent from the base of the 2020 downturn, but it will still be down 28 percent compared with 2019. The global aviation industry is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until 2023, one year later than previously forecast. Some experts pessimistically believe that no airline could survive a third summer of the pandemic.
The reality is that even after the pandemic, things may not return to as before. Online video conferences have replaced overseas business trips and this trend may continue even after the crisis is over. Faced with such a dilemma, the aviation industry must diversify and seek sufficient financial assistance to survive.
Joey D Lina, attorney and former government minister and senator, in Manila Bulletin (August 10, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Hidilyn Diaz on Facebook)
The Tokyo Olympics was unlike any other, mainly due to the great uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the amazing performance of Team Philippines.
The host country Japan and all the participants deserve all the accolades for the tremendous efforts to ensure the success of the Summer Games amid fears of another postponement and the Covid-19 restrictions imposed.
Filipinos are thankful the Tokyo Olympics finally pushed through, primarily because of the unprecedented result. The Philippines finally earned its first-ever gold medal, along with two silvers and a bronze.
Our country’s medal haul in Tokyo that surpassed the three-bronze record set in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics will certainly go a long way in boosting national pride. Our achievements would undoubtedly inspire the Filipino youth to engage in sports and physical activities. Engaging in sports undoubtedly develops character, self-confidence, discipline, respect for rules, sense of accomplishment, willingness to go through sacrifices. It even helps fight depression and boosts mental health.
There is no dispute about the importance of sport and physical activity. So important indeed that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stressed in its International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, adopted in1978: “The practice of physical education and sport is a fundamental right for all.” It also said that “it is clearly evident that physical education and sport are not confined to physical well-being and health but also contribute to the full and well-balanced development of the human being.”
To add more meaning to the Philippines’ achievements in Tokyo, it certainly would make sense for all able-bodied Filipinos to engage in sports and physical activities as soon as the situation permits.
Jacquelyn Tan, Head of Personal Financial Services, United Overseas Bank (UOB), in Lianhe Zaobao (March 5, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
The use of cash in Singapore is declining – but at a slow pace. Since the Covid-19 crisis, the use of digital payments has grown. The total value of transactions made by United Overseas Bank (UOB) customers through PayNow service increased by 220 percent in the first 10 months of 2020. Singapore must see this as an opportunity to promote further the growth of digital payments.
In recent years, Singapore’s government has strongly supported the development of digital payments. In April 2019, the Land Transport Authority, UOB and other partners jointly launched the SimplyGo service, which allows passengers to use credit or debit cards to pay for bus or subway fares. During the pandemic, 1,000 ambassadors were recruited to teach the public how to use digital tools.
For consumers, the use of digital payment means that there is no need to count money, making shopping more convenient and transparent. For merchants, eliminating paper payments and manual processes means saving costs and improving efficiency and the consumer experience. When it comes to ensuring public health and safety, digital payments offer a huge advantage. Another key benefit of using digital payment relates to security. Financial institutions can protect digital payment users from losses caused by unauthorized or erroneous transactions.
Despite these benefits, old habits remain a stumbling block for Singapore to move towards a cashless society. Among them, "muscle memory" plays an important role in payment. When consumers start to use digital payments, the reflex habit will develop. The government and businesses should work to encourage consumers to adopt digital payments. Providing incentives and adding simple digital payment options to shopping can speed up adoption. This all requires close cooperation among banks, merchants and the government.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to the payment industry, which Singapore must seize.
Dulguun Bayarsaikhan, journalist, in The UB Post (July 15, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @ajplus on Twitter)
The Constitution of Mongolia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulate that everyone has the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and to the freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. Yet, the government and law enforcement authorities are severely violating this fundamental right, a new study finds.
Amnesty International Mongolia has conducted a new study titled “Law Enforcement During Covid-19”. The first chapter focuses on the right to protest and assess how Mongolia handled public demonstrations. In the wake of the pandemic, the government, State Emergency Commission and Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s Office passed a number of decisions and resolutions “limiting” the right to protest. Nevertheless, the public has held peaceful demonstrations, marches, online petitions, vigils, unintentional mass demonstration, people-less protests, flash mobs, sit-ins, and civil disobedience to express their objection, disapproval and dissent toward the decisions and measures enforced by the authorities.
As for the resolutions passed by the Ulaanbaatar mayor to limit the right to gatherings, Amnesty International has concluded that it is within the right of the mayor to make such a decision within the city territory. These resolutions also provided for the imposition of penalties and the arrest of anyone who organizes or participates in a demonstration or assembly during the pandemic.
Mongolia must review its laws and regulations to ensure all citizens can exercise their rights, especially during the pandemic. The current legal system has limited the freedom of expression and right to protest, causing distress and harm to all sides. The more detailed the law and due process, the better and quicker issues can be resolved.