Feliece Yeban, professor of human rights education at Philippine Normal University, in Rappler (July 18, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nigel Goodman)
The World Bank (WB) report on the dismal state of Philippine education triggered Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones to demand a public apology from the WB for shaming the country. In the absence of national performance metrics data that say otherwise, it is more prudent to take the World Bank report on Philippine education as an opportunity to examine what we need to improve and use lessons and insights from it to frame our expectations of the next president come 2022. We badly need an education president!
The world is talking about the emergence of Society 5.0, or the Imagination Society, where digital transformation and innovation in science and technology combine with the creativity and values of people to solve societal problems, promote wellbeing, and achieve economic development. This emerging society and economy require a pool of human capital with different skill sets that are future-proof, disruption-ready, and innovation-oriented.
The election season is about to start. Candidates must be able to offer concrete education programs that will transition the country’s education system to something that will focus on developing the country’s human capital for Philippine Society 5.0.
The emergency remote learning that the country implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse into the education revolution that is already underway in many parts of the world. We need school leaders who are imaginative and creative, with enough understanding of the new mindset required to transition our system to be future-ready, data-driven, and innovation-oriented. We cannot afford to have school leaders who will do more of the same things.
But first things first, in 2022, we should choose an education president. Everything else will flow from there. We cannot afford to miss the ongoing education revolution.
Wada Koji, Professor in the Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, and Director of International Medical Cooperation at the International University of Health and Welfare, in The Japan Times (July 9, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Hamano Hideya)
As the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics near, athletes, coaches and staff are arriving amid still strong concerns about the risk of Covid-19 infections. Measures put in place by organizers may look good on paper. But they are bound to be hard to implement in practice. For one, infections could occur among athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers and spectators. The degree of punishment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hands down to violators could trigger diplomatic issues. It would be unfortunate for athletes to lose their chance at winning a gold medal because they infected someone or became infected.
Hosting the games at a time when people are being asked to stay indoors, avoid large gatherings and remain vigilant may impact their willingness to comply with voluntary restrictions, and therefore lessen the impact of the country’s coronavirus measures. With the spectator ban, the risks of infection have been reduced. But it is also important to make sure that infections will not spread outside the venues such as bars and restaurants where people may gather around to watch the games together.
The world is now paying attention to Japan and we need to act responsibly. This is an opportunity, but at the same time, it can be a risk. We need to imagine how people in other countries will react to the Olympics and help prevent the further spread of the virus. The Japanese public and the rest of the world need to know that Japan remains in a difficult situation and that, while steps are being taken to hold the Games safely, the pandemic is still ongoing. The country must set a good example and make sure that our children and grandchildren are respected by the rest of the world. We can do that by making the Olympic and Paralympic Games a success.
Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (February 17, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Pascal Bitz/World Economic Forum)
Stakeholder capitalism was a concept advocated by Klaus Schwab when he founded the World Economic Forum in 1971. Shareholder capitalism emphasizes that companies should serve the interests of shareholders, while stakeholder capitalism believes that companies have an obligation to all stakeholders. Shareholder capitalism has been proven extremely harmful, particularly in the US, which has seen widening inequality, intensification of social conflicts, and the control of political parties by powerful interests.
There are still a few countries in the world such as the Nordic countries, New Zealand and Singapore, which are worthy of recognition. Among these countries, Schwab has highlighted Singapore as model of stakeholder government. Schwab’s praise for Singapore spans its public housing construction, education, health and digitalization initiatives.
He has, however, also emphasized that Singapore’s model may be difficult to replicate in other countries with larger or poorer populations. Yet, pragmatic and stakeholder-driven policy making, common in New Zealand and Denmark, are still worthy of recognition. Ultimately, the government should take care of the interests and welfare of all stakeholders.
Schwab may also feel that in this globalized world, Singapore’s commitment to multilateralism is beneficial. This commitment is illustrated through Singapore’s active promotion of the economic integration of the ASEAN region and the country’s participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) trade agreements. Furthermore. the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the crucial role this region will play in the global economic recovery.
Tee Beng Lee, board member, Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, in Oriental Daily News (February 6, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: UNIMAS)
There continues to be a large number of new cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia. If the government had acted decisively from the beginning, it is likely the spread of the virus would have been controlled
The more decisions that have to be made, the greater the need for a systematic strategy. The government should encourage private-sector investment and integrate available resources in the government's decision-making system so that the people and the government can stand on the same front to fight the virus.
The medical resources available to the whole country should be calculated by the Ministry of Health. Similar to China, the government should determine how many halls, auditoriums and activity centers could be employed as quarantine facilities or emergency hospitals. It would be reasonable to call for support from private hospitals. Military and police vehicles can provide transport for patients to hospitals and quarantine centers. When the country is in a crisis, extraordinary measures are required.
The government’s laws and regulations are too strict, resulting in many companies worrying about their employees testing positive and being forced to suspend production. This reduces their willingness to test employees. If the government is unable to afford the cost of national testing, it should encourage the business community to take the initiative to test its employees to ensure uninterrupted operations.
The government should be responsible for accommodating infected persons in pre-expropriated isolation facilities, while the business sector only needs to perform disinfection in accordance with the regulations and allow uninfected employees to continue working. This will minimize economic losses and inevitably increase the willingness of the businesses to cooperate with government policies.
With the right strategy, controlling Covid-19 is not a difficult task. However, if there are too many private interests involved, things can become challenging.
Ary Hermawan, editor-at-large and PhD student at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne, in The Jakarta Post (July 7, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)
As the Covid-19 second wave engulfs the nation’s most populous island, we can no longer ignore how the ongoing health crisis has exposed the structural problems underpinning our democracy, how the state has failed us in one of the most challenging times in history.
The pandemic is a disease that exacerbates the ills of society. It is a test case for every political regime in the world. Indonesia is sadly among the worst performers. After all the pandemic carnage, we cannot afford to sustain the social and political comorbidities that have brought us to where we are today. We should no longer let state power lie in the hands of a select few who are elected to office through either corruption or patronage.
These are real problems that have severely compromised our democracy. Our elections have become just another means of accumulating wealth and power for those already endowed with both. Our democracy is far from inclusive; only those with strong financial backing can successfully run for office.
When Joko “Jokowi” Widodo became president in 2014, we thought the people had won in the struggle against the elite. How wrong we were. He was forced to appease the political bigwigs and oligarchic powers just to stay in office and do his job. With political-business elites having such sway, we should not be surprised that policies seem to favor those elites and that during these challenging times, the government seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution.
Corruption and rent-seeking remain rampant during the pandemic, which may have even provided a bigger opportunity for the elite to get richer and more powerful. There is no quick fix. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a structural transformation of our body politic is past due.
Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, UK and UN, in Dawn (July 12, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: US Institute of Peace)
Fears are growing in the region and beyond about what lies ahead for war-torn Afghanistan. A throwback to the past with armed power struggles between militias? A protracted civil war? An ascendant Taliban flushed with victory eventually setting up a government with nominal inclusion of minorities? Or will the Taliban reach out to other Afghan parties for negotiations to forge agreement on their country’s political arrangements and future?
The American military withdrawal is nearing completion in what President Joe Biden described in his end-of-mission address as a speedier drawdown driven by safety concerns. It has been orderly and so far, casualty-free. This means that the US-Taliban Doha agreement is holding with the Taliban ensuring a peaceful exit. Pakistan has played a supportive role in facilitating a smooth US pullout.
But as the US drawdown entered its final phase, fighting escalated between the Taliban and Afghan government forces. The Taliban have stepped up their offensive and in a series of military assaults overrun and captured many districts. Taliban representatives have sought to reassure anxious neighbors that they pose no threat to the region. Although President Biden has said a Taliban takeover is not inevitable, a much-cited US intelligence assessment concluded it could be as early as six months. Pakistan’s assessment is that Kabul could hold out beyond six months.
The US has warned the Taliban against any military takeover. The key question now is whether the international community can still act to encourage the Taliban and other parties to pursue a negotiated settlement. Pakistan should encourage an early meeting of representatives of the Troika countries – US, China and Russia. Let it not be said that diplomacy failed the people of Afghanistan who have already suffered so much through decades of war, turmoil and strife.
Chiang Huang-chih, Professor in the College of Law of National Taiwan University, in Liberty Times (February 22, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Wang Yu-ching/Taiwan Presidential Office)
Chinese military ships and planes are entering Taiwan’s sea and airspace. In response, President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that “TAIWAN’ should be painted on patrol vessels to increase international visibility at sea. Some have opposed this decision, viewing it as propaganda that will not only be unhelpful but may even provoke Beijing and increase the risk of conflict. But there are a number of reasons why this may be a good move.
First, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the exercise of maritime law enforcement powers must be duly authorized and clearly marked. This helps ensure that any ship that violates the law can be held responsible.
Second, there is no denying that the situation in the waters surrounding Taiwan is becoming more tense, and there are many countries involved such as China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even the United States and South Korea. Taiwan’s missions in these waters would benefit from clearer labels so as to increase recognition of our maritime patrol work, avoid misunderstandings or disputes and improve the safety of maritime personnel.
Third, China’s Coastguard Law was formally passed in February 2021. Japan and the Philippines have protested, claiming that the legislation violates international law. To counter these threats and express Taipei’s commitment to complying with international law and maintaining regional peace, Taiwan should distinguish itself from the Chinese side through a clear external label.
Finally, regardless of whether this label is displayed, China’s intimidation towards Taiwan is unlikely to disappear. Taiwan should therefore choose to display positive images and strengths as determined by those in power and the intentions of citizens.
Making the label “TAIWAN” visible should lead to increased security and international recognition. The more steps Taiwan can take to highlight its own characteristics the better.
Simon Hoey Lee, member of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, in HK01 (March 26, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Samuel Wong)
In 2004, a group of citizens drafted a declaration of Hong Kong's core values, which they stated were "freedom and democracy, the rule of human rights and the rule of law, fairness and justice, peace and love, integrity and transparency, diversity and tolerance, respect for individuals, and professionalism". These must be upheld for Hong Kong’s continued development, they asserted.
This stirred up some controversy then as these values were based on those of Western democratic societies and failed to take into account many of the unique elements of Hong Kong. In particular, the focus on individualism meant that the importance of the hard work of past generations of Hong Kong citizens were overlooked. The "Lion Rock Spirit", for example, which embodies hard work and solidarity, was a factor behind Hong Kong’s rise.
It goes without saying that the rule of law is the basic core value of Hong Kong. It covers human rights, justice, peace, benevolence, honesty and tolerance. Democracy, however, never existed in Hong Kong under colonial rule, and only part of a democratic system was introduced two years before the handover. As such, democracy cannot be regarded as a core value.
Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot guarantee the prosperity of society. The rule of law, however, can bring security and social stability, through which wealth can accumulate and the economy can develop. Singapore and Hong Kong do not figure very highly in assessments of democracy, yet they have good judicial systems and are at the top of the global prosperity rankings. By contrast, India and the Philippines rank higher in democracy, yet their levels of rule of law and prosperity lag far behind.
Democracy is inherently good. But without an in-depth understanding, the pursuit of “Western democracy” undermines Hong Kong’s established rule of law traditions.
Ahn Jong-joo, chief of Social Safety Communications Center at the Korea Social Policy Institute, in Pressian (May 25, 2021)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Marco Verch)
The recent US-Republic of Korea summit was highly anticipated for a reason—hope for more vaccines. Eventually the meeting resulted in a donation of 550,000 doses of vaccine for soldiers and a consignment vaccine production agreement between two companies: Moderna and Samsung Biologics. Despite the government touting the achievement as a step forward in Korea becoming the next vaccine hub, this by itself was not a breakthrough and the dissatisfactory outcome reminds us once more of the critical need to produce our own vaccines as soon as possible.
The agreement entails the US entity shipping the vaccine concentrate to the Korean side which will repackage it into vaccine containers. This will not result in any knowledge transfer or a guaranteed domestic vaccine supply. But our goal as a nation must be to secure sovereignty over production of vaccines, not to become a hub for them. The benefits of securing vaccine sovereignty are many: it will work as an immediate boost to building domestic herd immunity, and it will also give a significant political leverage where we will be able to donate and allocate surplus vaccine supplies, especially to developing countries.
Many experts are predicting that Covid-19 and other coronaviruses will persist for the foreseeable future. Given what we know of the rapid mutation and the clear risk from the global spread, securing vaccine sovereignty is a matter of national security. As a country, we will never be secure without solid control over our vaccine supply and our government has the responsibility to encourage this development by supporting home-grown technology and working with the private sector to share the burden of R&D expenses. Only by securing the present and the future supply of critical vaccines will we be able to truly own our future.
Jun Sang-in, Professor in the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University, in Chosun Ilbo (May 22, 2021)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Alexey Matveichev)
The recent reversal of the votes in the Seoul and Busan elections have put national focus on the 20-30-year-old age group. Generation MZ, as they are called, account for 33 percent of the population. The millennials, the M, include those born between the mid-80s and the mid-90s, while Generation Z includes those born after who have grown embracing the digital world.
These generations are the first in the country’s history who have been “gifted” citizenship in a democratic country. Since the liberation from Japanese occupation, liberal democracy struggled to bloom in the country. It took decades of fight and sacrifice to achieve what we now take for granted. In contrast, the Generation MZ have no experience in participating in the struggle and are “accidental citizens” in an already established system, for which previous generations fought hard.
American social activist Peter Palmer once confessed to be part of a generation that did not know about civic duty. Born in 1939, his generation was born into a country already lush with wealth and freedom, where the hardship of being a first-generation immigrant was but a legend and the suffering during the Great Depression and the Great Wars were but history. It was only when he started to notice the degradation of American democracy and a series of social crises that he realized that democracy is not something we “have” but something that we as citizens must “do”.
Similarly, because they did not have to fight for it, Generation MZ may take the current system for granted. The success and preservation of our democracy will depend on this new generation to progress from being “accidental” to becoming true citizens who continue the act of nurturing and protecting our hard-earned liberal democratic system.
Endo Ken, Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy of Hokkaido University, in The Mainichi (July 3, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Brian Kelley)
Since Myanmar military coup in February, over 800 people have been killed in crackdowns and hundreds have gone missing. Security forces have been arbitrarily detaining and torturing people. Their reckless actions are inexcusable and unjustifiable.
Japan has been weak to show its diplomatic presence against what is going on there and even worse, seems to be lending a hand to the military. The situation is nearly identical to its response to the Tiananmen Square incident that occurred more than 30 years ago in Beijing. The Japanese government then systematically supported China's Communist-Party ruled government, which was responsible for the massacre of its own people, and later lifted sanctions ahead of others.
The Japanese government boasts of its "own channel of communication" with the Myanmar military, but it is not willing to stop atrocities. Japan, as one of the leading donor countries to the Southeast Asian nation, is supposed to exercise its influence through actions such as a total suspension of aid. But Japan is anxious about pushing Myanmar closer to China and ruining its positive bilateral relations if it imposes sanctions together with the US and European nations.
The military regime appears to take advantage of Japan's concern. Japanese taxpayers lack awareness over how their tax money is spent. Japan has provided over 100 billion yen ($900 million) a year in assistance to military-ruled Myanmar, while their loans are often written off. Although new loans have been suspended, projects which are already under way are continuing. We should list companies which maintain relations with the brutal Myanmar regime and put them under surveillance.
Authoritarianism is rampant across the globe. What is happening in Myanmar will serve as a touchstone for Japan, a country seeking to maintain freedom and democracy, with respect to how the country can progress.
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Legislative Councillor and barrister, in Ming Pao (March 18, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China)
The National People’s Congress (NPC) has adopted the decision to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system by eliminating radical pro-independence political forces. This will ensure that only capable patriots, including those who are not in the pro-establishment camp, can participate in Hong Kong’s governance. One of the expected consequences of this decision is that moderate and rational voices of the opposition will no longer be bullied and refuted by the radical forces. The diverse voices among the patriotic camps can resume cooperation and Hong Kong's political landscape can finally return to normal.
Radicalism and violence have spread like a virus among the opposition camp over the past decade. Due to the proportional representation system of Legislative Council (Legco) elections, increasing numbers of radical voices have gained seats with just a low percentage of the vote. Over the last two years, all opposition parties have become radical, and parliament has seen increased friction. As a result, the ability of the government to improve people's livelihoods has almost become paralyzed.
Because of the NPC decision, the number of parliamentarians will increase and there will be greater room for cooperation. Legco will also have more seats and operate a new channel to join the Council. Candidates must be social leaders who have expertise, ability and willingness to serve the public before they can be approved by the election committee to join. This will ensure the election of patriots and improve the overall quality of governance in Hong Kong.
It is hoped that a healthy and functioning Legco can return to serve Hong Kong. If people’s livelihoods can be improved, the public will come to understand that the decision to improve the electoral system will have helped establish a solid foundation for the future development of Hong Kong.
Rigoberto Tiglao, columnist and former presidential spokesman, press secretary and chief of staff, in The Manila Times (June 30, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: International Rice Research Institute)
The death of former president Benigno Aquino III is an occasion for us to learn from history. There were four attributes of his administration that were seriously detrimental to us as a nation.
First, Aquino had a tight hold on media, whose influence on people's minds was even stronger than during Ferdinand Marcos's strongman rule because of its expertise in clothing lies as truths. This was not because this media believed in Aquino, but because they not only were owned by oligarchs who saw Aquino as their own but were managed by Yellow cultists who saw him as the son of their saint.
Second, the Philippine Catholic Church had been Aquino's prime defender and supporter. Never again should we have a president that the Catholic Church fanatically supports. This is the only country in the world where the Catholic Church insists on being a kingmaker that meddles in politics. That should be ended if we are to usher in a modern state.
Third, the US solidly backed the Aquino presidency. US strategists after all love unquestioning puppets, as they are most easily fooled. The big reason the US supported Aquino so much is that exactly at the start of his presidency in 2010, the Obama administration launched its so-called "Pivot to Asia" program, a thinly veiled campaign to reassert its hegemony in Asia, contain the rise of its adversary China, and drive a wedge between it and Southeast Asia.
And fourth, Aquino was the quintessential oligarchs' president. Aquino was even so much the elite's puppet that he adopted a belligerent stance against China to force it to give up its claims so the enterprise of three of the biggest oligarchs could continue its extraction of hydrocarbons there. Never again should we have an oligarchs' president.
Tay Boon Suat, consultant and member of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, in Lianhe Zaobao (January 29, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only created the biggest economic crisis Singapore has ever faced, but it has also severely affected the lives of all Singaporeans. Under this new normal, citizens have several decisions to make.
First, businesses. The government has allocated nearly funds to rescue companies, restructure bank loans, and provide additional credit financing. This is only a short-term fix and companies must ultimately rely on their own abilities to survive. If the situation deteriorates, more than half of local retail companies may collapse within six months. The lack of foreign tourists, high rent and operating expenses are additional pressures. In this era of the Internet of Things, business owners will need to decide how to adapt and transform to survive. The pressure created by the pandemic can be seen as a good opportunity for business owners to change their way of operating.
Second, family financial planning. According to a recent survey, Singaporeans’ basic financial planning performance worsened in 2020 from the previous year. Passive income fell while the amount of borrowing from relatives and friends has risen. The number of people having difficulties in repaying their mortgages has also increased. Restrictions on international travel, however, mean that households are spending less on expensive habits such as taking holidays abroad.
Educating children on the nature of money and making wise financial decisions should be the main goal of Singaporeans today particularly as young people are facing adversity. College students may be unemployed after graduation, and those currently working could be laid off. Everyone will need to be prepared be ready to enter new fields of work at any time.
How the government, companies and citizens make these decisions amid the challenges of the pandemic will ultimately determine Singapore’s future.
Misheel Lkhasuren, columnist, in The UB Post (June 14, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Michael Eisenriegler)
After heavy rain in Ulaanbaatar, roads and road tunnels are flooded every summer, causing inconvenience to pedestrians and drivers. Due to insufficient of storm drainage system, residents have no choice but to jump over and tread the puddles and pools that form after rain. In some cases, floods make it impossible for people or even cars to travel.
This shows that the surface drainage system is not well developed in Ulaanbaatar. Moreover, there are not enough drainage and drainage wells. An estimated 180 billion MNT (US$63.2 million) is needed to rehabilitate 1,100 km of roads in Ulaanbaatar and install drainage lines and wells. With such a budget, the city’s roads will not have water-related problems.
This year, however, only 1 billion MNT (US$351,000) was budgeted. In other words, as the budget was halved, it is clear that the construction of drainage pipes this year will be less than last year. Furthermore, it is unclear when the city will get rid of flood issues.
Roads are being repaired every year, and new roads are being built, but no drainages are being built with them. In any case, roads with drainage pipes are very rare in Ulaanbaatar. This summer has once again reminded us of the need to build more drainage. If it is not possible to build additional drainage on existing roads, it is important not to repeat the previous mistakes when building new roads.