I went home to Manila for about a week for the 14th Annual Global Conference of the Global Development Network (GDN) which was held from June 19 to 21 at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters in Manila. Despite having no paper to present, I decided to adjust my schedule (it was the middle of the summer term) to join the over 400 participants from all over the world, since GDN was taking care of my expenses including plane tickets, and 5-star hotel accommodation, and the GDN theme of "Inequality, Social Protection, and Inclusive Growth" appeared to be related to the SGRA Philippine theme of "Sustainable Shared Growth". (See this link for details of the GDN conference)
In his keynote address, President Benigno Aquino III cited the conditional cash transfer, which was the Philippine government's major program for inclusive growth. There were a number of interesting papers in the conference about this program. (For the President's speech, please see the following link:)
During the conference, as much as possible I took the opportunity to talk with the other participants in search for research and advocacy possibilities. I will be exploring some of them in the future. During the Q&As, there were active discussions, and the session chairs were very busy keeping up with the vitality of the participants, and managing the sessions so as to let as many as possible to ask questions. Due to time constraints, there were some who could not ask their questions, and I was among them. In this case, I tried to catch the presenter during the breaks, and engage them in discussions. Fortunately, I had two chances to participate in the Q&A , which I would like to report here, since I considered these important.
One was in the parallel session where the panel were all ADB researchers, and the theme was on "Operationalizing Inclusive Growth in Asia and the Pacific". Apparently, the audience tended to cluster at the back, so the session chair had to encourage the audience to move to the front so that we could see each other's faces better during the Q&A. As long as space would allow it, I normally would sit towards the front, so there was no need for me to move. But, I think it was a good encouragement from the ADB session chair, given that at an early stage of the conference, I got the impression (wrongly I hope) that the ADB people tended to avoid talking with the conference participants.
While listening to the ADB presentations, I was trying to organize my thoughts on the following: what was the difference between the concept or developmental policy/strategy called inclusive growth, which ADB was pushing, and an earlier concept or developmental policy/strategy called shared growth? I really wanted to confirm this with the ADB panel. "Shared growth" was cited in the World Bank's 1993 "East Asian Miracle" report, wherein the subject of study was the "successful Asian economies" that one of the presenters alluded to in his presentation. Based on its analysis, the report concluded that one of the factors behind the success of these countries, which included Japan, was the strategic industrial policy implemented by the government. While listening to the panel, the two growth concepts or developmental policies/strategies sounded like they covered the same areas, i.e., regional integration through trade, human capital formation, and jobs creation. However, despite the passionate presentation of one about job creation, I couldn't help but get the impression that jobs creation was sort of an after thought. I thought that this was very much evident in the presentation about the evaluation of the ADB inclusive growth program. How you ( ADB) evaluate your program clearly tells me what is important to you. Based on the evaluation presentation, inclusive growth appears to have an emphasis on social protection (= safety net, such as human capital formation and unemployment policies). If we go by this understanding, then we could think of a case such as the Philippines, where we can have more educated nurses, or more educated call center operators, but I for one would doubt very much if this would be good for the Philippines at this point. Such a development trajectory would only aggravate the early de-industrialization problem of the country. I really believe that the Philippines at this juncture should strive to develop its manufacturing sector. (I didn't mention it, but I also feel this way about the agricultural sector)
The ADB presenter who alluded to the "successful Asia", replied that the creation of the right kind of jobs is certainly important for the Philippines, and agreed that it was necessary to deepen the discussions on the early de-industrialization of the Philippines. Another presenter, who seems to be the founding father (apparently not Japanese) of inclusive growth in ADB, replied that the two growth concepts are similar words, but shared growth appears to ignore "equality of opportunity" .
I take this response as confirming my earlier understanding. Providing educational subsidies to those who cannot afford or the rescuing of those who have been laid off from their jobs are important but these do not necessarily provide a solution to the early de-industrialization mentioned earlier, making it more and more difficult for the Philippines to get out of the "middle income" trap.
One more opportunity to participate in the Q&A was in the parallel session organized by the FONDATION POUR LES ETUDES ET RECHERCHES SUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT INTERNATIONAL (Foundation for the Study and Research on International Development) or FERDI Foundation (see the following link for a write up on this session: ) The presentations were about the allocation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) under a performance-based evaluation system that considered the vulnerability to disasters by the recipient country. The designated commentator criticized the evaluation proposal saying that such a system could be too complicated for the policy makers, so that it faces the risk of reducing grant amounts. He emphasized the need for considering the political economy of ODA. In short, the comment was not to complicate things (KISS).
I also have done research on Japan's ODA from a modern economics perspective during my doctoral work at the University of Tokyo and research fellowship at Nagoya University, so in response to the commentator, I pointed out that, even if we consider political economics, ODA does not end with the appointed officials around the negotiation table but at the final beneficiaries which are the citizens of the recipient country. Consequently, the ODA evaluation system that the FERDI Foundation is developing would be highly appreciated by the citizens of the recipient country, myself included. So, I would like to laud the efforts of the foundation to develop such a system. In this sense, the proposed system could also be used as a tool for evaluating international aid agencies, so I asked the question whether this study of the performance-based allocation was also applied to other aid agencies besides the International Development Assistance of the World Bank.
In response to my comment, the designated commentator gave me a smile and conceded that I have made my point. In response to my question, the FERDI economist replied that they have applied their analysis to other international aid agencies, and basically found that they were allocated based on performance. However, they did find agencies that did not allocate this way, so it would be necessary for such agencies to review their allocation process.
On the morning of the third day of the conference, following the advice of SGRA Chief Representative Junko Imanishi, I slipped out of the conference, and made my way to the office of Kajima Philippines. My aim was to solicit the sponsorship of this company for the SGRA 16th Sustainable Shared Growth seminar to be held on August 23rd at the University of the Philippines. I was kindly received by COO Fusaaki Kato and CFO Yukio Saito. After discussing with them the seminar, they consulted each other briefly and decided to go for the largest type of sponsorship. They of course had an interest on the architecture-related presentations in the seminar, but also expressed interest in the reduction of the urban-rural gap, which is the main theme of the seminar. I intend to manage the future seminars while consulting with them.
My other efforts were to invite the conference participants to the 16th Sustainable Shared Growth seminar and to the 2nd Asia Future Conference in Bali, as well as to search for opportunities for joint research projects (especially with India and Vietnam) . It was really a fruitful three days for me, and for SGRA HQ as well, since I used my affiliation with SGRA Japan in the conference list of participants, in the Q&A sessions, and in the discussions with other participants. Of course, my face gave away the fact that I was not Japanese, although I would like to believe that I simply expressed what I have learned in Japan about her admirable thoughts regarding development.
SGRA Kawaraban 380 in Japanese