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Moderator:  Calla Wiemer (calla.wiemer@acaes.us)

Webinar on The Belt and Road Initiative in Cambodia: Costs and Benefits, Real and Perceived

When:  3 October 2022, 10:00-11:30am Singapore time (GMT+8)

Sponsors:  ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute & Cambodia Development Research Institute

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PAST Webinar on China's Rebalancing Amid Covid, Regulations, and Climate Goals

When:  7 April 2022, 1:00pm US Pacific Daylight Time (GMT-7)

Sponsor:  University of California San Diego, 21st Century China Center

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Is ASEAN an Affinity Group? What Exchange Rates Tell Us

As we stumble out of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we need to examine how our economies have changed. In East Asia, the pandemic may result in higher costs for travel. In addition, the well-publicized disruptions to supply chains may not prove transitory. As a result, the East Asian development model of manufacturing goods for export may be less reliable.

This suggests a need to review contemporary economic policy. This piece looks at the shortcomings of exchange rate policy in Southeast Asia. A longer paper is available that provides full references to the relevant literature.

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PAST Webinar on Policy Reform Options for Indonesia in the Post-Covid Era with Implications for the Philippines

When: 23 February 2022, 10:00am Philippine time (GMT+8)

Speaker: Hall Hill, Australian National University

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PAST Webinar on Curbing Capitalism: How Is State Capitalism in China Changing?

When: 20 January 2022, 8:00-9:30pm Hong Kong time (GMT+8)

Sponsor: Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

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A Highly Unequal Crisis: Covid-19's Disproportionate Effects on Southeast Asia's Workers

Co-authors: Souleima El Achkar Hilal; Ian Nicole Generalao; and Rosa Mia Arao

This post draws from a paper presented in the ACAES session at the 2022 Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting, program here. Youtube recording here.

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PAST Roundtable on "Is U.S.-China Conflict Unavoidable?"

When:  4 January 2022, 9:00-10:30am US EST (GMT-5)

Sponsor:  International Economic Association

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PAST Webinar on China's Economic Rise: What Economists Expected and What Came as a Surprise

When:  10 November 2021, 4:00pm US Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8)

Speaker:  Barry Naughton, University of California, San Diego

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Review of Isabella M. Weber, How China Escaped Shock Therapy

Routledge, May 2021.

Isabella M. Weber’s “How China Escaped Shock Therapy” is a painstakingly researched but fundamentally flawed account of one key thread of the economic reform debates that took place in China during the 1980’s. For those who are already familiar with those debates it is a useful and often engrossing account of the nitty gritty details of the process by which price policy was determined. For those who are not familiar, the flawed underlying argument of the book poses the risk of creating considerable misunderstanding.

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The Exchange Rate in East Asia's Macro Stabilization Policy: It's Not Just China

China has long gotten a bad rap on currency manipulation. The fact is, however, that China is no different from other East Asian economies when it comes to exchange rate management.

The essence of the East Asian model is to steer the exchange rate along a steady long-run course, erring toward undervaluation in the face of uncertainties about the future. Any perception of overvaluation runs

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PAST Webinar on Internationalization of the Renminbi

When: 22 June 2021, 5:00pm Hong Kong Time (GMT+8)

Speaker:  Edwin L.C. Lai, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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PAST Book Launch: How China Escaped Shock Therapy

When:  27 May 2021, 2:00-3:30pm US EDT(GMT-4)

Author:  Isabella M. Weber, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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PAST Webinar on The Global Division of Labor across Two Globalizations

When:  4 May 2021, 12:30-2:00pm US EDT (GMT-4)

Speaker:  Isabella M. Weber, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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PAST Briefing on The Great Demographic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival

When:  29 April 2021, 11:00am-noon US EDT (GMT-4)

Speakers:  Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan, Authors, The Great Demographic Reversal 

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PAST Webinar on Financial Digitalization and Inclusive Covid-19 Recovery

When:  21 April 2021, 11am Manila time (GMT+8)

Speaker:  Benjamin E. Diokno, Governor, Philippine Central Bank

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The Economic Costs of Low-Level Hostility in the Western Pacific

The western Pacific Ocean is not literally pacific—it is not peaceful. In the south, overlapping claims to rocky islets have led to clashes over oil and gas reserves and fishery resources between a half dozen countries. In the north, there are also conflicting claims to maritime features. Across the region low-level hostility is not uncommon.

Problems between Japan and South Korea are particularly thorny. Recently, before the current COVID-19 pandemic, tensions mounted, partly reflecting South Korean resentment over Japanese treatment of Korean women during World War II and Japanese reluctance to recognize this issue. Japanese claims to the South Korean administered island of Dokdo (Takeshima in Japanese) are a continuing touchstone inflaming the discussion.

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The 'New Fiscal Consensus' As Per Blanchard & Subramanian Interpreted for Southeast Asia

The 'new fiscal consensus' holds that major advanced economies have the fiscal space to go big on stimulus and should do so in response to the pandemic. In a recent webinar sponsored by the Ashoka Centre for Economic Policy in Haryana, India, Olivier Blanchard made the case for the new fiscal consensus and Arvind Subramanian then responded on the relevance for emerging market economies such as India. This post extends elements of their analysis to the major emerging economies of Southeast Asia: Indonesia; Malaysia; the Philippines; Thailand; and Vietnam.

Blanchard explained that to preserve a stable debt/GDP ratio, the following condition must hold:

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ASEAN and Megaregionalism: Challenges Ahead

Co-Authors: Peter A. Petri; Fan Zhai    

In December 2015 the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) went into effect. It was the culmination of a process that began with the Bangkok Declaration in 1967 and represents the most significant economic integration initiative among developing economies in the world. A notable milestone to be sure, but the region has a long way to go before it will be able to attain its original goal of creating a 21st century single market and production base. Meanwhile, ASEAN needs to nest the next stage of its cooperation program in the context of emerging megaregional trade arrangements, namely, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the future expansions of both. In addition, it has to do this at a challenging time for the global trading system upon which it depends; the US-China trade war continues with no clear resolution on the horizon, the World Trade Organisation is at an impasse, and the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated global trade in the short run and may have long-term implications (UNCTAD 2020).

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The Geography of Innovation in China

Co-authors: Fushu Luan; Ming He; and Donghyun Park 

This post draws on a paper presented at the Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting in a session sponsored by the American Committee on Asian Economic Studies on "Economics of Innovation in Asia", 3 January 2021, video here.   

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PAST Webinar on How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China's Rise

When:  4 February 2021, 4:00pm US Pacific Time (GMT-8)

Speaker:  Scott Rozelle, Stanford University

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PAST Lecture on the New Fiscal Consensus and How It Applies to Emerging Economies Such As India

When:  28 January 2021, 6:30pm India time (GMT+5.5)

Speakers:  Olivier Blanchard & Aravind Subramanian

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PAST Webinar on China's Domestic and External Economic Challenges

When:  29 January 2021, 10:00am Singapore time (GMT+8)

Speaker:  David Dollar, Brookings Institution

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PAST Webinar on The State Never Retreats: The Chinese Economy, 1995-2018

When:  28 January 2021, 3:30-5:00pm US Pacific Time (GMT-8)

Speaker:  Andrew Batson, Gavekal Dragonomics, Beijing, China

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PAST Webinar on Affirmative Action, Attitudes and Social Networks: Evidence from Caste-Based Reservation in India

When:  19 Tuesday 2021, 9:30pm Hong Kong time (GMT+8)

Speaker:  Emily Breza, Harvard University

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PAST Conference on the Economics of Pandemics

When:  9-13 November 2020

Sponsor:  Philippine Economic Society

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On China As a Model for the Philippines (Fabella Review Addendum)

In the book Capitalism and Inclusion under Weak Institutions, reviewed in a previous post, author Raul Fabella points to a lack of social coherence in the Philippines as undermining economic progress and contrasts this with the Chinese case where "a strong sense of identity and mission" has propelled phenomenal economic growth. Judging by differences in receptivity to the statement "most people can be trusted", Fabella may be onto something. Survey results presented in Figure 1 show 62.7% of Chinese agreeing with this statement versus just 2.8% of Filipinos. Personally, I am mystified by these results having spent many years in both countries and not finding Filipinos any less trustworthy than Chinese. Yet the results do lend credence to Fabella's thesis.

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Review of Raul Fabella, Capitalism and Inclusion under Weak Institutions

published by the University of the Philippines, Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 2018. pdf download

The lackluster development performance of the Philippines over the span of many decades is routinely blamed on "weak institutions" by Filipinos. In this thought-provoking book, University of the Philippines economics professor and Philippine National Scientist Raul Fabella advises on how to overcome the curse of weak institutions to achieve robust growth with poverty reduction.

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Abenomics: A Retrospective

With the August 28 announcement by Prime Minister Abe of his intention to step down from his position within weeks, his record in a number of areas will inevitably face scrutiny and evaluation. Here, I lay out, in brief, my views on his government’s macroeconomic policies, which quickly became known as Abenomics. Like most governments, his had both successes and missed opportunities. But Japan clearly has changed as a result of his economic policies. And the debate around Abenomics anticipated issues that remain highly relevant in the current global policy debate.

The context

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PAST China Economics Summer Institute 2020

When:  22-24 August 2020, 8:30am-- Hong Kong time (GMT+8)

Sponsors: Chinese University of Hong Kong & Tsinghua University

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PAST Virtual Conference of the Chinese Economists Society

When: 13-15 August 2020, 8:00am-1:50pm US Eastern Daylight Time (GMT–4)

Announcement:  here

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What Is Stalling Private Sector Innovation in India?

Co-Author: Madan Dhanora

“Need to focus on 5 things to bring India back on growth path – Intent, Inclusion, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while delivering the inaugural address at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2020 – “Getting Growth Back”. Among the 5 I’s, we focus on innovation in the private sector which is stalling in India. As per the Department of Science and Technology, only 42% of total R&D spending was by the private sector during 2016-17, while in developed economies like the United States and another emerging economy, China, a larger share of R&D spending comes from business enterprises – upwards of 60-70% of total R&D expenditure in each. The contribution of 42% in India, though not on par with international magnitudes, has increased considerably from 19% in 2001-02. This increase may be attributable to liberalization and other policy initiatives to stimulate innovation including reforms in intellectual property rights.

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Small Business Is Bleeding in the Pandemic: Evidence and Policy from Bangladesh

Co-Author:  Monzur Hossain

Small businesses in Bangladesh are usually started out of necessity and operate informally. They generally lack access to bank credit, possess little capital, and sell their output locally. The very nature of these small businesses makes them extremely vulnerable to the shock of COVID-19.

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Can Japan Learn to Work from Home?

Japan has, for several decades, experienced a toxic combination of an aging and shrinking population, slow growth, and very large fiscal deficits and debt. Looking forward, Japan’s potential growth is expected to approach zero, in large part owing to its demographic profile (see IMF).

These interrelated issues have led policy-makers in Japan on a search for meaningful structural reforms to raise potential growth and offset the impact of eventual fiscal adjustment. One area that has received significant attention has been the Japanese  labor market, which is characterized by low female labor force participation; a significant duality between heavily-protected workers and “non-regular” workers with few protections and lower productivity; and limited flexibility regarding working conditions and modalities (Figure 1).

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Review of Thomas Orlik, China: The Bubble that Never Pops

Oxford University Press, May 2020.

As much as China's crash has been predicted, someone needed to explain why it hasn't happened. And no one could be more credible in doing so than Tom Orlik who has reported insightfully on China since 2011, first with the Wall Street Journal, then with Bloomberg where he is now Chief Economist. 

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The Real Reason for China's Unbalanced Growth (Orlik Review Addendum)

This post follows up on my review of Tom Orlik's wonderful book "China: The Bubble that Never Pops". The book explains why constant predictions of China's economic collapse due to mounting debt and financial risk have not been borne out, and the explanation is altogether compelling. My one quibble with the book regards Orlik's view of the underlying driver of the saving/consumption imbalances that motivated debt driven stimulus. Orlik emphasizes China's one-child policy as the source of the imbalances, going so far as to call it China's original sin in an interview. The argument is that with China's weak social welfare system, having only one child makes for insecurity about old age that induces parents to save more during their working years. I'm not convinced that this holds up as a reason for China's imbalances. Let me hasten to add that, regardless, the book's original contribution in explaining why no crash has occurred holds up very well. The source of the imbalances is a separate issue, but one worth pursuing in its own right.

There is a sense in which I agree that the one-child policy has been a factor in China's high saving. The exceptionally sharp decline in the birth rate in China's case accentuated the demographic transition that is common among countries during economic development. A couple of decades on, the drop in the birth rate brings a bulging labor force relative to a shrinking share of old and young age dependents in the population. Per the life cycle hypothesis of Modigliani (1970), saving is done by those in their working years who generate income whereas the young and old consume without producing any income from which to save. The decline in China's dependent share was particularly steep in the 2000-aughts and relatedly, so was the rise in the saving rate, as shown by Bonham and Wiemer (2013). So while the one-child policy mattered, it did not matter until two decades after it was introduced and not because it prompted precautionary saving to provide security in old age but because of the long-run demographic forces it intensified.

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PAST Webinar on Labor Rationing in India: A Revealed Preference Approach from Hiring Shocks

When: 14 July 2020, 11:30am-12:30pm Hong Kong time (GMT+8)

Speaker: Yogita Shamdasani, National University of Singapore

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How to Kill Entrepreneurship—Limit LGBT Freedom: The Impact of Discrimination in Brunei

The news from Brunei Darussalam is grim. The small Southeast Asian, oil and gas-rich country, has announced plans to implement a new legal code that, among other things, calls for amputation for those convicted of theft and for death by stoning for homosexual acts. After an international outcry, the Government has delayed the imposition of the death penalty, but it maintains the laws as the presumptive legal framework.

These laws violate basic human rights, but from experience, I realize that this argument doesn’t seem to be convincing to everyone. As a development economist, I then thought, what are the economic costs of this? Particularly, I wondered if there was likely to be an impact on the broader economy of restrictions on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. As I discuss below, the answer is, ‘yes, over the long-run, a lack of freedom for the LGBT community is associated with a less entrepreneurial economy—a less dynamic economy.’

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