By Fang Chih-Yung
Since it was a people’s forum, I was expecting it to be open to anyone who would like to participate, even for non- ASEAN people like me. I knew the venue had limited space and the organizers had to face constraints in resources that having too many participants wasn’t realistic, but who should have been excluded in case the registered number exceeded the organizers’ accommodating capacity? What groups should be let in and which ‘shut out’ from this annual parallel event with the ASEAN summit?
In the run-up to the event, there had been exchanges about the organizers’ supposed attempts to block some regional non-government organizations (NGOs) from participating, especially NGOs working on human rights and democracy issues, to which the Vietnamese government is very ‘sensitive.’
“Closer ties among larger markets” seems to be mantra of trade policies across Southeast Asia as governments continue to pursue policies that further liberalize trade in goods and services and ease restrictions on investments, and as the ASEAN aims to create one single regional market.
Community building, as ASEAN governments have defined this objective of regional integration, has gained momentum, at least in the level of official policy.
The most advanced aspect of regional community building is in the area of the economy. In 2007 ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, which defines the block’s strategies and plans for enhanced regional economic integration. The fact that the AEC blueprint came ahead of the two others—the political and security blueprint and the socio-cultural blueprint—is an indication that economic integration has now become ASEAN’s top priority. This is a far cry from ASEAN’s early years when economic issues took a back seat to politico-security issues faced by the fledgling regional block.
by Walden Bello
My apologies to T. S. Eliot, but September, not April, is the cruelest month. Before 9/11/2001, there was 9/11/1973, when Gen. Pinochet toppled the Allende government in Chile and ushered in a 17-year reign of terror. More recently, on 9/15/2008, Lehman Brothers went bust and torpedoed the global economy, turning what had been a Wall Street crisis into a near-death experience for the global financial system.
Two years later, the global economy remains very fragile. The signs of recovery that desperate policymakers claimed to have detected late in 2009 and early this year have proven to be mirages. In Europe, four million people are unemployed and the austerity programs imposed on highly indebted countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, and Ireland will add hundreds of thousands more to the dole. Germany is an exception to the dismal rule.
Accompanying existing imbalances in international capital flows, the recent banking fiasco has triggered a financial crisis, further exacerbating inequalities. From a mere slowdown in 2007 and 2008, in 2009, world output contracted by 0.8%, and global trade in goods and services by 12.3%. This has resulted in the contraction of incomes and employment, and consequently, of living standards across the world.
The global financial crisis also seems to have fanned the anti-immigration sentiment. In the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, a majority of respondents, in 44 out of 47 countries, agreed that immigration should be further restricted and controlled. Countries that looked least favorably on immigration include South Africa (94%), Malaysia (89%), Italy (87%) and India (87%).
On two occasions last month (August 18 and 24), the Supreme Court (SC) heard the different oral arguments for the controversial Hacienda Luisita Case.
The lawyers of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) asked the Supreme Court to ratify the “compromise deal” that they are offering the farm workers and other workers of Hacienda Luisita on the grounds that majority of them have agreed to the compromise via a referendum HLI conducted from August 6 to 8. The referendum made the farm workers choose between another stock distribution option (SDO) agreement and a share in the land for distribution. Dangled before those who will choose another SDO agreement were immediate work, and monetary and non-monetary benefits.
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