India is not the bad guy, but it can do better

Indian daily-wage labourers load 50 kilo sacks of wheat onto a truck at a grain distribution point on the outskirts of Amritsar 16 May 2013. On 5 August 2014, India defended its decision to scuttle a landmark worldwide trade deal, saying it needed to take a tough stand at the WTO to ensure the survival of its impoverished farmers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

India’s recent veto of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), agreed at the Bali Ministerial last year, raises several points that speak to its commitment to the multilateral system, the need for agricultural reform and India’s place in the world. Read more…

Cambodia’s LS2 Dam is a disaster in the making

Cambodian boys fish from their small boat next to the community where they live on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 25 October 2002. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ian G. Baird, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Lower Sesan 2 Dam (LS2) will be the first large hydropower dam built in the Mekong River Basin in Cambodia. The project is being developed by Chinese state-owned-enterprise Hydrolancang, along with the Royal Group of Cambodia, and while its size, capacity, and cost remain unclear, they were previously estimated — before the design of the project was altered — to be 400 megawatts of capacity and cost over US$800 million. The project is highly controversial. Read more…

Can Jokowi offer a new hope for the poor?

A woman takes a nap outside her hut in a slum in Jakarta, Indonesia, 4  April 2014. Around 40 per cent of the Indonesian population still live on less than US$2 a day. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Arief Anshory Yusuf, CEDS, and Andy Sumner, IDI

As Joko Widodo (Jokowi) was declared president, new research revealed that the gap between Indonesia’s richest and poorest has never been so great. So will the new president — with his reputation for clean governance and modesty — be able to build on his progressive track record to deliver change for the poor and address rising inequality? Read more…

What happens in China, doesn’t stay in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks before the Congress in Brasilia, on 16 July 2014. The BRICS group of emerging powers met on Wednesday with South American presidents as they justified the creation of a development bank seen as an alternative to Western-dominated global financial organisations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yizhe Daniel Xie, Waseda University

The experience that Chinese leaders gain in domestic politics has a big impact on how they view and handle international issues. Many China watchers and political analysts often overlook these domestic roots of Chinese foreign policy, particularly in China’s push to reform the international financial system. Read more…

Lessons from aid workers in North Korea

A North Korean girl reads along a rural road north of Hamhung, South Hamgyong province, North Korea, 16 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eun Jeong Soh, ANU

Since the mid-1990s, various governmental and non-governmental organisations have delivered aid to North Korea’s orphanages and hospitals. But for some time now aid to North Korea has dwindled. The US has provided virtually no aid since 2009, South Korea has banned direct state aid and and limited private assistance since 2010, and UN World Food Programme operations have been running well below target levels. Read more…

China must accept slower growth to avoid no growth

Members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, raise their hands to vote on reforms at the third plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, 12 November 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ligang Song, ANU

In late 2013 the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee authorised far-reaching market-oriented reforms, including policies to deepen capital, labour, goods and services markets. The new model for economic growth seeks to increase the consumption and services share of the economy, raise the relative income of poorer people (especially rural residents and unskilled urban workers), and reduce environmental degradation. Read more…

Inequality in South Korea

A worker of Daewoo Motors, dressing like a beggar, performs during an anti-government rally to rising layoffs outside Daewoo headquarters building in Seoul, 22 July 1998.  The uneven consequences of the Asian financial crisis contributed to rising inequality in South Korea. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Hagen Koo, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Park Geun-hye, the current president of South Korea, pledged to rebuild the middle class and increase its size to 70 per cent of society, as part of her 2012 campaign. South Korean observers agree that this was an effective political strategy which greatly contributed to her election. In South Korea, as in many advanced economies, a major political discourse has emerged over economic polarisation and the declining middle class. Read more…

Will India’s social development stagnate under Modi?

Muslim students studying at a school in India. New Delhi must ensure economic growth is shared by all social groups in India, including Muslims. (Photo: AAP).

Author: M Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya

India under Modi faces a difficult development agenda. Despite significant economic growth from 1990 to 2010, progress on key Millennium Development Goals (MDG), particularly those in the areas of education and health, has been lacking. The country lacks social infrastructure such as toilets and schools. In Modi, Indians have chosen a leader who may be able to improve the country’s poor infrastructure, arrest the slide in governance, and give a much needed boost to economic growth. But will everyone share in the economic prosperity Modi is hoping to stoke? A comprehensive vision for India’s development must ensure that the basic needs of all of its population are addressed. Read more…

Scope for an ambitious development agenda in the G20

Indian homeless eat food at a feeding programme for the poor in Hyderabad, 17 March 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Homi Kharas, Brookings Institute

On the surface, aligning the G20’s development goals with the United Nations-led post-2015 agenda would seem to be relatively simple. The G20 has called for economic growth that is ‘inclusive and resilient’ as well as strong, sustainable and balanced. Similarly, the post-2015 development agenda is aimed at finding a set of development goals that would be inclusive, transformative and sustainable. Both offer a new commitment to multilateralism in the course of enabling all individuals to grow to their full potential while avoiding environmental threats. Read more…

Capital in twenty-first century China

A beggar asks for money from people sitting at a pedestrian mall in Shanghai, China, 19 April 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Wang Feng, UC Irvine

China’s inequality story received only scant attention in Thomas Piketty’s monumental new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty drew data mostly from sources in France, Britain, the United States and, to a lesser extent, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy and Australia. These are all countries that have large quantities of capital and long histories of capital accumulation. Read more…

China’s ethnic policies short on evidence

A general view of the Tibetan plateau. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ben Hillman, ANU

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders are showing increasing interest in research and evidence as a basis for public policy making. Leading universities have been beefing up their public policy schools and think tanks are multiplying. Government departments from the centre to the counties are setting up research units to evaluate policy impacts across a variety of sectors. But when it comes to public policies in Uyghur and Tibetan regions officials’ thirst for research and evidence dries up. Read more…

Modinomics will need a modern GST

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media during the first session of the newly elected parliament in New Delhi on 4 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sijbren Cnossen, CPB

India is at a crossroads in its fiscal history. It has made do for years with archaic systems of excise duties and sales taxes. Now it has the opportunity to introduce a modern goods and services tax (GST) at the central and state level.

There are more than 150 countries with a GST (or ‘value-added tax’) around the world from which to learn. Some of these countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore and South Africa, have efficient GSTs with broad bases and (nearly) uniform rate structures. Read more…

Finding a future for minorities in Bhutan’s emerging democracy

Bhutanese schoolboys wear typical Bhutanese dance masks as they perform during a cultural event to celebrate the birth date of Bhutan's fourth king in Thimphu on 2 June 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Susan Banki, University of Sydney

Bhutan is famously known for the unique approach it has taken to measuring its population’s overall wellbeing. ‘Gross national happiness’ (GNH) is a set of criteria that considers sustainable development, support of cultural values, environmental conservation and good governance to offer a nuanced index through which the country judges its success. Read more…

A new crisis for Asia’s emerging economies?

Chinese migrant worker labours at the construction site of a real estate project in Shandong province, China on 1 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Hiro Ito, Portland State University

Countries around the globe have been nervously paying attention to the world’s advanced economies. Many have still not been able to embark on a sustainable path of recovery since the global financial crisis.

The United States, the euro zone, the United Kingdom and Japan essentially exhausted conventional monetary policy measures by guiding their policy interest rates to almost zero. Read more…

Can Nepal unlock its potential?

A Nepalese labourer works to facilitate the widening of a road on the eve of the International Labour Day on the outskirts of Katmandu, Nepal, 30 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sujeev Shakya, Beed

In April 2006, when the second people’s movement, popularly known as ‘Jana Andolan II’, brought an end to 240 years of the Shah monarchy, there was little planning to ensure the country’s rapid political transformation.

Read more…