Yesterday I attended the Asian Consortium for Social Policy conference hosted by King Prajadhipok’s Institute at the Government Centre at Laksi. It was an interesting occasion and I was pleased to have been invited to participate. Here is conference organizer Aj Dr Thawilwadee Bureekul giving her presentation as part of a panel on comparative results on social quality across Asia.
My paper concerned some of the different impacts that special economic zones have on social relations and society in the Mekong region. Here is the abstract:
One of the principal means by which state management of rapid economic development has been attempted in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has been the creation and maintenance of special economic zones (SEZs), which are specific geographic areas in which different laws and regulations take effect. The purpose of SEZs, which come in a variety of different forms, is to encourage domestic and international investment in specific areas to promote mainly export-oriented manufacturing. They have been created in large numbers in Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan Province of China and are being built across Cambodia, Laos and now Myanmar. Unfortunately, a large proportion of such investment projects have predicated on low labour cost competitiveness, in which mostly low value-added products are made in large numbers to compete in markets on the basis of price alone. Low labour costs are perpetuated by two principal means: drawing people into the industrial sector from the agricultural sector and repression of workers’ rights by state-mandated agencies in the areas of rights to collective bargaining, association, free speech and meaningful democratic representation. Workers have also been crowded into dormitory accommodation and living styles which often attract paternalistic management styles. Some SEZs have become associated with pollution emissions and causing other negative impacts on the physical environment and on local stakeholders. Construction of new has also been associated with the forcible clearance of land and the resettlement of villagers from places that they may have held for generations. These issues are balanced, of course, by the provision of new jobs and better income-generating opportunities for people, families and communities drawn into the world of markets and consumption. SEZs in the GMS are being increasingly drawn together by the large-scale creation of the Asian Highway Network, in addition to investment by domestic governments and by capital from Chinese corporations and the state. The creation of these linkages will have additional changes on the economic geography of the region and of the distribution of the factors leading to uneven development. Further changes are also anticipated to arise from 2015’s ASEAN Economic Community, which is due to facilitate greater cross-border movement for skilled workers in some employment categories while further enabling the economic integration of the region into what it is planned will be a seamless production zone. These changes and developments are all predicated on economic rather than social or human bases. People must adapt themselves to the spread of capitalist creative destruction and what Polanyi described as the Great Transformation. This paper seeks to identify the social and human implications of the spread of SEZs across the GMS and seeks to draw together conclusions that lead to recommendations for public policy that will reduce the risks that people will face as a result. In doing so, it is recognized that there is little if any prospect of economic considerations being removed from primacy in development planning in the foreseeable future.
Keywords: Greater Mekong Subregion, labour rights, social policy, special economic zones
The full paper appears in the proceedings, which look like this.
This is the first of the papers to be presented at the 3rd ICIRD at Chulalongkorn University in November as part of our panel of Uneven Development in the Mekong Region: Infrastructure and Gender Issues.
Water privatization is an emotive subject and one that attracted a bad reputation owing to botched efforts in some western countries that have seen profits rise while services decline and apparently predatory privatization in South Africa and elsewhere that denied water to the poor. Water is widely considered to be a public good that should be available to people at a price as close to zero as possible. A powerful campaign to make access to water a human right has been launched and there is an evident contradiction between human rights and the market-based transactions seemingly required for water treated as a commodity. Yet this contradiction must somehow be resolved because the demand for water is continuously increasing as the result of intensifying industrialization and urbanization and the huge increases in scale of the tourism industry. While demand is rapidly escalating, supply conditions have become much less predictable as the result of the increasingly evident impacts of global climate change. Privatization can have a role in ameliorating these problems if it is properly planned and managed, if the scope of individual projects is limited to the scale issues endemic in management of water resources and, finally, if appropriate governance promotes objectives that are socially beneficial rather than depending entirely on the bottom line. This paper explores the ways in which water privatization has taken place in the south of Thailand from a comparative perspective and evaluates the limits of what can be achieved by these means and also investigates the contours of a successful privatization project.
Keywords: global climate change, industrialization, privatization, Thailand, water
Alin Chintraruck, Doctoral Candidate, School of Management, Shinawatra University
John Walsh, Assistant Professor, School of Management, Shinawatra University
The SIU Research Centre has begun the Monk Exchange Research project as part of our effort to understand better cross-border socio-cultural, political and economic flows between Thailand and neighbours in the Mekong region. The purpose is to help promote better cross-border relations between people in the area.
There are some details on this page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Monk-Exchange-Research-Project/164323243720968.
Please feel free to stop by and share your experiences with cross-border movement of monks and lay people in the Mekong region. If you have been to a wat in another country, please let us know what differences there were – did it have any impact on your opinions of the people who lived there? Have you listened to a sermon by a monk from another country? What differences (if any) were there? Please join the conversation.
Announcing: Walsh, John, “Governance Systems of Special Economic Zones in the Greater Mekong Subregion,” paper presented at the SIU International Conference (January 30-31st, 2013).
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) represent means by which governments can seek to change the distribution of the comparative advantages within their territory so as to promote developmental goals by reducing or augmenting on a systematic basis the uneven development of the areas involved. SEZs include industrial estate, export processing zones, science parks and all other areas in which the normal regime of laws and regulations are amended to encourage the investment that is intended to give rise to the synergistic proximity of economic activities and the development of value-adding clusters. However, these desirable outcomes are far from guaranteed: the intentions of individual investors may be quite disparate, the range of economic activities undertaken may not be conducive to positive sum agglomeration or some lack in the infrastructure provided may hinder effective cooperation and collaboration. One of the principal means of trying to influence the extent to which developmental goals may be achieved through instituting SEZs is by the governance system used to manage them. This paper examines the governance systems employed by governments in the Greater Mekong Subregion (i.e. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan Province of China), which is an area in which SEZs have played an important role in promoting economic development and is witnessing rapid building of new areas in every country. Analysis of the different governance systems provides understanding of which have been more successful in the past and, consequently, which are likely to be successful in the future.
Keywords: governance, Mekong subregion, special economic zones
Announcing: Sujarittanonta, Lavanchawee and John Walsh, “Game-Playing Culture of Young Taiwanese in the Age of Capitalist Consumption,” paper to be presented at the SIU International
Conference (January 30-31st, 2013).
Games-playing has historically been a form of leisure that is social and interactive in nature. As such, notwithstanding the dangers associated with gambling which may also be linked to games-playing, games have been considered a generally worthwhile activity which may have positive behavioural and educational externalities. However, in the age of advanced capitalism, games-playing has become subject to intensive marketing and advertising to promote consumption, particularly among young people with time to play and some disposable income. To what extent have traditional games-playing modes and styles been affected by such marketing? This paper reports on a questionnaire survey of a sample of Taiwanese undergraduate students investigating their consumption of games, the extent to which they use games to interact with other people and the changes of behaviour with respect to games culture in recent years. The primary data are integrated into an analytical framework incorporating additional studies of gaming and gambling activities in Taiwan and conclusions and recommendations are drawn from the data as a result.
Keywords: capitalism, games-playing, Taiwan
This is the third episode of the life of Niccolo vander Poele and we follow our protagonist-hero from the death throes of the Trebizond Empire to the emerging economy of Cyprus. This island, one of the largest in the Mediterranean and the home of the goddess Aphrodite, is of increasing importance because of the growth of its sugar industry rather more than its strategic role in any possible crusade and in stopping the Mamelukes from invading mainland Europe.
Read the full review here.
Announcing: Cheevapruk, Supitcha and John Walsh, “The Impact of Foreign Retail and Wholesale Stores on Traditional Wholesale Stores in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand,” Information Management and Business Review, Vol.4, No.10 (October, 2012), pp.537-44, available at: http://www.ifrnd.org/admin/imbr/20.pdf.
Abstract: The entrance of foreign retail and wholesale businesses in Thailand started some ten years ago and led to the closure of many Thai wholesale stores. The objective of this study is to determine the needs of Thai wholesalers in the Nonthaburi area and to identify suitable strategies for relevant managers to be able to compete with contemporary commercial strategies of the foreign enterprises. A total of 114 of the 120 Thai traditional wholesale stores in Nonthaburi were surveyed by questionnaire and results were analyzed by statistical means. It was found that low price strategy, location of store and full cycle service strategies were the principal approaches employed by the managers of the foreign wholesale and retail stores. Tesco Lotus was the foreign venture with the greatest impact on the Thai environment. With respect to managerial approach, it was found that Thai traditional wholesale stores should try to build stronger relationships with customers and regularly search for new markets. Employee performance should also be taken into consideration to some extent. Other issues of importance included the presentation of the store and visual merchandising, as well as transparency in management systems and the need for well–organized financial and accounting systems and their proper control.
Keywords: Wholesale trade, wholesale markets, Thailand, retail
Reports are coming through that US Geo-engineer Russ George has dumped some 100 tonnes of iron sulphate (FeSO4) into the ocean off the west coast of Canada. This has resulted in the formation of a plankton bloom measuring approximately 10,000 square kilometres of ocean water. It is anticipated that the plankton will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then sink to the bottom of the ocean. If this happens as predicted, then it should lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and represent a step forward in the fight against climate change.
Read the full article here.
One of the most notable features of the international economy in recent years has been the willingness of nearly every government in the world to embrace ‘market-friendly’ policies. This has made some people very rich, of course and a large number of people very poor and unhappy.
Read the full article here.