Asia Liberty Forum and property rights

* This is my article in BusinessWorld yesterday. #AsiaLF16

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The classical liberal philosophy of more individual freedom and more personal/parental responsibility, free market and less government intervention and taxation is not a popular personal and political philosophy in Asia yet, at least compared to similar movements in the US and Europe.

So annual events like the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference, and now the Asia Liberty Forum (ALF), are very helpful in asserting the virtues of classical liberal, aka “libertarian” or “free market” philosophy. This concept is vastly different from other labels like “neo-liberal” and “US conservatism”.

The three-day 4th ALF event is held here in Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a huge international event from Feb. 18-20 with many participants from Asia, US, and Europe. The main sponsors of this year’s conference are the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Washington DC, the Center for Civil Society (CCS) in Delhi, India, and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in Malaysia.

Among the important panel discussions in the conference will be on “Protecting Yourself Against Daylight Robbery — Current Challenges to Property Rights” on Day 3. The session will be chaired by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of IDEAS Malaysia. The speakers will be (1) Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute, India; (2) Kriengsak Chareonwongsak of the Institute of Future Studies for Development, Thailand; (3) Julian Morris of Reason Foundation, USA; and (4) Lorenzo Montanari of Property Rights Alliance (PRA), Washington DC, USA.

The protection of private property rights is among the hallmarks of a free and dynamic society. If other people can say that “Your car is also mine; your house is also mine; your farm is also mine. I can enter and use them anytime I want,” then society can easily degenerate into chaos and disorder. No meaningful economic growth and social development can happen in this type of environment.

The PRA has developed the annual International Property Rights Index (IPRI). The index is composite for a country’s performance in three areas: (a) legal and political environment, (b) physical property rights protection, and (c) intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. The scores range from 1 (poorest) to 10 (best).

I made a short study about the performance of some ASEAN countries in terms of property rights protection covering eight years from 2008 to 2015. Singapore and Malaysia continue to have high scores overall in property rights protection. The Philippines made a modest improvement in its global ranking, from 87th in 2011 and 2012 (out of 130 countries), it jumped to 77th in 2013 and 65th out of 129 countries in 2015.

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If we observe the Philippines, the bulk of property rights protection — in malls and shops, hotels and restaurants, banks and condos, schools and universities, airports and seaports, etc. — is heavily privatized through the tens of thousands of private security agencies. It is not the police or army or barangay security personnel who guard and protect these businesses and residential, commercial areas, despite the huge and multiple taxes and fees that people pay to the government annually.

And this is an indicator that governments often forget their main purpose, their raison d’etre, which is the protection of the people’s right to life (against bullies and murderers), right to private property (against thieves, vandals and destroyers of property) and right to self-expression (against dictators). To have a rule of law.

When governments are busy giving away endless welfarism and subsidies, collecting endless taxes and fees, imposing endless regulations and restrictions, running banks, casinos, TV stations, and other businesses, there is a tendency to set aside its rule of law function and it is unfortunate.

Government should be big enough in enforcing laws on private property and citizens protection, and it should be small enough in intervening too much in the people’s daily lives, hence requiring small and few taxes to sustain itself.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. heads the Minimal Government Thinkers, a member of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia, and a Fellow of the South East Asia Network for Development (SEANET).minimalgovernment@gmail.com

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IPRI 2013 Report

* Originally posted on September 19, 2013

The International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2013 Report was released last week. Our think tank here in Manila, Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc. is the Philippine partner of the Property Rights Alliance (PRA, USA) in producing the annual IPRI.

There are many annual studies and reports measuring economic freedom, economic competitiveness and related concepts of countries, and ranking them. IPRI incorporates many of those factors and indicators, but it is focused on studying property rights and their protection worldwide.

IPRI is composed of three main indicators, which themselves have their own sub-indicators. And this makes the IPRI unique and useful.


For many governments that are stuck in the welfarist and central planning philosophy, they are characterized by soft or implicit disrespect, or less protection of private property rights. Since private property is among the cornerstones of a free society, disrespect of property rights is the path to socialism and dictatorship.

Here is the result of the 2013 IPRI, the ranking of 131 countries covered by the study. I separated the East and Southeast Asian economies for easier identification.

The Philippines ranked 77 out of 131 countries covered by the study. Not good for us.

And here’s the score for the three components of IPRI by country. The Philippines scored poor in legal and political environment (LP), pulling the overall IPRI score.

The report made this observation:

… there is a positive relationship between economic development and strength of property rights regimes. In addition,this finding is also confirmed when looking closer to specific groups, such as different regions or different average household income groups.

Kudos to PRA for persistently producing this annual report.

Patents, diagnostics and technology transfer

Originally posted on October 08, 2012.

We need patents and other intellectual property rights (IPR) to encourage innovation in medicines and  diagnostics. We need to link academic research with industry players and manufacturers to share the risks and rewards of innovation, to transfer technology from the academe to the consumers and patients. We need government political will to succeed in strengthening academic and industry research and development.

These are among the key messages shared by Dr. Reynaldo Garcia in his talk at the 9th Science, Technology, Innovation, Knowledge and Entrepreneurship (STIKE) Kapihan Series on the subject, Technology Transfer and Healthcare last September 27, 2012, at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). The event was organized by the Dr. Stephen Zuellig Center for Asian Business Transformation. There were many participants who came, mostly from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), DOH and AIM faculty members.

Dr, Garcia, above photo speaking, is a cool guy, a life scientist and a manager of technology and innovation at the same time. He is currently the Director of the Technology Transfer and Business Development Office of the University of the Philippines (UP) System and a Full Professor at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in UP Diliman. He got his PhD in Molecular Biology at the Australian National University (ANU) and his business degree (Master’s in Bioscience Enterprise) at Judge Business School and the Institute of Biotechnology of the University of Cambridge in England, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Very bright guy, also very articulate and eloquent speaker.

Below are portions of his presentation that day. See the role of patents and other IPRs in protecting innovation.

From universities to markets and patients. This is a key message that Dr. Garcia said he keeps repeating even to UP natural scientists. There is a tendency among UP and other local scientists, even those who were trained abroad for their graduate and doctorate studies, to be suspicious and skeptical of the pharmaceuticals, IT and other sector (local and multinationals) players and manufacturers. So they do not share their academic research work and keep many of such to themselves and their academic departments. If ever they wish to share, they themselves want to develop and market their own invention, something that Dr. Garcia said is definitely not practical and viable. And rightly so.

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