Winter 2007/2008

Briefly Noted: Program Highlights


The Asia Foundation has pioneered a tool called the local “Economic Governance Index” (EGI) as a way to measure business-friendliness of local governments in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The Index highlights provinces most open to private enterprise and the least encumbered by red-tape when it comes to business set up: entry and licensing costs, access to land and information, time expended in compliance with regulations, taxes, dispute resolution, crime prevention, corruption and informal charges, inspections and registration waiting periods, transparency, as well as access to improved labor training and legal institutions.

The governments of these provinces have embraced the EGI as a tool to help them measure local reforms and government performance, as well, and there has been a lot of public attention when the index standings are announced, resulting in healthy competition among provinces. As a result, businesses and entrepreneurs have begun to see it as a useful means of deciding where to put businesses. Bruce Tolentino, Director of Economic Reform and Development Programs at The Asia Foundation; Edmund Malesky, Foundation partner and Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego; Veronique Salze-Lozach, The Asia Foundation’s Regional Director of Economic Reform and Development Programs in Cambodia; and Neil McCulloch, The Asia Foundation’s Director of Economic Programs in Indonesia, are hosting a series of programs this spring in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to present information on this compelling index. See event details.


Many of Asia’s worst cases of instability and political violence are a direct result of sub-national conflicts in remote or border regions. These are places where the state’s authority is challenged by armed, disaffected minorities or marginalized people that hold significant grievances with the political establishment. Places like southern Thailand; Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines; Tamil regions of northeastern Sri Lanka; Baluchistan, Northwest Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Area regions of Pakistan; and the Maoist insurgency and recent ethnic minority revolts in Nepal. These center-periphery conflicts raise questions that are often forgotten in the normal discourse on fragile states. For example, in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste, the focus is mostly on stabilizing the environment, restoring central institutions, reconstituting local security forces, and returning power to a democratically elected government. But center-periphery conflicts cannot be managed in this traditional way, or through force alone. The grievances or policy-irritants driving conflict have to be directly addressed.

Earlier this winter, The Asia Foundation organized a roundtable for experts in conflict, security, and governance in Asia to spark dialogue on the unique dynamics of these kinds of violent conflicts. Experts attended from Afghanistan, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, The World Bank, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey Institute of International Studies, and USAID, among others.

A follow-on workshop, “Joint Seminar on Conflict and State Fragility,” was also held in Asia. The workshop was co-organized with the Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development.

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