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V. Bruce J. Tolentino


The Saga of Rice Sector Reform in the Philippines

October 27, 2020

In 2011, The Asia Foundation published Built on Dreams, Grounded in Reality: Economic Policy Reform in the Philippines, a collection of case studies that document policy and institutional reform in various sectors in the Philippines. The book included Chapter 7 – Stymied Reforms in Rice Marketing in the Philippines, 1980-2009. The chapter told how… Read more


An Afghan Wedding: Tradition Melds with Bling

July 27, 2011


Last week I was a guest at a modern Afghan wedding – the wedding of the younger brother of one of my colleagues. Summer is the season for weddings in Afghanistan. The ceremony was held in one of the very large “wedding palaces” that line a highway just outside Kabul’s central district.


‘Food Security’ Merges with Mainstream Security Concerns

February 9, 2011


In the aftermath of the global food price crisis of 2007-08, world food prices have been steadily rising, reaching an all-time high in January since the United Nations began recording in 1990. Coupled with cries from the Arab world for “bread and freedom!” food security has at last penetrated mainstream debate and high-level policy making. While food security has until recently been classified as a “non-traditional security” topic, current discussions have been prominent, loud, and often vehement enough to take on the visibility and attention…


China’s Young Entrepreneurs Abroad

January 12, 2011


Recently, while in transit in Denpasar Airport on my way to Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili, I met a trio of young Chinese entrepreneurs. At first glance, I thought they were tourists – two women and a man, mid-to-late 20s, dressed in T-shirts and shorts, sporting the latest cell phones and lots of bling. In halting English, the young man asked me for… Read more


In 2011, Hard-Earned Resilience Will Carry Asia’s Economies through the Crisis

January 5, 2011


One year ago in this blog, Asia Foundation chief economist Bruce Tolentino expressed “cautious optimism” about the prospects for global recovery and Asian growth in 2010. His positive prediction for Asia was more than fulfilled, in spite of a dispiriting lag in U.S. recovery and severe economic crises in the Eurozone. Vietnam is expected to lead So… Read more


Food Security = Agricultural Productivity + Effective Governance

September 29, 2010


In May 2010, the U.S. Government unveiled Feed the Future (FtF) as its global initiative to combat hunger and food security. And, at last week’s Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, President Obama declared better agriculture production as a way to help developing nations on the long-term path to prosperity. Thus, President Barack Obama… Read more


Fostering Regional Integration for Shared Food Security

July 7, 2010


Despite tremendous economic growth achieved over the past two decades, hunger continues to beset much of Asia. Estimates show that there are 850 million hungry people globally. Of this total, at least 550 million are in Asia, indicating that some 16 percent of all Asians are in a state of hunger. This is a stubborn challenge for Asian governance. T… Read more


Asia’s Economic Recovery: Contrasting Narratives

May 19, 2010


As tantalizing hints of recovery from the global financial crisis pop up in international economic statistics, a curious dichotomy of narratives about the status of various Asian economies has emerged in the international media: China Dominant First, there is the big story, related with relish and surprise, of unexpected and robust economic recover… Read more


On Earth Day: Continuing Hunger in Asia

April 21, 2010


On Earth Day 2010, Asia has much to be thankful for. While the recent global financial crisis hit Asia hard, most of Asia’s governments acted swiftly and decisively and succeeded, against prevailing expectations, to limit the impact of the financial debacle. They had learned the hard way from the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Intertwined with the gl… Read more


Mongolia’s First Economic Forum Highlights Latest Push for Growth

February 17, 2010


With four-fifths of its export income dependent on mining exports, Mongolia was hit particularly hard by the recent international economic crisis. A recent New York Times article goes so far as to say that Mongolia is arguably Asia’s hardest hit country. For a nation experiencing a period of rapid growth averaging 9 percent per year from 2004 to 20… Read more


Cautious Optimism Dominates 2010 Economic Outlook

January 6, 2010


As nations emerge from the grips of a global recession, numerous economic reports reveal some unexpectedly good results from the Asia-Pacific region. The region looks to lead the global economic recovery, with a 2010 growth rate forecast at 6.3 percent, the highest in the world. Early signs of new hiring and rallies in regional stock markets have l… Read more


The G20 and Persistent Food Insecurity

September 23, 2009


World leaders will gather this week for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh – a city that has re-invented itself, leaving behind its dependence on steel and heavy industry and moving forward into services, information technology, and education. Last week, the United Nations (UN) called on all nations to honor their commitments to aid in the fight against… Read more


Measuring President Corazon Aquino’s Presidency

August 5, 2009


In early 1992, toward the end of the administration of President Corazon Aquino, I participated in a Cabinet meeting where the discussion focused on her administration’s achievements and failings. Discussion was lively, and at times heated. There was much detailed argumentation on vision, strategy, programs, policy reforms, and delivery. President… Read more


At the India-Pakistan Border: History, Replayed Daily

May 27, 2009


Each day, from sunup to sundown, at the Wagah border gate between India and Pakistan, the complex, intertwined, and still painful histories of these neighboring countries are replayed in scenes of joy, reunion, patriotism, belligerence, and battle. At sunup, the border gates trundle open and travelers hurry in both directions across the border, whi… Read more


An Afghan Farewell to George Varughese

April 29, 2009


After four years of stellar service in Afghanistan, George Varughese is moving on to represent The Asia Foundation in Nepal. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to participate in one of many going-away tributes to George – one organized by The Asia Foundation’s Kabul staff. The events of that day are going to be difficult to forget. By Afghan tradit… Read more


Foreign Aid & the Global Economic Crisis

April 1, 2009


The global economic crisis is having far-ranging effects, as we hear every day. One place that might be impacted severely is ODA, or official development assistance. ODA is financial assistance provided by the world’s wealthiest countries to the world’s poorest. Those recipient countries might soon feel more pain As of 2008, ODA totaled U.S. $80 bi… Read more


Economic Integration: A Lesson from ASEAN

October 15, 2008


Discussed at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum this week, in Kuala Lumpur, were lessons that could be learned by the Islamic world – particularly the Middle East – from the experience in economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The discussion immediately made it apparent that ASEAN’s performance in economic integratio… Read more


Taking the Long View in Asia as the U.S. Financial Crisis Unfolds

September 24, 2008


Over the past few weeks, as the U.S. financial system has reeled from a shocking series of major “adjustments,” Asia’s economists and bankers remind themselves of the key lessons — painfully taught — by the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s:  (a) all markets are linked; (b) financial markets are much more volatile than others and thus requ… Read more


In Laos: Land-linked, not Land-locked

August 27, 2008


With its GDP growing at an average of 6-7% annually since 2000, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a country on the move. Not very fast when compared to its rapidly-burgeoning neighbors China and Vietnam, but fast when compared to its historically languid pace. In meeting after meeting with senior Government officials and representat… Read more


Doha Round Collapse: The New Reality of High Food Prices

August 6, 2008


Last week, the latest round of talks under the “Doha Round” of multilateral trade negotiations ended in disarray and disappointment. The trade ministers and negotiators gathered in Geneva could not — again — reach agreement on reforms in agricultural support and trade. The mainstream press reports that the refusal of China and India to reduce imp… Read more


Averting the Impending Food Crisis

April 23, 2008


Widespread hunger now threatens the developing world, especially in Asia. The knee-jerk reactions of individual countries are worsening the situation. Unilateral actions by certain countries have exacerbated the problem of food price increases. Countries and economies are inextricably and unavoidably ever more linked; actions in one nation impact a… Read more


Soaring World Food Prices Exacerbate Challenges Across Asia…Especially in the Philippines

March 26, 2008


Across the globe, food prices have soared. Between 2006 and 2007, the price of rice doubled in Bangladesh. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60 percent since 2006. At the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, wheat hit $24 per bushel in early 2008, in contrast to just $3 to $7 in 2003. On Monday, March 24th, the United Nation’s World Food Program issued an… Read more


From Timor-Leste: “Independence Gave Me a Headache!”

January 16, 2008


Senhor Arnaldo Sombico, the Elder from the enclave district of Oecussi, smiled ruefully as he spoke of the unexpected impact of Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia. “This independence gave me a headache!” At independence in 2002, the domestic boundary of Oecussi District was transformed into an international border, part of the demarcation be… Read more


Poverty in Asia: Stubborn Pockets of Deprivation

December 12, 2007


“While great advances have been made in reducing poverty in Asia, there remain stubborn pockets of deprivation,” said Dr. Arsenio Balisacan, speaking at a recent economic and reform seminar organized by The Asia Foundation in San Francisco. Dr. Balisacan is a noted poverty analyst from the Philippines, the current Director of the Southeast Asian Re… Read more


From Indonesia: Taking Transparency to New Heights

August 8, 2007


Recently, on a visit to the town of Cimahi in Western Java, Indonesia, The Asia Foundation’s economic experts met Pak Itoj Tochija, Cimahi’s Mayor. He was eager to show us their One Stop Shop (OSS): an initiative that facilitates the growth of small and medium businesses by vastly decreasing the time and cost of obtaining licenses and permits. The… Read more


From Throughout Asia: Honing Expertise in the Political Economy of Policy Reform

June 13, 2007


Economic policy reform is inherently political. Economic policies are codified into public laws, regulations, ordinances and other legal instruments that establish the “rules of the game” and allocate access and assets among various members of the body politic. Changes in economic policy affect the status or welfare of communities in varying ways,… Read more