International Workshop on ‘Liberalisation, Macroeconomic Policy and Development options in Asia’ OrganiSed by IDEAs in collaboration with the MAIDS at Bangkok, Thailand, 25-28 September 2004.

In the month of September, 2004, a joint workshop was organized by IDEAs in collaboration with the MAIDS (Masters of Arts Programme in International Development Studies) programme, which is run by the Faculty of Political Science at Chulanlongkorn University, Thailand. The workshop, entitled ‘Liberalisation, Macroeconomic Policy and Development Options in Asia’, was held in Bangkok from the 25th to 28th of September, 2004. The second leg of the workshop was held in Manila in collaboration with the Philippines based organization, Action for Economic Reform, from the 24th of September to the 1st of October, 2004.

The purpose of the workshops was to bring together a group of economists from diverse locations and specializations in order to disseminate knowledge among the participants regarding the nature of the liberalization polices currently pursued in general and in East Asia in particular, and the possible macro-economic implications of these policies for the entire population of this region. The idea was to cover the many theoretical and policy debates on this issue, to present critiques of existing theories as well as to offer alternative analyses of current economic trends.

The participants in the workshop in Bangkok included students and teachers from Thai universities, NGO workers both local as well as foreign, such as from the Heinrich Boll Foundation, as well as some government officials. Foreign participants from Germany and Japan stationed in Thailand also participated actively throughout the workshop.

Each day of the four day period of the workshop were divided into two sessions. The speakers included Jomo K.S., the then chairman of the IDEAS’ Executive Committee, who is currently the Assistant Secretary general of the UN in the Department of Social and Economic Affairs, The United Nations.  The other speakers included Prabhat Patnaik and C P Chandrasekhar from the Centre for Economic Studies of Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India who are respectively in the advisory and executive committees of IDEAs, Korkut Boratav from the Department of Economics, Ankara University, Turkey and a member of the Turkish Social Science Association (TSSA), Erinc Yeldan from Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, Alex Izurieta from the Cambridge Endowment for Research in Finance (CERF), Cambridge University, UK and Madhura Swaminathan, from Sociological Research Unit (SRU), Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, India.

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to introducing the broad theoretical and ideologicalmotivations and underpinnings driving the policy of economic liberalisation.Prof Jomo K.S began the proceedings and spoke on ‘The Political Economy of Financial Flows, Macro Policy and the Role of Capital Controls‘ and discussed how open financial flows under the liberalization regimes had made developing economies vulnerable to volatility in short term capital flows and generated crises.   Prof Prabhat Patnaik spoke at length on ‘The Current Nature of Capitalist Globalisation’. He traced the transformation of capitalism from its golden age in the pre World War II phase to its current stage, where it is characterised by highly mobile global capital finance and which therefore, has a destabilising impact on the world economy.

The second day’s first session began with Prof C.P Chandrasekhar speaking on ‘Industrial policy, FDI and Privatisation’. He spoke of the transition from the old economic structure to the new market based structure and how globalisation has rendered the acceptable and acknowledged premises on which this shift was to take place, extremely weak if not irrelevant. In the second session Prof Madhura Swaminathan spoke on ‘Liberalisation and its Adverse Impact on Agricultural Growth and Food Security’. The speaker concentrated on the several adverse impact of the current stage of globalisation on the rural population, sighting examples from India and other developing economies.

The first session of the third day began with Prof Korkut Boratav speaking on ‘Recent Patterns of Global Trade and Financial Flows’ and discussing how national accounting methodologies could obscure the true nature of the balance of payments situation and project a much more positive picture of international trade and financial patterns than was actually true. In the afternoon session, Prof Erinc Yeldan spoke on the ‘Financial Crises in Emerging Markets’ where he underscored the importance of  understanding and dealing with the rising number of crises in many markets, including in Brazil, Mexico and Asia.

On the last day Prof Alex Izurieta spoke on the ‘Macroeconomic Policies of Industrial Countries’. He argued that the prospects of a US-led worldwide recovery are inconsistent with the unprecedented and unsustainable debt exposure of main sectors of the US economy. The central case put forward as antidote to the risk of such a global impasse would be the reinstatement of the appropriateness of fiscal policy in tandem with properly regulated credit and external sectors, co-coordinated worldwide, suggested the speaker.

The Manila part of the workshop program was similar to the one in Bangkok. All the speakers spoke on the same topics as they did in Bangkok except for two new speakers from the University of the Philippines: Prof Joseph Y Lim from the School of Economics who spoke on ‘External Debt Issues’ and Prof Mavric Leonen from College of Law who focused attention on the ‘Feminist Perspectives on Development’. Apart from the lecture sessions, this workshop also featured two round able sessions, one on the 28th of September entitled ‘On the current status of Agricultural Trade Negotiations’ and the second on the 1st of October entitled ‘On the Fiscal Crisis and the Unemployment Crisis’.

The participants, about 70 in strength, included economists from UP Diliman, UP Manila, DLSU, AdMU, UP Los Banos, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, and Ateneo de Zamboanga University in Zamboanga City, participants from non-government organisations and people’s organisations across many sectors (e.g. farmers, labor), legislative staff of Congressmen, representatives from Departments of the Executive Branch, funding agencies and multi-lateral organisations, as well as students from UP, UP Los Banos, UP Manila and AdMU.