Research 2011

Policy dialogue with Ethiopia will continue (May 2011)

In the last two years, the GRIPS Development Forum and JICA have held quarterly industrial policy dialogue with the Ethiopian government. Discussions are conducted in three levels (prime minister, ministers and state ministers, and operational level). This time, we discussed Ethiopia's five-year plan, JICA's kaizen project phases 1&2, international comparison of national productivity movements, Taiwan's innovation drive, and possibility of creating a new inter-ministerial coordination mechanism. The eighth session in May 2011 was supposed to be our last but PM Meles and Industrial Minister Mekonnen strongly asked GRIPS and JICA to continue the bilateral policy dialogue - so we cannot end it.

PM Meles is serious about technology transfer and asked GRIPS to provide English materials on concrete East Asian experiences (we already transmitted them). He requires FDI and ODA industrial projects to offer training, technology learning and maximum local procurement. He is also interested in refining MSE strategy and reviewing Ethiopia's export promotion policy. We will take up concrete issues in which Ethiopia is interested. We may mobilize other East Asian experts, such as Koreans, to participate in this effort.  slides

ADB Annual Meeting presentations (May 2011)

On May 3-6, the Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting was held in Hanoi. I was the keynote speaker for the Vietnam Business Summit co-hosted by ADB and the Ministry of Planning and Investment of Vietnam. I talked about how Vietnam could avoid a middle income trap and sustain growth in the future (slides). As many member countries graduate from poverty reduction and low income, ADB is interested in developing new policy initiatives for middle-income Asia.


Finance Minister Minh, MPI Minister Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister Hai, Central Bank Govenor Giau & me.

I was also a panelist at another ADB-hosted seminar on "Middle-Income Asia: Policy Challenges Ahead "together with Robert Mundell (Columbia U.), Ravi Kanbur (Cornel U.), Dwight Perkins (Harvard U.) and Changyong Rhee (ADB chief economist). I argued that a middle income trap is a special form of developmental trap where growth depends only on given advantages and not continuous effort to upgrade human capital (my speech).

Studying Taiwan's policy secrets (Mar. 2011)

My current research is collection and comparison of international best practices in industrial policy making (content, method, procedure and organization). Whether it is SME promotion, TVET or industrial park development, some countries do much better than others. It is not because of what they do, but how they do it. Concrete details are very important. There are many East Asian governments that manage industrial policy very well but they do it in very different ways. Latecomers should learn systematically from their rich experiences to strengthen state capability to create policy packages most suitable for local context of each country. I call this policy learning and I am writing a book about it.

As part of this project, my team consisting of Japanese, Vietnamese and Ethiopian researchers visited Taiwan in late March to study its policy making methods. GRIPS Development Forum and Vietnam Development Forum have already made similar trips to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Korea in the last 1.5 years.  taiwan report

Developmental Leadership Program meeting in Germany (Mar. 2011)

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is a policy-oriented research project headed by Prof. Adrian Leftwich (York University) and supported by a number of donors (esp. AusAID) and development NGOs. DLP starts with the premisethat the World Bank's good governance drive  has failed to produce any results in promoting developmental states. DLP proposes that donors and international NGOs gwork politically.h This does not mean toppling a dictatorial regime or imposing Western style democracy on latecomers. Rather, it argues that no aid project can remain neutral to the domestic politics of developing countries, and donors should behave consciously and strategically and at the same time subtly and quietly in full recognition of this influence. The most important goal for donors should be provision of forum, logic, finance and technology for the expansion of developmental agenda and players and the elimination of predatory ones. I participated this meeting near Frankfurt as the only representative from Asia. DLP web  meeting report

JICA-SOAS workshop on capacity building and infrastructure (Feb. 2011)

In London, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University, co-hosted a two-day conference on Japan's development assistance approach. The main topics were capacity building (industrial human resource) and infrastructure (transport and power). I was invited to discuss what Africa can learn from East Asian experiences. I argued that it was not individual policy measures but policy making mindset and method that must be learned. Another point was that some projects, such as creating a leading engineering university or comprehensive regional development, take time to produce results,  even up to 40 years, and Japan is usually patient enough to see and assist their long-term growth instead of monitoring performance in 2-3 year cycle. more  my slides

A middle-income trap seminar at ADB Manila (Jan. 2011)

I was invited by Asian Development Bank (Manila headquarters) to give a lecture on Vietnam's middle income trap and exchange views with interested ADB officials. As many Asian countries graduate from low income and join the middle income group, traditional aid for poverty reduction, education and health becomes less important and building policy capability to tackle new challenges becomes crucial. ADB is exploring ways to modify its policies, and my talk was the first in ADB's new lecture series on Asian Development Policy. ADB will take up the same issue when it hosts its annual meeting in Hanoi in early May 2011.