Monday, December 15, 2014

Festive greetings and Happy 2015!

Dear readers,
Thank you for you interest in my political-economy blog. It's done in my spare time as I'm busy with my day job. Thank you to those recently asking me for papers, but sadly, I've had to largely decline. I've got some heavy deadlines for end of this week and just after that is the year end break, so here's an early year-end greeting and best wishes for the coming year (in which I'll have to revive my book project)!
Recent blog posts:
Sovereign wealth fund / SWF news (update 1): 1MDB worries erupt on UMNO rep's police report and Malaysia Cabinet meeting?
Petronas news (update 1): Weaker credit metrics, PETRONAS lower earnings problem for Malaysia coffers, award of Sabah onshore deals

Johor / Iskandar developments watch (update 6): Indonesia investors, Tanjung Langsat as largest private jetty operator

Malaysia labour concerns

Malaysia-China relations (update 46): Historical perspectives on Malaysia's foreign policy - committing to both the USA and China? (7500+ views on this topic, by far the fave...)

Sabah news (update 6): Sabah onshore oil & gas, the oil royalty push, secession talk is sedition

Penang news (update 1) - E&E human rights allegations, construction and property, social assistance maxed out says Guan Eng

Brazil's Vale in Malaysia (update 1b): Distribution in 10 days and 35% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of ore

Malaysia opposition in crisis (update 16): What is the status of the PR opposition coalition?

Recent papers and upcoming:
Singapore-Johor update: ISEAS Perspective "Iskandar Labours to Develop" by Khor Yu Leng and Vasiliki Mavroeidi
The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes – UMNO Strengthens Its Malay Rural Fortress in 13th General Election by Khor Yu Leng
Also, I've a co-author article with Prof Terence Gomez, with my inputs on Malaysia-China economic relations...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Social expectations & issues: Central Kalimantan REDD+ project had to offer "dowry" to develop 1 hectare of cash crops per family

We'll use this posting to highlight useful information and news on social issues and concerns about rural livelihoods.

4 December 2014: Central Kalimantan REDD+ project had to offer "dowry" to develop 1 hectare of cash crops per family

REDD+ on the ground: For one initiative in Indonesia, politics in the peatlands; 3 Dec 2014 BY Kate Evans; BOGOR, Indonesia—It’s a cautionary tale.... The experience of a highly politicized carbon emissions reduction initiative in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province is a lesson in the importance of such projects communicating with the outside world, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).... Thousands of kilometers of canals were carved into the peatlands to drain them for what was to be the “million-hectare rice project.”...This is where KFCP was established in 2010, on 120,000 hectares between the Kapuas and Mentangai rivers....The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP)—a joint initiative of the Australian and Indonesian governments—aimed to demonstrate an effective, equitable approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in Indonesia’s largest expanse of degraded peatlands.... “In each village, it was a huge long process of negotiation,” Atmadja said. “It wasn’t just KFCP telling people what to do and then they did it—it never happens like that—communities would just reject them if they did that.”..... “Those things don’t get expressed in carbon reduced. But they are necessary for building the capacity of this community so that when REDD+ comes, people are used to this kind of negotiation.” One thing local people fought for was support for rubber cultivation and agroforestry for each household—something KFCP did not plan to provide... “KFCP wanted to improve livelihoods, but giving each household money and seedlings to plant one hectare of their own land with rubber, fruit trees or vegetables was really out of the original scope,” Atmadja said. “But local people wanted it,” she said. “And in some villages they were saying, ‘Look, this is what you call a dowry. If you don’t pay it, we don’t get married.’ ”In the end, KFCP adjusted their plans to accommodate them, Atmadja said..... This has cost implications. KFCP had a huge budget compared with many REDD+ initiatives, so was in a position to pay—but the price of local buy-in has implications for the long-term sustainability of such initiatives. Providing a “dowry” requires that proponents allow enough time for negotiation, Atmadja says, and they need significant start-up funding as well as ongoing funding—something that, in the absence of a global agreement on REDD+, is hard to secure.“KFCP’s budget was huge: $37 million for four years. … The economics may not work for other REDD+ initiatives,” she said...."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Prof Milner on Malaysian foreign policy

Is Malaysia committed to USA and China at the same time? Some contradictions and looking both ways. Moving back and forth goes back to Malaysia's early history. Is it balancing, bandwagoning or hedging? Some regard this as a calculative rather than principled approach.
What does history show? Objective to be friendly to all suggests an equidistant approach but note the following three puzzles.
Malaysia's 1974 quick recognition of China in advance of others in the region seems surprising. It did get strong commitments but it's domestic situation: communist conflict and recent racial riots were a surprising context for this move.
Promotion of regionalism rooted in regional identity. Started in 1959. Reputed pro-Western Tunku government did not join US focused regionalism. Malaysia put a special emphasis on cultural and social underpinning of regionalism. Frequency of meeting and fostering a sense of community and identity has been emphasised. Is it drawing less attention on economic and administrative issues? Is it a natural tendency in Malay world to berkampung or build a community?
A third puzzle is its reaction to South China Seas disputes. It downplays tension and downplays tension. On James Shoal visit by China, Malaysia has said its daily patrols are fine so long as it doesn't lead to war. Some say it's surprisingly passive relative to Vietnam and Philippines reactions.
Pre-1957 history shows that the Johore and Kedah elites have long had to deal with foreign policy. Three themes from the kerajaan world can be explored.
The sultanates are based on rivers with limited populations and high value was placed on subjects numbers to attract more. Rulers were in hierarchy within the archipelago and further. The status of a ruler is different from the nation state.
Pre modern concepts: nama, group binding and moral balance. Nama shows Malay rulers were involved in hierarchy diplomacy. Seeking to understand and identify opportunity. Concern for nama or prestige consistent with hierarchy. Thus less fear of the rise of China. In the past Malacca saw rise of China as opportunity to advance its position; to make Malaysia more special in the region.
Nama system does not require sovereignty. Nama saw overlapping sovereignty. It shows absence of concern on territorial sovereignty. Subjects or people more valued than territory eg. 1870 Sultan of Terreanganu did not know the boundary of his territory. Is laid back view on South China Seas to seek opportunity?
Diplomatic and cultural virtuosity needed in hierarchical nama system. Group binding points to need to build bonding to get practical cooperation and collaboration. Berkampung to build a sense of community. If regionalim was functional then it may focus on economic and security but it does more.
Monarchies reached out in all directions and were willing to reach out and not discriminating in polities. To be impartial and fair to investigate widely with wide consultation - to be adil. This can be seen as search for moral balance. An aspiration for balance is identified in wood carving, textile and pantun. Malaysia was keen to stop the great powers from unbalancing the region's neutrality. Malaysia discussion with Ukraine rebels over its downed aircraft was criticized, but PM Najib noted this approach.
Pre modern perspectives help make Malaysia's approach to foreign policy a bit less puzzling.