Connect with us

Southeast Asia

In the midst of a pandemic, the EU must suspend its proposed palm oil ban

Nik Nazmi

Published

on

The world is finally waking up to the realization that the Coronavirus pandemic could result in a global death toll in the millions – if not higher. Hopefully, that won’t be the case, and a cure or at least a prophylactic medicine can be found soon to end “World War V” (as many are calling the Coronavirus pandemic, with the V standing for Virus)

COVID-19 is already projected to cost the global economy up to $2 trillion according to UNCTAD. Indeed, even before the crisis, the status of the global economy was pretty dire. UNCTAD issued a similar warning in September of last year that 2020 would likely see a global recession.

Contributing to UNCTAD’s outlook in 2019 were a plethora of trade wars around the world. Most notably between China and the United States and of course, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is also tied to similar concerns. 

Those issues may have stolen the headlines but, plenty of minor skirmishes also involved the EU and the United States and even the United States and Turkey have played out of the past view years. Thus, prior to “World War V” the world had seen a plethora of protectionist battles being rage. And now, protectionist tensions are already beginning to impact “World War V” too – with the US recently hitting out at Germany, Russia and Turkey for introducing emergency export controls on medical supplies. 

Though it is not a headline stealer, the plight of my own country Malaysia is worth reviewing. A similar trade war is brewing between the EU and ASEAN. One that will impact millions of lives in a global economy that is already on the ropes given the impact of the Coronavirus. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The European Union’s 2016 Global Europe Strategy hinted that an EU-ASEAN free trade deal was around the corner.

Yet, nearly four years later (despite some progress such as the recently signed EU-Singapore trade deal) such an historic agreement seems farther than ever. This year an EU blanket ban on palm oil importation is to be implemented. This will adversely impact Malaysia and many countries in the Global South. The ban comes over deforestation concerns. Yet, Malaysia has passed several landmark bills to ensure the sustainability of Palm Oil in recent years. The globe’s first government-backed mandatory certification standards for making palm oil sustainable were passed in Malaysia in November 2018. We need no push from the European Union for that to happen -it was something the government had long been working on in line with demand from consumers.

More importantly, an authoritative study from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that if done correctly, palm oil uses fewer resources (in this case land, fertilizer, and other chemicals) than a similar amount of oil produced from rapeseed, soy beans or other conventional equivalents. The overall findings of that report were verified in a second scientific study published in Nature this month by researchers at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

The current EU ban on palm oil makes no exemption for sustainable palm oil and has been a veritable economic death sentence in the current climate. Malaysia’s agriculture sector, of which palm oil is the biggest cash crop, employs over 1.5 million workers in Malaysia or 10 percent of our overall work force.

Since 40% of palm oil is grown by small holder farmers (farmers who have already been hard hit by the Corona onslaught), this regulation will hurt the most vulnerable communities in our nation hardest.

Malaysia, with over 1600 cases now has the worst Corona virus problem in Asia after South Korea and of course, China. Four people have died it what is already the worst outbreak of the virus in all of South East Asia. The economic impact of this is hard to foresee but, already the government of Malaysia has already issued a stimulus package for the economy, and we are set to see a spike in unemployment in our country over the Coronavirus. After all, the Palm oil industry was one of the first in Malaysia (the largest producer of the crop in the world) to respond to the crisis by telling members to go into a lockdown mode over concerns of spreading the virus.

However, coronavirus may ironically, be the trigger that finally compels both parties’ to compromise and agree on an historic trade deal that takes into consideration the needs of both the EU and ASEAN. After all, the EU also cannot afford to persist in a trade stand-off with ASEAN at a time of potential economic catastrophe.

For a trade deal to become a reality, steps must be taken by both parties. Malaysia must renew its commitment towards sustainable palm oil cultivation, something it has already shown a tangible commitment towards. And the EU must accept a longer implementation timeframe given the current global turmoil brought on by Covid-19. Such a deal can be a win-win for both trading blocs as sustainable palm oil could help power the EU’s push for a “Green New Deal” to power a 21st century infrastructure grid.

The alternative – curtailing global trade at a time when it will plunge the world into the most significant recession in living memory and jeopardize millions of lives – in Malaysia and beyond, is simply not an option.

In the aftermath of “World War V” hopefully we can bury protectionism and trade wars in the interest of global recovery. The sooner we act, hopefully, there will be much less to bury.

Nik Nazmi is a Malaysian MP and Chairs the Defence and Home Affairs Special Select Committee. He runs educational and football programs at the community level in Kuala Lumpur.

Continue Reading
Comments

Southeast Asia

Can Cam Ranh Bay-Port Blair-Djibouti form a strategic Maritime chain hub to tackle China?

Published

on

The world at present is grappling with the Global Pandemic Coronavirus, but Chinese maritime security aggressiveness in the East China Sea, South China Sea and off late the Indian Ocean is at an all high. This belligerence and expansionism by China in the international waters is a major cause of concern for most countries. Keeping Chinese aggressiveness in mind, the article tries to suggest a strategic line of maritime hubs which can be called a chain of maritime hubs to tackle China.

This year in April, a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the South China Sea was sunk by a Chinese ship. Viet Nam garnered a lot of support from the United States where the United States State Department “criticised China for ramming and sinking the Vietnamese fishing boat and was seriously concerned about this incident”. Viet Nam protested against this incident and previously also, Hanoi has been consistently vocal about Beijing’s increasingly ambitious muscle flexing in territorial issues. The Philippines too, last year faced a similar incident and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila expressed their solidarity with Viet Nam for the same. In May, a stand-off between a Chinese survey ship and Malaysian oil exploration ship in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) took place. In July, Chinese coast guard ships had twice intruded into the Japanese territorial waters and these Chinese ships were once approaching the Japanese fishing boats which was blocked by Japanese coast guard. These Chinese vessels came within the 2.5 miles off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands and Diaoyu Islands named by the Chinese. It was a cause of concern as it was well past the internationally recognised 12 mile limit defining a country’s territorial waters limit. Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese chief cabinet Secretary quoted that “Tokyo has lodged repeated diplomatic protests with Beijing over the presence of the Chinese ships”. Recently, India-China were at a standoff at LAC and it is being said that China has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean too as satellite pictures in May suggested that China had modernised its military base in Djibouti and in 2017, a logistic support unit was upgraded to a full-fledged naval base consisting of the Liaoning aircraft carrier was set. China has also expanded an artificial island in the Maldives and this has led to China encroaching upon India’s realm of influence. China has also deployed submarines and intelligence ships in the Indian Ocean. This could be China’s game of power projection in the Indian Ocean region and yet again, one can say it is the revival of the strategic encirclement earlier done through ‘the string of pearls strategy’ against India. Therefore, Chinese maritime aggression is a rather major cause of concern.

Question is what can be done to tackle China? One way to tackle China would be to full equip ports and islands in a way to make them strategic outposts which would help monitor the naval activities combining it with an integrated surveillance network which would give all the countries tactical leverage in the various regional seas. Viet Nam’s Cam Ranh Bay is on of most equipped ports of all time and it is geostrategically the closest to the South China Sea and has always been the hub of refuelling, repairing vessels and aircraft carriers. The Cam Ranh Bay is also a vital port in the sea lines of communication and is critical in the maritime passageways and so, it can be used to monitor the Chinese moments. If the U.S. gets the Cam Ranh Bay, then it can upgrade and modernise the Cam Ranh Bay making it the starting point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China.

India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be the centre point of this maritime chain hub to tackle China. In 2019, India set up an Indian Naval Air Station-INS Kohassa and has been developing the island to its full strength. Also, Japan has also been actively participating as Japan’s NEC Corporation has been installing an undersea cable from Chennai to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Therefore, some believe that as the Indian Navy is developing these islands, it becomes a vital strategic outpost for India to monitor rival naval activities and has invested to develop an integrated surveillance network and so, the Andaman and Nicobar can be the centre point of connect, monitoring and surveillance for Cam Ranh Bay and Djibouti.

Djibouti is a third and last point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China. China has a support base in Djibouti which is also a military base operated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy(PLAN) and is strategically placed by the Bab-el Mandeb Strait and the Chinese base is located by the Chinese-operated Port of Doraleh to the west part of the Djibouti city. The interesting part is that the south part of the Djibouti city are the military bases which are Camp Lemonnier run by the United States Navy, Base Aerienne run by the French Air Force and the Japan Self-Defence Force Base Djibouti and all these three countries bases can be the third and most crucial point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China.

Thereby, in order to tackle the Chinese aggressiveness in all parts of the regional seas, foreign countries would have to go beyond the normal and they must work in unison to tackle the Chinese aggressiveness. Also, China seems to be determined to become a superpower and the future of the global order lies in who controls the world water ways and so, China is watching and expanding in the regional seas. It would be rather sensible for all the other countries like the U.S, France, Japan, India and Viet Nam to cooperate and coordinate and try to develop and work towards this concept of a strategic Maritime chain hub to tackle China and this could also be discussed as part of the Quad meetings and also invite more countries to join in.

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

Democracy Dies in Lobbying and Bribery

Published

on

Many studies have confirmed that one of the reasons why democracy has not taken root so well in many countries, including Indonesia, is because people do not fully understand their role well. Democracy as a rule oriented to the majority of people. Often we find apathy from the public even about what is associated with them. That is, the democratic process is failing.

It must be stressed at this time that failure was discovered by the Indonesian people in their active involvement in the legislative process. More importantly, Indonesia has hundreds to millions of problems that demand the attention of lawmakers. Communities must be able to diplomate and have wisdom in ensuring that their problems are taken seriously and appropriately by the government (executive and legislative). Setting the policy agenda, from its formulation to its endorsement, gained a lot of politicization, lobbying, and even “cat trade”.

This is because the recognition of any issues in the policy agenda is carried out competitively by various competing interests involved (ranging from personal, party, and others). When a problem is received on the policy agenda, it is as if giving hope that the problem gets attention. However, due to the lack of public understanding of its role in democracy, various political pathologies have emerged that have a direct impact on “killing democracy”. Starting from political money, bribery, collusion, nepotism, overlapping policies, silencing people’s participation, and so forth.

As with the above problems, it is clear that the public must be aware of their role and have the ability to lobby so that various social problems that occur get the attention of legislators and other government officials. The writer, as President of the House of Fighters for Enforcement of Political Solutions, considers that lobbying and bribery are between thin lines and have been clearly drawn in the Constitution 1945. government actions so as not to deviate from TUPOKSI and his oath.

As in every country in the world, lobbying and bribery are realities that must be taken into account in Indonesia. Lobbying as a concept has been known for years, making restless minds not only politicians, but also economists, lawyers, industry captains, and others. But the difference in the fine line between lobbies and bribes is still unclear to the public and difficult for intellectuals to guess.

Condemning the difficulty in understanding the difference between the two items above, Giovannoni in his article titled “Lobby vs. Bribery” suggests that the difference between the two is where influence is being sought. In the sense, “lobbying as an activity to find a lease with the aim of making regulations while bribery is an activity to find a lease aimed at legalizing the rules”. An entity can choose and even often persuade bureaucrats to “bend the rules” or in the alternative lobby of the government to “change the rules”. In between, they concluded that there was always an evolution from bribery to lobbying when countries transited from backward countries to developed countries.

Transparency International defines lobbying activities as “any activity undertaken to influence government or agency policies and decisions that support specific objectives”. For writers, lobbying is an activity of communicating directly or asking others to communicate with government officials or staff, both in the legislative and executive branches for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative actions. Political bribery occurs when political office holders and decision makers abuse their position by manipulating policies, rules and institutions to maintain their strength, status and wealth at the expense of society.

So far, the author has observed that lobbying and bribery are the means by which people influence politicians, elected officials, legislators and employees of government agencies to get what one person or group wants. To quote Onuoha’s statement that bribery was designed to encourage victims to act dishonestly. Here there must be givers and recipients. The giver must specifically state what he wants from the recipient, so that the recipient gets a gift, then we call it a bribe.

However, citizens will always try to influence, persuade and persuade their governments in one way or another. We have seen that aside from voting during elections, lobbying and bribery are the main ways of persuasion available. In this case, Harstad and Svensson argued that instead of obeying regulations, companies could bribe officials to bend the rules and be exempted from the regulations, or the company could collectively lobby the government to change according to their interests. Democratic governments like ours can only succeed if their citizens actively participate in national government.

In this case, the constitution 1945 of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (constitution 1945) mandates that the highest sovereignty rests with the people. That is, positive and active contributions from the people must be raised massively and systematically for the sake of progress, independence and prosperity can be realized. From now on, ahead of the simultaneous local elections in 2020, the public must vote in the general election appropriately in order to avoid the failure of democracy which causes the election of the wrong person to become a public official. After the election, the community also has a duty to assist and escort executive and legislative members to carry out various programs in the realization of the objectives of the State (mutual cooperation).

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

The Ways People Have Fund with Oligarchic Democracy in Indonesia

Ronny P. Sasmita

Published

on

Democracy is the lunch of Indonesia’s politicians. The law (rule of law) is the dessert. At night, they turn political parties and the topic of representation into dinner menu. And the pleasantries of people’s sovereignty are snacks when watching television ahead of the sleepiness greet. Is it wrong? Of course not. Democracy is an instrument. Democracy is a tool for politicians to show their teeth and put forward their interests, both short and long term. And from a theological point of view, democracy is a tool to deny God. In democracy, God is not sovereign. As long as the people cannot punish, as long as legal institutions can be avoided, the law of God is not an urgent need, it is rarely taken into consideration.

Democracy is a matter of the people that is packaged as attractive as possible in the mouth of the political elite. Democracy is a matter of the people who are lured by sovereignty. And between the people and the elite were in fact blocked by a very thick glass wall, not even penetrated by bullets. The people can watch, but instead of touching, the sound is not even heard because it is blocked by thick soundproof glass.

For many people, democracy is a fairy tale. Democracy is sleep gratitude that can hopefully reduce the amount of monthly expenditure. Democracy is a worthless gift, but it is quite entertaining. People will get vacation at the election and be entertained during the campaign. Not bad for busting and tired anyway. Sometimes it is not uncommon, a state of democracy, many people can get free clothes, free food, and envelopes containing a sheet of money.

So, democracy is only entertainment for the people. Small talk of people’s sovereignty is morning coffee, along with boasting “from the people, by the people, and for the people” as its sanck. Is it wrong? Clearly far from wrong. People only follow the beat. That is the reality of Indonesia. The people are only followers. Don’t blame the people if the elections become expensive. The more politician spread money, the more requests that come. People only play with the existing natural law. Fortune comes not to be denied, right.

Even though there is no guarantee that they will be voted and approved because only God knows what in  the hearts of the people, but the elite never give up. The elite do not intend to deterred. On behalf of simultaneous local elections, of legislative elections, of presidential elections, lobbies are suddenly parameterised by numbers of money. Seats are counted and converted into certain numbers, then prices are born.

For the people, they only dance to the rhythm of the music being played. People danced when “dangdut” music was sung (dangdut is one of popular music in Indonesia), dance when the classical strains are played. In fact, they are ready to contort like a Middle Eastern religious dance when the music is ruling in “casidah.” (Arabic Indonesia Music). The Indonesian people are about how elite is. It has been the socio-historical pattern in this country. More damaged the elite, more damaged the lives of the people. More damaged the morale of the elite, the people increasingly enjoy the melt. But the bet is a nation state. The bet is the future of the younger generation who are increasingly holding on. Are the elites thinking of it? Let time answer.

Today, democracy is no longer about freedom, but should be about liberating the freedom. The people have been colonized by their elites. The system has been damaged by elite negotiations. Governance is the fruit of unhealthy games. The numbers are no longer pure, can be generated at will. Politics run based on market tastes. Therefore, scientific surveys are the best-selling statistical industry. Democracy is about market tastes, not about the morality of people’s interests. Market tastes are very important because the majority preference is king. And then democracy leaves only endless absurdity.

Therefore, if they still want to carry out democracy and at the same time bring the substance, the people must be freed from the fishy influence of the elites. The people must be kept away from cheap political manipulations, freed from the cheaper political branding based on post truth approach. The people must be able to distinguish between facts and fairy tales. If not, democracy is just a soap opera scenario. Representative institutions must represent, not pout. Representative institutions must be enlarged and made effective. Parties must improve and “know themselves”. One of crucial role of the party is to connect the tongue of the voters to the state. More damaged party, people aspirations can no longer match the original, but manipulated.

Party dominance must be balanced with strict regulations. The party is not a seller of popular votes, but defenders and connectors. From the party, then entered into a representative institution, and become policies. From the party, the ideology of nationalism is spread to the voters. From the party, the understanding of the sense of nation state is cultivated in the memory of voters. And from the party, the spirit of unity and tolerance is channeled into the voters’ thoughts. And many other tasks. Such are the roles of the party.

Do the people care? For the people, the party is not important. Therefore, it is the party who must realize himself that democracy is very dependent on the party. More damaged the party, more damaged the democracy. The more transactional the party is, the more transactional its democracy is. It’s that simple. If the party does not understand the ethical justification, logical justification, and moral justification for its existence, then Indonesia’s democracy is headed for destruction. Politicians must recognize the signs of the destruction of democracy. People’s distrust of the party, the parliament, and the government are  sign that must be addressed immediately. Politicians must be able to prove that democracy is worth defending.

If not, democracy will only be a place to flicker on one side and a place for short-term negotiations on the other side. Democracy will become a forum for identity politics and a den of high class corruption. Therefore, if it is not politicians who spread democratic awareness, then who will? If politicians actually misuse democracy, then our democracy wil be finished. Because of what? Because in their hands the decision is taken. If leaders and politicians turn their faces away from the authenticity of democracy, the people’s hopes are finished. So do not ask the people to hope, to pray, to have a positive view of the current system, if from leaders and politicians even if that hope actually does not exist, only promises and false images, then the people are not ethical to be asked to hope. It’s as simple as that.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Newsdesk2 hours ago

From Relief to Recovery: PNG’s Economy in the Time of COVID-19

Papua New Guinea’s economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis due to weaker demand and less favorable terms...

Energy News4 hours ago

Deloitte: Energy Management – Paused by Pandemic, but Poised to Prevail

Since Deloitte began conducting its annual survey tracking clean energy attitudes and actions a decade ago, the percentage of residential...

Energy News6 hours ago

ADB, IEA Renew Agreement to Collaborate on Energy Sector Sustainability and Resilience

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to scale...

Reports8 hours ago

COVID-19 Crisis Deepens Contraction in the APEC Region

A new updated report from the APEC Policy Support Unit finds that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a deeper contraction...

EU Politics10 hours ago

EU Citizenship: New survey shows EU citizens are more aware of their rights

A new Eurobarometer survey on EU Citizenship and Democracy released today by the European Commission shows that a vast majority...

Newsdesk12 hours ago

IRENA Outlines Key Actions Needed to Accelerate Renewables in Lebanon

Lebanon has the potential to generate up to 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, according...

Newsdesk14 hours ago

COVID-19 cases worldwide hit 12 million

“Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit”, agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists,...

Trending