Asia became the second region to host the launch of the Vi publication "Trade policies, household welfare and poverty alleviation: Case studies from the Virtual Institute academic network" early December.
The book was the outcome of a three-year Vi capacity-building project funded by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of Finland.
The objective of the project, which trained and mentored researchers from developing and transition countries throughout the development of their country case studies, was to strengthen their capacity to provide trade and poverty analysis to their governments.
The launches, organized in cooperation with national partners in Viet Nam and the Philippines, aimed to present the book and the studies concerning the region to local academic and policymaking audiences, stimulate policy discussions about their findings, and encourage further research on these topics.
The three Asian studies contained in the book included a study on the impact of the 2008 rice crisis in the Philippines by George Manzano, of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), a proposal for a large-scale field project in the production and commercialization of rice by Ngoc Quang Pham, of the ILO Country Office for Viet Nam, and a study on the consumption effect of the renminbi appreciation in rural China by Dahai Fu, of Vi Chinese member, the Central University of Business and Economics.
The first launch, hosted by the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting (CAF) of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) December 5, gathered 32 participants from research institutions (VASS, the Mekong Development Research Institute, the Development and Policies Research Center, and Institut de recherche pour le développement), universities ( Vi core Vietnamese member, – the Foreign Trade University, as well as Vietnam National University, National Economics University (NEU), Academy of Finance, and RMIT International University), the government (Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs), Mekong Economics Ltd. and the UNDP office in Hanoi.
The presentations of the Vi studies and a presentation by NEU’s Nguyen Viet Cuong about the links between firm agglomeration and poverty reduction in Viet Nam, triggered a number of comments and questions about the methodologies used, as well as the sectors that were analyzed.
"The topic of the book is very relevant," said CAF's director Nguyen Thang. "The methodology is very useful and I do hope that the researchers in Viet Nam will apply and test it using Vietnamese data."
In the Philippines, the launch, held December 8, was organized by UA&P's School of Economics, home of Manzano, the author of the Philippines study. Thirty-one participants, including lecturers and graduate students from UA&P and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, as well as experts from the Department of Trade and Industry, the parliament's Policy and Budget Research Department, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce attended the event.
The programme of the launch was structured around two main topics.
In the first session, the presentation of the two studies on rice in the Philippines (rice importer) and in Viet Nam (rice exporter), were complemented by comments from Rolando Dy, of UA&P, bringing in the Philippine perspective on rice policy.
The second session focused on currency appreciation issues: the presentation on the renminbi appreciation was followed by comments from UA&P's Victor Abola about the Philippine perspective on the peso appreciation.
The discussion then turned to the situation of the rice sector in the Philippines and whether some aspects of the proposal in the Vietnamese study, in particular those aiming to increase competitiveness of the sector, could be implemented in the country. Participants also debated about the appropriateness of currency depreciation or appreciation as policy instruments at different stages of the countries' development.
The authors of the studies valued the support received from UNCTAD and the interaction with national policymakers, which was a pre-condition for participation in the Vi project.
"Mentors and policymakers gave many insights which were very useful and assisted us in the application of the methodology to an issue facing policymakers in our countries," Manzano said.