Every year, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award Prize Program, generously sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust, honors and rewards think tanks through the Regional Liberty Awards. The recipient is awarded a prize up to US$10,000 and recognition on stage at the applicable Regional Liberty Forum. The finalists are selected based upon their measurable impact in spreading understanding and appreciation of free enterprise, individual liberty, and the policies that encourage prosperity. The finalists for the 2022 Asia Liberty Award are Advocata Institute (Sri Lanka), Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (Afghanistan), and Foundation for Economic Freedom (Philippines). Read on to find out more about these organizations and their exciting work to advance human dignity and prosperity.
Advocata Institute (Sri Lanka)
For years, Advocata Institute has worked to advance market-based policies to mitigate Sri Lanka’s then looming economic crisis. Their hard work, reasoned approach, and frequent appearance in major media outlets have earned them a reputation among both policymakers and the public as a reliable source for economic analysis and policy proposals. As Sri Lanka weathers its worst economic crisis since it gained independence, Advocata Institute has responded by engaging with policymakers and recommending reforms to improve outcomes in both the short and long term. Price controls on critical products exacerbated shortages, leaving shelves bare and people hungry. The organization took the politically unpopular position of opposing these price controls, arguing that the market would better be able to respond if prices were allowed to act as signals of demand. Lawmakers eventually agreed, lifting price caps on everything but medicine and alleviating shortages. Advocata is prepared for a long climb out of the crash, and they’re working to make sure the recovery is based on sound policy, such as reforming the tax system, restructuring public debt, and privatizing failing state-owned enterprises. Lawmakers across party lines have proven willing to listen to the institute’s suggestions, opening the door for a more prosperous future for Sri Lankans in the years ahead.
Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (Afghanistan)
Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (AELSO) launched their AELSO Academy project three years ago as an outreach campaign to teach Afghan students the values of a free society. The program seeks to counter fundamentalist and extremist ideologies by equipping individuals with the knowledge of how liberty, peace, and tolerance lead to better, more fulfilling lives. Volunteers across the country operate roundtables, symposiums, workshops, and more to reach young people, some of whom are inspired to become facilitators themselves. By working with local volunteers and communities, AELSO is able to tailor their programming to fit local cultures, languages, and needs, and they were able to run events even during the COVID-19 pandemic. With only three years in operation, the academy has already reached 16,800 people in 26 regions of Afghanistan, and the organization plans to run the program for another ten years, laying the groundwork for a freer, more peaceful future for the country.
Foundation for Economic Freedom (Philippines)
The Philippine Constitution limits foreign stakes in public utilities to 40%, but sets no such restrictions on public services. However, the Public Service Act of 1936 obscured the distinction between public services and public utilities, limiting the amount of foreign investment—and thus competition—in both sectors. This created a system in which local monopolies and duopolies held control over industries such as telecommunications, transportation, and shipping services, leaving consumers to deal with low quality and high prices. Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) sought to amend the Public Services Act and restore the distinction between utilities and services, allowing competition into the marketplace. Working in close cooperation with legal scholars, academics, legislative staff, and other key stakeholders, FEF drafted an amendment and presented it to lawmakers. While political realities led to an initial defeat of the bill, the organization came to the next legislative session more committed than ever. Thanks to their focused efforts, the bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law in March 2022. This reform will encourage greater investment and competition in industries critical both to economic growth and human flourishing. Foundation for Economic Freedom’s work brightens the horizon for millions of Filipinos.
Join us at Asia Liberty Forum 2022 on September 29–30 to be among the first to find out the winner of the 2022 Asia Liberty Award, or follow us on social media!