May 17, 2016 Print

Economic growth and prosperity depend on freedom of international trade and labor mobility, and the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have worked together for decades to liberalize regional trade, reduce tariffs, and encourage the free flow of capital and labor between member countries. In order for such reforms to have lasting benefit, however, they need to be rooted in the ideas of liberty and free markets. That’s why Atlas Network helped sponsor the ASEAN Policy Forum in Phnom Penh, hosted by the Professional Research Institute for Management and Economics (PRIME) — the organization’s first major event in Cambodia.

“Guests were treated to four hours of intellectual stimulation with thought-provoking presentations by eminent speakers from around the world, and plenty of opportunities for networking,” PRIME reported. “Guests also received copies of Peace, Love, Liberty and The Morality of Capitalism, as well as recently released research reports on trade, education, and regulation, but the highlight of the night was the discussion of new ideas. Presentations covered a number of policy challenges, with the main themes including: 1. The importance of detailed policy analysis that looks beyond the immediate and intended effects, and also considers the indirect and unintended consequences; 2. The link between economic freedom and economic development; and 3. Education policy reform ideas, such as vouchers that help poor children attend private schools.”

Other event sponsors included Build Cambodia and the Youth Council of Cambodia, which “helped to spread the word to students and young professionals,” as well as additional organizational support from the University of Management and Economics (Kampong Cham) and Atlas Network partner the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS).

“The keynote speaker for the evening was American economist Dr. Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute, who spoke at length about the links between economic freedom (low tax, international trade, secure private property) and prosperity,” PRIME reported. “We were also delighted to have Cindy Cerquitella from the U.S.-based Atlas Leadership Academy (part of the Atlas Network) as a guest speaker, who shared some of her extensive experience dealing with think tanks from around the world.”

They joined an array of other speakers, including Future Forum founder Ou Virak (founder of the Future Forum); Wan Saiful Wan Jan, CEO of Malaysia-based Atlas Network partner Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS); economist and educational entrepreneur Khem Panha; Thomas Pearson director of the Master of Law program at the Royal University of Law and Economics; and PRIME Executive Director John Humphreys.

Virak “urged young Cambodians to join the battle of ideas instead of just demanding vague notions of change,” PRIME reported. “Echoing the points made by earlier speakers, Virak stressed that good policy is only possible if there are dedicated, detailed, and objective policy analysts who are willing to test every policy suggestion and challenge old ideas.”