Published on: 11-Jan-2014
By Chen En Jiao
The Eurasia Business and Economics Society (EBES) Conference was held outside of Europe for the first time with HSS hosting its 12th installment from 9 to 11 January 2014.
Organised by the Istanbul Economic Research Association in conjunction with HSS’s Division of Economics, a staggering 221 papers were presented by 400 academics from 53 countries over the three days. Among other topics, participants discussed global trends and the latest groundbreaking research.
Speaking to a capacity crowd at the HSS Auditorium in his opening address, Prof Euston Quah, Head, Division of Economics, and former acting chair of HSS, remarked that the confluence of dramatic changes following the economic crisis of 2009 may mark the beginning of "a paradigm shift in the way we understand and teach the social sciences, economics, and business".
The invitation to host the EBES Conference in Singapore was first extended to Prof Quah two years ago when he was a keynote speaker at Istanbul. Now, five years on since the global recession, the world is in the midst of an uncertain European recovery while Asian economies are poised to offer continuing growth momentum and evolving opportunities.
The Guest-of-Honour for the conference, Ms Grace Fu, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, reflected on German Chancellor Markel’s observation that Europe today "accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending", adding that balancing the budget will be one of the key challenges facing a number of governments saddled with huge debt.
She pointed out that as different technologies proliferate, economies will be able to do more with less. These include technologies used in the extraction of shale gas, robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
"However the benefits of technology are not evenly distributed and could further widen income inequality," the minster warned.
In this light, Singapore’s efforts to help workers capitalize on such developments through significant investments in formal and adult education may offer other concerned governments some food for thought.
Ms Fu also shared with the audience how Singapore intended to meet the triple challenges of balancing the budget, supporting the economy, and ensuring social equity – by employing key strategies such as nurturing its human capital and creating demand by remaining open to talent and innovation. These strategies enable Singapore to operate a tax agency that is "both very efficient in collecting taxes and also in paying negative taxes to recipients through workfare", said the minister.
The speakers at the conference seemed to agree that tomorrow’s economies will be marked by scarcities amidst increasing urbanisation, calling for trade-offs and the appropriate political responses to tackle a complex set of challenges. In particular, the interconnectedness of the world economy means that the public debt issues still playing out in Europe and the winding down of quantitative easing are also matters of concern for Asian researchers and policymakers.
In a special forum session chaired by Prof Naoyuki Yoshino from the Department of Economics, Keio University, Japan, speakers from Japan, Turkey and Denmark took turns to shed light on "Global Economic and Financial Challenges". The perspectives shared ranged from the in-depth examination of the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) response to changing market conditions articulated by Dr Sayuri Shirai from BOJ, to Joergen Oerstroem Moeller’s vision for the future.
Echoing Prof Quah’s sentiments, Ambassador Joergen Oerstroem Moeller, who is an Adjunct Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and also visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, remarked that we are moving from an age of mass consumption to an age of mass communication. He believes that in the future, we will have to deal with less and share more of the burden as a result of shared scarcities and destinies. Economics alone will not be sufficient in this new age as economic incentives become less important. Instead, since human beings are not
homo economicus, we will need to bring in psychology, anthropology and sociology to understand group behaviour better.
With a background of extensive experience in regulating financial markets, Prof Vedat Akgiray, Professor of Finance from Bogazici University, Turkey, further asserted that economic growth based on credit alone is not sustainable. He proposed greater development of market-based financing to fuel more sustainable economic prospects in the future. His call to action is no doubt an important reminder to all economies –- to debt-ridden ones as well as those experiencing fast growth patterns.
With greater levels of interconnectedness and interdependence between Eastern and Western economies, it seems fitting that the EBES conference’s first run outside of its home continent was held in Singapore– with HSS playing a key part in fostering intercontinental and cross-cultural communication.
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