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John B. Welfield and Le Thuy Trang

Interstate conflict, in the view of one-third of the global decision-makers and experts assembled to compile the World Economic Forum 2015 Global Risks Report, was the most probable serious danger facing the East Asia-Pacific region over the coming decade.1 A Pew Research Center global opinion poll conducted in the spring of 2014 found that people in eight of the 11 Asian countries surveyed expressed fears about possible military conflict over territorial disputes involving the People’s Republic of China and its neighbors. In China itself, more than six in every ten citizens expressed similar concerns. Two-thirds of Americans in 2014 also feared that intensifying territorial disputes between China and its neighbors could spark an armed conflict.2 Although the World Economic Forum 2017 Global Risks Report considered such conflict as a decreasing risk in terms of likelihood and impact,3 majorities in China, Japan and several other East Asian nations remained concerned about territorial tensions and the strategic drama being played out between the United States and China on land and at sea across the region had begun to fuel fears that the “Pacific century” might be shattered by a new Pacific war.4 For better or for worse, Southeast Asia, the region which has given birth to the most vigorous efforts to construct a regional security architecture designed to ensure long-term peace and stability in Asia and the wider Pacific Basin, is today confronted by a series of intractable problems that may well constitute the greatest tests it has faced since the end of the Cold War. Much has been said about the significance of the South China Sea for the security and development of the Indo-Pacific. This sea offers the shortest route from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. About half of the world’s commerce, half of global liquefied natural gas and a third of global crude oil transit through this body of water each year.5 Two-fifths of the world’s tuna are born in the South China Sea, contributing to a multibillion-dollar fisheries industry.6 These statistics, oft-cited, are just a few indicators of the South China Sea’s importance to the region and the world at large. A durable regional security system that can deliver lasting stability and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific cannot be constructed in the absence of a smoothly functioning regional maritime order in this critical area. Yet this body of water, blessed with so many valuable resources and crisscrossed by a network of vital sea-lanes, has become the home to some of the most intractable territorial disputes in Asia and a stage for intensifying great power strategic competition. The longstanding territorial and maritime disputes simmering in the South China Sea and the machinations of great powers have been slowing down the momentum for regional cooperation and frustrating attempts to forge a robust and mutually beneficial security architecture. There is also another troubling dimension of very great significance. While the tempo of regional cooperation has slackened, the rate at which the South China Sea marine environment is deteriorating has accelerated. Forty percent of the South China Sea’s fish stocks have already been exhausted and, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, most fish resources in the western part of the South China Sea have been exploited or overexploited.7 Meanwhile, 70 percent of the South China Sea’s coral reefs are reported to be in poor or only fair condition.8 Put simply, while the challenges to the South China Sea marine environment are growing, the capacity of regional mechanisms to effectively address those challenges has been undermined or severely constrained.

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Edited by Dongchul Cho, Takatoshi Ito and Andrew Mason

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Dongchul Cho, Takatoshi Ito and Andrew Mason

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Edited by Dongchul Cho, Takatoshi Ito and Andrew Mason

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Peter A.G. van Bergeijk and Rolph van der Hoeven

Peter van Bergeijk and Rolph van der Hoeven discuss the design and development of the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) and their strengths and weaknesses. Based on the findings in this edited volume they point out persistent high and/or growing national inequality in different regions in the world. The absence of any concern for inequality in the predecessors of the SDGs, the Millennium Development Goals was a great omission as reducing income inequality is one of the most important challenges countries are facing. Although the SDGs contain a goal to reduce inequality (goal 10) the target related to this goal is wholly insufficient as it relates only to progress of the bottom 40 per cent of the population. There is no sensible indicator to attest the growing importance of the growing cleavage between income of work and income of capital and the income of super rich (the top-1 per cent) which manifest themselves in much more visible form in emerging and in developed countries. The authors argues that concern for income inequality should receive far greater attention in the implementation of the SDGs

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Peter J. Morgan and Long Q. Trinh

Sustainable and inclusive growth in emerging Asian economies requires continued high levels of public sector investment in areas such as infrastructure, education, health, and social services. These responsibilities, especially with regard to infrastructure investment, need to be devolved increasingly to the regional government level. However, growth of sources of revenue and financing for local governments has not necessarily kept pace, forcing them, in some cases, to increase borrowing or cut spending below needed levels. This chapter reviews alternative models of the relationship between central and local governments, and provides an overview and assessment of different financing mechanisms for local governments, including tax revenues, central government transfers, bank loans, and bond issuance, with a focus on the context of emerging Asian economies. The chapter also reviews financing mechanisms for local governments and mechanisms for maintaining fiscal stability and sustainability at both the central and local government levels. Based upon the evidence on the decentralization process in Asia, it proposes some policy implications for improving central–local government relations and fiscal sustainability.

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Edited by Naoyuki Yoshino and Peter J. Morgan

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Stephan Klasen

Given Asia’s record of rapid economic growth and the conceptual and empirical problems of the current international income poverty line (‘dollar-a-day’), this chapter discusses whether there is merit in developing an Asia-specific poverty line that addresses some of the shortcomings of the dollar-a-day line and additionally considers Asia’s particular economic situation. We consider various ways of creating an Asia-specific poverty line, including an Asia-specific international income poverty line (using purchasing-power parity, PPP, adjusted dollars) that is derived from Asian national poverty lines. We argue that there can be some merit in developing an Asian poverty line and that, in the case of income poverty, it would be best to ground such an Asia-specific poverty line in a consistent method of generating national poverty lines using national currencies rather than generating a PPP-adjusted poverty line in international dollars that is specific for Asia. It is important that such a poverty line also considers relative poverty in its assessment to reflect the rising aspirations of Asian societies, in line with suggestions made by Chen and Ravallion (2013) on weakly relative poverty lines. In terms of multidimensional poverty lines, there is also some merit in developing an Asia-specific multidimensional poverty index that takes into account the specific living conditions of Asian societies.

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Jacques Silber and Guanghua Wan

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Keun Lee