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"Change is in the air everywhere I went in Asia, and I left Vietnam feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country and the role that CBG's activities are playing in the transition."

-Ira A. Jackson

 

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Summer 2001 Director's Welcome

 
 
Summer 2001

Dear CBG Family and Friends,

Having just returned from a visit to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Tokyo, I thought this letter might take the form more of a casual travel diary than the usual comprehensive monthly report on Center activities. Apologies in advance to faculty, staff and fellows whose publications, conferences, seminars and achievements I'm failing to highlight as a result. I simply thought it might be a nice change to hear about a special gem of a CBG program that operates out of Ho Chi Minh City that I had the pleasure to experience first-hand with my KSG colleague Professor Dutch Leonard and former Ambassador Jonathan Moore.

But first a word about a very special day that about 30 CBG faculty, fellows, staff and students spent last Friday doing community service along with an equal number of enthusiastic partners from the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics. Organized by City Year, a national youth service corps started here in Boston, we gathered at the First Baptist Church in Central Square, performed calisthenics to warm up, learned about the many worthwhile secular, social, educational and civic functions that are provided at this handsome old facility, and then got to work plastering, dry walling, taping, spackling, sanding, landscaping, sawing, nailing and cleaning the huge basement and outside area of the church.

At the end of a very satisfying day of getting our hands dirty to help create a youth and recreation center in the cavernous church basement, CBG faculty member Jack Donahue remarked, "A lot of us write books, teach classes, engage in research and hope that somehow, somewhere our efforts end up making a difference in society. Today, we all had the satisfaction of doing something much more concrete, and we end the day being about to point to something physical that we know will in fact leave this place a little better for the future."

It was a wonderfully positive day for all of us who participated. Indeed, Institute of Politics Director and former U.S. Senator David Pryor summed up the sentiments of many when he observed that service of this kind, and interacting with young people and the community, is exactly what a school of government, charged with training people to be public leaders, is all about-and we ought to encourage more of this activity in the future. So David and I have
agreed that we're going to make this joint CBG/IOP Community Service Day an annual rite of spring and we're planning to organize another joint community service day next fall, to coincide with City Year's Servathon in October. I hope you can join us. You'll feel the kind of exhaustion, satisfaction and inspiration that always seems to accompany doing hard work alongside others in a spirit of fun for a larger cause.

Our day of community service was, in part, a way of bringing City Year back home to CBG and the IOP. Its founders, Alan Khazei and Michael Brown were given space at the Kennedy School to explore their idea of starting a privately funded urban peace corps. One of their strongest supporters was Win Knowlton, the first Director of CBG. And one of the first calls Win made was to a future CBG Director who was then a newly minted executive vice president at Bank Boston. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to provide the first corporate and institutional support to City Year. Since that modest beginning, City Year has raised more than $150 million to support a national program that has graduated some 6,000 corps members who performed more than 8 million hours of community service, demonstrating that young people can be tapped as a source of idealism, positive energy and community caring. President Clinton used City Year as a prototype for Americorps and Nelson Mandela has invited City Year to start a chapter in South Africa.

Now back to that site visit to the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. CBG oversees and operates the school under contract with the U.S. State Department and with the blessings of the government of Vietnam. This unusual program was started six years ago by Tom Vallely, Dwight Perkins and David Dapice and has trained about 350 provincial officials and managers from throughout Vietnam in market economics. The school offers the academic equivalent of "boot camp for bureaucrats" in a yearlong, highly structured sequence of intense learning. Graduates hail from more than 50 of Vietnam's 62 provinces, and next year nearly 400 applicants vied for just 60 spots.

The Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) also offers a number of short courses on topics ranging from economics for journalists and translators, to marketing goods and services of state-owned enterprises. Combined, the 800 alums of our Vietnam Program represent a substantial force for change.

I had the opportunity to visit with a number of graduates who are putting their classroom learning to work in transforming Vietnam into a market-oriented economy. One of our graduates has helped to reshape the rural rice market and by loosening state control of wholesale distribution and pricing, the reforms he pioneered led to a 30 percent increase in output. Another graduate is transforming subsistence fishing into commercially viable shrimp harvesting. Yet another graduate leads the largest export-trading zone in Vietnam that currently offers employment to 70,000. To support the new trading zone, he is planning an entire new community for half a million people south of Saigon, complete with state-of-the-art schools, recreation, training, housing and transportation facilities.

CBG's Vietnam Program is making a difference and leaving a mark on this complicated country with which the United States has had such a troubled history. It's hard to measure the difference in one quick trip but I couldn't help being struck by the contrast when I flew from modern, gleaming Hong Kong, with its per capita income north of $30,000, into Vietnam where per capita income is $450. I was experiencing two different worlds in many respects. But change is in the air everywhere I went in Asia, and I left Vietnam feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country and the role that CBG's activities are playing in the transition.

When we met with the Prime Minister of Vietnam in Hanoi, he gave us a very warm and friendly reception (indeed, he actually embraced our chief economist, David Dapice). The Prime Minister was fully knowledgeable about the range and scope of our activities, grateful for our partnership, and enthusiastic about exploring new roles that we might consider playing as Vietnam moves emerge from decades of state control.

The U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, former Congressman Pete Peterson, hosted us for lunch at the embassy, along with representatives from a number of international organizations and foundations active in Vietnam. I was impressed by the reaction and response to our program and the leadership of our team by others on the ground also doing good work in Vietnam. It appears that what we're doing is vitally needed. So much of the change that is necessary in Vietnam needs to take place in the provinces-at the equivalent of the state and local level-which is where we focus our energies. What's needed is training on how to make markets work efficiently, how to analyze public and policy choices, and how to manage more effectively. The way to do that is by partnering with our host country, by respectfully engaging indigenous talent, and by always insisting upon and maintaining the highest standards. We appear to be doing all of this superbly well.

All in all it's a fascinating, important and high quality program that we run in Vietnam. I was proud to see what our colleagues have achieved, and I'm looking forward to visits next month by Dean Joe Nye and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On this trip, I also had a chance to explore the executive program we share in Hong Kong and journey to Japan where I visited with Sachio Semmoto, one of Tokyo's most successful high tech entrepreneurs who recently spoke at a CBG luncheon in Cambridge.

I'll conclude this month's letter with congratulations to the Kennedy School's Class of 2001. This year's commencement speaker is Andy Card, a KSG alum who now serves as chief of staff to the President.

So the beat goes on. It's a very spirited, fast-paced beat. I hope that you're as energized and inspired as I am by the work that so many of our colleagues are doing, whether in Vietnam or back home at CBG.

Best wishes,

 

Ira A. Jackson, Director

Center for Business and Government

 
 
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