Fulbright University Vietnam is delighted to announce the publication of the second issue of the Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy (FREP), an international journal published on the platform of Emerald Publishing. Link to the journal’s inaugural issue can be found here. The second issue is a collection of the best papers selected from the FREP virtual workshop held on September 15, 2021 on the theme of “Policy responses for sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.”

As we all know, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is more than just a global health crisis. Besides having already claimed millions of lives (WHO, 2021), it has had multi-dimensional impacts on the economy and society that have uncovered serious vulnerabilities in our national and international systems and have shown how sensitive we are to severe natural shocks and diseases (OECD, 2020).

During this unprecedented time, governments worldwide have struggled to balance the goal of saving lives with that of keeping the economy open. Fiscal and monetary stimulus programs have been introduced to ease the economic depression and to relieve the burden on people, especially disadvantaged populations. At the heart of the pandemic responses are governments around the world, which have proven their vital role in mitigating the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19.

Even though the pandemic is far from over, it is about time we reflect on several lessons and experiences that would help us move forward into the future. Calls for resilient and sustainable recovery have arisen with the clamor to “Build Back Better,” which urges resilient, inclusive and environment-friendly recovery post-disaster (Hallegatte, Rentschler, &Walsh, 2018). In this sense, governments’ post-pandemic policies and actions should target more than just economic revitalization but the other aspects of public governance, public service delivery, green development and social equality and justice.

In the FREP virtual workshop on “Policy responses for sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery,” Fulbright University Vietnam was able to gather many speakers and participants from across the globe to present and lead insightful discussions on policy responses to issues on equitable development, economic or fiscal resilience, climate change, sustainable climate finance, single-parent families, mental health education, community-based and -driven approaches during the lockdowns and early periods of the pandemic and their interlinkages for a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery path. The speakers presented their insightful analyses of the COVID-19’s significant impact on policies: how different governments responded to the pandemic would signify the route to recovery.

FREP is Emerald Publishing’s new journal in the fields of economics and public policy. FREP is a peer-reviewed, open-access international scientific research journal that aims to promote publications that employ rigorous analytical tools and advocate for evidence-based policy. The journal is hosted by the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management at Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) and sponsored by FUV.

The Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) recently hosted a virtual event to prepare for the second issue of the Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy (FREP), an international journal published on the platform of Emerald Publishing. On September 15, 2021, many established and rising international scholars came together to discuss policy responses for a sustainable post-Covid-19 recovery.

The conference was hosted by Dr. Le Thai Ha, FSPPM’s Director of Research and Senior Faculty member. According to Dr. Le Thai Ha, the topic “policy responses” has always been one of the key pillars at FSPPM. However, as the global health crisis raged on, it became clear that COVID-19 would have a significant impact on policies: how governments responded to the pandemic would signify the route to recovery.

As we face a global pandemic, our “policy responses” pillar takes on a new significance. Being a leading public policy school in Vietnam, FSPPM is determined to do all we can to assist in the sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19, especially for underprivileged groups and for our climate,” said Dr. Le Thai Ha.

The conference comprised of four panels, featuring academics and researchers from Australia, Taiwan, America, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong, Maldives, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Portugal.

The first panel, moderated by Dr. Thai Ha, assessed policies that the governments in Vietnam, Taiwan, and the United States of America adopted to recover from the pandemic, as well as the challenges and implications such policy instruments would have on the economy, the society, and the environment.

Dr. Le Thai Ha, FSPPM’s Director of Research and senior faculty member, moderates a panel discussion.

Dr. Ian Kalman, Fulbright University Vietnam’s faculty member in Social Science, moderated the second panel, which discussed the impact the pandemic has had on single-parent families in Malaysia, on female entrepreneurs in India, on mental health students in Hong Kong, and on the public school system in the Maldives.

I think it is important that we talk about the influence of the pandemic on more vulnerable populations, often ones rendered invisible when looking at it in terms of economic and health metrics,” said Dr. Ian. “The researchers opened our eyes to the juxtaposition of the universal and the cultural in shaping the unique experiences of the pandemic in different national contexts.”

Researchers from Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Africa, and Indonesia joined together to navigate the challenges governments need to solve, such as climate change, social security, and population density. The panel was moderated by Dr. Le Viet Phu, FSPPM’s faculty member.

I’m happy about the connection we’re making between weathering the pandemic and identifying other imminent challenges to ensure a more sustainable recovery,” Dr. Phu said. “Though these challenges may be graver for some countries than others, we are all in the same storm and we have to find a way to solve these problems that will last beyond the pandemic.

The last and final panel was also moderated by Dr. Thai Ha. Researchers from the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Portugal took on a more holistic view of policy responses: how different political climates affected policy responses and which prospects we should expect for the future.

It was my privilege to learn about the different policy interventions different countries employed to combat Covid-19, especially from such an esteemed group of researchers during the day-long virtual conference. While this pandemic is ongoing, FSPPM hopes that this conference helps to identify future challenges and creates the ground for cooperation to find our solutions,” Dr. Thai Ha concluded.

The second issue of the Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy will be released at the end of this year.

Following is the list of webinar’s speakers:

  • Professor Binh Tran-Nam, School of Accounting, Auditing, and Taxation, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Professor Yu-Ying Kuo, Department of Public Administration and Policy, National Taipei University, Taiwan
  • Professor Marianne Ojo Delaney, Director of Centre for Innovation and Sustainable Development, USA
  • Nur Hairani Abd Rahman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Administrative Studies and Politics, Faculty of Economics and Administration, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Assistant Professor Sanjeev Kumar, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College (for Women), University of Delhi, India
  • Chun Wai Sun Derek, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • Siu Ho Yau, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • Assistant Professor Fathmath Nishan, The Maldives National University, Maldives
  • Assistant Professor Ahmed Mohamed, The Maldives National University, Maldives
  • Helen Kavvadia, Institute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
  • Injy Johnstone, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Methembe Mdlalose, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Misran Alfarabi, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Slobodan Tomic, Programme Director – Masters of Public Administration (MPA), University of York, United Kingdom
  • Assistant Professor Mrutuyanjaya Sahu, Birla Institute of Technology & Science, UAE
  • Uzoma Vincent Patrick Agulonye, Centre for Development Studies and Africa, Lisbon School of Economics and Management Studies (ISEG), Portugal

Fulbright University Vietnam is delighted to announce the publication of the inaugural issue of Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy (FREP), an international journal published on the platform of Emerald Publishing. Link to the journal’s inaugural issue can be found at: https://www.emerald.com/insight/publication/issn/2635-0173/vol/1/iss/1.

FREP is a peer-reviewed, open-access international scientific research journal, hosted by Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) at Fulbright University Vietnam and sponsored by FUV. The journal aims to promote publications that employ rigorous analytical tools and advocate for evidence-based policy.

It has been almost two years in the making and was challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the strong collaboration and trust among the editorial board, advisory team and contributors have created a thought-provoking journal.

With an editorial board and an advisory team of leading and senior professors in various economics and public policy disciplines at renowned universities worldwide, FREP publishes not only rigorously peer-reviewed original scholarly articles but also other types of research, such as practitioner papers, perspectives and review articles, on a semiannual basis.

The inaugural issue of FREP presents a diverse selection of pertinent articles from established scholars and young academics. The journal not only focuses on economic issues but also covers a broad range of policy areas in social development, governance and public administration of interest to readers –international agencies, academics, researchers, policy professionals, policymakers and practitioners, local communities and nongovernmental organizations. This diversity in policy themes is reflected in the first issue.

Through a handful of highly selected articles covering a wide range of topics and approaches, this inaugural issue highlights different subjects regarding emerging socioeconomic matters, spanning from developed countries in Europe to the developing world in Asia. As such, the editorial board believe that this first issue is suitable for readers with a wide range of interests in contemporary policy issues.

Outstanding papers

The first group of articles provides insightful discussions of various economic issues. Dwight Perkins, the Harold Hitchings Burbank Research Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University, examines the political factors behind the significant variation of per capita gross domestic product of Southeast Asian countries, which ranges from less than US$5,000 to more than US$97,000. The author considers a number of factors, such as wars, extreme politics, political instability and kleptocratic governments and leaders, and how they affect the development of various countries within the region. The author concludes that countries that avoided political extremes have the highest per-capita incomes today.

Cuong Le-Van, an Emeritus Professor at Paris School of Economics, and his coauthor, Nguyen To-The, a lecturer at VNU University of Economics and Business, Vietnam National University, explain how the wage bonus system affects an economy. They show that a wage bonus scheme enhances labor productivity. Furthermore, the results reveal that improved production may cause increasing returns through the wage bonus externality effect, and when the incentive mechanism is sufficiently strong, the economy may experience optimal paths of physical capital without limit.

David Dapice (who was an economics professor at Tufts University from 1973 to 2017 and continues to work as the Vietnam Program senior economist at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University) discusses why Vietnam was recently charged as a currency manipulator by the United States (US), and why those charges are less than conclusive. He argues that the Vietnamese dong (VND) has been kept stable in real terms against the dollar since 2015 and attributes the sharp improvement in Vietnam’s bilateral and overall trade balance to increases in China’s labor costs as well as trade frictions between the US and China. He concludes that the US’s recent decision not to impose punitive tariffs on Vietnam’s exports may reflect Vietnam’s serious and effective negotiation in addition to the country’s significant value in a regional context to the US.

Also looking at a critical issue in Vietnam, Minh Ha-Duong, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and Hoai-Son Nguyen, National Economics University (Hanoi, Vietnam), estimate the reduction of electricity poverty in Vietnam. They regard human development as also needing subjective measurements to indicate well-being. Using data from national household surveys spanning 2008 to 2018, the authors employ a self-reported satisfaction indicator to complement objective indicators. The authors find a reduction in inequality in electricity use among Vietnamese households during the investigation period.

Hoang Van Khieu, a young academic from Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Germany, who recently joins Fulbright University Vietnam as a Faculty member in Economics, uncovers the relationships between budget deficits, money growth and inflation in Vietnam over the period 1995–2012, a period during which inflation skyrocketed in the country. Using a structural vector autoregressive model of five endogenous variables, the author shows that positive shocks to money growth led to a rise in inflation, and that budget deficits had no significant effects on money growth and, therefore, inflation. The results thus support the hypothesis that fiscal and monetary policies were relatively independent.

The second group of articles focuses on emerging social issues. Colin Williams, a professor in the Management School at the University of Sheffield, and his colleague at Sheffield, Jan Windebank, a professor in the School of Languages and Cultures, evaluate contrasting policy approaches to tackle self-employment in the informal sector in Europe. The authors use data reported from the special Eurobarometer survey 92.1 conducted in 2019 across 28 European countries that included more than 27,565 interviews. Based on probit regression analysis, the authors reveal that the likelihood of participation in informal self-employment is significantly related to the level of vertical and horizontal trust.

Martin Powell, a professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, explores the extent to which the long debate in England over the funding of long-term care has involved learning from abroad. The author documents that the reports and cited studies in this field tend to focus on a handful of countries, such as Germany, Japan and Scotland, and most of the studies have few details about settings. More importantly, only a few studies provide clear policy analysis and recommendations for policy changes.

The second journal issue, expected to be published later this year, will focus on policy responses for a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.

When Dr. Le Thai Ha rummaged through the drawers looking for mementos of her student life, she found the brochure introducing the graduate research program of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. The photo on the cover of the publication shows Ha sitting on an ornamental rock among five other fellows from Singapore, China, India, and Finland.

The photo reminds Ha of the days when she was the only Vietnamese predoctoral fellow at NTU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Her predoctoral fellowship was fully funded, and she was just nearly 22 years old and had just obtained Bachelor’s degree at NTU. Six months prior, she returned to Hanoi and worked in a Japanese bank there. Although she found her job, her colleagues, and the working environment pleasant, she always felt like she did not belong there.

When the announcement broke that she was granted the predoctoral fellowship with full funding for four years, she was a little worried. Thai Ha had seen the examples of other fellows who had to change their majors or topics of research because their dissertations came to a dead end. She was also warned by her instructor that it could take her 5-6 years to finish the program. She started studying like crazy. More than two years later, she finished the program at NTU with the highest score (4.92/5.0) in her class and excellent research achievement on energy economics with two papers accepted to be published in prestigious international scientific magazines. Energy economics has become a topic that draws a lot of attention for a decade now.

In August last year, 10 years after Ha started the predoctoral fellowship, she received an acceptance letter announcing her new scientific research was approved for publication in an international journal, making it her 40th international publication.

“The most obvious change in me after 10 years is probably the attitude towards research. Ten years ago, I felt a bit pressured – not because of the program or the instructor – but because I set my own expectations for the quantity and quality of scientific publications; gradually, I find the passion and love for research in the most natural way,” Ha wrote on her Facebook page.

After returning to Vietnam, Ha started her career as a lecturer at RMIT University. She emerged as an active lecturer in economics and made an impression in the field of research with a remarkable record of international publications. So far, she has more than 40 scientific research papers published by prestigious international academic journals, including leading journals in the fields of energy economics, environment, and other applied economics such as Energy Economics, Energy Policy, Energy Journal, International Review of Financial Analysis.

All of her research papers are in the ISI/Scopus category, of which about 85% are in the Scopus Q1 or ABDC (Australian Business Deans Council) group, with research quality rated A/A*. She is also a co-editor of an independent book publisher and has been (co-)author of chapters in nine books published by prestigious publishers such as Elsevier Science, Routledge (London), Springer, Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI-Japan), and World Scientific Publishing. The RePEc Economic Research project published in June 2021 ranked Ha third in terms of scientific publications in economic research in Vietnam.

Le Thai Ha was the only Vietnamese predoctoral candidate at HSS-NTU at the time, pursuing a Ph.D. on a full-ride scholarship at 22 years old, not long after she completed her Bachelor’s degree at this prestigious university in Singapore.

During the first decade of her career, Thai Ha focused on research with a variety of internationally published papers. Her career took a new turn after a meeting with a research fellow in late 2018.

An important encounter

 In late 2018, Dr. Le Viet Phu of Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) met Ha while participating in the thesis defense committee of Vietnam-Netherlands Master of Economics program at Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics. As they had the same occupation of teaching and research on energy economics and environmental economics, they quickly connected and exchanged ideas on research activities.

“What impresses me is that Ha is very young but is among a few leading researchers in terms of internationally published papers. She has a great passion for research – a field that is usually dominated by males. With a good education background, a modern research mindset, and a large number of international publications, Ha represents the new generation of researchers in Vietnam,” Dr. Phu commented.

The encounter with Ha became an opportunity for Dr. Phu to connect Thai Ha with FSPPM. She began to engage in policy research – a unique strength of FSPPM, the school with a team of leading economic policy experts in Vietnam. For more than two decades, rooted as Fulbright Economic Teaching Program (FETP), the school has been deeply involved in policy dialogues to make a positive impact in the government’s policy-making process. The foundation for these dialogues is high-quality, independent, and objective policy research that looks directly at Vietnam’s weaknesses. With constructive criticisms and applicable research, Fulbright has been deeply engaged in the process of addressing major challenges that Vietnam is facing.

Dr. Le Viet Phu (left) and Dr. Le Thai Ha (right) in a seminar on environmental issues at Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management.

Dr. Le Thai Ha moderating a panel discussion on economics with her colleagues from Harvard Kennedy School and Vietnamese scholars.

During the few months of participating in seminars and other events at FSPPM, Thai Ha was really impressed with the school. This new experience made her realize the limit of her work – it was only known by the research community. She became excited about having her research applied to solve real world problems. On one occasion, Dr. Phu invited her to join a field study trip to a wind and solar energy project site. Although she had done some research on renewable energy, it was the first time she joined a field study trip. The stories of local people and businesses, their concerns over energy policies, and their experience in using energy broadened her horizons.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me. I realized that my research papers failed to meet real life expectations. And I realized that research that are not connected with the real world will be useless,” Ha said.

FSPPM had for decades focused on policy research and analysis, with priority given to institutional, policy, and legal issues that have a direct impact on Vietnamese society. FSPPM’s lecturers and economic experts had been involved in academic research for many years, and it was high time for the school to find the next generation of researchers.

In early 2019, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, FSPPM’s director, invited Ha to join FSPPM as Director of Research. FSPPM aspired to become a public policy school recognized for three aspects: teaching, research, and policy feedbacks that reach the global standards. In 2019, FSPPM received accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administrations (NASPAA), becoming the first accredited public policy school in Southeast Asia. FSPPM’s Master of Public Policy Program is accredited by NASPAA for a period of 7 years, which is the highest possible accreditation outcome that one can expect.

The school’s policy feedbacks were mostly based on academic research or interpreted from the results of academic research. Fulbright experts always tried to interpret policy studies in an appropriate way for policymakers in a transitional economy like Vietnam.

“The difficulties that public policy schools are usually facing are how to associate academic research with both sound theory and sufficient practice and interpret them in the language that policymakers can understand easily. Dr. Le Thai Ha does academic research, but she also delivers policy implications via her studies. This shows the courage of the researcher to step out of the comfort zone of academic research. Presenting research with policy implications is a way to measure whether the research can be applied in real life. As such, researchers are more engaged, riskier, and potentially more impactful, and this is in line with the mission of a public policy school like FSPPM,” Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh talks about the role of Thai Ha.

Sweden’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Ann Mawe, and Dr. Le Thai Ha in the seminar “Nordic Green Capitals – Leadership, Governance, Sustainability and Innovation” organized by the Nordic Embassies in Vietnam (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden), in coordination with the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management on the occasion of the Nordic Day 2021.

This year, Ha has just published two policy studies used for publication in the Asian Development Outlook by the Asian Development Bank and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“Having published papers that satisfy my passion for research while also is applicable in real life makes me even happier. Academic studies, to some extent, are not compatible with reality. If we can have policy implications in our academic studies, it would be ideal,” Ha talks about her goal of developing research at FSPPM.

As the Director of Research at FSPPM, Ha has participated in many policy dialogues with ministries, agencies, and organizations and joined many local, regional and international economic forums. This allows her to test her research and recommendations and see how they are perceived and reviewed.

“I remember my first meeting on environmental issues with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment chaired by Minister Tran Hong Ha. Although there have been many studies on the environment from an economic perspective, it was the first time that I heard directly from the ministry and other agencies about their feedbacks on my studies’ recommendations and policy implications. It helped me clearly see the applicability of my research,” Ha said.

The launch of FREP

Early this year, FSPPM announced the launch of the Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy, an international journal to be published on the platform of Emerald Publishing. FREP is an academic, peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes theoretical and empirical results in all the areas of economics and public policy.

As soon as the announcement was made, a friend asked Ha why she kept silent about the news for too long. Hardly he knew that Ha lost a lot of sleep preparing for the launch of FREP at the request of Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh for over a year since the outbreak of Covid-19.

FREP, by its name, chooses to focus on two distinctive fields of research: economics and public policy. Economics is a highly theoretical field of inquiry tapping into large datasets and utilizes sophisticated mathematical formulas in its approach. On the other hand, public policy explores more realistic problems making use of analytical observations in policies, law, and institutions that directly impact people’s lives. FREP aims to make the connection between these two fields by integrating theoretical findings in economics to seek effective policy solutions and providing empirical evidence for policy prescriptions.

“We want to create a forum for the exchange of serious, evidence-based researches that have clear theoretical foundations, solve problems, and make specific policy recommendations for issues in Vietnam, as well as in the region and the world. We want to measure the impact of research, not only by counting how many other studies cite them but by seeing how many people actually benefit from the right policies inspired by economics and policy studies,” said Dr. Tu Anh, the mastermind behind FREP’s content strategy.

As the editor-in-chief of the journal, Ha invested a lot of efforts in the first year of its launch. She describes thinking about it even in her dreams. When the whole world was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, her discussions with the UK publisher in 2020 only focused on technical issues. Although she is also a member of the editorial board of several prestigious international journals, running a brand-new journal was still an unprecedented experience for her. Before reaching the agreement with Emerald Publishing, she failed to contact and find the right publisher many times. The biggest challenge was to gather researchers and maintain the quality of the journal as expected.

“It was an experience I’ve never had in my career,” she said.

What encouraged Ha to keep going is that although FREP is a new name in the international community of academic research journals, it had strong professional backup from leading scholars, just like FSPPM in the early days of its establishment. An editorial board consisting of famous scientists and scholars from leading universities in the world, particularly in the United States, accepted to serve as consultants for the journal. Many of them have strong connections with Fulbright school since the early days of its establishment more than 25 years ago, such as Prof. Dwight Perkins (Harvard University), Prof. David Dapice (Harvard University), Prof. James E. Anderson (Boston University), Prof. Terry Buss (U.S. National Academy of Public Administration), Prof. Eddy Malesky (Duke University), and Prof. Scott Fritzen (University of Oklahoma).

Stepping out of the comfort zone

In addition to doing research, Ha is a senior lecturer in economics at FSPPM. She finds the joy of life in doing research and teaching. An optimistic person, she always feels happy with little things every day. It can be an acceptance letter from a publishing journal or a fruitful lecture. She is usually asked by her students: “Why do you do so many studies?”

“Today I received the acceptance letter from a journal. I felt so happy like the sun was shining through my heart. I found the answer to the question of why I do so many researches: I want to receive acceptant letters so that I could be motivated to do other researches,” she shared on her Facebook.

Ha considers doing research a way to relax and relieve the pressure of work and life. When she was waiting for a reply from a journal to publish her paper or feeling sad during the days of social distancing in the Covid-19 pandemic, she focused on her research. Doing research is not always a path full of roses. Along with published papers, she had many papers rejected. Usually, the rate of papers approved by prestigious scientific journals in the ISI category is around 10%. Therefore, Ha attributes her success to hard work and perseverance.

After spending a year on technical preparations for FREP, Ha and her colleagues spent another six months preparing the content for the first issue in the summer of 2021. Her busy schedule also includes lecturing in the Fulbright Master of Public Policy program and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Academy’s programs at Fulbright University Vietnam. The first special edition of FREP and a launching workshop with researchers will focus on the world’s and the region’s post-Covid policy response.

“At Fulbright, I have many opportunities to interact, not only with the government’s policymakers but also those in the private sector. With my current job, I also have many opportunities to deliver talks in other local universities. The more I expand my network, the more I appreciate the environment I am working in. It is an environment in which I can develop my expertise without being distracted. At Fulbright, I step out of my comfort zone in research and teaching,” Ha concluded.

Xuân Linh