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Corporate Governance in Asia — Challenges and Prospects

Executive Editor’s note: I am delighted to inform our readers that internationally known professor  Gunter Dufey has accepted our invitation to join us as  as the Director-Editor for the region of Singapore and Southeast Asia among his other activities. We are looking forward to his wise and experienced inputs. Below is a brief CV of his and the first article for our publication.

Professor Gunter Dufey, PhD or “GD” as he is known among friends and colleagues is Professor Emeritus of The University of Michigan Ross School of Business, in Ann Arbor, MI USA and Consultant on the faculty of Banking and Finance, Nanyang Business School, Singapore where he taught since 2000 to date. Parts of his academic career were spent at Stanford (USA), University of Texas, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (Austria), St. Gallen (Switzerland) and Universität des Saarlandes (Germany) where he was appointed Honorary Professor. His research interests focus on risk management, intl. financial markets and corporate governance. He has published widely. Parallel to his academic career, he worked for extended periods with a number of multinational companies and government agencies, such as  the US Department of the Treasury,, the Ministry of Finance ? FAIR in Tokyo and the Pacific Rim Bankers Program, Seattle, USA. He continues to serve on the Boards of Guinness/Atkinson, USA and until recently on several subsidiaries of Ally Financial (GMAC), Detroit and Toronto. He participates in managing the portfolios of several foundations. From 09/2001 to 02/2003 he was employed with McKinsey and Co. in Singapore, supporting the firm’s Corp. Governance practice in Asia. GD has been a member of the Singapore Institute of Directors, an active participant in the programs of the Asian Corporate Governance Association and currently serves part-time as Executive Director of EDUCATION EXCHANGE LTD, Singapore. Throughout his career he has been actively engaged in Executive Education.

Corporate Governance (CG) has been an enduring issue in the Region (Southeast Asia), especially after the Asian Crisis where poor CG made the crisis considerably worse as investors, local and foreign, harbored serious doubts about their fate when business firms confronted adverse conditions. In spite of progress made over the years, surveys conducted by organizations such as McKinsey & Co and well as the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) show that – while there are wide differences among countries in the Region – overall there is much room for improvement when compared to the developed markets in North America and Western Europe – although knowledgeable observers will hasten to add that there is considerable room for improving CG in these countries too.

Today, there are two factors that provide special urgency for CG ‘upgrading’: For one, a number of Asian countries, in particular Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the city states of Hong Kong and Singapore, have reached a stage of economic development where ‘technological catching-up’ can not be relied upon for further growth. With population increase severely limited and in some cases negative, can provide a further source of economic growth. The second factor, distinct yet related, is the looming pension problem in all these societies, driven by shrinking labor forces and rapidly rising life expectancies. With the traditional Asian family based retirement system disappearing, and ‘pay as you go’ social security systems ailing – to the extent they ever existed in the Region, the only alternatives are so called ‘defined contribution’ (DC) arrangements, illustrated by Singapore’s CPF. However, as this example shows, DC pension systems require the availability of assets with good returns over the long term. In practice only equities (incl. real estate related equities) can yield returns that make contributions affordable. And equity markets with good returns require high quality CG, where firms are managed for the benefit of investors.

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