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Report of the UBU-TVSEP data user conference

On 4th September 2020, the Thailand Vietnam Socio Economic Panel (TVSEP), a DFG-sponsored long-term project based at the Leibniz University Hannover (LUH), School of Economics and Management held its Second Data User Conference. The Conference was jointly organized with TVSEP’s research partner in Thailand, the Ubon Ratchathani University (UBU), during UBU’s 14th Annual Research Conference. The objective of the conference was to take stock of the progress made by researchers in Thailand and Vietnam who are using TVSEP’s panel data for their research. The conference drew the attention of some 60 participants, mostly from Thailand, Vietnam, and Germany among other countries.  Most participated online while some of the participants from Thailand were present in UBU’s digital conference centre.

Opening

The Conference started with an opening session which was chaired by Dr. Chawalit Thinvongpituk, UBU Vice-President. The welcome address was delivered by Dr. Chutinun Prasitphuripreecha, the University’s President.  She conveyed a warm welcome to all participants and stressed the importance of this event for UBU and TVSEP. The President also pointed out the uniqueness of the TVSEP panel for research and development in Thailand and Vietnam and assured the continuous support of the Ubon Ratchathani University as a host of the TVSEP project in Thailand.

Welcome remarks were delivered by Dr. Suwanna Praneetvatakul, TVSEP’s research coordinator for Thailand who remarked on the benefits that TVSEP is providing to researchers in Thailand and other countries. She also raised the importance of providing feedback based on the panel data to the communities involved.

The 3rd presentation of the opening session was delivered by Prof. Hermann Waibel, TVSEP project coordinator, who gave a brief history and an outlook of TVSEP’s achievements and activities. He also provided a brief overview of the Conference program. 

After the opening session, Dr. Suwanna Praneetvatakul, introduced the keynote speaker of the Conference Dr. Nipon Poapongsakorn, Distinguished Fellow and former President of the Thailand Development and Research Foundation (TDRI). Dr. Nipon talked about the Impact of Covid-19 on agriculture and policy response in Thailand. The introductory part of the presentation was given by Ms. Urairat Jantarasiri, who showed the timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effective response measures taken by the Government, which ensured that Thailand was one of the most successful countries in containing the spread of infections.  Dr. Nipon then conducted a rigorous analysis of the negative impacts of the lock-down measures on Thailand’s economy, in particular from the perspective of the rural population.  The keynote speaker made it very clear that based on evidence available so far, there is a high risk that poverty, especially in rural Thailand, may rise again significantly. This results from the loss of wage employment incomes of the rural population and from reverse migration from urban centres back to their rural households. Income from agriculture has gone down to 25 – 35 % and therefore the impact of job loss is unlikely to be compensated by agriculture or by government subsidies to agriculture. Dr. Nipon also stressed the importance of TVSEP’s special COVID survey, scheduled for November of 2020 in Thailand because currently available data are insufficient for a scientifically solid analysis of the impact of COVDI-19 on agriculture and rural areas.

The keynote speech stimulated some good discussion points and offered an excellent entry into the four subsequent sessions of the conference.

First conference session

In the first session, three papers from data users from Thailand were presented. The first presentation was by by Dr. Suparerk Janjarasjitt, of Ubon Ratchathani University’s Faculty of Engineering, titled, "A situation assessment on food safety and its supply chain in Ubon Ratchathani". Dr. Suparerk illustrated how the TVSEP data can be combined with other data sets to create a big-data-project. Big data can then be utilized to facilitate assessments of food safety and supply chains on behalf of policymakers.
The second presentation was made by Dr. Orawan Srisompun, Mahasarakham University. She had used the TVSEP data to work on the topic: "The Adoption of Mechanization, Labour Productivity and Household Income: Evidence from Rice Production in Thailand". In her study, Dr. Orawan looked at the effect of mechanization in rice farming on labour productivity and farm income. She raised the issue of better land consolidation as a pre-condition for fully capturing the benefits of mechanisation among small-scale farmers in Northeast Thailand.
The third paper presented by Dr. Suvaporn Phasuk, from Kasetsart University was on the topic of "Improving skills of rice farmers in Thailand". Her analysis using five panel waves of TVSEP data is part of a larger project in the context of Thailand’s Agriculture 4.0 Smart Farming Strategy. She found that education is an important factor for productivity and income in all TVSEP locations while the impact of the so-called smart technologies varied considerably across sites. All three papers were well received by the participants. Possibilities for improving the analysis were put forward in the discussions and questions regarding the TVSEP data and their interpretation were identified.

Second session

After a break of 30 minutes, the second session began, which was chaired by Prof. Ulrike Grote from LUH. Three presentations by Vietnamese researchers using the TVSEP data were given. The first was on "Returns to Education in Vietnam: Evidence from Rural Provinces" by Dr. Dai Binh Tran, from the Vietnamese German University in Ho Chi Minh City. The paper focused on the relationship between education and health, a topic where to date hardly any studies have been conducted in Vietnam. Findings confirmed positive effects of education for the rural population in Vietnam but at the same time observed large heterogeneity in terms of gender, employment status and income, for example. 
The second presentation was by Dr. Tu, Le, Hoa Sen University, Ho Chi Minh City on "The effects of floods on agricultural production: A mixed blessing”. In this paper the author combined TVSEP data from four panel waves (2007, 2008, 2010, 2013) for all six provinces in Vietnam and Thailand with NASA data on flooding in the survey locations. Results suggest that flooding events are costly but in some occasions can increase yields. The discussion revealed that some further data analysis will be useful.
The last paper in the second session was on "Farming Efficiency, Cropland Rental Market and Income Effect: Evidence from Panel Data for Rural Central Vietnam" by Dr. Viet Tuan Tran from the Vietnam National University of Forestry in Hanoi. This paper was joint work with TVSEP members at LUH. It investigated the relationship between the participation of land rental markets and efficiency of crop production. The paper concluded that participation in land rental markets is beneficial for both households renting in farmland and those renting out. Even though the discussion was brief, due to the time constraint it nevertheless brought forward some good questions that will help to improve the papers.

Third session

The third session was on topics from both, Thailand and Vietnam and was chaired by Dr. habil. Trung Thanh Nguyen, LUH, the Research Director of TVSEP. In this session, "The Impacts of Aging Society on Farm Households’ Agricultural Production and Inequalities in Rural Thailand" was presented by Dr. Uchook Duangbootsee, from Kasetsart University in Bangkok. This was “work-in-progress” but the presentation raised some very good points on the opportunities and limitations of the TVSEP data, especially when using all panel waves. The paper’s focus was on land fragmentation and productivity, but a wider scope is considered in the next phase of the research. Ms. Chompunuch Nantajit, a PhD scholar from Thailand, currently at Leibniz University Hannover, gave a presentation on "Highlights of a decade of panel data collection in 2200 households in the provinces of Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchathani and Buri Ram". This presentation targeted the three provinces in Northeast Thailand included in the TVSEP panel and showed the general socioeconomic developments in the panel as well as highlighting some interesting features at the district level of the three provinces. The third paper by Mr. Manh Hung Do, from the Southern Center of Agricultural Policy in Vietnam (SCAP) and since recently a DAAD scholar and PhD student at LUH was dedicated to the topic:  "Return migrants in Vietnam: the role of shocks and policy". In some ways, this paper differed from those presented thus far, as it utilized the very recent data set of the 2018 migrant tracking survey in combination with rural household data. The results showed some of the factors that drive migrants to return to their natal rural villages including the influence of rural poverty reduction policies.

The last paper presentation session chaired by Prof. Krisztina Kis-Katos from Göttingen University was devoted on presenting future TVSEP projects. The first was the “TVSEP-APP Project” by Prof. Lena Dräger, Prof. Annika Herr and Prof. Marina Schröder, Leibniz University Hannover. This project aims to utilize the high share of ownership of smartphones in the panel in order to approach data collection and conducting economic experiments in a novel way via phone push messages for TVSEP respondents. The envisaged project includes three subjects, namely: (1) inflation expectations, (2) health effects of household waste reduction and (3) time preference and economic behaviour.  The project is planned for 2021 after the conduct of the full TVSEP household panel. The project raised a lot interest because of its innovativeness and participants from Thailand raised some questions and points to be considered in the implementation of this project. The last presentation was given by Mr. Niels Wendt, Research Associate and TVSEP Data Management Specialist on the procedure of the planned "TVSEP Corona Special Corona Survey 2020" in Thailand. This gave participants some insights into the next TVSEP activity which was highly welcomed by the participants of the conference.

General discussion

The Conference finished with a general discussion on the lessons learned during the conference and some salient points to be taken into consideration by TVSEP as well as an outlook of TVSEP activities in the near future. The conference was concluded by a farewell speech by Vice-President Dr. Chawalit Thinvongpituk. He expressed his great satisfaction with the contributions made in the conference and thanked all the staff involved in the preparation of this event.

Finally, it must be noted that the UBU-TVSEP conference took place in two very different time zones, i.e. ICT in Thailand and CEST in Germany. The respective starting and closing time was 13.00 and 19.00 in Thailand while it was 8.00 and 14.00 in Germany. In spite of this inconvenience the conference was very productive and a great success. Most of the participants stayed until the very end. The papers presented clearly demonstrated the enormous research potential of the TVSEP panel data and provided a good account of the progress made as well as the challenges faced by the panel’s Asian data users. Further, important feedback was received and there was great interest regarding the TVSEP Covid-19 survey in Thailand that will take place towards the end of this year.

Some testimonials from VIP participants

Prof. Dr. Nipon Poapongsakorn, Distinguished Fellow and former President of the Thailand Development and Research Foundation (TDRI), Thailand:

"TVSEP is one of the most comprehensive panel data sets in Thailand and Vietnam and as such it is commendable and vital that efforts are being made to gather data on the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a great honour to have been invited as the keynote speaker at the UBU-TVSEP Conference."

 

Bui Thi Quynh Tho, Phd, Vice-Rector, Ha Tinh University, Vietnam:

“The UBU-TVSEP conference was a great success and provided many valuable insights. I greatly appreciate the invitation and look forward to intensify our collaboration with and support of TVSEP both in research and in their future survey activities.”

 

Prof. Dr. Annika Herr, Director Institute of Health Economics, LUH, Germany:

“I enjoyed the conference very much. The program was pretty packed, but that allowed the audience to get a good overview over the different TVSEP projects.”

 

Dr. Somkid Naprom, Lecturer Udon Thani University and former TVSEP Data Collection Manager in Thailand:

"Thank you so much for the invitation to the conference. It was great that many international users came together and presented their research using TVSEP data. As the former TVSEP Data Collection Manager in Thailand, I am honoured to be there to contribute to the conference. The TVSEP data has vast potential, is meaningful to researchers and policymakers and is of high quality. I am proud to see that our hard work has resulted in more and more researchers producing high-quality research as demonstrated during this conference. My thanks go to TVSEP and I hope to see the project continued until 2027 in Thailand.  Thanks again and hope to see you all during the next TVSEP activity."


Prof Dr. Shi Min, Huazhong Agricultural University, Department of Agricultural Economics, College of Economics and Management:

“I did enjoy the UBU-TVSEP conference, which not only helped better understand the long-term TVSEP project but also showed some novel insights into the data mining of the TVSEP panel data. This conference also provided us with a great opportunity to connect with the researchers who are interested in development and agricultural economics in Southern Asia such as Thailand and Vietnam”.