The Barefoot Economist (aka Arthur Ha) was born on a childhood trip to China, where the teenage Barefoot Economist witnessed the magic of economic growth. It is also the product of his mother’s experience as the youngest daughter of illegal Chinese refugees to Hong Kong. He could see how the natural experiment of his mother who migrated to Australia (legally) and his uncle who was forced to give up education during the Cultural Revolution in China. This bred a fascination with how economics could explain the difference between rich and poor countries.
The Barefoot Economist then went to University to study economics. After he graduated, he started work at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) as a research economist. The Barefoot Economist is a city boy but he soon learned to talk to farmers and understand how farmers make a living. He also worked on water, fisheries, forestry and productivity issues. After two years at ABARE, the Barefoot Economist returned to Melbourne to work for the then Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
In Victoria, the Barefoot Economist was lucky enough to work with some of the most innovative economists in Australia. He worked on BushTender, a way for the government to buy conservation services from farmers. He also worked on other interesting issues such as agricultural productivity, biosecurity, drought policy, innovation policy, climate change and fisheries.
In 2009, the Barefoot Economist decided to broaden his skills and experience and decided to complete a Masters at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. There he completed a ‘Certificate in International Finance and Banking’ and a concentration in International Environmental and Resources Policy. The Barefoot Economist wanted to help capital markets finance environmental projects. The Barefoot Economist was fortunate to work on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on renewable technologies and a World Bank project looking at including agriculture in climate change negotiations. He also worked on climate change adaptation at the Feinstein International Center particularly on the applicability of weather derivatives. The Barefoot Economist honed his negotiation skills by attending negotiation simulations in the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. He even attended a diplomatic conference in Ethiopia on agriculture and climate change. The Barefoot Economist also worked on Wall Street for Advanced Portfolio Management as an intern where he learned a little on how the US financial sector really works.
In 2011, the Barefoot Economist returned to his old job in the Victorian Government. He was dismayed at how economic analysis had been marginalised in government decision-making. The Barefoot Economist moved to a new job where he became a Manager of Regulatory Reform Team where he witnessed how government processes and political interests hindered economic reform. Despite this, the Barefoot Economist worked on regulatory reform issues such as in renewable energy, agricultural biosecurity and mining regulation.
The Barefoot Economist decided it was time for something new. It was time to strike out on his own.