Nathan Peng Li


Nathan is a PhD candidate from UBC’s political science department and a research assistant at the centre. Within Southeast Asia, he focuses on the political economy of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. As part of his previous role in the Singaporean civil service working on poverty alleviation issues, he attended several ASEAN meetings in Laos and Myanmar, where he had the opportunity to share about Singapore’s social welfare system and witness regional dynamics first-hand.

His broader research interests center around issues of growth and inequality; driven by his desire to understand and design policy instruments that would equalize social and economic outcomes both within and across countries. His longer-term research agenda consists two parts: the first examines the link between patterns of politics and the development potential of a country (how much economies grow before they slow down). The second looks at strategies countries adopt when economic growth does stagnate and their implications; specifically, what kinds of politics and policies better sustain quality of life relative to others in these states of slow growth. Ultimately, he hopes his research will increase human welfare and leave the world a little better than he found it.

 Currently, he is examining the role of development aid in shaping recipient country politics and its impact on development, speaking to the first part of his research agenda: how patterns of politics influence how far countries develop economically before growth slows. 

Beyond academia, Nathan is an avid lover of food, travelling, and dabbling in outdoor sports like hiking and diving. He especially loves the moss-covered parks of Nara, Japan where deer bow politely for biscuits and roam free as alleged messengers of the gods. His favorite Southeast Asian dish is Yong Tau Foo (assorted tofu with fish paste) from Toa Payoh Lorong One in Singapore, where he enjoyed great conversations with many kindred spirits from Singapore’s social sector