Monthly Archives: December 2013

Jose Rizal’s Curt Advice

Commentary

Rizal’s curt advice

By MANUEL F. ALMARIO
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:05 pm | Sunday, December 29th, 2013

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Great men of history are usually remembered for what they can teach even though they may have lived long in the past. Thus, we recall what Socrates and Aristotle said thousands of years ago for the lessons they give on politics and morality. The Philippines has its own great men, foremost among them Jose Rizal, whose martyrdom we commemorate every Dec. 30. What can he teach us regarding our most urgent problem today—a stagnant economy and its consequence, abject poverty?

 

Rizal is more widely known for his fight for the equality and freedom of Filipinos. But what were his views on economics? In his two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” he dramatized the injustices of Spanish colonial rule through the travails of their characters. Sisa, the unfortunate mother of two children brutalized by a Church deacon, was the very snapshot of poverty.

 

In a brief scene in the “Fili,” Rizal made known his thinking on economic development through the protagonist, Simoun, a well-travelled and wealthy Filipino businessman. When asked by a group of Chinese merchants, who were bewailing the poor economic conditions then in the Philippines, for his opinion on what it should do in order to prosper, Simoun huffed, “My opinion? Study how other nations prosper, and then do what they do!”

 

It seems that Philippine officials and their economic advisers, like the Spanish administrators then, have ignored this commonsense advice. What they have been following since the 1960s is neoliberalism, a theory of economic development initiated and directed by rich Western countries.

Advocates of neoliberalism back economic liberalization, free trade and open markets, deregulation, and privatization. In short, less government, as championed by US and UK leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

 

The privatization of our power and water industries is an example of neoliberalism, which is also known as “globalization.” Among the reasons given by neoliberal economists for privatization is that government-run industries are inefficient. Inefficiency leads to higher costs, and therefore to higher prices, whereas privatization results in greater efficiency, less production costs, and lower prices.

 

But what we have seen is that the privatization of our power generation and water distribution has led to higher rates. Informed critics say our power rates are the highest, not just in Asia, but in the world. The cost of water services has also somersaulted upward many times, causing consumers, which include everybody, to protest loudly. The prohibitive costs of these essential services make our industries less competitive and lower our productivity drastically.

 

 

In the United States, the biggest power utility is owned by the federal government. The Tennessee Valley Authority, built at the height of the Great Depression in 1933, now runs 29 hydroelectric power dams, three nuclear power plants, nine combustion turbine plants, and five combined cycle gas plants. It provides cheap electricity to seven states. Numerous petitions to privatize it have been dismissed by the US Supreme Court on the ground that regulation of public utilities is in the public interest. On the other hand, the privatization of power in California by Enron turned out to be a disaster, resulting in blackouts and higher rates.

 

A look at the rise of rich nations will show that they all went through a process of economic protectionism under state direction—the opposite of liberalization—before becoming rich. Ha Joon Chang, a professor of economics at Cambridge, wrote in his book “The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” that the United States, now the world’s richest economy, and Britain, once the richest, were both protectionist for long periods before they became rich.

 

Citing historical facts and statistics, Chang wrote that “the two champions of free trade, Britain and the US, were not only not free trade economies, but had been the most protectionist economies—that is, until they each in succession became the world’s dominant industrial power.” It was then that they “kicked away the ladder,” to prevent other nations from following and competing with them. During their protectionist period, from the mid-19th century to the end of the 20th, they charged the highest tariffs, 50-55 percent, versus 0-5 percent in the Philippines now.

What Rizal was telling Filipinos was that in striving for self-sufficiency and prosperity, they should look at what successful countries had done, rather than just listen to what they preached. In the postwar era, many countries emerging from colonization, like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, followed Rizal’s advice. In the early 19th century, Japan went ahead and followed the protectionist footsteps of the prosperous Western countries which organized state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to monopolize strategic industries.

 

According to Chang, Singapore’s SOE sector is “twice as big” as South Korea’s, and the latter is “five times bigger than that of the Philippines.” If state ownership of strategic industries is bad for development, and privatization is good, then the Philippines should be ahead of these two other countries in economic growth.

 

In the 1950s, the Philippines, under Presidents Magsaysay and Garcia, adopted import and exchange controls to push industrialization, in defiance of the “open market” championed by neoliberalism. This lifted our country next to Japan in economic growth. There were full employment and high wages. But when the protectionist measures were scrapped at the beginning of the 1960s, the Philippines started sinking and is now at the bottom of the economic scale in Southeast Asia.

 

In La Liga Filipina, which he founded on July 3, 1892, Rizal introduced the rule of “mutual protection” of Filipinos. It also stipulated that “the introduction of machines and industries, new or necessary, shall be favored.” He learned from his travels and historical readings that without mechanization and technological competence, nations would fail. He was envisioning a Filipino society that is highly industrialized, like America and Europe. His idea of economic development was not derived from theory but from observation. It’s time we adopted Rizal’s pragmatic and curt advice.

 

Manuel F. Almario (mfalmario@yahoo.com) is a veteran, semiretired journalist. He is also spokesman for the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.

 

 

Comment

tekawait 

• 12 minutes ago

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“(1) Study how other nations prosper, and then (2) do what they do!”
There’s no shortage of part (1), sadly, could we ever get past part (2)? If only leaders listen to wise men like Dr. Rizal and George Santayana, and actually learn from history, we probably would have evolved to humanity 2.0 by now

 

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1935 Constitution did not legitimize pork barrel as claimed by Bernas

THE 1935 CONSTITUTION DID NOT ‘LEGITIMIZE’ PORK BARREL          

 

In his front-age commentary in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, titled, SC decision restores normal constitutional order (PDI, 11/20/13), Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, wrote: “Prior to the approval of the 1994 General Appropriations Act (GAA), pork barrel, which was recognized by the 1935 Constitution as a legitimate institution, had not received much attention.”

 

After reading this, I read anew the 1935 Constitution and found no justification for Father Bernas’s conclusiuon that the 1935 charter had “recognized the pork barrel as a legitimate institution.”  Bernas also did not cite any provision of the 1935 Charter which would appear to legitimize the “pork barrel”. 

 

Neither did the 1987 Constitution – in which Fr. Bernas participated in making as member of the Constitutional Commission – authorize the pork barrel as the Supreme Court wisely ruled.

 

To say that the pork barrel was “legitimized” by the 1935 Constitution is to insult the elected members of the 1934 constitutional convention which was presided by the widely acknowledged statesman Senator Claro M. Recto, and included respected leaders like Senators Jose P. Laurel, Manuel Roxas, Manuel Briones and Miguel Cuaderno. 

 

Neither did the U.S. Constitution (from which many of our charter provisions were copied) authorize the “pork barrel”.  According to Wikipedia, pork barrel “usually refers to spending which is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support.”  In the current Philippine context, the bulk of these pork barrel funds are pocketed by the politicians and their accomplices in government and in the private sector, like the nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

 

The Supreme Court in its November 19 decision defined “congressional pork barrel laws” as those “which authorized legislators – whether individuals or collectively organized into committees – to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various postenactment identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight.” (PDI, 11/10/13)

 

In other words, any law which authorized legislators, whether individually or in committees, to intervene in the spending of public funds already appropriated by Congress and approved by the President is unconstitutional.  This is because the President under the Constitution has the sole authority to spend funds in accordance with the guidelines fixed by the budget as approved by both Houses of Congress.

 

This is not to say that the President is not complicit in the enactment of the “pork barrel laws.”  After all, he and Congress must sign the annual GAA before it can be implemented.  The President also initiates these pork barrel laws through the Department of Budget and Management which prepares the budget for submission to Congress. Under the DBM’s budget proposal, the Presidents gets the power to withhold or allocate the pork barrel funds to compel legislators to do his bidding.

 

The practice was introduced by President Marcos after he declared martial law, and abolished both Congress and the 1935 Constitution, and ruled by decree.  One of these decrees was PD 1177, known as the Budget Reform Decree of 1977, which was intended to boost the dictator’s “New Society” government.  The decree provided for lump sum appropriations which the president could release or suspend in his discretion.  The “sin” of successive presidents after Marcos is that they continued the practice because it enhanced their powers at the expense of Congress. 

 

PD 1177 was not declared unconstitutional because it was not raised as an issue.  The SC merely concentrated on those provisions of the GAA of 2013 that violated the Constitution, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for legislators, and the president’s discretionary funds from the Malampaya gas project under PD 910, and the Pagcor Gaming Coporation under PD 1993. 

The ground was that there was an “undue delegation of legislative powers” to the President, because these funds were to be spent solely on the discretion of the President without any limitations made by Congress. 

 

The Supreme Court’s Nov. 19 decision, reversing its previous decisions supporting the “pork barrel laws”, was a triumph of public opinion expressed in the street through public rallies, the traditional media of press and broadcast, and the social media of the Internet.

=30=

 

 

 

 

                                                                      

 

           

 

             

 

                                                                      

 

           

 

             

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