Archive for January 14, 2011

IS THE PHILIPPINES ALREADY INDUSTRIALIZED?

January 14, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Let me continue with the reflections on my beloved Philippines’ economy. This effort is often part of my self-accepted duties to update myself and my compatriots about the state of the Philippine economy at the start of every year.

Just a week ago, I came across an article writ by one of the stock market columnists in the Philippine Daily Inquirer of PDI, that re-echoed an emerging perception in the international business community concerning the Philippine economy’s being ‘industrialized’ today. Coming from the business community itself, this evaluative perception is replete with many implications for the country. It bodes well for the country in fact.

I wish that the perception will resonate with greater power by the day so that those in academic and ideological circles will rethink their positions about the Philippine ‘mode of production’. As far as the Maoists are concerned, PH will always remain as semi-feudal/semi-colonial, backward, agrarian economy. Some academic circles will re-echo the same old worn out “PH is a service economy, with mixed economy features.”

This analyst still recalls very well the ‘mode of production’ debate that  reverberated the halls of the University of the Philippines in the 1980s. I graduated from this university in October 1980, then came back to take up graduate schooling in sociology from Nov. ‘83 to April ‘89, and so I was able to flow with the discussions and debates ensuing. The debate centered largely on whether the Philippines is semi-colonial/semi-feudal (Maoist) or capitalist mode (moderate Marxists, populists, social democrats).

By the mid-90s, the debate was already faltering and dying out. It was a dead debate when the year 2000 rang a sonorous beacon of the new millennium. But if you ask any of the competing ideological blocs today about their perceptions of Philippine reality, you will notice that they will churn out the same lines that they’ve been saying for decades.

As regards the perception that PH economy is a ‘service economy’, the criterion is largely based on what sector—agriculture & forestry? industry? services? –contribute the greatest to the gross domestic product or GDP. Since services contribute 55% to the GDP, then PH is a ‘service economy’.

That evaluative perception has a kindergarten undertone to it, as it relies on simplistic assumptions.  Just because the industrial sector, which churns out barely 30% (manufacturing + infrastructure combined) of the GDP, looks diminutive than services, doesn’t merit an economy to be judged as ‘services’ or ‘non-industrial’ economy.

To be fair to those opinion quarters who have their own paradigm that churn out specific evaluative judgements, the term ‘industrializing’ was used to label Philippine development since the 1980s. At one point, PH was included among the NIEs or ‘newly industrializing economies’, and so the reference point was industry more than services.

Let’s go back to the USA in the year 1900 when it was already adjudged as industrialized. Industries began to enable the imperialistic pursuits of the USA then, if you recall your history well. But at that time, agriculture was still employing over 90% of the workforce, and nary an evidence can be shown that industry had out-stripped agriculture at that juncture as the main contributor to the national income (today’s GDP) perentage-wise. Yet the USA was already adjudged as ‘industrial’ at that time!

If the criteria would be largely the (a) prevalence and (b) impact of capital goods or ‘reproducible goods’ industries, then the market players have clear evidences to show such increased prevalence and impact. Save for integrated steel and castings & forging industries, every vital capital goods are already being manufactured in PH today. Unless of course that the ‘services economy’ judges are blind to these developments.

The emerging perception and judgement about PH economy should be impetus enough to cause a re-tooling by the analysts and ‘best practices’ innovators. It would prove beneficial for everyone if coteries of opinion-makers, business executives and capitalists themselves would begin the ball rolling by publishing their emerging perception about the ‘emerging markets’ such as PH to be already ‘industrialized’.

As a related event, I just signaled the young Prof. John Ponsaran, head of the development studies program in the UP Manila, about the emerging perception. I once taught in the UP Manila’s department of social sciences, where development studies is niched, so I know the temper of the faculty there that goes for debating on anything under the sun. I hope the emerging perception will be tackled in that campus.   

[Philippines, 08 January 2011]

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WESTERN ECONOMIC SHRINKAGE A REALITY AS ASIA RISES

January 14, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza                                                       

 

Magandang araw sa kapamilyang global! Good day to fellow global citizens!

For three decades already, I have been echoing a prognostication that was already current stock within sociology, about the ‘decline of the west’. Let me return to the same theme, as the rapid decline of the West and the fast rise of Asia is now a reality of the current historical juncture.

Just a couple of days ago, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s or PDI’s opinion pages published an article by the past recent premier of the UK, Gordon Brown (PDI, 7 January 2011). Titled “Reviving the West,” it was a rather straightforward admission of the techno-economic decline that the West had undergone and the rapid ascent of Asia as the global economy’s growth driver.

As Brown succinctly stressed, “Time is running out of the West, because both Europe and the United States have yet to digest the fact that all the individual crises of the last few years—from the sub-prime crisis and the collapse of the Lehman Brothers to Greek austerity and Ireland’s near-bankruptcy—are symptoms of a bigger problem: a world undergoing a far-reaching, irreversible and, indeed, unprecedented restructuring of economic power.”

That was the former premier speaking, a technocrat and economic manager prior to his premier stint, so it does carry weight as much as those of the globe-trotting former US president Bill Clinton. Gordon went on to demonstrate his deep knowledge of the rising middle class consumers of Asia who altogether will make the greatest consumers the world over in the foreseeable future.

Said Gordon:

Of course, we all know of Asia’s rise, and that China exports more than America and soon will manufacture and invest more as well. But we have not fully come to terms with the sweep of history. Western economic dominance—10 percent of the world’s population producing a majority of the world’s exports and investment—is finished, never to return. After two centuries in which Europe and America monopolized global economic activity, the West is now being out-produced, out-manufactured, out-traded, and out-invested by the rest of the world.

That indubitably is an empirical substantiation of the thesis long held by Western social forecasters about the ‘decline of the West’. Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, and John Naisbitt have churned out voluminous prognosis and forewarnings about the same thesis within a century’s span…and that thesis is now a reality.

In the middle and last portions of Brown’s article, he admonished Americans in particular to re-invent the ‘American dream’. The way to the revival of the West, with the USA showcasing the compass, is to re-structure the economy altogether. Accordingly, the nascence of over a billion middle class Asian consumers is a huge opportunity for America to re-invent itself and revive a strong economy.

Brown also forewarned America’s politicians, notably the Right, about criminalizing external forces, such as China’s currency, as culprits behind the decline of the US economy. Intervention measures such as currency wars are flawed, precisely because they fail to address the internal factors that are truly the causes of the economic decline.

To a great extent, I do agree with the evaluations and interventions of Brown. Fact is, I have already begun to echo the theme that America and Europe ought to reverse the policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation that led to de-industrialization, agricultural decay, infrastructure decay, and the rise of a ‘virtual economy’ based on predatory finance (vulture funds, derivatives or hedge funds). As I had been saying all along, the West should go back to the principles of the ‘real economy’ where wealth is produced from agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructures, transportation & communications, and science & technology.

As a matter of fact, I have been among Asian analysts and development practitioners who have urged the Americans to go back to the economics of New Deal propounded by the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Likewise should the tried & tested policies upheld by Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick von List, and John F. Kennedy, policies that impelled the rise of the physical economy and brought bountiful prosperity to Americans (read: created a predominant middle class), be put to the fore in rebuilding America.

Gordon resonates somehow with the ‘physical economy’ framework, even as he heralded the need for a new Marshall Plan for the world. Accordingly, the Plan could help to recast the banking system that was dirtied by its engagements in speculative financing and contributed to creating financial bubbles. The Western peoples should better listen to him, more so the youth who will be tomorrow’s Western leaders.

Let me re-echo the same message I have been saying all along: that prosperity should be a win/win phenomenon. No one here in Asia would ever want the USA and Europe to go back to the era of ‘cave man’ economy of hunting & gathering. I’d be happier many more times if the West should re-invent itself, cease from playing the destructive game of win/lose logic in order to prosper, and move back to reconstruct its physical economy altogether.

Asian spiritual masters, who incidentally also discoursed on economic doctrines (i.e. Baha’ullah, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Sarkar, Sri Aurubindo), left us all the legacy of building prosperity through the way of peace, cooperation, and mutual-help. It’s time for the Western peoples to retool themselves, by throwing away the binary and destructive thought system they inherited from their forebears, and by learning from Asia’s spiritual and intellectual giants.

[Philippines, 09 January 2011]  

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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs anytime!

 

Social Blogs:

IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com

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Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com

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ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

 

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@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com

@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website & Mixed Blogs:

MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com