Posted tagged ‘basic needs’

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Go back to basic needs

January 20, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Go back to basic needs

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

 

“Spend for your needs but save as much as you can!” would be an apt idiom that could encapsulate the need to build up national savings within the context of an increasingly consumer-driven economy. It is argued that moderate consumption would be a most fitting behavior in today’s context, while under-consumption and over-consumption are out as they could burn us all out in the process. Consumption saved the day for us in the aftermath of the Asian crisis in 1997, so there is no reason to be morally repulsive about consumerism—provided that it should be a moderated consumerism. Low consumerism brings us back to export-driven strategies, our aggregated wealth production subjected to the vagaries of external markets that are beyond our control; high consumerism, contributing further to high debt levels, as the credit card culture entice people to acquire more articles of consumption through debts, perennially driving our economy to ‘bubble bursts’.

The emerging situation should have taught our market players the appropriate lessons at this time. The era of omnipresent and omnipotent markets—for goods of relatively ageless utility, stored in large inventories—is now a foregone era. What we have now is fragmented markets (chaos economics explains this well; see Tom Peters’ works), so the adjustment would be in the form of market niches. Market players should veer away from storing large inventories of a broad array of products, as obsolescence and changing consumer taste undermine the profit-gaining side of such a practice. Rather, they should be sensitive to emerging demands, and customize services and/or tangible goods based on such demands. We Filipinos particularly change taste so often, “madaling magsawa” as we say it in the vernacular. Which means that fixed products, based on fixed ideas, are simply out of context and out-of-date, and must be reformulated towards more flexible product mixes matrixed with constantly emerging ideas.

On a macro-scale, there is the continuing need to ensure ‘food security’ and its expression in other sectors as well. We should continue to be sensitive to the needs of the larger economy, such as the need for capital goods. We should design ‘vital & strategic commodity security’ frameworks and policies through a combination of domestic production of such goods as well as importation strategies. The continuing absence of strategic industries such as integrated steel could prove degenerative for development efforts such as it has done to our country, while completely shutting us off the international markets for some other goods could likewise be deleterious in the long run since domestic producers would be exercising rent-seeking, pricing articles way beyond five hundred percent (500%) of their opportunity costs as amply demonstrated by industrial chemicals (before the country began importing from China). As current experiments in grain & livestock management show, with appreciable success, the strategy should be to combine domestically produced goods with imported articles, the proper mix of which should be the subject of continuing eco-scanning and constant studies. In the end, all of our individual, community and national needs will be met, building stability and security amid a ‘chaotic’ or turbulent global condition.

[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004. For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

DOMAIN OF WEALTH OF NATIONS: BOTH DOMESTIC & OVERSEAS

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

 

The antiquated debate regarding which domain should be the main source of national wealth—whether domestic or overseas—is still alive today. In the article of New Nationalism, I argued that in the emerging context of post-industrialism, this debate has become futile and unproductive. Instead of stressing a domestic versus international mindset, I argued for a both/and frame.

 

Admittedly, the overseas domain as a source of wealth is as palatable as it used to be during the era yet of the city-states of Northern Italy (Venice, Florence). This has become the backbone of mercantilism, which in turn became the backbone of nationalist economics. Old Nationalism henceforth carried the pro-mercantilist banner of seeking wealth primarily from international operations. But this time around, this position has to be revised in the light of import-substitution success.

 

In the Philippine case, we have been having it both ways. On the one hand, our manufacturing sector’s products are largely consumed 86% of the time for the domestic market, indicating the optimization of the import-substitution aspect of our development efforts. On the other hand, our overseas employment and investments have been churning out a whopping Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA worth 11% of the GDP.

 

New Nationalism, to my mind, should rather have it both ways, as culled from this and other parallel experiences in emerging markets. At this time particularly, Foreign Direct Investments or FDIs by Philippine-owned or controlled companies has begun to take off and contribute to our national coffers. Add to this our exports worth 40% of GDP, and remittances from labor export of worth 10% of GDP, and one can see the broad picture of the potency of the overseas domain as source of national income.

 

Below is the entire subsection on the domains of wealth production culled from the New Nationalism article.

 

Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets.

 

Various stakeholders in the past were divided along the question of what should be the driver of growth & development (demand-side discourse): the external, or internal market? The followers of the ‘externalists’ were the ones behind the export-oriented development strategy, whose rationalizations for massive exports were quite poor recycles of the mercantilist contention that wealth should be produced more from out of the external markets (colonies during the time of empires). The ‘internalists’ were the ones behind import-substitution strategies, whose rationalizations were poor photocopies of Keynesian demand-side formulations.

 

In today’s context, it is wiser to view both the external and domestic markets as synergistic spheres for accumulating national wealth and meeting head-on the demands for delivering welfare. The external market discourse can work only in circumstances where a domestic demand has failed to develop, which in our case was the pre-1990s economy. By the late 1990s, it was clear that a significant change had taken place on the demand side of our economy, as folks were buying a lot of articles of commerce at a time of crisis. The middle class population is rising relative to the entire population, whose households’ needs have become more differentiated and have leaped beyond the bounds of ‘rice-and-galunggong’ expenditures. Today, Filipino families purchase around fifty-three percentum (53%) of their household needs from supermarkets, malls and large retail centers, even as the wet markets and sari-sari stores are declining in importance. These changes are real, and we cannot be blind to them by continuing to harp on an export-driven growth.

 

We must then fast-track large-scale redistribution schemes, such as to witness the rise in purchasing powers of our own people. This cannot be done outright during the next three (3) years, as we face a fiscal dilemma of crisis proportions. But beyond 2007 lies new opportunity fields. The fiscal route to stabilization will have been solidly achieved by then, and the nation can embark on more ambitious endeavors aimed at increasing incomes, reducing unemployment and poverty and increasing domestic consumption.

 

As the domestic market catches up in stabilizing the economy and producing national wealth, stakeholders shouldn’t be remiss in improving the competitiveness of our export products. Our great advantage is that we have ample supplies of skilled labor, with wages still relatively low. The power sector is also quite rich in supply of electricity, even as new projects are now being planned to neutralize possible supply problems in the short run. Hopefully, power supply would stabilize and electricity cost would decrease, contributing thus to rendering our exportable articles more competitive enough. Save for capital goods and petroleum, large volumes of which our producers continue to import, the other factors of production are within our hands to control and manipulate, inclusive of rent and interest rate. It is hereby argued that, with such factors controllable enough, we can optimize conditions for rendering our exportable articles maximally competitive and continue to permit the external market to be a source of substantial wealth. What more if we produce all of our essential capital goods, thus further bringing down the cost of production, given that the price of other factor inputs also go down?

 

RE-ECHOING BASIC NEEDS

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 22 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

“Go back to basic needs,” I declared in the same article on New Nationalism.

 

Sometime back, the ‘basic needs’ framework rang strong bells in the development field as a potent framework for development. Having started with the defunct Ministry of Human Settlements in 1981 as a community development specialist, I still recall then how brilliant and exquisitely crafted was this Ministry’s adoption of the ‘basic needs’ framework as its guiding light.

 

“Higit sa lahat, Tao!” is the core premise of the Ministry’s development paradigm. Roughly, this translates as “man precedes everything else.” Meaning, man should be at the core of all development efforts, and not the objects of a synthetic (infrastructures, industries) or physical nature (raw materials, livestock, plants).

 

Till these days, the powerful Ministry premise had stuck with me. At that time too, the same Ministry already recognized ‘ecological balance’ as among the 11 Basic Needs of Man, and organized ‘ecology brigades’ in advancement of this contention. That was a time when environmentalism wasn’t even born in the country but was just being planted.

 

It need not be overstressed that meeting the basic needs of peoples is a fundamental yardstick for addressing development problems leading to further cooperation and peace among diverse communities. I therefore find it still a potent discourse to re-echo the ‘basic needs’ premise.

 

The excerpts from the article are entirely quoted below.

 

Go back to basic needs.

 

“Spend for your needs but save as much as you can!” would be an apt idiom that could  encapsulate the need to build up national savings within the context of an increasingly consumer-driven economy. It is argued that moderate consumption would be a most fitting behavior in today’s context, while under-consumption and over-consumption are out as they could burn us all out in the process. Consumption saved the day for us in the aftermath of the Asian crisis in 1997, so there is no reason to be morally repulsive about consumerism—provided that it should be a moderated consumerism. Low consumerism brings us back to export-driven strategies, our aggregated wealth production subjected to the vagaries of external markets that are beyond our control; high consumerism, contributing further to high debt levels, as the credit card culture entice people to acquire more articles of consumption through debts, perennially driving our economy to ‘bubble bursts’.

 

The emerging situation should have taught our market players the appropriate lessons at this time. The era of omnipresent and omnipotent markets—for goods of relatively ageless utility, stored in large inventories—is now a foregone era. What we have now is fragmented markets (chaos economics explains this well; see Tom Peters’ works), so the adjustment would be in the form of market niches. Market players should veer away from storing large inventories of a broad array of products, as obsolescence and changing consumer taste undermine the profit-gaining side of such a practice. Rather, they should be sensitive to emerging demands, and customize services and/or tangible goods based on such demands. We Filipinos particularly change taste so often, “madaling magsawa” as we  say it in the vernacular. Which means that fixed products, based on fixed ideas, are simply out of context and out-of-date, and must be reformulated towards more flexible product mixes matrixed with constantly  emerging ideas.

 

On a macro-scale, there is the continuing need to ensure ‘food security’ and its expression in other sectors as well. We should continue to be sensitive to the needs of the larger economy, such as the need for capital goods. We should design ‘vital & strategic commodity security’ frameworks and policies through a combination of domestic production of such goods as well as importation strategies. The continuing absence of strategic industries such as integrated steel could prove degenerative for development efforts such as it has done to our country, while completely shutting us off the international markets for some other goods could likewise be deleterious in the long run since domestic producers would be exercising rent-seeking, pricing articles way beyond five hundred percent (500%) of their opportunity costs as amply demonstrated by industrial chemicals (before the country began importing from China). As current experiments in grain & livestock management show, with appreciable success, the strategy should be to combine domestically produced goods with imported articles, the proper mix of which should be the subject of continuing eco-scanning and constant studies. In the end, all of our individual, community and national needs will be met, building stability and security amid a ‘chaotic’ or turbulent global condition.