Posted tagged ‘budget’


July 5, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

It’s the 1st of July, the first day of official reporting by the newly elected political leaders of the country led by President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. Riding astride the air of optimism induced by the new leadership, let me say more notes then about my homeland.

Let me shift to landlordism as this phenomenon seems to have remained unscathed by the ‘scorched earth’ flames of modernization and post-industrial growth. Our newly elected president here, ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, is a scion of the oligarchic family of Cojuancos and is an heir to the 11,000-hectare Luisita Estate in Tarlac province.

I still recall that in the late 1990s, as a graduate student of development studies in De La Salle University-Manila, I underwent the course on constitutionalism and development. I tasked myself to review the constitutions of thirty-five (35) countries, with the aim of unearthing and extracting the theme of agrarian reform from them.

To my amazement, most of the countries I researched on, including Taiwan, Korea, and many developing states, clearly emblazoned in their national charter the theme of agrarian reform. The impeccable intention was to declare land reform as a determinative development policy. The landlords should be enticed to divest from their rural estates and channel their new investments to birthing strategic industries.

I did write a paper on the topic, which my professor, Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta (former undersecretary of ASEAN, delegate to the 1986 Constitutional Convention), appreciated very well. The research also enlightened me more about the urgency of decisively implementing agrarian reform in the Philippines that barely made it to the passing mark of successful land reform programs.

Almost a quarter of a century after the new charter was signed and ratified by our citizens, and after the consequent legislation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, many large feudal estates still abound. They seem to remain untouched by the law, as if they are autonomous mini-states in a nation that is rapidly urbanizing along mixed industrial and service economy growth trajectory.

Let’s take the case of the Luisita estate. In 2006 yet, the Agrarian Reform department decided that a total of 6,453 of Luisita should be apportioned to the farmworkers. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court blocked the implementation of the decision as it issued a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO that stopped the implementation. A TRO should be in effect only for a maximum of 30 days, yet years have elapsed and it is still in place.

Other large estates are similarly situated as Luisita. For instance, there are the Yulo estate in Laguna and the Pedro Roxas estate in Batangas. I still recall that way back in 1998, I was among consultants who helped agrarian reform beneficiaries of a 500-hectare piece of Roxas estate (out of total 30,000 hectares) in their capacity-building and productivity boosting. The same beneficiaries asked me if I knew anybody from the Agoncillo clan that owned a total of 30,000 hectares of estates…

There are more such huge estates to count. And truly, I am overwhelmed by their gargantuan sizes that are enough to build huge mega-cities such as Singapore or Manila. I could almost puke at the mere mention of their names, and puke much more when I learn about their vast sizes and the slave-driving management styles of their owners that have led to appalling living conditions for the farmworkers.

RP’s population was 66% urban and 34% rural as of end of 2009. Urban population is moving up by 2% every year, while rural population is moving down by the same figure. By 2016, the next presidential election year, urban population will already be at least 80% urban and rural population down to 20%. What are haciendas for in an urban Philippines, one may ask.

Furthermore, RP’s labor force is now past 50% service sector and 15% industrial sector, with barely 34% left to fend for our farms and fisheries. Agriculture now contributes to merely 15% of the GDP, while services comprises a whopping 60% or so (the rest is industries). Tourism, which forms past 10% of GDP today, will most likely surpass agriculture as a contributor to national income by 2016.

Now that brings us back to the question: what are feudal estates doing in an urban-to-suburban Philippines with a rapidly post-industrializing economy? Strange anachronism! All we need to do is follow the footsteps of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China to realize that such estates must be released from feudal yokes so as to carve out a win-win growth path between the small planters and their former overlords-turned-entrepreneurs.

When I registered my vote for the ratification of the charter in 1986, I already made up my mind to see that all such estates be transformed to high productivity enclaves beginning with their subjection to the reform program. All the landlords should quickly divest from such landholdings and move their investments in industries and services.

I stand pat on that decision, and will be on standby to help out those agrarian beneficiaries who seek professional help for improving their farm production and quality of life. And I welcome a Philippines that will someday move towards the space age, thanks for a willful departure from an anachronistic feudalism of past dark ages.

[Philippines, 01 July 2010]







July 3, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

I wish so much to write notes about the planet and all the world’s regions, but I surely find it so irresistible to write reflections about my own country. I’m sure my friends and readers will understand this, me being a patriotic lover of my country and people despite our collective imperfections.

That said, let me focus this time around on the matter of budget. We have a new presidency, a new set of leaders from national to local levels, and I don’t want to miss out on delivering unsolicited advises to our new government concerning budgets.

By the end of this year 2010 our Gross Domestic Product or GDP will hit P8.25 Trillion more or less (it was P7.67 Trillion in 2009). That’s roughly U.S. $183 Billion (nominal value). Add the $18 Billion forecast Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA (read: overseas remittances), and the total figure yields $201 Billion.

$201 Billion national income is a 2nd World or ‘middle income’ country level of wealth. Let us stick to the figure and level so we won’t get detracted by the Gordian knots of discourse. This being so, the Filipinos deserve to see their state funded at 2nd World level and not any level otherwise.

Let us, for the sake of minimalist discourse, peg an annual budget at 30% of the GNP. The 30%-50% figure is known in scientific parlance as ‘critical mass’. To simplify our discourse, a ‘critical mass’ of budget will provide ample space for fiscal maneuverability, fund social services in fat sums, build more infrastructures, and pay up for state debts.

Any budget that is below ‘critical mass’ is direly undernourished, even as it could jeopardize our way to development ‘maturity’ and higher incomes for our households by 2016. Remember, we can no longer go back to the days of austerity that kept us mired in poor country status for a long time, so let’s better spend—with the expectation that spending will stimulate other sectors to grow.

The budget allocation for this year is a measly P1.5 Trillion. Measly in that it only grew by P100 Billion, or 7.14% from the P1.4 Trillion budget of 2009. A budget, to make sense and impact, must grow by at least 10% ever year.

30% of GNP means that our budget should not be lower than $60 Billion to qualify as ‘middle income’ country budget. Using the P45.50 to the dollar as our conversion rate, the expected budget should be Philippine P2.73 Trillions. That indexical calculation instantly renders RP’s 2010 budgetary appropriation short of P1 Trillion to make sense and impact at all.

Another unsolicited advise is that education, my favorite sector being an educator (teacher & social scientist), should get the largest share of the pie. And this should be at least 5% of the GNP. Let me stress that the benchmark should be GNP and not GDP since the latter unjustly leaves out the overseas workers & entrepreneurs in the equation.

The annual budget for education should therefore be at least U.S. $10 Billion, or Philippine P455 Billions. Contrast that figure to the P150 Billion allocated for education in the 2010 budgetary appropriation, and one can easily see why Philippine education is mired in cesspools.

The P455 Billions could be split up into the following: P250 Billions for primary education, and P205 for tertiary education. The total figures don’t include yet those budgets allocated by local governments for education, which when added to national appropriations could yield a figure much higher—at past 7% of GNP—appropriated for education alone.

Where to get the funds is another question for that matter. Let the question be tossed to the legislature, treasury/finance departments, and central bank to settle. It is important that I have delivered the message here very clearly: that a second world economy must affix budgets at figures befitting a 2nd world budget.

[Philippines, 30 June 2010]







July 28, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let us continue our reflections about wonderful news that brighten up our day.

Going back to Chile, as it continues to celebrate the air of freedom beyond the Dark Age of the Pinochet regime, we have another news item concerning the boosting of S&T funding in the said emerging market.

Chile is proving itself as a model of development that is worth watching. See what’s going on in this exemplar country through its S&T prioritization as indicated by funds boosting.

Happy reading!

[23 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to the SciDev database news.]


Chile crea un fondo para becas en ciencia y tecnología

Paula Leighton

25 may 2008 | ES

La presidenta Michelle Bachelet durante su cuenta anual al país

Presidencia de la República de Chile

[SANTIAGO] Aumento en las becas para estudios de posgrado, fondos para equipamiento científico e incentivos para atraer a investigadores extranjeros son algunos de los anuncios que hizo la presidenta de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, en su cuenta pública anual (21 de mayo).

La mandataria destacó que su gobierno creará un fondo con US$6 mil millones para financiar un ambicioso programa de becas de posgrado y de formación en oficios tecnológicos de alta especialización, tanto en Chile como en el extranjero.

Dicho fondo permitirá que las mil becas de formación en universidades extranjeras destinadas para 2008 aumenten a 2.500 en 2009 y a 6.500 en 2012, anunció Bachelet.

Además, el próximo año 150 técnicos que se desempeñen en áreas prioritarias para el país accederán por primera vez a becas de perfeccionamiento en el extranjero, las que en 2010 aumentarán a 2.000.

Bachelet dijo que en 2009 también aumentarán las becas para maestrías y doctorados que se dictan en Chile y se entregarán 35 mil becas para estudios técnicos superiores. 

Otro anuncio fue un programa para atraer en dos años a al menos 100 científicos extranjeros, los que se desempeñarán en universidades regionales “en áreas donde aún no contamos con suficientes expertos nacionales”, señaló.

“Todos estos anuncios que contribuyen a que en Chile haya personas con mayor formación son muy bienvenidos, porque le dan valor agregado al país. Al mismo tiempo, es muy positivo que científicos extranjeros vengan y contribuyan a formar estudiantes y nuevos investigadores”, dijo a SciDev.Net Servet Martínez, presidente de la Academia Chilena de Ciencias.    

Para fortalecer los centros de investigación científica, Bachelet anunció también que  “durante los próximos dos años estableceremos un programa de equipamiento científico al que destinaremos US$30 millones”.

Finalmente, la mandataria se comprometió a entregar en 2009 treinta mil computadores de uso personal a escolares pobres académicamente destacados, implementar laboratorios móviles de computación para niños de educación primaria y apoyar la conectividad digital en 35 comunas del país.

Texto completo del mensaje presidencial de Michelle Bachelet