Dr. Emmanuel de Dios and Dr. Clarita Carlos“We are fighting one enemy, and it’s called climate change.”
This was the declaration of Dr. Clarita Carlos, executive director of Strategic Research Foundation Inc. and retired political science professor of the University of the Philippines (UP), at the Lopez Group economic and political briefing held on October 29.
Carlos said this to support her argument that nationalism is bad because it is “inwardlooking” while the country has long-standing commitments to ASEAN integration and a borderless world. She favors a collective approach against climate change and had written a paper on an ASEAN Rapid Response Force to address emergencies in the region.
Carlos spoke about the “democratic deficit” in the Philippines and how “the nation-state must be rendered obsolescent” in order to give way to more progressive and outward-looking governance.
Among the hallmarks of the democratic deficit is corruption, which is “deeply embedded in the system.” She noted that corruption starts small in any office, from pilfering office supplies to siphoning off gasoline, and marking oneself as on time even when one is tardy. However, as the stakes get higher, it will take the collusion of at least six insiders to pull it off, including the auditor-in-residence of the government agency.
The democratic deficit also manifests in the “dead political party system” that is unable to penalize “turncoatism” in the way it is considered as political suicide in the developed democracies. It is also seen in the inability of the country to link its foreign policy to domestic requirements.
Carlos favors the shift to a parliamentary government to strengthen the political party system and enable parties to compel discipline among its members. She identified the Hugpong political group organized by Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte as a potential unity party.
“It will take three generations to change individual behavior via the core values approach. A quicker way to change behavior is to change the environment to favor the actions you want to see,” Carlos said.
She lamented the lack of strategy in government action, as well as the lack of strategy in any proposed alternative government.
“What does a revolutionary government look like? Laway lang (It’s nothing). There is no strategy. Even Build-BuildBuild must be informed by strategy.”
Carlos said: “For as long as we are not changing our political structures, that is as long as we will be the way we are. Because we don’t have a cadre of leaders who want to move forward, then we will just continue to march in place.”
In the same briefing, Dr. Emmanuel de Dios, Oscar M. Lopez Professor at the UP School of Economics, said factors that led to rising prices exposed long-term vulnerabilities of the Philippine economy.
Among these vulnerabilities are “lagging export competitiveness, low agricultural productivity, inability to deal with climate change and government’s low capacity to coordinate and implement.”
De Dios said other than world petroleum prices and bad weather, the government could have acted to avoid the other events that led to record inflation such as the “rice supply fiasco, poorly timed excise taxes on petroleum (TRAIN 1), delayed central bank action on interest rates to ease exchange rate movements, inflation expectations and push for higher wages.”
Highest in ASEAN
As a result, “Philippine inflation is now the highest in ASEAN.” De Dios considers inflation as a “tax” that affects all citizens, regardless of income, “but especially the poor.” A 2008 study found that a 10% increase in food prices increased poverty incidence by 11%. He described this as an “uneven trade-off, which means that an increase in inflation hurts more than the increase in growth that it buys.”
De Dios said the country should revisit its strategy for addressing slow-onset climate events, find a way to promote agricultural productivity which can address both poverty and inflation, and seek to revive its declining export sector, particularly in trade in goods.
He said if the country is unable to attend to “unfinished long-term business,” then the Philippines will continue on a disruptive process where “revenue generation may have to run simply in order to stand still.” This means economic growth will not be sustainable and any short-term gains could be quickly erased or reversed by unexpected shocks. (Story/Photos by: Carla Paras-Sison)