UA&P founders pose next 50 years’ prospects

UA&P founders pose next 50 years’ prospects

by Liza Alvarado, CCO on May 30, 2017 - 4:12 pm

“It is worth noting that some people made of stern stuff never become too senior to stop talking sense and wisdom and encourage people to think and take things to heart.”

Dr. Placido L. Mapa, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Foundation Inc., could not have said it any better. Rare is the occasion when stern stuff, senior, and sense aptly apply to all the speakers. The symposium on “The Next 50 Years of Philippine Economy and Governance” held in UA&P last May 17, wherein he gave the closing remarks, fell under that rarity.

Dr. Mapa spoke of fellow Harvard alumni Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao and Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, founders of then Center for Research and Communication (CRC) and now UA&P, whose golden jubilee celebrations will reach its climax this year. Former Finance Secretary Dr. Estanislao discussed the considerations in good governance, while chief economist Dr. Villegas presented a positive scenario of the Philippine economy in the next 50 years, “of which,” Dr. Estanislao said, “I am sure we will not be part of.”

All about others

“All of these are not about ourselves,” said Dr. Estanislao. “If we were thinking of ourselves in 1967, we would never have thought of CRC. It has always been about the others. I hope this is what is bringing us together when we talk about economics, when we talk of governance,” the Barcelona-based founder emphasized.

From his years of interaction with peoples and groups all over the Philippines, he was able to see the common core values that drive the Filipinos: love of God and country, freedom and responsibility, and good governance and responsible citizenship. The last phrase he put into one word: accountability.

“All of us must be accountable. Eventually, all of us must be accountable to God for the life that we have lived, for the work that we have done. But [it is also about] accountability on a day-to-day basis. Whatever it is that we do, whatever it is that we are engaged in, we have to make ourselves very accountable.”

Battle of the individual

According to Dr. Estanislao, the basic fundamental changes that Filipinos would want to see include (1) from being looked down upon to being looked up to; (2) from having weak, inefficient institutions to strong, capable institutions; and (3) from being divided by self-interest to being united by the common good.

“We are a people looked down upon, first and foremost by ourselves. Filipinos talk very badly about the Philippines, and that has to change,” he said. “We are a great people. We have to be a people that should be looked up to because of our accomplishments.”

For these changes to occur, priorities must be identified. These are, according to Dr. Estanislao, people, process, constituencies, resources, and bayanihan. These priorities should be brought down to day-to-day actionable programs. A bottom-up approach and a 10-year time horizon for each program with annual and semestral performance reporting can be the main strategy to achieve effective governance.

“Governance has to be won at the battle of the individual as he goes through his or her life,” he said in the open forum. “And then, if you want the individual to succeed, you have to nurture that family governance. Filipino families have to be governed well.”

Talk positive

On the other hand, Dr. Villegas presented a rosy scenario of the Philippine economy in the next five decades.

“One does not have to be a “prophet of boom” to talk very positively today of the Philippine economy,” the member of the Philippine Constitutional Commission of 1986 said, mentioning the moniker he has acquired with his invariably positive economic forecasts. “A common expression is that we are one of the fastest growing economies not only in East Asia but in the world, and expectations are that we can continue growing at those levels.”

This, he believes, is a product of the favorable decisions made not only by the present administration but also of the past administrations. “There are many good things that happened in the past, even in the most criticized administrations,” he said. Some of those he mentioned are the restoration of democratic institutions under Pres. Cory Aquino, the establishment of the Philippine nautical highway under Pres. Gloria Arroyo, and the focus on infrastructure of the Duterte administration.

Young population

He then launched into the causes of the long-term decline in the country’s economy, which include prolonged inward-looking industrialization, failure to take advantage of demographic dividend, and utter neglect of rural and agricultural development.

“We put up capital-intensive, inward-looking industries, and our surplus labor was left in the countryside. Worst, we did not invest in the countryside to make our farmers productive. It was a double whammy.”

To prevent this decline, slow and painful reforms must be put in place. These include professionalization of monetary management, attainment of high rates of literacy, active role of civil society in good governance, and labor peace. He showed that the country’s main source of competitive advantage is its 51 million-strong working citizens.

“We are so fortunate we have a young, growing, and English-speaking population,” said Dr. Villegas, who also penned the book Positive Dimensions of Population Growth in 2011.

To escape the middle income trap, he proposed that the country continue to build world-class infrastructures especially in the countryside, establish world-class universities, invest on research and development, and avoid demographic winter.

“The important thing,” Dr. Villegas said in the forum, “is for the people in the local government to get together with one another instead of squabbling and throwing stones at one another.”

The symposium did not only unite the “two crazy guys” who started it all in 1967. The thoughts they shared to the packed auditorium also proved the stern stuff they are made of, and why they make sense.

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