Last Monday (October 8), I attended the Economic Outlook forum at UP School of Economics and got to hear the recent studies made by the economic experts of ADB. It is good to hear economist talking about the value of inclusive growth, ensuring that economic growth is felt by every family and individual. It was interesting to hear from Dr. Medalla that economic growth has no direct correlation with poverty reduction.
They presented that our modest 4.5% economic growth is due to our strong service sector. Unfortunately or poverty level, including our unemployment and underemployment rates are at all-time high. It is because our job generating manufacturing and agricultural sectors are naghihingalo. Our export sector failed to diversify and focused only on semi-conductor exports. Because of the lacklustre performance of these two sectors, our leaders depended so much on our labour export and now on BPO. Or it can be interpreted that because of the OFW remittance bonanza, our leaders have neglected the manufacturing and agriculture. They are spared from making hard economic decisions, good for them and bad for us. Also, our productivity level is very low because what we have are low-skilled labor and underpaid skilled workers and professionals. With the rate that we have now, it will take 20 years to reach the productivity level of our counterparts.
The economic experts said that we should invest more on infrastructure development and resuscitate the manufacturing and agricultural sectors so that we can register a stable economic growth and be able to stand on two stable legs. Our neighbors who are also seeing rapid growth in the service sector have not neglected their manufacturing and agricultural sectors (thus fewer problems with poverty and unemployment). I ask myself, aren’t these economic experts in the room (Sicat, Fabella, Medalla and their ADB counterparts) the same smart people who have served as economic advisers to past and present administrations?
They identified education reform as a major solution to improve productivity, enhance quality of life and respond to the labor shortage. Of course as expected, being ADB and UPSE, they advocated for a deregulated environment. Well, they should realize that it is deregulation at the Higher Education that has brought about the shortage of skilled workers and professionals (their list includes accountants, engineers, lawyers, doctors, software programmers). Because we believed their neoliberal doctrines, we let the market guide our path and now we now have an oversupply of nurses and HRM graduates. It’s also because of the logic of deregulation that we are suffering the effects of brain drain. And so how can the cause of our problems be also the solution to the same problems? I think I should attend more of their forums to hear how deregulation will do the trick. On another note, it was interesting to see how the economic discourse is dominated by men. Well maybe that’s why they are for deregulation (which is to me akin to abandonment). I suppose having women economist with their mother hen instinct will provide a more “protectionist” perspective (go Aio, Betina, Simone, Mela, Ana, Gail…)