Sen. Madrigal's Relevant and Admirable Use of Econometrics in the Senate

Manila Bulletin, December 26, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Sen. Madrigal's Relevant and Admirable Use of Econometrics in the Senate


Modern econometrics is not an easy subject. It has been the bane of some mathematically disinclined MBA wannabes. Being the application of advanced mathematical and statistical methods in the field of economics to test and quantify economic theories and provide solutions to economic problems, it now even includes a bit of chaology-the new recondite discipline of chaos-for stock market predictions. Actors, lawyers and medical doctors are understandably not expected to be familiar with it.

So why did Senator Jamby Madrigal, primarily known for being a civicminded, philanthropic heiress rolling in wealth and culture, use it during one of the sin tax debates? And why were some senior senators reportedly chuckling during her lively colloquies with Senators Ralph Recto and Mar Roxas both with masteral degrees in economics?

Lets first take on the latter question. I suspect that the venerable senators must have found humor in: (a) seeing the initial stupefaction of some of their neophyte colleagues with grandstanding tendencies who were forced into silence and wonderment when esoteric econometric terms started flying; and (b) observing that the two honorable gentlemen were suddenly compelled to tap dance carefully with the honorable lady over econometric models and linear regressions.

As to the unexpected introduction of econometric topics to the Senate floor, it may not have been as entertaining as "Shut up! Shut up!" incident that displayed lost cool and congressional decorum during the national canvassing of presidential votes last May, but it was certainly relevant and commendable.

In the first place, econometric models are created expressly for the purpose of determining the economic effects of changes in government policy and regulation, changes in interest rates, TAX LAW, wage levels, population trends and many other factors. Would it have been out of place for Senators Loi Ejercito and Juan Flavier to expound on the cost of psychiatric care and rural medical care, respectively, if the bill being discussed happened to be on additional PhilHealth benefits?

Moreover, Senator Madrigal is not lacking in academic exposure to modern economics. Although she is a cosmopolite steeped in liberal education from excellent European and American schools, making her fluent in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese in additon to English and Pilipino, she does have a degree in French and Economics from the University of Santa Clara, California, and she did her graduate studies in Economics at Yale. She has, in fact, used her background in economics to manage her familys businesses in shipping, real estate, and cement.

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