Industrialization, Too Late?

Manila Bulletin, March 18, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Industrialization, Too Late?


SMOKE stack industrialization may be a bit late. In the mid-1970s, our economic managers decided not to go that way even though the Congress and the Constitutional Convention of 1971, according to Ding Lichauco, together with luminaries like Recto and Araneta, wanted to go that way. Lichauco also predicted in 1986 that, without industrialization, we would be at the bottom of the economic pile by the end of that century. Looking at the poverty we now have, he was right. An honest mistake or succumbing to the sinister motives of former colonizers is not relevant now.

South Korea took the opposite direction. It was a Filipino as head of the delegation, Sito Sison, who brought the bad news to S. Koreans that the World Bank would not be able to lend them money since the European, American, and Japanese consultants declared a steel mill would not be feasible and they would only lose money. The Koreans said thank you and went ahead to build their first steel mill and soon built a second. The industrial revolution in Europe showed that it brought prosperity better than agriculture, together with its hardships.

But it is no use crying over spilt milk. Do we still want to go that way or have times and progress changed the opportunities? Technology has made small steel mills, not the old Bessemer method, profitable. We have the iron and the other raw materials. But has the scenario changed? Do we have other and better opportunities as technology opens up new vistas in energy, micro biology, telecommunications and transport?

Thirty years ago, Peter Ducker used to say that the only new raw material to impact on economy was plastics. The more important is not raw materials but the technology. He predicted that soon there would be enough food and shelter for everybody in the world because of technology. People will not have to work too much to get a decent life.

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