Missing the Boat Twice; "Today's Comparative Advantage May Not Be Tomorrow's" - David Landes

Manila Bulletin, June 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Missing the Boat Twice; "Today's Comparative Advantage May Not Be Tomorrow's" - David Landes


IT has also been said that "failure hardens the heart and dims the eye" which the Philippines seems to have agonized over in the last 25 years.

First, most of the East Asian economies, including ASEAN, have recovered in differing degrees from the traumas of the 1997 Asian financial meltdown that started in Thailand, and spread quickly all over the world like summer bushfires.

To date, most Asian countries are on a catch-up mode, and attempting to surpass the pre-1997 productivity and per capita income levels.

Despite the devastation wrought by the December tsunami, Thailand has exceeded its 1997 economic productivity, and Phuket and its neighboring pristine resort coves are back on their feet as favorite tourist destinations despite hundreds of deaths from drowning and many still unaccounted for.

Second, in the last 20 years, democratization in many countries unfamiliar and unaccustomed to democracy has come a long way and is inexorably progressing in that direction all over the world, especially in South and Central America, Africa, Middle East, and East Asia.

Third, anti-corruption policies and retributions, while historically impossible to eradicate like illegal gambling, prostitution, and politicians, have also progressed beyond expectations.

While success in many countries has been spasmodic, tentative, and frustrating, there have been good examples of anti-corruption campaigns succeeding in differing degrees from, say, South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

As examples of "big fish," Korea netted two ex-generals/presidents, sons of another president, and CEOs of huge conglomerates, and Indonesia indicted, sons and daughter of Suharto. Examples of "small fish" can be had in the Philippines from smalltime "jueteng" operators, to policemen, bureau directors, and Customs collectors. Plunder cases against former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and ex-Major-Gen. Carlos Garcia remain unresolved.

Thus, even in the Philippines, one can conclude that democracy has withstood frequent coup attempts and destabilization, and anticorruption campaigns are making strides despite being below the Filipino peoples expectations. …

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