What the Philippines Can Learn from Denmark

Manila Bulletin, January 15, 2017 | Go to article overview

What the Philippines Can Learn from Denmark


By Kristian Ligsay Jensen

Being Danish-Filipino, I long to see the Philippines enjoy the same benefits of living in an inclusive society which I enjoy as a Dane, and I've often said to my Filipino kababayans that the Philippines can learn a lot from Denmark.

Denmark ranks well in quite a few country indices. In 2015, it was the least corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, the second most peaceful country according to the Global Peace Index, and the fourth most stable country according to the Fragile States Index. It also ranked third in the Ease of Doing Business Index, third in the Legatum Prosperity Index, fourth in the United Nation's Human Development Index, and the list goes on and on.

Denmark is clearly doing something right.

A lot of research has been conducted into why some countries succeed and others fail. Perhaps the most compelling is from the book Why Nations Fail by James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu. While any country's success can be attributed partly to culture, Robinson and Acemoglu have shown that culture itself is the product of systems and institutions. The inclusivity of institutions, more than anything else, determines whether a country succeeds or fails. Successful countries have inclusive institutions, while failing countries have exclusivist and extractive institutions.

The Philippines, unfortunately, has enshrined exclusivist and extractive systems in its Constitution with disastrous results, and many Filipinos these days are calling for systemic reforms and rallying around the inclusive idea of federalism. Ironically, many--even among the elites with the power and influence to make these reforms happen--have joined the federalism bandwagon without really understanding it, and in their eagerness to see it implemented have neglected other crucial reforms. Federalism is only one of three crucial reforms that must go hand-in-hand to enable the Philippines to finally progress toward becoming an inclusive first-world country. Federalism by itself is not enough.

Members of the CoRRECT(tm)Movement have collectively done years of research into the root causes of many of the problems plaguing the Philippines. It boils down to three exclusivist systems embedded in the current 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. These are:

1) Economic Protectionism

These are the various constitutional restrictions against foreign investments that inevitably favor and protect an oligarchy in the guise of "nationalism," but do so at the expense of the importation and creation of jobs, and unfortunately prevent the inflow of capital, knowledge, and technology. A very obvious symptom of this problem is the OFW phenomenon. Economic protectionism also includes other less conspicuous constitutional provisions, like the outdated doctrine of State Ownership of Natural Resources, which has proven to be prone to corruption, has given the oligarchy that controls the Philippine state almost exclusive control of natural resources, and has provided very little incentive for private initiative to get involved in protecting the environment.

2) Unitarism

These are the constitutional provisions that have created a highly centralized state around what many today call "Imperial Manila." To many Filipinos these days, this is the flaw with very obvious symptoms: the overconcentration of job opportunities in the capital and the dearth of the same in peripheral regions, which together have created the hellish congestion experienced by those living in the capital region. Unitarism also includes less conspicuous exclusivist provisions, like the national language, which has exalted the Tagalog language and culture at the expense of others.

3) The Presidential System

This is the form of government that provides for complete Separation of Powers, which in theory should provide for three co-equal powers of government (i. …

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