It may be a surprise to some of you, but the Philippines ever since had been engaged in a competitive strategy. Protectionism – the policy of protecting domestic industries in order to create a capital-intensive industrial base – was a plan implemented by the country aimed at generating continued growth, and ultimately spurring progress and development. Unfortunately, the outcome of such a policy was the opposite of what we were hoping. Trade protection (or the whole gamut of policies from import substitution to “competitive clustering” and “picking out winners”) is not based on an economics of national interest, but really formulated within a politics of special interest. Politics can sometimes produce economic policies that are in fact irrational but made to look brilliant. To see why one must go beyond the abstract concepts of gains and benefits from free trade and competition toward a specific listing of the costs and benefits of trade protection and competitiveness.
After months of hard and frenzied work of concerned legislative
committees and technical working groups, it now seems like the
Anti-Money Laundering Act is up for amendments. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering, an international watchdog that monitors efforts in fighting money laundering, has pointed out serious flaws in the law that render it ineffective to fight the said crime.
The story of how the Anti-Money Laundering Act came to be and what has happened since its enactment is irrefutable proof of how compromised and ineffective a government that is captive to particularistic interests can be.
At a personal level, we intuitively know that trading our labor (then
using the money wages as the means of transactions) gives us a higher standard of living than if we tried to produce everything ourselves. As individuals, we know and act on the knowledge that specialization enhances our individual incomes and wealth.
But this knowledge does not seem to hold in our perceptions of the
national economy. We know that a country will be wealthier and have a better life if the country specializes in producing those products that it is good at producing, exporting the surplus, and using the proceeds to buy imports. Yet the notion that the gains from trade should be measured by what we import, not by what we export, is difficult for many.
Two bills currently under consideration in the legislature are of great
importance: House Bill (HB) 3339, filed by Speaker Jose de Venecia and Rep. Ben Cruz, and Senate Bill (SB) 1912 filed by Sen. Manuel Villar. Both bills are entitled: AN ACT TO PLACE SAFETY NETS FOR FILIPINO RICE PRODUCERS BY IMPOSING TARIFFS IN LIEU OF QUANTITATIVE RESTRICTIONS ON RICE IMPORTS, DIRECTING TARIFF COLLECTIONS FROM RICE IMPORTS TO PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS THAT ENHANCE RICE PRODUCTIVITY AND INCREASE FARMERS’ INCOMES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES – or in short, the “RICE SAFETY NET ACT OF 2001.”
Globalization is perhaps the most important of the long-run forces
driving world development today. (In the 20th century it may have been the independence movements of the colonized peoples in Asia and Africa – which, by the way, is an indication of how advanced politically the Philippines was in the second half of the 19th century, when Filipinos began their agitation for national sovereignty ahead of most other countries in the region).
Early one morning in late November, on my way to De La Salle University for an important appointment, I hit a traffic jam that, hyperbole aside, stretched for at least a mile on Zamora Bridge, that flyover-bridge infrastructure complex that connects Valenzuela Street in Sta. Mesa and Quirino Avenue in Pandacan. The cause of the bumper-to-bumper snafu: gridlock at the Tejeron Street intersection, where cars refused to give way to those going crosswise relative to their direction. Ruing my choice of route for the day, as the minutes ticked away I tried to make the best of a bad situation by devising an economic model that offered an explanation for my predicament. What follows is the game-theoretic parable that came out of my ruminations.