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Reviving development economics

It would be a big boost to the new development economics if the
economics is blended in with the social, cultural, political and
institutional setting and environment, so that the possibilities for
change and development are clearly defined. In this respect, we need to interact with political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and the legal profession.

A corollary to this is that we shouldn’t fall into the neoclassical
trap of distinguishing markets with everything else, so that we become anti-market in the real sense of not wanting to improve the
commodities, labor and capital markets of Third World countries. Thus we see some of us resisting China’s or Vietnam’s use of better economic incentives on the grounds that they are “market” devices.

Uncertainty and danger

War is looming. And like it or not, the Philippines is not spared. The
Economist, which incidentally is pro-war, believes that the country
will suffer heavily once the full-blown war in Iraq erupts.

Not surprisingly, the exchange rate has become volatile, with the peso vis-a-vis the dollar reaching a two-year low. The Philippine currency is not at all overvalued, if we consider the surprisingly sustained low inflation rate. The depreciation is simply an indicator of the investors’ nervousness amidst the imminent war in Iraq.

Reforming the port sector

In its drive to be globally competitive, the government should spare no effort in upgrading the country’s port services and facilities. Among the areas it should take a closer look at are alternative and more efficient modes and routes of sea transport as well as the need to redefine the functions of the port authority.

Time to move on from number coding

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman and Public Works Secretary Bayani Fernando beat me to the draw.

Ever since he instituted the new traffic scheme that is now in force
along EDSA and undertook to sweep the vendors off the sidewalks of
Metro Manila, I had been considering writing a column calling for the
lifting of the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP). But while I was hemming and hawing about it, Mr. Fernando jumped the gun on me and did it, even if only on a trial basis and with Makati City and, later, Mandaluyong City exempted. He is getting flak for it, though.

Power sector reform

In the 1990s, fundamental power sector restructuring swept developing countries around the world. In a workshop held in Bangkok in October 2002, activists from South, Southeast and East Asia shared their country experiences in power reforms.

These are stories with the same plots and progression. They are about increasing the role and power of foreign corporate interest in the provision of a very critical public utility. They start with the
introduction of various schemes for private sector participation in the
early 1990s, such as service contracts, management contracts, concessions and build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts and their
numerous variants.

Drafting gender-sensitive policies

All over the world, women and men continue to be treated differently at home, at work, and in society at large. Gender inequalities continue to exist and are strongly correlated with poverty in developing countries. As Martha Nussbaum puts it, “When poverty combines with gender inequality, the result is acute failure of central human capabilities.” This picture darkens further when we incorporate vulnerabilities. Poor women with little or no access to social protection are helpless in the face of health crises, economic crises and other risks. The belief that development is a right to which all human beings are entitled makes this failure unacceptable.