Saturday, 27 October 2012

Self-Sufficiency or Dependency?

Self-Sufficiency or Dependency?

This kind of issue continues to be debated for decades as people from all walks of life questions which path should have the Philippines pursue in developing in line of progress and stability as a third world country, as one favors developing its own while another favors dependency on aid and support, such debate in midst of growing poverty, all from the halls of the legislature to the streets, all involving the stock and wet, underground markets, subdivisions and illegal settlements, high rise buildings and factories all aggravating tensions between the prevailing system and its people on which economic and social program should look upon in uplifting the society and its sovereign. 

To the free trade advocates, having a nation open to free trade and smaller government leads to more employment, open markets, information  as well as freedom of movement to provide services to the people. Such advocacy laid to the developing countries tries to emphasise the primacy of markets and trade (than industry and production) as the primary foundation of the economy with minimal government control and a laissez faire policy. 

Quite acceptable to hear free trade and foreign support as means to support the growing economy, all with foreign entities sprawling trying to provide goods and services to the people in a belief that through free trade between countries opens the global market, with as few restrictions on trade as possible to bring goods directly with people satisfying over with low costs as its reason as according to William H. Peterson, holder of the Lundy Chair of Business Philosophy at Campbell University, He states that "the idea of free trade allows the efficient use of economic resources and will promote international cooperation."

As evidenced by the trade agreements and less tariffs paving way to the massive influx of goods, free trade and the right for foreigners to acquire properties, especially in developing countries in need of development created a showcase that emphasises a growing, improving country due to rising GNP and GDP rates as well as having manpower utilized as the country's main asset other than its natural resources.

But, with free trade as its tendency, despite having efficient use of economic resources and promoting cooperation does not also mean promoting interests in a mutual manner especially in the third world. With people not thinking that big foreign companies are primarily working for their respective countries and not the country they've served as one of its branches as it prioritizes remittances, exports rather than seriously paying tariffs and taxes especially in a predominantly agricultural country that became contented on imports due to its weak industry and contentment in having a pastoral and service economy with limited approach to industry (that is, also controlled by foreign entities and its domestic partners whom bragging about industrialization which obviously not due to its assembly line nature with foreign-made spare parts).

Critics tend to call protectionism as a tendency of the oligarchs to keep firm in their properties such as land and resources. Thinking that those from the topmost of the society controls everything including mass media, they have the "regulatory" powers greater than the state that includes circumventing laws for their benefit in a way Cojuangcos stubbornly tried to control the Sugar sector, Lopezes in mass media, and Concepcions in food sector. These familiar names tend to control evenly that involves foreign contracts, collaboration with the state, everything by hook or by crook in pursuit of keeping the order firm in all spheres that critics be described as "protectionism".

However, protectionism is not entirely a tendency of the old rich as what pro free trade advocates speak upon to, to think that the Philippines had rich natural resources yet no basic large scale industries controlled by Filipinos, why leaving every affair to a foreigners whose interest is to make Philippines heavily dependent on imports despite creating jobs, modernizing infrastructure and the like; otherwise creating a new wave of oligarchs that is, worse than the old rich and the current ones in a society deemed as antiquated. In a way a one writeup said:

"...Free Trade became a keyword for prosperity despite pitting down domestic industry, remember how British produced cloth crippled those coming from Visayas; or even promises of foreign aid turned out to be an attempt to gain control of small scale industries growing such as how A.T. Suaco end up controlled by Wyeth, though it is quite considering to have foreign investors in the country, stressing preference to the growing Filipino industry should be retained-alongside genuine land to the tiller program and patriotic, scientific and popular education and culture in pursuit of creating foundations for an industrialised, progressive society."

That somehow made this writer think how let these things happen such as making domestic industry small scale if not doom to fail with massive imports or foreign control in a guise of foreign aid. Protectionism can't be entirely a tendency of the old rich as small scale owners wanted their products be promoted and sold with people gaining benefit from their produce than those of the oligarch or the imported one as the owners of Boy Bawang wanted its products be promoted and appraised by the consumers the way the latter afford to buy Piatos from the Gokongweis and Lays from Frito Lay, least that these people behind tried its best to employ people, utilize resources to support local economy despite being "small" contrary to what trying hard intellectuals ought to describe emphasising domestic economy is as for the old rich.

After all, it's like telling that prioritizing national development, as in NATIONAL development is for the oligarchs and therefore it is bad.

Obviously, it would be wishful thinking for the armchair idealists to speak for economic reforms without thinking what kind the system Philippines was and is other than a plutocratic society controlled by oligarchs; and yet as noticed by many they afford to do a joyride in a caravan that calls for distributing lands in Hacienda Luisita while at the same time favoring foreigners right to own properties in the country. That made people think quite ridiculous on the side of the people that one even afford to say that the Filipinos themselves are fast becoming "Squatters in their own land" while those who afford have the right to claim and create a series of uncontrolled, unsustainable development that benefits the few despite building bridges, and farm to market roads, as well as granaries can't be genuinely described as "development" as long as middlemen controls everything.
Such tendencies is in fact a fantasy of a middle class idealist that is contradicting to those who call for genuine land reform, rural industrialization and cultural revival through patriotic, progressive and popular instruction that would spurn a new wave of Filipino-ness such as its identity.

Thinking how awkward those people concerning about others, of blaming oligarchs and the like are the ones nagging for total openness that is paving way for bigger, unregulated markets controlled by a new wave of interests. If so, then will they pay a bigger share such as a progressive tax as well as promoting local enterprise at the same time? Obviously they are rather aggravating the situation with the nouveau rich substitutes the old, existing one in controlling economic affairs. And such action taken in the name of reform negates rather than justifies paving way for basic changes in a way certain sectors of the society use the word "reform" just to keep the antiquated social order firm and surviving such as those deeply rooted in "tradition."

Also coming to think that since free trade advocates are against oligarchs, then how come some, if  not most favor repealing anti-trust laws and have the nouveau riche say "Laissez faire et laissez passer, le monde va de lui même!" in front of everyone especially tired of increasing prices of commodities, and calling for salary increase and consumer protection? Let them be?!? That's the rant of the old and new rich that tries to keep the antiquated system in order with a fresh coat of paint and dubbed thee as "new."

Remembering how the so-called Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program failed to succeed the peasant question with oligarchs still controlling agrarian affairs and be substituted by companies in the name of corporate farming and land conversion, then even wanting to sell land for foreigners such as companies and like without trying to improve local industries such as promoting cooperatives and rural community based development? The issue on land, being a decades-old problem remains a problem due to the oligarchs's as well as corrupt bureaucrats strong handling of political, economic, and cultural power in the society-thinking that despite all modern edifices, technology and ideas utilized just to preserve the rotten antiquated structure with people evenly exploited by the ones on the top.
Worse, with companies wanting to exploit resources for their benefit than those of the people, the idea of agrarian reform and conservation of natural resources is totally negated in a way that arable lands, mountains, forests and other natural resource had been paved way to subdivisions, open pit mining and others that benefit by entities disregarding people's welfare and outcomes such as shortage of food and other resources. Quite strange though that they tolerate growing populations, contented in imports and expoliting everything all for exports, as cash crops than domestic uses all just to brag that the economy is growing and development is running in a full scale yet "not." In a way Subdivisions are made by companies using housing as alibi for their profiteering and to accelerate urbanization in the suburbs, not to decongest the ones living in the city and to support the demands of the countryside such as community based rural industrialization.

In Argentina, free trade and deregulation was applied during the days of the Military Junta, the policy tries to negate earlier policies laid by the Peron era but, as according to the book "The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism", it failed to improve the economy further contrary to the earlier emphasis on local investment and even foreign ones yet subjected to government policies such as "Import Substitution", as it said:

"Policies of "free trade" and financial deregulation pursued by Argentina's last dictatorship led to a sudden, record deficit in 1980 and, by 1981, a mountain of bad debts and financial collapse. The climate of slack domestic demand that prevailed in Argentina throughout the 1980s resulted in a cumulative US$38 billion in surpluses from 1982 to 1991; this brought the economy little direct benefit, however, as much of this was deposited abroad during that era of interest payment burdens and financial instability."

In the Philippines, import substitution tries to stimulate industrialization such as during the Marcos regime. But  its efforts end rather failed due to the intervening policies of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank as well as controlled by cronies allied with the regime. Obviously, it is mismanagement laid by the antiquated nature of the system failed to accelerate economic programs especially those of self-sufficiency as well as its agricultural nature that is, favorable to the developed countries in regards to the third world; and since there are "industries", it is more of making consumer goods and assembly line ones yet having resources favorable to the creation of heavy industry, that is, end turned down by those favorable to free trade.  As according to

"The service sector contributes more than half of overall Philippine economic output, followed by industry (about a third), and agriculture (less than 20%)."

In this description lies what is favorable to foreign interest such as prioritizing the service sector than those of Agriculture despite having a predominantly arable land that serves as its asset, a base that requires prioritizing domestic investment, people empowerment and efficient managing of small and medium scale industries paving way to total industrialization such as utilizing resources for domestic use. After all, the system rather keep the society backward and dependent in a way they tried to make Feudalism modern with Capitalistic views injected to the existing ideas and terminology.

Since calls for this kind of development lies the desire for domestic based industrialization and genuine agrarian reform since it utilizes domestic material and labor for domestic purpose, how come should be so much emphasis on foreign investment than utilizing people empowerment seriously in promoting national development? Well, nothing's wrong in having foreign investment to support domestic development but, these aren't substitutes to domestic ones generated by the people such as utilizing its resource to generate wealth; there's not even need to act like China's "Great leap forward" with its backyard furnaces to brag on, least that the need for domestic based development such as agrarian reform would create conditions in having a sustainable yet industrialized economy. And thinking strangely that since people living independent yet contented on having a nature that is as it is instead of developing, it is pretty much worse to have the concept of change reduced into a mere individualist pipe dream of changing lifestyles. And if so, looking at history of the United States, how come the late economist and statesman Alexander Hamilton argued for his "Theory of Manufactures" to point the way to the country's emergence as an industrial power against Thomas Jefferson's advocacy of a "pastoral economy" that is keeping the nation rather agricultural, worse, depend on slave power as well as imports during their times?
The concept of self reliance and promoting domestic enterprise cant be a mere pipe dream compared to a nonsensical and unjust influx of foreign goods with low tariffs yet keeping the country remain predominantly agricultural with its farms focusing on cash crops such as sugarcane, coconuts, rice and other export oriented foodstuffs; while on the other hand, Foreign support, admittingly speaking is also acceptable as long as it does not infringes domestic economy and rather be beneficial as it supports in uplifting people and supporting what is best for the country such as paying taxes and obeisance to domestic law and its regulatory powers.

That made one commentator said:

"Admittingly speaking, it is good to say so that there is a role of the foreign sector, especially the investor in advancing national development, but which is to be its main goal: to generate development or merely to expand markets for their goods? Obviously it makes no sense to see a mass of consumers instead of a mass of hardworking professionals who didn't work all of their lives just for material gain alone."

After all, in seeing such catastrophes in the Philippines such as injustice and poverty, we still sought people dreaming endlessly of progress and development yet still confused on which path to seek upon: economic independence or contentment through globalization.

Which is which anyway?