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Commentary

Will we ever attain economic take-off?

12:10 AM January 25, 2017

We feel hopeful whenever we hear President Duterte speak with resolve about ushering the country toward the “take-off” or third stage of economic development in the growth model conceptualized by Walt Whitman Rostow. (The other stages are traditional society, preconditions for take-off, drive to maturity, and age of high mass consumption.) A major characteristic of the take-off stage is a sustained rise in the proportion of investment to national income—from 5 to 10 percent. By this and other indicators, the Philippines is in the stage of preconditions for take-off.

When talking about take-off, the term “tiger economy” also comes to mind. By all indications, a tiger economy is one that has taken off and has enjoyed extremely high-growth rates sustained over decades, as in the case of Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. In this construct, the Philippines is still a newly industrializing country (NIC) prior to becoming a tiger economy. It belongs to the group of NICs that includes Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey—countries that have outpaced their developing counterparts in recent years.

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It may be noted that in the above model, as well as in Rostow’s, a sine qua non to achieving the desired development stages is a strong political leadership that regards development as a serious “high-order political business,” as was seen in the four tiger economies whose surge in growth was spurred by the extended strong leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, Park Chung Hee and the disciplinarian leaders of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Thus, after President Duterte’s term, we have to face the uncertainty of having another strong leader who will sustain the growth momentum.

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A study by Tullao and Cabuay has shown that in the absence of a strict leadership, the economic indicators since the 1960s nevertheless reached levels needed for take-off, but these were not sustained and the figures were rather erratic through the administrations preceding P-Noy’s.

Uncertain about our country getting a prolonged strong leadership, our recourse points to a sustained conditioning of the population along development-oriented values, although as to when value internalization becomes permanent is still conjectural. Unlike us, the tiger economies have their Confucian ethic which has been long ingrained in their cultural systems for centuries.

Thus, our hope after Duterte is to focus on education where the people themselves, through intensive value reorientation, carry out the task of sustaining the high growth rates. According to educational psychologists like McClelland, Granato, the inculcation of modern values is long-lasting at grade school level where minds are most impressionable. And at this level, the means of effectively inculcating these values is through the use of children’s readers that are flavored with stories stressing these values.

We need to stress, among other values, deferred gratification, entrepreneurship, self-reliance, efficacy, hard work, creativity, a need for achievement in various skills, and seriousness about tasks, job, family and obligations. These can be integrated in children’s stories that have the character of fantasy, which is believed to be essential to getting at an individual’s “inner concerns.”

What comes to mind were the interesting readers used by our strict teachers in the 1950s, which perhaps need revisiting today. I remember vividly how the contents of these readers were repeatedly drilled into our young minds in the subject Good Manners and Right Conduct.

For now, amid the uncertainty of a post-Duterte period, the urgent task at hand is the intensive molding of young minds along values observed in the developed world.

Meliton B. Juanico is a retired professor of geography at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is a licensed environmental planner and is active in consultancy work in urban and regional planning.

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TAGS: Asia, Commentary, Duterte, Economic Development, economy, Growth, opinion
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