Ting Paterno, economist
The late Vicente “Ting” Paterno had very many talents—mechanical engineer; business school graduate; private-sector executive; government technocrat in portfolios of investments, industry, and public works; business entrepreneur. He worked with the National Movement for Free Elections and the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development. He revived the Medium and Small Scale Industries Coordinated Action Program (as Masicap II, independent of the government).
I would like to pay tribute to Ting Paterno the economist, even though, ever humble, he would be reluctant to accept such a tribute. But, certainly, we professional economists recognized Ting as one of our own. For not only was he on the board of the Philippine Economics Society (PES) for three years, he was also our president in the critical hyperinflation year of 1984.
In 1984, consumer prices zoomed up by 50 percent from the year before. The continued inflation of prices by another 25 percent the following year sent self-rated poverty among households to the all-time record 74 percent in July 1985, from 55 percent in April 1983.
At the end of his presidential term in December 1984, Ting reported to the PES membership that its board had departed somewhat from its usual activities, since, “in these times of national ferment, the Society should make an effort to join the mainstream of events rather than be a passive, placid, detached observer.”
The 1984 survey of opinions of PES members. In January 1984, the PES board decided to survey the members on issues related to the economic crisis. Ting and the board were fully involved in the survey design; I was only the technical implementor. The questionnaire was drafted by a committee, and approved in March, with some revisions directed by the board.
The survey was self-administered. Forms were mailed to all 646 members in April; 135 forms—or 21 percent, par for a mail-survey—were returned by May; the report was done by July.
The PES members had very negative views about the Marcos government. The opinions of those from the government, the private sector, and academia were the same.
Was the economic crisis due more to domestic factors or more to international factors? Domestic, said 87 percent.
Among domestic factors, which were more important, the economic or the political? Political, said 70 percent.
The PES economists expected the following factors to positively affect economic recovery: free and credible elections for the Batasan in May 1984 (89 percent); formalization of the procedure for presidential succession (80 percent); and completion of the investigation of the Agrava Fact-Finding Board (67 percent).
The PES economists strongly confirmed the importance for economic recovery that the government respond to certain criticisms: crony capitalism, 90 percent; loss of confidence in official economic statistics, 88 percent; and government encroachment on the private sector, 83 percent.
The percentages of PES economists rating government management of the following matters as poor or very poor were quite high: the external debt, 77; unemployment, 70; the foreign exchange rate system, 68; consumer price control, 63; and the system of foreign trade financing, 58.
Here are the percentages rating the following institutions as poor or very poor in promoting the general economic welfare: Office of the President, 73; Ministry of Human Settlements (which was under Imelda Marcos), 66; Central Bank, 61; Ministry of Trade and Industry, 49; Ministry of Natural Resources, 47; Ministry of Finance, 46; National Economic and Development Authority, 44; Ministry of Agriculture, 31; and Ministry of Energy, 29.
There also were high percentages dissatisfied or highly dissatisfied with the government’s system of consultation when formulating economic policies: with the general public, 83; with the business community, 80; and with the economics profession in particular, 68.
Ting told the PES members: “The Board interpreted the findings to mean that the Society should not be timid about engaging in activities which might be controversial, so long as they were for purposes useful to enlightenment and to eventual resolution of the current economic crisis, and of other national problems.”
Other activities of economists led by Ting Paterno. The PES board decided to hold four conferences in 1984, though usually only one is held per year. It accomplished three: “Role of government in a free enterprise economy,” “Analysis of the Philippine economic crisis”—for which the working paper was the report of professors of the UP School of Economics—and “Improving the management of development plans, policies and programs.” The fourth conference, “Social, political and cultural factors in Philippine development: the role of attitudinal changes,” was set for early 1985.
On these activities, Ting wrote: “The Board took the view that… discussions should try to examine all facets of the problem, even if some of these facets should be outside the expected knowledge of the economist.”
I was privileged to have had chances (more than one, but that’s another story) to work closely with such a great Filipino, who did not hesitate to go outside the knowledge expected of his academic training. Ting Paterno did not need training to be a genuine economist.
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The Philippine Economic Journal, vol. xxiv, no. 1, 1985, contains Ting Paterno’s 1984 presidential report and the PES survey report.
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