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Bernardo M. Villegas

Catching up in ASEAN agriculture (Part II)

How did our ASEAN peers achieve higher productivity improvements in agriculture and thus reduce their poverty incidence more successfully than the Philippines?  An article by Marie Annette G. Dacul, Agribusiness Specialist of the Center for Food and Agribusiness, proffered some answers, thus giving some very important suggestions to the Duterte Administration about agricultural development in the next six years. The key success factors for each country were identified.  For Indonesia, the leading products were oil palm, rubber, coffee, cacao, and shrimp.    Key factors were foreign direct investments, nucleus-smallholders program, crop diversification and availability of long-term financing.  For Malaysia, which concentrated on oil palm and rubber, key factors were foreign direct investments, effective government land agencies such as the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) and the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority …

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Indonesia will lead the AEC

(Part 2) When President Widodo was elected in 2014, there were great expectations about Indonesia moving away from protectionist measures that were imposed during the previous regime of President SBY. Because his party was not able to muster a majority in the parliament, it took time for the new president to open up the economy to attain faster growth. Last June 2016, however, amid slowing growth and stagnating investments, the government finally opened 35 new sectors to foreign participation. It revised its Negative Investment List, opening 35 new sectors to FDI, especially in services and trade. With these reforms, the government hopes to attract some $44 billion of new FDI in 2016. The sunrise sectors most likely to attract FDIs are those related to e-commerce, technology, and infrastructure. China leads in …

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Catching up in ASEAN agriculture (Part I)

Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol is facing a great challenge in the next six years as the Philippines faces more intense competition in the field of agriculture within the ASEAN Economic Community.  Because of decades of neglect and unenlightened policies (e.g. the obsession with rice sufficiency), the Philippines lags way behind some of its ASEAN neighbors in agricultural productivity and exports.  No other economist has analyzed the roots of the failure of Philippine agriculture better than Dr. Rolando Dy, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific (one of his most read books is From the Roots to the Fruits:  The Business of Agribusiness, University of Asia and the Pacific with FIDEI Foundation).  Since he came back from a stint in …

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Infrastructure President (Part 2)

What should be implemented in the first 100 days of the Duterte Administration as regards infrastructures?  The following should be the guiding principles:  a) Correct the adverse impact of government inactions; b) Institute the appropriate governance on the basis of matching authority, responsibility, and resourcing through Executive Orders; and c) Create the foundation for sustained results for the six years of the presidency. The lowest hanging fruit has to do with vehicle plates and drivers licenses that have not been issued under the Aquino Administration.  Un-plated vehicles make our police actions against criminal elements more difficult.  In addition, drivers without proper licenses add to the security problems.  The effects of congestion are worsened by bad driving practices of drivers.  The police cannot arrest drivers who violate traffic laws if they cannot …

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Tourism can promote inclusive growth

(Part 2) Then there is Laida Escoltura in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte. To support her ten children, she seized the opportunity of catering to the many surfers, both Filipinos and foreigners, who discovered the secrets of Siargao Island as a surfing paradise. She set up a carenderia to serve affordable but satisfying dishes for the visitors. As the number of visitors grew, she decided to create a beachfront business that today keeps not just her family fed, but those of others in her community. Thanks to her improved income, her five younger children have been able to go to college, unlike the first five who had to stop going to school when the surfing business was still underdeveloped. Two of her children have become surfing experts and have been winning …

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AEC can learn from EU

BREXIT need not lead to the complete disintegration of the European Union (EU). One can be certain, though, that there will be a significant slowdown of growth in most of the member nations of the EU, including Germany.  The incipient recovery in some of the countries of the EU will be further delayed. The great economic powers of the twentieth century, sometimes referred to as the American Century, can no longer be expected to be engines of growth of the global economy.  The United States, Japan and the EU will have to take a back seat to the three economic powers that will propel the Asian Century, i.e. China, India, and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which can continue to grow at annual average rates of 5 to 6 percent …

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Educating children on human sexuality

Except for the concern about summary killings, I think that Filipinos are a hundred percent in favor of serious efforts of the Duterte government to combat the evils of the drug trade that have reached epidemic proportions.  Illicit drugs are ruining the lives of families from all walks of life.  There is, however, another evil that has to be fought with equal determination and tenacity.  I am referring to pornography in all of its forms, especially through the Internet.  Those who are peddling pornographic materials are also guilty of destroying families and spreading an addiction that kills both body and spirit of numerous individuals.  They also have to be prosecuted with equal zeal. Immunizing potential victims, especially among the youth, against pornography requires a great deal of character building based on …

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Infrastructure President (Part 1)

Given the enormous requirements for infrastructures in the next six years, it would not be an exaggeration to expect President Rody Duterte to be remembered by posterity as the Infrastructure President.  Together with a bigger inflow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), massive investments in infrastructures can make the difference between the mediocre 6 to 7 percent that we have been experiencing over the last five years and the 8 to 10 percent annual growth that China and other tiger economies of the past had been able to register as they were in the same stage of development in which we are today.  As I have written many times, although 6 to 7 percent may seem impressive given the slowdown in global growth today, such an increase is highly insufficient for …

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Tourism can promote inclusive growth

 (Part 1) The very catchy tourism slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” has worked most successfully among the 40 million Filipinos who are the first tourists in their own country. I am amazed at how many new tourist destinations are being mentioned by my relatives, friends, and acquaintance away from the well-trodden paths like Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Puerto Galera or Pagudpod. More and more I hear about Coron, Malapascua, Camotes, Langgaman, Siquijor, Peñablanca, etc. Filipinos are discovering their own country and are actually contributing to the consumption-led growth that is sustaining the 6% to 7% rise in GDP annually. Of course, a large part of these domestic tourists are the vacationing OFWs and their relatives. Just imagine: There are more than 10 million of them! The Department of Tourism and …

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President Duterte is not socialist (Part II)

Over at least the last forty years of tracking and forecasting economic developments in the Philippines, I have come to know many of the individuals who have been appointed to the Duterte Cabinet.  I have no serious doubts about their technical competence and integrity.  That is why it is not difficult for me to put on my usual hat as “prophet of boom.”  As I had frequently said in many economic briefings before the elections, the next President is fortunate that whatever he does, he can already be assured of a continuation of the 6 to 7 percent annual growth of GDP that has prevailed over the last four to five years.  Among the guaranteed engines of growth on which he can depend on are close to $30 billion of …

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