25 March 2015

Lee Kuan Yew and Lessons from Singapore's Development Experience

Comment on The Straits Times article:
'Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's Red Box' by Heng Swee Keat

The article is an interesting personal story of how the late authoritarian — 'benevolent dictator' to some, 'human rights violator' to others — Lee Kuan Yew had governed one of the most boring and repressive, yet economically successful, city-states in the world - Singapore....

Source: http://www.lee-kuan-yew.com
It isn't surprising why many Filipinos would rather have an authoritarian figure, even a dictator, again like LKY in the Philippines. This is an obvious indication of Filipinos' sheer frustration of the current state of affairs. After thirty years since the end of Marcos dictatorship, the promises of democratization have been hollow. Others, perhaps, are just ignorant of the particularities of Singapore's historical, political, and socio-economic dynamics and circumstances. 

Ironically, many Filipinos want to have disciplinarian leaders, but we do not even (want to) discipline ourselves. 

The development history of Singapore cannot be solely attributed to LKY's leadership. Workers have contributed tremendously to its development -- the impressive infrastructure of Singapore have been built by migrant workers, and many of the city's skilled workers and their children have been taken good care of household workers, many of whom from the Philippines and Indonesia. 

It's also important to note that the 'Chinese' population were already thriving on commerce, business, education, culture, and politics in colonial and post-independence Malaya. This, among other reasons, compelled Malay political elites to strategically expel Singapore from Malaysia to secure the dominance, and advance the interests, of ethnic Malays. Thus, it is not right to say that LKY built Singapore from scratch. 

The Singapore development experience cannot be replicated anymore. Not in or by the Philippines at this juncture. It has had its own historical specificities. 

  • One, Singapore has had, as what economists would call, a 'minimum efficient size', which has roughly the same land area as Metro Manila and only twice the population size of Quezon City.
  • Two, it pursued industrialization with a strong manufacturing sector at the time when Keynesian economics ruled the ethos of development strategy in the postwar era -- a favourable catching-up period to industrialise which Marcos and the Filipino elites failed to capture.
  • And many more....

However, there are some important lessons that the Philippines can draw from Singapore's economic development experience. 
  • First, do some serious planning for industrialization. Critical components of this strategy are: policy coordination; specialization in manufacturing, while designing the synergy between manufacturing, agriculture, services, and SMEs; and the prerequisite completion of land reform. NEDA and Philippine economic planners and managers since the 1960s would appear amateurs when compared to the serious planners and managers of Singapore, and even Malaysia.
  • Second, having a large public enterprise can be efficient and can be a national asset. Contrary to the claims by neoliberals and free marketeers, Singapore has large public enterprises which has been key to the country's economic success. Governments are not necessarily inefficient, and government intervention in the economy are not always bad.
  • Third, encourage the existence and organization of labour unions. At the level of Singapore's economic development, high wages have been realised not out of the benevolence of LKY's government or the generosity of businesses, but due to active negotiations and duly recognised activities of labour unions (even if these unions are state-orchestrated in the case of Singapore).
  • Fourth, FDIs and MNCs can and must be disciplined by the state. There are good and bad FDIs. Distinguish between greenfield and brownfield investments. Thus, the strategy of the state is to attract the good ones, and make them work towards the realization of the country's national and social goals. 

In short, here's my explanation to Singapore's successful "economic" development which may be emulated by developing economies like the Philippines: 'good' people + good institutions + good policies + good governance + good timing + good luck!

Yes, I must add, remember Philippines: 'development' and 'democracy' can be together! 
wink emoticon

24 March 2015

Reforming the Education System and the Goal of Equality

Reference to GMA News Online report,

If you asked me what should be done, just one concrete strategy, in reforming Philippine education system, I'd say: abolish all the honors system in grade school and high school. 

Kung gusto pa rin nating may mga awards, gawin na lang na gaya ng sa college na kahit ilan puwedeng maging summa, magna, cum laude, o nasa dean's list; hindi lang isang valedictorian at isang salutatorian sa bawat batch.

Also, abolish the hierarchy of sections. Abolish din ang mga row 1, row 2, row 3, at row 4. These divisions, segregations, or categorisations of pupils/students are not good for learning. 

Dapat pantay-pantay. All students must be given the same high quality facilities and teachers.

In this news report, there's really fundamentally wrong in our institutions. The default response or knee-jerk reaction of the country's institutions whenever there is a problem is to immediately deal with it as a 'legal' issue. 

When we do 'reform', we have to critically ask the principles, ethos, or philosophy — yes, even the politics —, behind (or underpinning) the rules or laws that must be questioned and examined.

My sense is that the K to 12 educational reform experiment in the Philippines will fail. Based on my observation, a crucial difference between successful K to 12 system in Nordic countries (especially Finland) and the new K to 12 in the Philippines (or the US) has to do with the 'goal' or 'objective' of education.

In the successful case of Finland, for example, it's very clear that the goal of education is 

  • towards 'equality' (which encourages cooperation while discovering one's talents and pursuing one's life's purpose),
  • not 'excellence' or 'competitiveness' (which, as we see in the Philippines, leads to selfishness, egoism, and ugly competition). 

If 'equality' is not a goal of education in the K to 12, the terrible US case shows that those who pursue the 'vocational' track are stigmatized and subsumed under the 'academic' track. 

While 'learning' is the means and ends of education in Finland to develop students' real-world problem-solving skills; the Philippines is obsessed with 'testing' that encourages short-termist 'rote memorization' skills.

May this incident open up some serious rethinking about the country's education reform process, and not waste our time with non-sensical bickering between these innocent children who are victims of the deeply flawed principle, philosophy, and policy of education that we have had from the very beginning.

* * *
Here are excerpts of the comments I made to friends' comments in Facebook:

[E]ducation policy should be part of, coordinated with, each and every socioeconomic reform policy in the country towards a particular national goal. Our country's problems are so convoluted and complex already that require comprehensive, wholistic, and coordinated approach.

The first order problem of the Philippines is 'poverty' (which is a largely 'economic' issue), but a more difficult and sensitive issue linked to it is 'inequality' (which has a 'class' dimension). Both of these have to be addressed, and education policy must be integral to solving these causes of Philippine socioeconomic problems. What you've pointed out as the 'achievement gap' is a symptom of these causes.

I'm a believer of 'universalism' and the principle of solidarity, which is different from your proposed 'targeting' approach. The latter has long been employed by different Philippine administrations, patterned after the US-style of 'equitably' allocating state resources. The former must be tried out, and there are already studies about its viability in developing country contexts as well as policy prescriptions for it made by scholars and researchers who contribute to UN-level research.

[Do] not to target the 'poor', but target 'poverty'. 
I get your point on 'equality' and 'equity'. The 'equality' in my mind is anchored to the principle of 'social justice' -- where the allocation of government resources and programmes are context-specific, in the sense that these must be 'learner-centered' and oriented towards particular student's needs and abilities. This conception is, therefore, a synthesis of your equality-equity graphical representation in the blog post.
P.S. I touched on this 'learner-centered' idea a bit in my current 'teaching statement' - although this is at higher education level. 

31 January 2015

Choosing Hope, Justice, Peace and Change

A pause for thought on the aftermath of SAF-MILF deadly encounter

January is about to end....

We welcomed the new year filled with hope and cheer. This month, we have witnessed the best and worst in the Filipinos. Pope Francis had brought out the best in the Filipinos in the middle of the month; unfortunately, the recent tragic clash in Maguindanao has just brought out the worst in us.

Yet, the most important question is how do we respond to all these events, and which way are we going to. May we choose the virtues and paths of hope, justice, peace and change.

I am convinced that President Aquino and his silent operator confidant Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, as well as the country's well-protected grand mason police general Alan Purisima, should all be held accountable, together with their principal US intelligence operatives. I have long given up targeting PNoy (and his clique) -- or any government leader for that matter -- because I have always thought he's an unprepared, mediocre President that must be pushed by enlightened people towards the right direction.

In a word, I mean: ang tunay na pagbabago ay magmumula sa mga mulat na mamamayan. Real change comes from enlightened and conscious people.

Source: MailOnline
In the final analysis, the greatest test is how will the people come out of this disaster. Can we see a critical mass now forming as countervailing powers to these power-holders -- which would include critically and wisely supporting and electing the best leaders for the country in the next elections?

'A Tale of Two Cities', as Charles Dickens has aptly sketched out for our choice, to where and between which we have the right to tread on and the responsibility to build:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…"

26 January 2015

Teaching as a Process, Relations and Vocation of Learning

Photo by: Duane Schoon 
I just wrote a one-page 'Teaching Statement', and am sharing it here entitled 'Teaching as a Process, Relations, and Vocation' where I highlighted in bold the key concepts of my current teaching philosophy which, I believe, evolves through time and experience....

* * *

I regard teaching as a process, relations, and vocation whose foremost objective is learning.

Teaching entails a process of learning between interacting learners (i.e., both the teacher and student) through the sharing, reflection, acquisition, and generation of ideas. In this process, the student gains knowledge through ‘learning by studying’ and the teacher also comes to a self-realization, as well as generates and (re)produces knowledge, through ‘learning by teaching’. While research-based teaching is increasingly becoming the norm in the academia, I also believe in teaching-based research where the topics and courses taught in classrooms become a stimulating and significant basis for an academic’s future research endeavor.

Teaching thus implies a learning relationship between a teacher and student. Both are considered learned and learner. A teacher is both learned and learner, and a (university) student is not only a learner but must also be viewed as learned with the faculties for learning at the level of higher education. In this relationship, both have duties and responsibilities. Key to maintaining a healthy and meaningful relationship between the learners is mutual respect by upholding one of learning’s virtues: the giving and receiving of feedback.

But the teacher must take the leading role in mentoring and facilitating the learning process and relationship, challenged and inspired by the initial conditions, capacity, and aspiration of students towards particular learning objectives. It is the task of teachers to excite students with ideas. This includes the importance of preparation in teaching—i.e., never enter the classroom ‘cold’ when giving lectures and never show up in consultation meetings without having read students’ drafts. Unprepared teachers are most likely to spoil students’ enthusiasm in learning.

Having been a student myself from grade school to the postgraduate and doctoral schools and having had the teaching experience and exposure in different pedagogical methods in a number of systems—i.e., particular features of Asian, American, British, Baltic, European, Nordic and Scandinavian teaching styles—, I can say that there are advantages and disadvantages in their respective learning approaches. Thus far, however, I shun top-down model of learning; and I have come to believe in learner-centred, or student-centred, pedagogical method. Thus, teaching has to be considered an ‘art’ that requires from teachers the skill of creativity and the virtue of empathy. Central to this is a teacher’s reflection on the preparation and conduct of a course on the issue: How do students learn best? Or, what are the teaching techniques and approaches that could effectively help students learn best?

Finally, teaching is a vocation that requires passion, commitment and dedication. It is professionalism with ethics and a good sense of meaning and purpose. I am continuously inspired by mentors who have taught and shown me a seemingly old-fashioned academic culture that is generous, critical yet liberal, erudite yet humble, and purpose-driven. I have been lucky to have experienced this kind of generous academic culture from great mentors who are generous in time, advice, exchange of ideas, and resources. I wish to share this cherished gift and professional inspiration to my colleagues and students in the conduct of my teaching vocation.

13 January 2015

Empathy in Teaching

Grades submitted, and also received my teaching evolution and feedback from last year: rating 4.25 out of 5. Very pleased! 

Ah, getting old and progressing in life, now having the privilege and responsibiity of providing the rite of passage to master's students. While their project, I was also asking myself and reflecting on: what was my thought process, or how was I, ten or so years ago when I was doing my postgraduate studies?

'Empathy' - a mentor once told me is one of my important virtues and it's something that I should carry on in this vocation.

27 December 2013

Taxman vs Pacquiao hits need for Philippines reform

Asia Times Online has included my commentary as one of the front-page features of their year-end edition, specifically under the sections 'Business in Asia Today', 'Southeast Asia', and 'Speaking Freely'. I'm republishing the text here.

Taxman vs Pacquiao hits need for Philippines reform
By Bonn Juego 
Asia Times Online, 23 December 2013
Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao's latest contest pitches him against the country's tax commissioner, Kim Henares, who has entered the ring with a US$50 million payment demand. The dispute sheds light on much deeper issues and the need for economic reform in the Philippines.
Something important is emerging from a high-profile battle between the Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and the country's prominent tax reformer, Kim Henares. With typical humor, the local press likes to present it as a fight between the Pacman and the Taxman. 

While their altercation has reached a kind of uneasy impasse for the time being - with each side blaming the other - it actually sheds light on much deeper issues of financial probity, transparency and accountability, and therefore the possibilities for much-needed economic reform in the Philippines.

The tax issue came to light when Pacquiao held a press conference on his return to the Philippines a few days after making a successful comeback in his latest fight in November. He made a popular (and populist) promise to help the victims of the catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan, but he could not immediately do so because his domestic bank accounts had been frozen by the tax authorities.

The allegations were serious: tax evasion on a huge scale - 2.2 billion pesos (almost US$50 million) according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) - on income earned in lucrative fights in the United States in 2008 and 2009 when he was at the pinnacle of his career.

Pacquiao is no ordinary celebrity. Besides being considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, the only man to win world titles in eight weight divisions, the former street kid is also a very wealthy man. Even last year, Forbes magazine listed him as the 14th highest-paid athlete globally.

Pacquiao has also waded into the sometimes murky world of Philippine politics when he was elected member of the House of Representatives, with ambitions of eventually becoming president.

Despite being aligned (for the time being at least) with the ruling administration of Benigno Aquino III, Pacquiao says that the freeze order is "political harassment". In his defense, he says everything is above board.

"I have already paid my taxes in America. Had I not paid the correct taxes they [US authorities] would have come after me and I would not have been able to travel there". 

And in a well-aimed dig at the widespread corruption of the political class, Pacquiao asserts that his hard-earned assets come from the blood, sweat, and tears of the tough fight game and are not stolen from the public coffers or acquired through indecent businesses.

For her part, the tax commissioner Kim Henares denies any harassment. She says the tax authorities are simply doing their job in investigating Pacquiao's undocumented tax payments. She shrugs off the letter from Pacquiao's promoter, Top Rank, saying he has paid his taxes in the United States: "This is a mere scrap of paper. Anyone can write that," she says.

A former World Bank senior private sector development specialist and key economic adviser to Aquino's good governance reform agenda, Henares has gained a reputation as a strong-willed tax collector. She has spearheaded a name-and-shame campaign against tax evaders, including movie stars and rich businessmen who flaunt their wealth. Henares has been much lauded, even by credit ratings agencies, for the BIR's unprecedented tax collection efforts over the past three years.

Beyond the headlines the case has spawned, some much bigger issues about the state of the Philippine economy are beginning to resonate. These are essentially about the creation of a critical mass of opinion in favor of much-needed tax and economic reforms. 

Filipinos have dared to question the "rule of law" from the point of view of justice and to criticize the rhetoric of "good governance" from the perspective of democracy. If the moment can be seized then the possibilities for a deepening of political democratization and socioeconomic development may come just a step closer.

The current conflict brought about by the Pacquiao-Henares exchanges opens up significant issues for rethinking not only policy changes with regard to the tax regime but also the overall processes of social reform and economic development.

I sketch out here four interrelated problem areas that trace the points of conflict that will frame the struggle for substantive policy reform.

  • First, I unpack the "for whom" question in the political economy of the Philippine taxation structure.
  • Second, I draw attention to the significance of principles behind tax and fiscal policies.
  • Third, I propose that tax reforms and the goal of redistribution must be linked with strategies for the development of the economic mode of production.
  • Lastly, I point out the futility of the "pro- versus anti-Aquino" discursive framing in contemporary policy debates for the formation of a movement towards economic reforms and social change. 

    The tax structure
    A deeper political-economic logic underpins the tax woes of Pacquiao, beyond accusations of politicking, the incompetence of his accountants, or the belief in spiritual trials. It is about the very structure of the enduring tax and fiscal system of the Philippines. As is well known, this is patterned after the US system, which puts the tax burden on wage earners while cocooning extreme wealth, property, investments, and corporations. 

    The structural logic of taxation has been institutionalized through the country's tax code, which legally accords tremendous powers to the BIR, particularly its commissioner. Thus, if the BIR had really pursued its legal mandate with integrity, it would do the same as Henares is doing now in her pursuit of Pacquiao to come clean (or perhaps be even tougher), no matter who sits in the president's Malacanang Palace. After all, the effective introduction and enforcement of tax rules only require political will on the part of the state. 

    The objective of tax reforms should not be limited to meeting and increasing target and collected revenues. It must, in essence, be about altering the prevailing tax structure that has only reinforced injustice, inequality, and poverty in the country. 

    The political economy of resource mobilization in the taxation system, which has been brokered by the power elites and sanctioned by the state without the countervailing opposition of labor unions, is effectively disciplining and, to a large extent, punishing rather than rewarding the following identifiable social groups:
  • The poor and middle classes through the expanded value-added tax law (E-VAT), which pushes up consumer prices;
  • The productive workers from contractual and regular employees to freelancers, professionals, and celebrities who pay taxes between 25% and 32% - virtually at the level of income taxes in developed countries including Scandinavian welfare states that have universal state provision of free and decent health care, education, infrastructure, and other public services;
  • The creative enterprises from small and medium-sized enterprises and online entrepreneurs to the hard-working street vendors of the "informal" economy and other wage laborers; and
  • The working class in general, from the service sector to the entertainment profession, who have no "job security" and are subject to exploitation by those who pay them wages and talent fees and by the state which imposes on them onerous taxes. 

    If this is the reality, then why does the fiscal policy not impose heavier taxes on other obvious targets:
  • The "useless rich" - the non-creative and non-innovative - among the country's landowning oligarchs, many of whom are elected to Congress and executive offices, whose power and wealth are derived from land and the real estate economy; 
  • The FIRE sector - finance, insurance, and real estate - whose wealth comes more from capital gains and not from productive labor; and 
  • The rentier capitalists among the rent-seeking monopolists and oligopolists who are regarded as "takers" - rather than "makers" - of the nation's economic wealth, and who extract substantial rents from state resources and institutions? 

    In a word, why place the principal burden of mobilizing state resources onto labor but off capital? 

    Principles of taxation
    In one of her media interviews, Henares exhorted Pacquiao not to ruin the image of the BIR. In reality, however, it is not the "legally" delinquent Pacquiao who has been eroding the credibility of the reforming BIR under Henares's leadership. It has always been the government and its functionaries themselves that make the bureau and the system of taxation that it enforces look bad.

    Popular public support for Pacquiao's grievances is just a symptom of the fundamental causes of people's historical distrust in the BIR and the taxation system. A crucial cause of civil disobedience is the felt and perceived corruption, ineffectiveness, unprofessionalism, inefficiency, and lack of creativity of state agencies - at every level from the central to local government, and notoriously the corrupt pork barrel system enjoyed by elected officials.

    The dedicated reformer Henares should therefore join the critical multitude in pressing her colleagues in the bureaucracy, her counterparts in all government agencies, and the elected leaders to work together towards a socioeconomic and political reform agenda to encourage responsible citizenship.

    It is opportune, then, to use the current Pacquiao-Henares spat to raise awareness and consciousness about the very principles, purposes and practices of taxation, and not merely its narrowly defined rules.

    A core principle of taxation is that it must be viewed in "relational" terms - that is, it is a social contract and relationship between the state and citizen taxpayer. As such, both the state and the citizen have rights and obligations. But there is a problem if the state only asserts its rights to tax citizens without fulfilling its obligations to provide for social welfare, infrastructure, and other programs for development and redistributive justice.

    Based on the logic of taxation, the Philippine state - and thus, the Filipino people - has an interest in the successful boxing career of Pacquiao because the state gets balato (a share) from his earnings in the form of income taxes, which are then used for government expenditure.

  • The same goes for the US government which taxes Pacquiao's earnings from work done within its territory. In principle, the state, in return for citizens' payment of taxes, provides rents in the form of incentives, protection, or other social provisions. The US government, for instance, goes as far as militarily protecting the local and global interests of its taxpaying corporations. To maintain a harmonious relationship between the state and citizen taxpayers, both of them must be engaged in a mutual give-and-take relationship.

    In this so-called "reform" process - or what others call a process of "nation building" - the existing unjust rules of taxation need to be seriously questioned, examined, and reformed. This is to be done by coming up with new principles as the bases for "rules" of state taxation that embody the collective interest and welfare of the Filipino people's existence in pursuit of the good life. 

    Economic mode of production as base for tax, redistribution
    Policy coordination of each and every government agency is a must to effectively attain the social and developmental goals of taxation. Otherwise, there will be a conflict between the overly enthusiastic tax collector and the disgruntled citizen taxpayers. 

    Basically, the fundamental principle applies: the people must feel and see how and where taxes are spent. It is the task of the government to make people appreciate and realize that taxation is a collective social development process in which the conduct of business - the producing, selling, and buying of goods and services - is a social activity that has socio-economic consequences and implicates the entire society.

    Recently, the BIR has expressed an intention to pursue taxing of "online sellers" and the "informal sector". This is not an easy job. The informal sector, which comprises the overwhelming majority of the country's workforce, belongs to the so-called "informal economy" precisely because those taking part in it are out of government's taxation circuit.

    For sure, there will be conflicts, especially in a situation where the government only enforces its right to tax people without fulfilling its responsibility to create conditions for "full" employment, let alone "formal" employment. The immediate and long-term strategy and goal for an effective taxation scheme - thus, an active and socially responsible citizenry in a sustainable economy - is to get people into formal employment.

    Further, the Philippine state has to assert that it is the only authority that has the monopoly power to tax people, incomes, properties, and business activities within its territory and sovereignty. The government has to seriously address those known illegal taxation operations by organized criminal groups and syndicates such as so-called "revolutionary taxes" and protection money, which are reportedly collected by armed groups in the countryside or crooks in the cities.

    State taxation essentially requires political will and scrupulous enforcement. These are necessary but insufficient conditions for change. Alongside political will, there must also be the material means for a viable taxation system - which, in reality, only an industrialized or industrializing economy can provide.

    Tax and fiscal policies can be strategically utilized to jump-start and strengthen the country's production system. In other words, the Philippines needs to develop an ecologically sustainable national production system built on the synergy between technologically intensive manufacturing industries, modern agriculture, high skilled services, and innovative SMEs.

    If this could be achieved, it would produce two sources of long-term tax revenues: (a) goods, services, and enterprises; and (b) fully employed workers. This would then provide the government with the means to efficiently and conscientiously spend taxes for social welfare and infrastructural development.

    In doing so, the Philippines would be establishing an economy with huge division of skilled labor and with highly diversified professions, while respecting life choices of individuals and groups to live and work alternatively such as in sustainable communities.

    Something is terribly wrong in an economy where celebrities are the country's biggest taxpayers. Development common sense tells us that a country of entertainers, boxers, and unskilled manual workers won't be as economically advanced as a country of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and skilled workers. The Philippines has to produce things and ideas with value. It has to stop specializing in being poor and in doing poor economic activities.

    The idea is to build a production system that creates wealth for the nation in the form of higher incomes for the workers, bigger earnings for businesses, and larger tax bases for the government. The creation of this mode of production should be the first order development agenda, one that serves as the foundation and lifeblood of the redistributive goals of taxation. 

    A movement for socioeconomic reforms
    The BIR's emphasis on the fear factor and civic duty needs to be challenged, not for purposes of civil disobedience but for the objective of deepening real policy reforms that are founded on, among other things, the principles of a democratic state's obligations in tax relations and the state's central role in the realization of social justice and the building of a mode of production for long-term socioeconomic development.

    The critical mass must continue to be stimulated and sustained, and be supported by principled and far-sighted policymakers, organized labor and social movements.

    What appears to be especially disappointing at this moment is the kind of political discourse in the Philippines where the dominant analyses and solutions offered fall into the "pro- versus anti-Aquino" trap. The deeper, structural issues get frozen out in the name of personality politics.

    Labor and left groups who fall into this trap end up insisting on taxation rules based on the principles of anti-labor economics and anti-democratic development policy. "Liberals" who also fall into this trap would find themselves, either latently or manifestly, defending institutions and practices that undermine their anti-rentier agenda for the modernization of Philippine capitalism through the promotion of free markets and competitiveness. 

    Framing contemporary sociopolitical issues along this debate - where the heart of the sentiments and arguments are tied in with personalities rather than principles and practices - is an added problem and not helpful at all. It is not bringing out the best in people and it often harms relationships even among (social media) friends.

    Doing away with the bankrupt pro- versus anti-Aquino discursive framing - and rediscovering the importance of analyzing specific historical and structural contexts of problems - would allow us to understand clearly the real conditions of the society and be able to propose and advance progressive reforms for social change in compelling ways. The fight has only just begun. 

    Bonn Juego is guest researcher at the Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, Denmark, where he also earned his PhD degree in the political economy of development. Currently involved as a postdoctoral researcher in a project studying the Asian Development Bank at the City University of Hong Kong, he is an alumnus of the Cambridge Advanced Programme on Rethinking Development Economics, Cambridge University, UK.

    15 December 2013

    Japan, China, and ASEAN

    Reference to Inquirer.net news

    Don't make a hasty conclusion that Japan is winning and China is losing the ties with ASEAN. Japan indeed scored on this occasion, but China has not lost ASEAN entirely. Japan may have the first-mover advantage in the region especially since the Plaza Accord in the mid-1980s which dramatically increased Japanese investments in East and Southeast Asia, but China is fast becoming the biggest investor in and trade partner of the ASEAN and its respective member economies. 

    With the exception of the Philippines and Vietnam with whom China has intense territorial disputes, every member-state (as well as ASEAN itself as a regional bloc) now has important political and economic bilateral relations with China. The interplay between the 'politics of business' and the 'business of politics' has always been important in understanding the political economy of Southeast Asia. 

    Still, the solutions to underdevelopment and poverty of the developing economies in the ASEAN cannot be depended on Japan and/or China. Given the current regional and global instability, self-reliance and self-sufficiency are never old-fashioned, stupid ideas for development strategies.