ONCE more, an international expert on economic growth and policy-making has suggested that our government must reduce our dependence on exporting Filipino labor and focus on creating more jobs.
This time it’s Dr. Dan Steinbock, founder of the Difference Group, a global consultancy and research outfit, who made the analysis.
He said the Philippines could take advantage of its good demographics—in other words its huge population, by harnessing its potential in manufacturing, electronics, information and communications technology and tourism, among other sectors.
We think President Duterte and his government’s economic managers have this goal engraved in their brains—as it is in the mind of every thinking Filipino. But it’s good that experts like Dan Steinbock remind our top government officials and policy makers when they come to visit our country.
That’s because each powerful office holder has his and her own personal likes and dislikes, favorite areas of expertise, comforting memories of success and jobs well done and can all choose to make their favorites their goal-to-achieve priorities.
We’ve lauded President Rody Duterte’s choice of ending the reign of criminals and lawbreakers, especially drug lords, in our neighborhoods and a vigorous war against government corruption for his top priorities. And he has been quite effective in performing what needs to be done on these fronts in the half-year or so that he has been our President.
We must also praise the President for his administration’s initial good work in the economic growth and business fields, as Mr. Dan Steinbock did.
The global economy pundit commended the President for his correct response to the new world order’s call for stronger national economies as forces of globalization and integration wane and mature economies are frozen in the fight for growth.
He said President Rodrigo was on the right path in making it a policy goal to bring home the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and generating jobs here at home for them by attracting foreign investment and upgrading the country’s infrastructure.
“Duterte is making the right move. It will be the first time in five years that I can sit down and say that you have chosen the policy stance that makes sense, most importantly investment. Whether it comes from foreign sources or domestic, you cannot build infrastructure without it,” he said.
He said something that other analysts seldom talk about: that having a huge population is an asset. But of course the country’s leaders in government, business and industry must prepare the ground for the millions of workers to have jobs. He criticized past leaders for being complacent about this, wasting these assets and opportunities. He warned that a huge population turns into a destabilizing force in the future—if not allowed to exercise their capabilities to be productive.
But he insisted that a huge pool of young workers, together with the economic environment that makes their capabilities productive through jobs, is what yields high economic growth.
This has unfortunately not been attended to by successive generations of Filipino government and private sector leaders. And this, Mr. Steinbock said, is why a great chunk of the working population has been forced to work overseas—and are supporting the country with their earnings abroad.
“Demographics is not enough unless you have jobs. We saw in Latin America what happened [in the 1950s to 1960s]. They had youthful demographics but no jobs,” he said. “So for me, demographics is actually really important. You cannot have a major change without it. However, if you don’t have jobs, you have a problem.”
He decried our country’s failure to make our asset an instrument of growth. He was not happy with the policy of encouraging OFWs to be our main source of income.
“When you export people, you don’t grow. You have to have the people…It just doesn’t work [to make them leave home]. Look– any sustainable, fast-growing, large emerging economy, none of them are exporting people.”