Philippines: Rwanda in the Pacific?

December 12, 2011 • Philippines, Daily Email Recap

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Rwanda in the Pacific?

Population Pressure, Development, and Conflict in the Philippines

By:Walden Bello

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Along with its neighbors, the Philippines was burdened with a high poverty rate and faced the same challenge of overcoming underdevelopment four decades ago. Today, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand have drastically reduced poverty and possess vigorous economies. In contrast, over 26 per cent of the population of the Philippines is trapped in poverty and the economy languishes in a state of underdevelopment.

Explaining the Divergence

What accounts for the difference?

Economic policy? Hardly, since all four countries followed export-oriented economic strategies over the last four decades.

Structural adjustment? Not really, since all four economies were subjected to some variety of market-oriented reform, though it is arguable that adjustment was milder in our neighbors than in our country.

Asset and income redistribution? No, since as in the Philippines, state-promoted asset and income redistribution programs in Thailand and Indonesia were either weak or nonexistent.

Corruption? Again, all four countries have been marked by high levels of corruption, with Indonesia being a consistent topnotcher in annual surveys.

There is, in fact, one very distinctive feature that separates the Philippines from its neighbors: unlike our country, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand managed to rein in the growth of their populations through effective state-sponsored family planning programs. And while successful family planning is not the whole story, economists and demographers have a consensus that it is an essential element in the narrative of economic advance in our neighboring countries.

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