Friday, May 29, 2015

Nash, Lichauco, and Steering a Post-EDSA Economy

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by James Matthew Miraflor

Deaths of great intellectuals diminish us all, but more so the scholars who are the main conduits of their work. In a span of a few days, students of the Philippine economy are shocked by the demise of two important paragons of the field – first, nationalist economist Alejandro Lichauco, and then game theory pioneer John Nash. The loss is simply incalculable.

Separated by miles and interests, the two celebrated economists used their Ivy League training to interpret and shape a world in conflict. Both are products of the Cold War, yet their ideas have persisted in a modern age of computer-driven, high-volume stock trading and post-WTO regional trade partnerships. While Nash is known mostly in microeconomics textbooks and Lichauco via word-of-mouth stories of Marcos dictatorship survivors, both have made their in impact in the minds of the Filipinos who keenly follow the country’s economic development.

Anyone interested in Philippine’s escape from the so-called “Middle Income trap” cannot afford to ignore the lives and contributions of these two illustrious economists. It is now more than ever – in a world of uncertainty, hegemonic overtures, and political machinations – that we should review the lessons of Nash and Lichauco. Game theory and nationalist economics are indispensable items in our toolbox as we chart the Philippine’s economic future amid multidimensional issues of China’s territorial expansionism, the Mindanao conflict amid ASEAN geopolitics (read this, and this), and America’s seductive offer for trans-Pacific trade.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Towards Fiscal Democracy

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Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Statement on 2015 Budget Deliberations

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) appeals to the 16th House of Representatives to push for crucial budget reforms in the last two years of the Aquino administration. Doing so will bring us closer to fiscal democracy and add credence to the administration’s maxim of “Tuwid na Daan”. Congress must assert its “power of the purse”, produce regular and transparent budgetary allocations, and work toward ending discretionary measures in the budget.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kristel, Suicide, and History

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There may be a myriad of reasons why she took her life. As with the deaths of Kurt Cobain or Lee Kyung Hae or Aaron Swartz, we are left to our second guesses and interpretations of Kristel Tejada's motives, except perhaps that it was triggered by UP Manila's No Late Payment policy. This is discomforting for many, especially those who truly love her. But alas, we will never know what really happened. We will never know the exact array of private reasons that caused to emerge the thoughts of suicide in her head. History will never capture the exact truth. History will never give us the exact description of the complex psychology of Kristel's final escape.

Since we are nearing Holy Week. Another brilliant piece from the Pixel Offensive.

Are we then left perpetually blind by the fuzziness of history? Far from it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bangsamoro, the Devolution Failure, and India-style Federalism: A Case for Asymmetric Autonomy and Strategic Reapportionment

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by James Matthew Miraflor*

The process is moving. Before 2012 ended, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 120 creating a Transition Commission (TC). The TC will supposedly draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law stipulated in the Framework Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This is indeed a breath of fresh air to a land scented by the smell of blood and war. GPH Negotiator and now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, a former Dean of the UP College of Law, was able to garb the whole process with political legitimacy and language of legality. If we are to accept a legal realist position, it is expected that the Supreme Court will decide in favor of ending the conflict and allow the evolution of a legal narrative for self-determination. Insisting on a constitutional change as a requisite to actualizing the agreement may end up compromising the gains for peace.

The Proposed Bangsamoro Core Territory based on the GHP-MILF Framework of Agreement.
Mindanews Graphics by Keith Bacongco. From here
But no doubt, the implementation of the Framework Agreement will raise questions on constitutionality and the framework's compatibility with our existing unitary system. No doubt, proposals for converting our current form of governance from unitary to federal will once again fill the pages of our dailies. It is inevitable then that we ask: would a shift to a federal system really be better for the Philippines? And if we do decide to shift, what model of federalism should we adopt?

These questions are asked in a context of a widely perceived failure in devolution and trends of increasing recentralization in health, social welfare, and local governance after the landmark Local Government Code of 1991. This essay argues that while federalism can be a plausible model for the country, it should be asymmetrically implemented (giving some territories more liberties than others) - following India's model. A strategic mix of recentralization and devolution, following some principles from the concept of Optimal Currency Areas (OCA) and urban agglomeration, is thus proposed as a way forward in implementing a reapportionment of political boundaries under asymmetric federalism.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The World according to Friedman: 2012 Geopolitical Analysis on US, China, Germany, and Japan

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Clearly, for geopolitics, 2012 did not signal the world's end, but only its tumultuous continuity. Major economies of the world had seen their governments either replaced or reestablished - Barack Obama in the United States, Xi Jinping in People's Republic of China, and Shinzō Abe in Japan. Newsweek issued its last print issue, with the iconic hashtag sounding the death knell to non-online publishing. European Union remains to be stuck in a debilitating debt crisis. The UN General Assembly approves a motion granting Palestine non-member observer state status.

From here.
As we close this year, it is but fitting to listen to one of the world's best geopolitical minds  as he speaks on the state of the world, as well as the history and future of US, China, Germany and Japan. Let us all take a peek at the important insights George Friedman of Stratfor shared to us in 2012: 

The State of the World: A Framework 
By George Friedman | February 21, 2012

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a new series on the national strategies of today's global power and other regional powers. This installment establishes a framework for understating the current state of the world. 

The evolution of geopolitics is cyclical. Powers rise, fall and shift. Changes occur in every generation in an unending ballet. However, the period between 1989 and 1991 was unique in that a long cycle of human history spanning hundreds of years ended, and with it a shorter cycle also came to a close. The world is still reverberating from the events of that period.

On Dec. 25, 1991, an epoch ended. On that day the Soviet Union collapsed, and for the first time in almost 500 years no European power was a global power, meaning no European state integrated economic, military and political power on a global scale. What began in 1492 with Europe smashing its way into the world and creating a global imperial system had ended. For five centuries, one European power or another had dominated the world, whether Portugal, Spain, France, England or the Soviet Union. Even the lesser European powers at the time had some degree of global influence.