Emmanuel S. de Dios and Jeffrey G. Williamson


Recent work has documented industrial output growth around the poor periphery from 1870 to the present, finding unconditional convergence on the leaders long before the modern BRICS and even before the Asian Tigers. The Philippines was very much part of that catching up. In the decade or so up to 1913, Philippine industrial output grew at 6.3 percent per annum, way above that achieved by the industrial leaders. Indeed, the Philippines was the third Asian country to enter the 5% industrial growth club: Japan 1899, China 1900, the Philippines 1913, Taiwan 1914, Korea 1921, and India 1929. The Philippines continued its industrial catch up during the interwar years 1920-1938, as it did during the ISI years 1950-1972. While the Philippines conformed to the world-wide unconditional industrial convergence pattern for seven decades, it began to deviate from the pack in the 1980s, leaving the industrial catching up club in 1982, never to re-enter. What were the causes of this regime switch? Was it political instability at a critical time in the 1980s? Was it a subsequent failure to exploit the move of Japanese manufacturing FDI into the region? Was it an institutional weakness benign in the pre-1982 past but made more powerful since? Was it some liberal policy package that penalized manufacturing when it was already on the ropes? Was it a labor emigration surge in the 1980s that stripped the work force of industrial skills? Was it some massive Dutch Disease created by subsequent huge emigrant remittances? Given the initial political shock, all of these negative forces had their influence in the form of a ‘perfect de-industrializing storm’.

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