Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 8 November 2017


What is the Filipino dream? It is mainly about living the good life for the Filipino, and therefore, shares similarities to the dreams that other nations pursue.

But in what way is the Filipino dream different from those of other nations?

The dream is a collection of good outcomes. The Filipino dream can be thought of as a set of good, reachable and desirable outcomes that the average citizen desires to attain. When seen as a collection of wants, it defines a fusion of realizeable goals for the nation.

Essentially, therefore, it starts from the individual, assessed as an adding up process to reach the overall community welfare.

In this sense, it is akin to what economists would call social welfare: a set of outcomes that tell about who benefits from economic, social and national progress.

In an ultimate sense, the dream is about who enjoys the fruits of progress, represented by the volume and quality of food and nutrition that they partake, the amount of economic and personal security that they enjoy while they live.

It is the embodiment of a sustainable, but ever-growing list of desirable and reachable objectives that can be associated with the enjoyment of life.

The Filipino dream is an amalgam of the level of happiness that the people seek. The aspirations represent a wish for a rising standard of living to be enjoyed by the community. Thus, its goal is satisfaction of citizen’s wants via a process of sustained economic growth and development.

Fulfilling the dream, therefore, is about creating employment and sustaining the incomes derived from the process. It is about building the nation’s capacity for better growth, for producing goods efficiently.

In the end, it means creating wealth and accumulating assets for the nation – to have the proper productive capacity to sustain the achievement of the dream.

Articulating the Filipino dream. We start with the question of who would formulate and express the dream.

In nation-building, the nation’s institutions try to mold the character of its citizens. It imparts the ideals that its citizenry must aspire to.

Character is determined by the environment and by the actions and events that happen and interact on the ground.

Who is to articulate the nature of a hopeful dream of a people? Is it guided by the panatang makabayan, the nationalist creed that all schoolchildren are told to memorize and emulate?

The panata’s English translation goes this way:

I love the Philippines./ It is the land of my birth; /It is the home of my people./ It protects me and helps me to be strong, happy and useful. /In return, I will heed the counsel of my parents;/ I will obey the rules of my school;/ I will perform the duties of a patriotic, law-abiding citizen;/ I will serve my country unselfishly and faithfully/ I will be a true Filipino in thought, in word, in deed.

A creed to be followed, the panata is a duty, an obligation and not a result of carrying out one’s duty.

However, the Filipino dream is about results to hope for, a vision to realize. A citizen’s creed merely serves as a moral compass to guide actions and it is not guaranteed, for it is premised on obedience that may or may not happen. The young who grow up to adulthood certainly also want their desires and ambitions to be fulfilled.

The government as a guardian of the dream. It is through their government that a nation makes possible the realization of their dream. The government controls the mechanisms and the policies that enable growth and development to thrive.

An appropriate question to ask is whether the government has fully responded to enable the Filipino dream to be achieved. The long term development record tells us that the nation’s per capita output has risen. Along with that, consumption per head has also grown.

Hence, a general rise in standard of living in the nation has been experienced. When one compares this to the experience of most developing countries, the record stands well. But is this enough?

A critical view of the record would reveal that judged from the experience of some East Asian neighbors, we fall short of fulfilling the best possible outcome for the Filipino. They have fared better.

The debate on economic policies in the country has pointed out many shortcomings, many of which I have dealt with in this column. The persistence of poverty, the failure of economic policies to absorb the labor force fully into a vibrant domestic employment scene continues.

This is because for a long time, government has failed to liberalize some aspects of the economy which have prevented the flow of foreign capital (to complement domestic risk capital) to help us expand output, employment and productivity right within our shores.

Outmigration of jobs and permanent emigration. In a free society, a citizen could opt for other dreams, migrate to other countries to pursue their individual dreams. This has happened to many Filipinos, initially for want of a better job at home.

“Exit” is one way of pursuing a dream, and many Filipinos have exited through migration to foreign lands. To some extent, that exit might represent a failure of their dream to be realized at home.

The Philippines has become a country of out-migration. When a person’s acquired qualities through education do not get the satisfaction of happiness in the country of his birth, exit is one way of declaring a vote – to pursue one’s dreams elsewhere.

While some countries attract immigrants and workers because of job opportunities and other amenities that they offer, there is a large set of workers in the Philippines who look for jobs in foreign lands for a specific period of time. Some of the worker migration is permanent emigration, thus a net loss of productive human capital.

The outmigration of jobs has led to the phenomenon of reverse income flows for the nation – substantial remittances sent home from year to year by overseas workers to the family members remaining in the country.

Incomes generated from the work of Filipino workers in foreign countries has led the maintenance of a relatively acceptable rise of consumption in support of the population that is dependent on remittance incomes.