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Patronage politics constraint to growth

/ 01:49 AM May 21, 2015

THE LONG legacy and enduring presence of “extractive” political and economic institutions in the Philippines as reflected by patronage politics has been one of the key constraints to the country’s growth, according to a visiting Harvard political scientist.

Boston-based James Robinson, co-author of the book “Why Nations Fail,” said in an investment summit organized by Financial Times and First Metro Investment Corp. that while the Philippines operated as a vibrant democracy, “it’s also a democracy where competition is not about public goods.”

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He suggested that the quality of democracy in the country was being hampered by the lack of political competition, resulting in vote-buying during elections, dynastic control and political patronage. He noted a “highly clientelistic politics based on exchanges of private goods for political support.”

In turn, these were seen creating the rife conditions for rebellion and armed conflict, citing the case of impoverished Maguindanao, which he said was suffering from a “chronic underprovision” of public goods.

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Robinson stressed that it was difficult to foster an “inclusive” economy if political institutions were “extractive.”

“One of the most telling statistics about the extractive nature of many institutions in the Philippines is the way that people want to leave the country,” Robinson said.

But Robinson, who said it was his third time to be in the Philippines, said the current administration “has been really committed to promoting inclusion.” Efforts to promote peace in the “Bangsamoro,” he said, was going in the right track.

He also said that the Philippines was capable of breaking out of this “weak state” category.

To date, he said many industries were still benefiting from high levels of protection and barriers to entry–citing the glass, cement and shipping sectors. On the other hand, he said the big economic success stories over the past decade had been those that encouraged competition such as the telecommunication and aviation sectors.

Overall, he said it was no coincidence that the Philippines was now in a much better position, noting that in the 1980s the people ousted the Marcos dictatorship and restored democracy.

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