THE biography of Cesar E.A. Virata was launched on Wednesday evening, and aims to be a candid look at the four decades of the country’s economic history through the eyes of the Philippines’s principal finance planner during the tumultuous Marcos era.
Authored by Gerardo P. Sicat, economist and first director general of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines, the 843-page book was launched at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati with the business community’s most prominent players in attendance, among them Washington Z. Sycip, founder of SGV & Co. Philippines.
“I’ve always wanted to write about our country’s economic history as a young government. After years of economic growth, this remains a compelling desire on my part,” Sicat said.
“Cesar Virata’s story is an interesting vantage point from which we can understand those developments as he emerged as a central figure during the history of those times,” Sicat added.
Virata’s career as the finance minister under the Marcos administration was beset by a slew of economic problems, including the energy crisis in the 1970s and interest- rate changes.
Amid the challenges, reforms were pursued in finance, investment, banking and tax until the ousting of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the late 1980s, according to Sicat. The biography covers the country’s economic history from the 1960s to the 1990s.
“I hope this will be of interest to those who are directly or indirectly involved in national development as it aims to learn from the past,” said Virata during his speech.
Sicat said his motivation to write about the country’s history is the proliferation of historical works dominated with passion, experience and at times prejudice, lending a “tilted view” to the historical narrative.
“These three things give a very different kind of tilt to the telling of a story. When I decided to write about the past, I did not use my own experience but of the facts gained through consultation with colleagues involved in those situations,” Sicat said.
Sicat said the book is really “several books” with Virata’s life intertwined with social and political events in the nation’s history, as corroborated by his interviews with resource persons and research.
“Essentially I wanted to write a good story of how we were, what were the problems we encountered, how they were solved or failed to be solved and how we went forward as a country, and I tried to express that as objectively as a scholar,” added the former Neda director general.
The Cesar Virata: Life and Times During Four Decades of Philippine Economic History was published by the University of the Philippines Press.
Catherine N. Pillas