The Philippines is ready to face fresh challenges

(Philippine statement delivered by Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr. on July 11, 2018 at the “Thematic Review: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies, perspectives of LDCs, LLDCs and MICs”, Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York)

There is no one size that fits all — not in economies, not in societies, governments or any other activity. It is always a loose fit or too tight. The political question has been: to adjust it to the people’s size or the people to the size. Even then, it doesn’t fit every individual or community. But one size fits all is a start. A necessary and indispensable start. Countries, societies, people and their futures are too important to be left to originality and chance.

“They all start with an attempt to find the one size that fits, if not all their needs and capacities, then most of those; enhancing capacities to meet need. If we groped blindly as we went along, we’d be lost. There’s always been planning. We need a template; a guide showing, if not everything that works in every situation, something that works in most of them. The fact of the matter is we are more alike than we are different.

“A free market economy has over time generated a great deal of progress, perhaps more than any other economic system. But a free market system assumes a free market, which is not the original state of economic man as the historical similarity of every place has shown. Free markets are the most complex to sustain. There is always a tendency to anarchy or overregulation.

“It starts with scattered agriculture; and branches off to hydraulic agriculture as in Han China and ancient Egypt. Or into feudalism where the strong who grow nothing take everything they can from those who grow. The strong who are violent offer protection to the weak who are productive—feeding off each other’s capacities and incapacities; though the strong tend to have a bigger appetite than their numbers deserve. Feudalism yields surpluses—or it does not. Surpluses inspire barter and then trade. Trade may develop into commerce and commerce beget industry; nothing is started unless someone wants to buy it. This is a gross simplification but every society goes through such stages. Some get stuck in one stage; or several stages are conflated at one time: feudalism, commerce, industrialization and military power in the Prussian state: the preeminent model for the most advanced Asian countries in the past century and a half—and it worked after fashion. It is called mercantilism or paradoxical state-sponsored free enterprise that works pretty well in China.

“Yes, one size fits all but there are many fashions. The thing is not to reinvent the wheel but study whatever rolls, and make adjustments and refinements for this or that kind of road a country travels. But always one size fits all for specific purpose and capacity, as another size fits all for another of those and then adjustments.

“The key is to study the patterns and follow them as far as they can take you; and then change it a bit or altogether. This is why we need to be able to appeal to a final authority; nothing compulsory but something dependable like the United Nations: a kind of department store of designs for economies, polities and societies—each one of a size that fits all, with allowances for place and capacity. But one need not start from scratch at all.

“But we all need money, resources, incentives: the lower income countries to start on the path they choose; the middle income to continue on the path they’ve taken to its end.

“Here at the UN are all the tried and tested sizes on display; every country showing how well the size had fitted them or badly if it fitted them at all. In showing and sharing experiences, they discover the adjustments others made and make that one size fit each of them better. Here we do not discuss wild notions but only tried and tested ideas as exemplified by the members here united, each of us sharing our experiences with them all.

“My country is set to become an upper middle income economy if everything goes well; but one can never tell if everything will go well until it does. Or not. And so, with confidence in the path we have taken this far, and in the scheme we adopted which has worked; we remain open to new ideas in the expectation that the unexpected can happen. But it will not catch us unprepared without alternatives to cope with new situations and fresh challenges. Thank you.



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