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Economics for good governance

Dennis Gorecho - Kuwentong Peyups

Economics was not my first choice when I took the entrance exam at the University of the Philippines in mid-1980s, but another quota course, accounting.

I ended up cherishing my course, BS Economics, which is a four-year undergraduate degree in economic theory, econometrics and applied economics, involving a deluge of formulas and graphs.

Quota courses are usually popular course choices for students, making these courses harder to get into because of the limited slots and the resulting competition. It is definitely not an easy course, as it requires a high level of mathematical and statistical skills and the ability to apply economic principles and models to problems in business, finance and the public sector.

In general, economics is the study of scarcity and its implications for the use of resources, production of goods and services, growth of production and welfare over time, and a great variety of other complex issues of vital concern to society.

Economics is derived from the Greek word oikonomia, which in turn is composed of two words: oikos, which is usually translated as “household”; and nemein, which is best translated as “management and dispensation.”

We read the book “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith (1723–1790), one of the most influential economists in history, wherein he argued for free trade, market competition and the morality of private enterprise.

One of the basic principles that I recall is the law of supply and demand, which is a theory that explains the interaction between the sellers of a resource and the buyers for that resource.

This theory defines the relationship between the price of a given good or product and the willingness of people to either buy or sell it: as price increases, people are willing to supply more and demand less and vice versa when the price falls.

We dealt with relationships between variables, formulas, and graphs. A variable is simply a quantity whose value can change. A graph is a pictorial representation of the relationship between two or more variables.

The UP School of Economics (UPSE) was established in 1965, and is known for graduates who have been vigorously trained and prepared to become leaders in various fields.

Many of the prime movers in government, business, civil society and academe obtained their formal training in economics from UPSE. One of them is Vice President Leni Robredo from batch 1986.

I finished my BS Economics in 1991, then proceeded to UP College of Law two years later. It is an anecdote that Economics graduates just cross the street to continue legal education, as we comprise a major portion of UP Law entrance exam passers. Robredo was our guest speaker during the silver jubilee homecoming of my batch in 2016.

UPSE alumni and students recently issued a Manifesto that briefly outlined the pathway for hope and economic recovery for a better Philippines.

In said manifesto, they noted that the Philippines had a gross domestic product contraction of -9.6 percent in 2020, the worst in Asia that year and the worst in Philippine economic history since post World War 2.

All countries around the world were exposed to the same virus, but countries had different responses and policies.

The current administration in the Philippines failed to “flatten the curve” of Covid cases and instead succeeded in flattening the economy.

Aside from flattening the economy, the current administration also raised big time the public debt, from P8.22 trillion (actual and guaranteed) in 2019 to P10.25 trillion in 2020, and P12.15 trillion in 2021.

High public debt will require high and multiple taxes. The Philippines should avoid this situation of more taxes. The manifesto stressed that Robredo has shown that having big agency budgets via big taxes and huge borrowings is not a guarantee for real public service and for improving the ordinary Filipinos’ lives.

The budget for six years (2017-2022) of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) was only P0.6 to P0.9 billion a year, always below P1 billion per year. The 2022 total budget is P5 trillion, while the OVP budget is only P0.7 billion, or 0.0001 or 1 percent of 1 percent. So for every P100 in total budget, the OVP budget is only P0.01—not even P1 but only 1 centavo.

Compare that to the budget of the Office of the President amounting to P8.24 billion plus discretionary and intelligence funds of P65.10 billion.

And yet Robredo was able to inspire confidence and transparency and attracted many private donations during the pandemic that enabled her office to deliver PPEs to many frontline health workers and Covid treatment kits to poor households.

The manifesto was signed by more than 400 UPSE alumni and some 150+ students expressing support for the candidacy of Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan in the coming May 9 elections.

We need a leader who considers economics as a vital branch of knowledge and essential to good governance.

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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