Organized by PIDS, the Inaugural Public Policy Conference, which is the first of its kind in the Philippines, was held on September 22, 2015, in Quezon City. The conference, which centered on the theme “Harnessing Our Institutions and Human Capital for Inclusive Growth”, brought together more than 100 participants from all sectors of development in the country.
In a rare gathering of some of the most prominent Filipino economists, political scientists, and sociologists, the challenges that beset and the opportunities that foster human capital and institutions as major development drivers were raised and scrutinized. Organized by PIDS, the Inaugural Public Policy Conference, which is the first of its kind in the Philippines, was held on September 22, 2015, in Quezon City. The conference, which centered on the theme “Harnessing Our Institutions and Human Capital for Inclusive Growth”, brought together more than 100
participants from all sectors of development in the country.
Two renowned experts in the field of policy served as paper presenters in the conference. The first is Dr. Dante Canlas, professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE), who spoke about the role of and prospects for higher education in the country. According to Canlas, higher education is the country’s main source of knowledge and technological progress, which are necessary for continuous growth. However, human capital formation through education remains saddled with many challenges, particularly in building a stock of highly educated and scientific workforce.
Canlas noted that the burden lies with the country’s leaders and policymakers to make higher education more accessible and to help young Filipino students finance their education. He suggested implementing a Congress-enacted National Student Loan Program that will be funded by taxes. He also urged higher education institutions to tap private foundations and philanthropic organizations for scholarships, and to offer more work-study options on campus. Canlas, however, stressed that the education sector should consider reforms that go beyond financial aid, especially those that will enhance the quality of education in the country. The second presenter is Dr. Raul Fabella, a national scientist and also a professor at UPSE Fabella’s paper centered on the role of institutions in development, which puts emphasis on autonomously incoherent societies with weak states, such as the Philippines.
According to Fabella, the problem with weak states is that they have too many agenda, and consequently, their activities are done badly. Hence, inclusivity is much harder to achieve under this form of society. Fabella believes that having limited agenda would lead to better execution of programs, less rent-seeking behavior, and adequate budgets.
Nevertheless, Fabella noted that autonomously incoherent societies with weak states can still be fiscally inclusive provided that they have a benevolent executive and fiscal space. Strong leadership, according to him, is an important factor for the Philippines to achieve fiscally sustainable and inclusive growth. To do so, it is important for the Philippines and other weak states to retreat to their core competence, he added. The presentations of Drs. Canlas and Fabella were augmented by the presence and keynote address of former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and now Chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission Arsenio Balisacan.
According to Balisacan, the economic and governance reforms being proposed and implemented to build credible institutions and address long-term binding constraints to growth are geared toward ensuring that the country’s economic progress is felt by the majority of Filipinos. Likewise, Balisacan argued that the role of human capital development, especially in providing better education and accessible health care, can potentially free people from poverty. He noted that the inability of the poor to benefit from growth can, in fact, be traced to underinvestment in human capital in the past.
For PIDS President Gilberto Llanto, meanwhile, education as a path to building human capital should be viewed as a way to equip a person with life-long skills, and to capacitate him or her to think, compare, and analyze. These skills, according to Llanto, enable a person to go through the complexities of modern society.
For a more holistic understanding of the issues on human capital and institutions, PIDS also invited the following experts to share their insights and ideas on the conference theme: Far Eastern University President Michael Alba, Commission on Higher Education Commissioner (CHED) Cynthia Bautista, Philippine Business for Education President Chito Salazar, UP Economics Foundation Consultant Alejandro Herrin, Brookings Institution Nonresident Research Fellow Elizabeth King, World Bank-Philippines Senior Adviser Fermin Adriano, CHED Commissioner Alex Brillantes, Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance Executive Director Francisco Magno, Ateneo de Manila University Research Scientist Mary Racelis, and UPSE Professor Emmanuel de Dios. The conference’s multidisciplinary approach in tackling both human capital formation and institutions was intended to produce sound analyses that will flag to policymakers critical issues that must be addressed in the immediate term.
To close the event, Department of Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro underscored the need to work together in order to institutionalize and sustain reforms. He also commended the growing number of young people in public service who are pushing for reforms. ###
The highlights of APPC 2015 are discussed in the July-September 2015 issue of the PIDS newsletter, Development Research News. Click on the image below to get a copy.