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The Asia Foundation Launches Book on Philippine Economic Reform

Manila, November 21, 2011 — Today, The Asia Foundation launched a new book on Philippine economic reform titled Built on Dreams, Grounded in Reality: Economic Policy Reform in the Philippines. The book includes case studies that illuminate the difficult reform battles fought, and in some cases won, and the individual efforts and sacrifices made to turn the dream of a better country into reality. The book is published with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The book launch was held November 21, 2011 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City. Dr. Steven Rood, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in the Philippines, provided opening remarks, followed by messages from our partners, USAID Mission Director Gloria D. Steele and AusAID Minister-Counsellor Titon Mitra.

The book recounts the political battles of five highly-regarded reforms, including: introducing competition and liberalization in sea transport, civil aviation, and telecommunications; instituting the privatization of water service in Metro Manila; and passing a property rights law allowing faster administrative titling of residential lands. It also documents two long-running but less successful reform efforts to address major enduring developmental challenges: improving tax administration and reforming the National Food Authority, a government corporation responsible for ensuring food security, particularly the stability of supply and price of rice.

As the case studies exemplify, Ms. Steele notes the importance of local initiative and authority in engendering reform: “Development must be led and driven by the leadership and citizens of developing countries, underscoring the importance of country ownership and responsibility in pursuing their own development priorities.”

Mr. Mitra adds that the case studies “not only make compelling reading, they also present a strong argument for adopting a new approach to understanding and supporting reform initiatives based on: careful analysis of the local context; an in-depth assessment of key stakeholders and their differing motivations for supporting change; taking advantage of opportunities as they arise; and perseverance, sometimes over many years.”

Not only does the book examines how and why economic policy reform happens in the Philippines, but also it contributes to the international discussion regarding how to maximize the effectiveness of development aid and bring institutional reform. “Development practitioners have begun to evaluate aid effectiveness, and The Asia Foundation felt it could contribute to the debate by disseminating a better understanding of competitiveness and economic reform in the Philippines,” said Dr. Rood. “This is based on an examination of cases—successful and unsuccessful—to help ground theoretical debates in reality. We hope that the reform cases featured, in line with the political economy approach, will inform future projects of the Philippine government, non-governmental organizations, and development agencies.”

Noted development author, Dr. Adrian Leftwich, who also wrote the foreword for the book, concludes that “if the international community is looking for innovative ways of working for progressive institutional or policy change than can promote growth and political stability, reduce poverty, and extend inclusion, then there is no better place to start than where, when, how, and under what circumstances it can act to support the emergence or activities of local developmental entrepreneurs, leaders, and coalitions.

This book offers an important set of illustrations of just how that has been and can be done.” The book’s contributors include Raul Fabella, Bruce Tolentino, Beulah Maria de la Peña, Karl Kendrick Chua, Enrico Basilio, Calixto Chikiamco, Maria Cherry Lyn Salazar-Rodolfo, Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, and Jaime Faustino.

Read more about the Foundation’s economic development programs and work in the Philippines.  For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room.

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