I received a text from someone I know who flew by chopper to Baguio and back over the weekend. The person said “there is so much water in the fields of Central Luzon, especially the irrigation lines that feed off San Roque Dam. It’s like they’re releasing water. emergency powers?”
Emergency powers -first primarily meant to address a power crisis, now primarily aimed to address water problems- is precisely the headline today: House bill seeks ‘limited emergency powers’ for Arroyo:
La Union Representative Thomas “Butch” Dumpit Jr. said he would file the measure “on a limited scope” to address the problem, especially in areas mostly affected by the dry spell like La Union, Central Luzon, Metro Manila, Cagayan, and Ilocos region.
Dumpit noted that the entire provinces of La Union, Isabela, and Cagayan had been declared under a state of calamity by the President.
Now Dumpit makes certain claims that ideally, as he says, shouldn’t become a political football -if the claims are verifiable and come from an objective authority. This is where media, ideally, should enter the picture. Besides reporting, say, Dumpit’s proposal, and the opposition that will arise, media can clarify whether Dumpit’s claims have a basis in fact or not.
Which isn’t to say it will be easy, a hell of a lot of legwork from a hell of a lot of people will be required. Do the executive issuances Dumpit mentioned exist? Who recommended them? Is the extent of the drought as Dumpit says it is? Says who? Are the number of workers he claims as displaced, based on his own count or a credible count? And what of the recent rains?
Who has been tracking what’s going on in the management of water from San Roque Dam? An enterprising reporter would go and sniff around to see if water’s being released according to a plan, or, perish the thought, to lower the dam level and justify claims of an emergency.
I hope some of the more scientific-oriented readers of this blog might be able to help identify sources to help answer these questions.
I recently got a copy of “Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia” (Joe Studwell), as provocative a book as one can hope to read. I haven’t really started on it, though.
However, in Newsweek magazine, the author has an essay, Ties That Bind: Crony capitalism is stunting southeast Asia, where the author basically explains the argument of his book, which is that crony capitalism is stunting growth in Southeast Asia. His indictment is severe, and region-wide:
Despite now bullish stock markets in the region, the billionaires – with their lousy corporate governance and manipulation of local banks to provide cheap and easy alternative sources of credit – also have contributed to the worst long-term emerging-market-equity performance in the world. From 1993 – when the first significant international portfolio investments came into Southeast Asian bourses – to the end of 2006, total dollar returns with dividends reinvested in Thailand and the Philippines were actually negative. Returns in Indonesia and Malaysia were worse than leaving money in a London bank account. Singapore produced less than half the gain of the London or New York markets, with which only Hong Kong was comparable. It is a brave investor who thinks long-term equity returns will improve in the absence of structural economic change.
His particular axe to grind involves the ties between big businessmen, usually Chinese, and regional politicians:
When independence came, in the 1940s and 1950s, the region’s new leaders built on a system in which politics rules the economy. In Thailand, military leaders demanded substantial equity positions and a board presence in ethnic Chinese-run companies; the Malay political elite made its financial expectations of Chinese businessmen very clear, in what became known locally as “the bargain.” While the Thai and Malay elites stuck with established Chinese trader families, the two great Southeast Asian dictators of the postwar era – Suharto in Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines – turned to unknown small-timers of whose absolute loyalty they could be sure. They were men like Liem Sioe Liong, a trader who in a few years became Indonesia’s top tycoon, and Lucio Tan, a man who once worked as a janitor but ended up as a Marcos billionaire.
I don’t know whether it’s refreshing or depressing to see a regional perspective marked by such a scathing indictment of regional billionaires and the politicians they’re cozy with.
I believe this article will make for a very interesting, and perhaps, constructive, discussion. One point Studwell makes, can be connected to the next I want to raise.
Most obviously, it is clear today that South Korea and Taiwan take political systems seriously as drivers of development. In 1997, Kim Dae Jung, a longtime democracy and human-rights activist, was elected South Korean president and set in motion the most effective reform process to have occurred in the main crisis countries. Reporting and compliance requirements in the Seoul stock market are now stricter than in Southeast Asia, and the judiciary has shown far greater independence and resolve in pursuing those whose actions contributed to the crisis. The families behind Korea’s chaebol are today much weaker than their peers in Southeast Asia.
The sort-of-related point I want to raise is in my column for today, Gerrymandering. In it, I refer to an old column by Juan Mercado titled Lilliputian Provinces, Pygmy Governors. In my column, No problem, I’d praised Cebuanos for deciding to keep their province whole. And I’ve been following Sonny Pulgar’s opposition to dividing his home province, something that seems to have become a kind of fait accompli.
For my column, I found the Administrative Divisions of Countries (“Statoids”) website invaluable. Look at the entry on the Philippines, and then compare it to our neighbors, such as Thailand, then Malaysia, and Indonesia, and even countries like India. They have been far less promiscuous at province- even city-making, than we have. This mania for gerrymandering has provincial residents like arnel cadelina asking tough questions.