Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong to PH’s Malthusian Economists and Intellectuals: ‘You Got it All Wrong, Stupid!’
We have heard a great deal about some UP, Ateneo and other so-called ‘elite university’ professors’, economists’ and intellectuals’ position in support of the controversial Reproductive Health bill. To back their claim that we need to pass an anti-population/welfare measure, these economists and intellectuals have presented the public with tragic demographic and economic statistics, worsening poverty and unemployment rates, including reports and studies that show the number of dying women and children due to lack of government-funded RH services.
For example, a number of UP economics professors have argued in a position paper that the government needs to adopt state-funded family planning program to secure the country’s economic growth and reduce poverty incidence. They also contend that the government’s ‘weaker’ ability to tax and to redistribute services has a great “negative impact on economic development of a rapidly growing population, which in every developing country is largely accounted for by the least educated and poorest segments of the population.”
These state university educators argue that due to the government’s ‘lack of clear population policy’, the Philippines “sadly has fallen well behind its original ASEAN neighbours (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia) in terms of both demographic and economic indicators.” They also warn that without quick passage and implementation of the RH bill, “our country will likely be overtaken even by its latecomer ASEAN neighbours (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar) in a few years time.”
This type of fear-mongering’ taken in the name of science and economics by our pro-welfare public intellectuals is no longer a new strategy and phenomenon.
The most debunked neo-Malthusian doomsayer, Paul Ehrlich, made hilarious predictions that simply expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern-day Tertullians. In the opening lines to their most debunked 1968 book ‘Population Bomb’, Paul and his wife Anne concluded that “battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”
The Ehlichs expertly employed the power of ‘fear’ to push for their neo-Malthusian agenda. They wrote (p. 198): “Remember, above all, that more than half of the world is in misery now. That alone should be enough to galvanize us into action, regardless of the exact dimensions of the future disaster now staring Homo sapiens in the face.”
All of the Ehrlichs’ predictions have been proven false–and embarrassingly so, but that did not stop them from making more neo-Malthusian forecasts simply inspired by their anti-reason, anti-science worldview.
Filipino neo-Malthusians like the President’s economic czar Balisacan have been urging the government to adopt aggressive population control measures to manage the country’s population and reduce dependency rates. For his part, Balisacan told the senate that the government must curb the country’s population below the 2.1 replacement fertility rate to stir economic growth.
In his 1991 paper titled Why Does Poverty Persist in the Philippines? Facts, Fancies, and Policies, Dynamics of Rural Development: Linkages, Poverty, and Income Distribution, Balisacan argues that focusing on economic growth cannot solve poverty, which he defines as “nothing but a concrete manifestation of gross economic and social inequities.” Instead of focusing on economic growth, he argued that the government should concentrate on “redistributive reforms.”
In regard to the issue of population growth, Balisacan argues that the government must “mainstream” population management in the government’s development agenda because rapid population growth in the country proves to be a potent obstruction to economic development. In another working paper titled Population Management should be mainstreamed in the Philippine Development Agenda, Balisacan also makes the following arguments favoring the urgent passage of the Reproductive Health Bill:
Policy makers must address the country’s rapid population growth head-on though proactive government policies, such as the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. The failure to pass the RH bill in the 14th Congress is very unfortunate for the damage that a rapid population growth will bring to this generation and the next are irreversible. We simply cannot afford to have millions of Filipinos go through the vicious cycle of high fertility and poverty: high fertility rate prolongs poverty in households and poor households contribute to high fertility rates.”
Another UP economist named Ernesto Pernia also claims that the controversial bill will help the country’s economy reach what he calls ‘demographic sweet spot‘.
Pernia observes that our Asian neighbors have long reached the ‘sweet spot’, which led to desirable economic dividents, namely, “productive work force, larger human capital investment in young dependents, and higher savings and investment rates.” These dividends, he claims, could fuel a country’s GDP growth and reduce poverty incidence.
Pernia supports his arguments with some Keynesian-like statistical data:
Unfortunately, our country has yet to experience such a demographic-economic halcyon period. Projections by University of the Philippines statistician-economists Dennis Mapa, Arsenio Balisacan et al. (2010) indicate that given the status quo—i.e., no Reproductive Health (RH) program—the Philippines’ TFR would diminish from the current 3.3 to 2.1 by 2030 yet (compared with Thailand’s 1.6 and Indonesia’s 2.1 in 2010). If, however, an RH or family planning (FP) program focused only on unplanned or unwanted fertility (mostly of poor couples) were already in place since 2008, a TFR of 2.1 could be achieved by 2020.
Consider the following demographic data that underscore further how the Philippines has lagged well behind its neighbors in achieving demographic transition. In 1990, Thailand’s working-age population was already 65 percent (and Indonesia 60 percent) of the total population compared with the Philippines’ 56 percent. By 2015, the respective numbers are projected to be 71 percent, 69 percent, and 63 percent, such that our population’s working-age share would still be lower than Thailand’s in 1990!
His solution? Serious implementation of population policies. And then he lectures his reader about the importance of government-backed population policies:
The lesson seems clear. Our progressive Asian neighbors have reaped the demographic-transition bonus by seriously implementing population policies early on that sharply slowed their population growth rates (PGR, evidently related to, but not to be confused with, TFR)—e.g., Thailand’s 0.5 percent and Indonesia’s 1.2 percent versus the Philippines’ 1.9 percent (as of 2008-2010). Slower PGR enabled higher human capital and infrastructure spending, resulting in positive demographic-economic synergies.
The problem is, these Asian economic tigers did not achieve economic growth by implementing aggressive population control policies. It appears that many UP economists collectively believe that our progressive Asian neighbors achieved economic growth through government-induced demographic transition, and that their intellectual leader is none other than NEDA chief Balisacan.
Consider this statement from Balisacan’s neo-Malthusian paper: “Unlike its Southeast and East Asian neighbors, the Philippines failed to achieve a demographic transition similar to what its neighbors had in the past three decades.” He adds: “Studies show that demographic transition accounts for a significant portion (about one-third) of the economic growth experienced by East Asia’s economic “tigers” during the period 1965 to 1995.”
Balisacan further argues:
“As countries move from large families (high fertility rate) and poverty into small families (low fertility), high economic growth and ageing, they pass through what is called a Goldilock period: a generation or two in which fertility rate is neither too high nor too low.”
According to this theory, countries that secure a 2.1 or below fertility rate would have “a unique and precious opportunity” to achieve higher economic growth. To support his claim, Balisacan mentions a number of Asian countries that reached the ‘Goldilock period’, namely, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
But here’s one thing that many UP economists and intellectuals do not understand. Singapore, which is the world’s freest economy, started its free market reforms with “very minimal welfare”. It did not achieve economic growth by curbing its population, as what many UP economists and intellectuals like Balisacan have repeatedly argued to support/defend their neo-Malthusian, highly mediocre, anti-intellectual politico-economic policies. These public intellectuals have consistently argued that the solution to the country’s poverty is more welfare and more redistributive policies. Perhaps they need to re-evaluate their non-factual, purely ‘academic’ understanding of Singapore’s economic growth.
Here’s a thoughtful wisdom from Lee Hsien Loong:
“We have started with very minimal welfare and we’ve gone on the basis of growth and high employment and low unemployment. If you’re out of a job you can find a new job. You will get help but the help is not something you’re absolutely entitled to.
“We have to adjust that without going overboard and ending up where the Americans are or the Europeans are or where the New Zealanders were.”
Indeed, if Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong were to educate or lecture our public educators and economists, he would probably say: “You got it all wrong, stupid!”
The main lesson here is, welfare and Malthusian policies do not create wealth. The only solution to the country’s poverty problem is economic freedom!
Here’s an excerpt:
Singapore’s Prime Minister is 60 now, long out of his father’s shadow. Like his father, though, he sometimes sounds like a lord mayor, when discussing Singapore’s new casino, and at other times like a great strategic thinker, a Southeast Asian Henry Kissinger.
It is part of Singapore’s unique identity to have transformed a tiny island – 500sq km – into the richest society in Southeast Asia, with a per capita income above Australia’s, while establishing a reputation for strategic sagacity pretty much unrivalled in the region. Big picture, small picture, macro or micro – Lee has a view, and a strategy, at all levels.