|Philippines Table of Contents
Economic Development Until 1970
In the mid-nineteenth century, a Filipino landowning elite developed on the basis of the export of abaca (Manila hemp), sugar, and other agricultural products. At the onset of the United States power in the Philippines in 1898-99, this planter group was cultivated as part of the United States military and political pacification program. The democratic process imposed on the Philippines during the American colonial period remained under the control of this elite. Access to political power required an economic basis, and in turn provided the means for enhancing economic power. The landowning class was able to use its privileged position directly to further its economic interests as well as to secure a flow of resources to garner political support and ensure its position as the political elite. Otherwise, the state played a minimal role in the economy, so that no powerful bureaucratic group arose that could pursue a development program independent of the wishes of the landowning class. This situation remained basically unchanged in the early 1990s.
At the time of independence in 1946, and in the aftermath of a destructive wartime occupation by Japan, Philippine reliance on the United States was even more apparent. To gain access to reconstruction assistance from the United States, the Philippines agreed to maintain its prewar exchange rate with the United States dollar and not to restrict imports from the United States. For a while the aid inflow from the United States offset the negative balance of trade, but by 1949, the economy had entered a crisis. The Philippine government responded by instituting import and foreign-exchange controls that lasted until the early 1960s.
Import restrictions stimulated the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing net domestic product (NDP) at first grew rapidly, averaging 12 percent growth per annum in real terms during the first half of the 1950s, contributing to an average 7.7 percent growth in the GNP, a higher rate than in any subsequent five-year period. The Philippines had entered an import-substitution stage of industrialization, largely as the unintended consequence of a policy response to balance-of-payments pressures. In the second half of the 1950s, the growth rate of manufacturing fell by about a third to an average of 7.7 percent, and real GNP growth was down to 4.9 percent. Import demand outpaced exports, and the allocation of foreign exchange was subject to corruption. Pressure mounted for a change of policy.
In 1962 the government devalued the peso and abolished import controls and exchange licensing. The peso fell by half to P3.90 to the dollar. Traditional exports of agricultural and mineral products increased; however, the growth rate of manufacturing declined even further. Substantial tariffs had been put in place in the late 1950s, but they apparently provided insufficient protection. Pressure from industrialists, combined with renewed balance of payments problems, resulted in the reimposition of exchange controls in 1968. Manufacturing recovered slightly, growing an average of 6.1 percent per year in the second half of the decade. However, the sector was no longer the engine of development that it had been in the early 1950s. Overall real GNP growth was mediocre, averaging somewhat under 5 percent in the second half of decade; growth of agriculture was more than a percentage point lower. The limited impact of manufacturing also affected employment. The sector's share of the employed labor force, which had risen rapidly during the 1950s to over 12 percent, plateaued. Import substitution had run its course.
To stimulate industrialization, technocrats within the government worked to rationalize and improve incentive structures, to move the country away from import substitution, and to reduce tariffs. Movements to reduce tariffs, however, met stiff resistance from industrialists, and government efforts to liberalize the economy and emphasize export-led industrialization were largely unsuccessful.
More about the Economy of the Philippines.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress