(Photo from The Manila Times)
A BOOK on Philippine economic development titled Pro-poor Development Policies: Lessons from the Philippines and East Asia has been released in honor of Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
Director Glenn Gregorio of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research (Searca) said the book was presented to Balisacan during a surprise gathering of colleagues, friends, and family in celebration of his 65th birthday on Nov. 8, 2022, and officially launched at the Philippine Economic Society (PES) 60th Annual Meeting and Conference on Nov. 9, 2022, in Quezon City.
Gregorio said the 750-page book which is a Festschrift — a collection of writings published in honor of an eminent scholar during his lifetime — was a co-publication of the Searca and Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas)-Yusof Ishak Institute.
He said the Festschrift for Balisacan contains 25 essays by notable economists from various parts of the world that pay tribute to Balisacan's work and honor him as an outstanding economist and public servant.
From February 2016 to June 2022, Balisacan served as the first chairperson of the Philippine Competition Commission before he was appointed as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and currently as chairman of the boards of the Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Philippine Center for Economic Development, and Public-Private Partnership Center.
He was also the Socioeconomic Planning secretary from May 2012 to January 2016 under the Aquino administration.
Balisacan was also dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics and undersecretary for Policy and Planning of the Department of Agriculture before his current Cabinet appointment.
According to the book editors, it took a four-year "gentle conspiracy" of Balisacan's friends and colleagues as well as Searca and other organizations that promote economic development in Southeast Asia to make the publication possible.
"Its themes reflect the research and policy interests over his professional career. These interests are central to understanding the development dynamics in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia," said book editors Hal Hill of the Australian National University, Majah-Leah Ravago of Ateneo de Manila University, and James Roumasset of the University of Hawaii.
Anchored on the theme "Overcoming poverty through agricultural and rural development and complementary policies that engender a robust and stable structural transformation," the authors said the book includes "lessons learned, both positive and negative, from various economic policies that have been adopted, about agriculture and to economic inequality."
Gregorio said Searca is proud to play a significant role in the joint publication of the book that honors the remarkable academic, research, and policy work of Balisacan, who also served as Searca director from 2003 to 2009 and reinforced the center's efforts to contribute to poverty reduction and food security by sharpening its focus on agricultural competitiveness and natural resource management while at the helm of Searca.
"We see this book as an important influence in continuing the discourse and actions to empower agricultural institutions and communities," he said, adding that Searca joins the authors, editors, and Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute in recommending it to policymakers, researchers, government executives, and professionals working in agricultural and rural development to aid in decision-making.
Gregorio described the book as an instrument of knowledge and co-creation that "contains lessons from Asian countries that bring to the fore not only the experience, but also the reforms in economic policies, competition law, inequalities, and agricultural development across countries."
During the 60th PES Annual Meeting and Conference held at Novotel Manila Araneta, Searca organized the session whose theme echoed the book's title, with Hill, and four authors as panelists.
A Searca senior fellow and a member of the Searca Publications Board, Dr. Keijiro Otsuka of Kobe University discussed the changing relationship between farm size and productivity in the Philippines and Japan.
A member of the Advisory Board of the Searca-published Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development, Dr. Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute talked about adapting Philippine agriculture to climate change.
Dr. Peter Warr of the Australian National University spoke about the importance of agriculture for East Asian growth, while Dr. Suthad Sethboonsarng of the International Rice Research Institute talked about the modernization of the global rice market.
Searca also hosted the plenary session that provided a glimpse of how the new book can provide insights that are useful to achieving the challenge "From Bouncing Back to Leaping Forward Towards a Future Ready Philippines," which was the theme of the milestone PES conference.