At Filipino news site Rappler, JC Punongbayan and Manuel Leonard Albis argue in their “Were it not for Marcos, Filipinos today would have been richer” that the Marcos regime had a lasting and very negative effect on the development of the Filipino economy.
Although imperfect, GDP per capita is widely recognized as a useful proxy for measuring people’s welfare: The larger people’s incomes are, the more goods and services they can purchase and the freer they are in making choices for their own lives.
It bears repeating that, based on this metric, the Philippines lost two decades of development after the debt crisis in the early 1980s. Figure 1 shows that the Marcosian debt crisis put the country on a lower income trajectory. As a result, it took more than two decades for the average Filipino’s income to recover its 1982 level.
Importantly, no such downturn was observed in our ASEAN neighbors. In fact, their incomes grew by 2 to 4 times during the time it took us to just recover. This suggests that the Philippines’ “lost decades of development” were not unavoidable and were borne directly by Marcos’ policies.
The consequences were severe. Had the Philippines not dropped behind its neighbours but instead kept its relative position, it might be the richest large country of Southeast Asia, on the verge of First World status even. Instead, the Filipino economy went into first a pronounced relative decline, then after the early 1980s a pronounced absolute decline that took more than two decades to recover from.
Was the Marcos regime or something like it inevitable, or was it something that could have been avoided? What could a rich Philippines look like?