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New book on pro-poor development policies published in honor of PH chief economist

Philippine economic development book launch
Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan (second from left) with SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio (left) and book editors (from right) Dr. Hal Hill of the Australian National University who joined the book launch via Zoom, Dr. James Roumasset of the University of Hawaii, and Dr. Majah-Leah V. Ravago of Ateneo de Manila University.

A book on Philippine economic development has been released in honor of Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

Titled “Pro-poor Development Policies: Lessons from the Philippines and East Asia,” the book was presented to Balisacan on 8 November 2022 and officially launched at the Philippine Economic Society (PES) 60th Annual Meeting and Conference on 9 November 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines.

A co-publication of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Singapore-based ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, the 750-page book is a Festschrift—that is, a collection of writings published in honor of an eminent scholar during his lifetime.

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.

Prior to his appointment as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, Balisacan served as the first chairperson of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) from February 2016 to June 2022. He was also the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary from May 2012 to January 2016 under the Aquino administration. As Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, he concurrently serves as chairman of the boards of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED), and Public-Private Partnership Center. Prior to his Cabinet appointment, Balisacan was Dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics and Undersecretary for Policy and Planning of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

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 said 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 made 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,” the book editors said.

They added that the overarching theme is “overcoming poverty through agricultural and rural development and complementary policies that engender a robust and stable structural transformation.”

As such, the book includes “lessons learned, both positive and negative, from various economic policies that have been adopted, with regard to agriculture and to economic inequality.”

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. 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 is a former SEARCA Director, having served the Center from 2003 to 2009.

While at the helm of SEARCA, Balisacan reinforced the Center’s efforts to contribute to poverty reduction and food security by sharpening its focus on agricultural competitiveness and natural resource management.

“We see this book as an important influence in continuing the discourse and actions to empower agricultural institutions and communities,” Gregorio said.

He added that SEARCA joins the authors, editors, and ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in recommending the book to policymakers, researchers, government executives, and professionals working in agricultural and rural development to aid in decision-making.

The book was revealed and presented to Balisacan during a surprise gathering of colleagues, friends, and family in celebration of his 65th birthday. It was publicly launched the next day during a plenary session of the 60th PES Annual Meeting and Conference held at Novotel Manila Araneta City. SEARCA organized the session whose theme echoed the book’s title and had Hal Hill, one of the book editors, and four authors as panelists.

Dr. Keijiro Otsuka of Kobe University discussed the changing relationship between farm size and productivity in the Philippines and Japan. He is also a SEARCA Senior Fellow and a member of the SEARCA Publications Board.

Dr. Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) talked about adapting Philippine agriculture to climate change. Dr. Rosegrant is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD) published by SEARCA.

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 (IRRI) talked about the modernization of the global rice market.

“As an instrument of knowledge and co-creation, the book 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,” Gregorio said.

The SEARCA-hosted plenary session thus 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.

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture