'Why Nations Fail' author shares thoughts on People Power

by Kathleen A. Martin, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 05 2012 05:12 PM | Updated as of Dec 06 2012 01:12 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Weak institutions and failure to transition in an inclusive environment cause nations to fail, Harvard professor and co-author of the book "Why Nations Fail" James Robinson said Wednesday.

"Both political and economic institutions should be inclusive because extractive growth cannot be sustained," Robinson said during a roundtable discussion on the

Extractive growth pertains to power and opportunity being held by a few, while inclusive means decentralizing these.

Robinson said that the people need to be motivated and mobilized to embrace or push for change in institutions although stressed the transition should be sustained.

"Even if you put out a broad coalition, it's hard to keep it organized. For example, in the Philippines, in the 1986 People Power, there was a very broad coalition trying to change the society but some parts of it were more organized than the others," Robinson said.

"There were a lot of transition, there were a lot of progress but it went off the rails," he said.

Robinson's book "Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty" seeks to answer the question, why some countries are rich, while others are poor.

Monetary Board Member Felipe Medalla, a reactor during the discussion, said the most crucial part is the transition period.

"Transition should start from centralization of power [to inclusive institutions] because right now, what we have is chaos. Fortunately, some reforms were possible despite a weak state," Medalla said.

Gerardo Sicat, former director general of the National Economic Development Authority, noted a "discontinuity" in reforms implemented during the Marcos era and administrations that came afterward.

"During the Marcos era, very few recognize these institutions have been very helpful in guiding us [today]. But the reform of the political system did not follow through," Sicat said.

"There was a major discontinuity that happened when all our neighbors were catching up and when all the foreign investments were going in," he added.

"A transition in political stage is very important, and continuity is very important," Sicat said.

Another reactor, Bernardo Villegas, chairman of the center for research and communication, said despite the Marcos' efforts of including even the small farmers in nation-development, the composition of appointed government officials were not helpful in the transition.

"Making sure small farmers were included in the development is one way to move from extractive political institution to an inclusive one," Villegas said.

"But the cronies of Marcos were not chosen based on track record and merit that's why he was not successful in moving from extractive to inclusive," he added.