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EGALITARIAN: Re-Thinking Mindanao Growth

THE STANDARD approach to economic analysis and model of development is based on the postulation of multiple dimensions, including the features of the economy, what the economy is, and the kind of economy it seeks for. 

Most of these economic models were established many years back and were introduced to the world when the population was small, activities were simple, societies still lacked built infrastructures, and technology was not as complex as today.

In a broad sense, the period when built infrastructure was lacking was also the time when natural capital and social capital were in abundance. Therefore, these times, the limiting factor to the growth of the economy is the built capital. 

Also, in this period, it is logical not to consider and factor in the environment, the climate, culture, and social externalities as these elements are considered to be relatively small, less serious, and readily resolvable.

Instead, the focus was more on the growth and expansion of the market economy, usually measured by GDP, as a fundamental measure to improve human welfare. In this, the economy is limitedly described as marketed goods and services, and the intention, interest, and inertia amount to expanding the size of these goods and services to be produced, consumed, and traded with other countries.

However, the world has changed dramatically, the same with the growth landscape in Mindanao, in a short span of time. There are now plenty of people in Mindanao who demand and consume the services of the built infrastructures. 

Since the expansion of the population in Mindanao, there is the need to recognize what the true economy is and what Mindanao’s economy is for, knowing that there are plenty of unique features that the island maintains compared to Luzon and the Visayas. 

The concept of economic welfare, at its onset, is to improve human well-being and quality of life. 

The basic tenet of measuring GDP, the value of material consumption and wealth, is to approximate the quality of life. Hence, GDP and the associated measures are a means to an end. 

Numerous studies point out that material consumption in excess of actual need diminishes well-being. Social scientists agree that there is a negative relationship between materialism and well-being. The materialists do not benefit more from the material than from the experiential consumption of materials owing to the limited pleasure, unrealistic expectations, and the social impressions that the material products convey. Thus the common expression “expectation versus reality” contains the frustration over not getting what one expects. That is materialism. 


As a young but large economy, Mindanao has to better understand what contributes to sustainable welfare and human well-being, and at the same time, recognize the influential role of the natural and social capital, which in the course of time, experience reversal of limitations — the natural and social capital are now the limiting factors to sustainable well-being of many societies. 

There is a need to truly distinguish real poverty as measured by the low quality of life and that of a mere low monetary income.

I always get the impression that life in remote areas cannot be a downgrade in quality of living. Yes, they do not have the amenities of 24-hour electricity, the blessing of unlimited and fast internet, or the mix of coffee flavors and cocktails from evening till dawn.

However, life in the remote areas is described by the music of the insects, the 24-hour fresh air, the relaxing mode and slow and biding hours, the calm chirping of the bird, and the delicacy of fruits and vegetables. 

I know these things are not measured in our national income, as these things do not compose final goods and services. But these things can simply add years to life and naturally add life to years. The best evidence of growth is that everybody recognizes it and everybody takes advantage of it. But if growth comes expensively with limiting our years to enjoy life, then we have to think again.  Indeed, we have to re-think what is best for us, for Mindanawons, and think of the futures that Mindanao can follow.


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