Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning

 4th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) 2018

EDSA Shangri-la, Mandaluyong City

19 September 2018, 09:00 am


PIDS President Celia Reyes;

Senior Fellows and Fellows, and other Staff of PIDS;

Distinguished guests and speakers;

Fellow workers in government;

Friends from the media;

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I am pleased to commune with you at this morning’s opening session of the 4th Annual Public Policy Conference.

Unraveling before our very eyes are the kinds of technological advancement that were only storyline material for science fiction before. In the 1940s, the sci-fi author Isaac Asimov wrote three laws that should govern the behavior of robots, ensuring that robots remain under human control. Today, we may in fact have to ponder whether we need Asimov-like laws to govern artificial intelligence behavior.

Coincidentally, in fact also in the 1940s, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term flreative destruction¨(Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1942) which he described as:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation˝f I may use that biological termŦhat incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.¨(p. 83)

Our reality is a world increasingly becoming reliant on big data, artificial intelligence, internet of things, quantum computing, robotics, and the like. The world is getting more connected: presidents tweeting, conferences live streamed globally, and friends from across the globe just a Messenger, Viber or DM away.

Ours is the birth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. And revolutions are not without social disruptions. These days many are associating globalization and technological change as the root of rising inequality and discontent. We are witnessing a strong reaction to the global regime of open trade. This reaction takes the form of rising populism and protectionism, a growing distrust for trade, and an increased inclination for autarky.

The theme of this yearħ celebration of PIDS¨Development Policy Research Month, “Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Creating our Future Today”, could not be more timely and urgent. How do we harness the benefits associated with the rapidly changing world so that these can be felt by all Filipinos? How do we work together, and how can the government help achieve inclusivity in these changing times?

The Philippines is among the fastest growing and most dynamic economies in the Asia Pacific. The government is fully committed to graduate the country to upper-middle-income status by next year, and slash poverty incidence to 14% by 2022.  We must therefore not lose our momentum despite the onslaught of the rapidly changing environment ¨and unnecessary distractions to boot. We must future-proof our economy, given the complex confluence of pressures from rapidly changing technologies, urbanization, climate change, protectionism, and conflict-driven extremism in some parts of the world, as well as political cacophony ¨both local and international.

Indeed, we have laid down in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 the need to harness the benefits of science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem to the economy and society. We must upgrade our capabilities to produce and utilize technologies through capacity building and beefing up of research and development programs. It is also imperative to formulate sustainable roadmaps on selected disruptive technologies that will be useful in the near future and, at the same time, will not pose risks to future generations.

This also brings us to emphasize the importance of redefining the role of government in these times. The government must not stifle innovation ¨in fact, it must encourage it strongly. Yet, it must also ensure that citizens are protected against cybercrimes, unintended job losses, greater inequality, and disillusionment as the nature of work changes.

Frankly speaking, let us not kid ourselves into thinking that we know exactly what the world will look like by year 2040. We donŦ, and that is the most challenging part in this planning exercise. But what we do know are the aspirations of Filipinos by then ¨that is, a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life for all.

Thus, together, let us achieve our aspirations while keeping our feet grounded on reality. What can we improve now for the younger generations?

This early, I am congratulating PIDS for this important and timely conference. I am pleased and encouraged that we are embarking on a thorough process of thinking about future possibilities and, hopefully, forging a vision and strategy to cope with the times.

I wish us all fruitful and productive discussions today, and success as we translate thoughts into strategies and, most importantly, into actions.

Thank you, and good morning.