MANILA – Former Philippines President and APEC pioneer Fidel V. Ramos has warned that the unintended side effects of development are the “common enemies” to improved global growth and prosperity, and require greater joint action by Asia-Pacific economies to address them.
Ramos described his views on regional economic progress ahead of the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing that will mark the 25th anniversary of APEC’s establishment to boost trade and economic opportunity across the Pacific, and round out the year’s collaboration between member economies to accelerate global recovery.
“We share common enemies now and the economies of APEC are vulnerable, especially the Philippines, to these modern day threats,” said Ramos, who hosted fellow APEC Leaders in Subic in 1996. “These are climate change because of global warming and this is due to the abuse by people around the world of the environment through extravagant consumption and wasteful management.”
“The inequitable distribution of wealth is the problem for almost all [economies],” Ramos added, translating into mounting housing, education, healthcare and retirement concerns.
The Philippines’ gross domestic product has increased more than 6-fold and its per capita GDP quadrupled since APEC was founded in 1989, according to the World Bank. These gains are grounded on market reforms and the opening of trade and investment initiated by the Philippines during Ramos’ presidency from 1992-1998 and bolstered by engagement with the other APEC economies.
Ramos urged APEC economies to take the next step towards free and open trade and investment, and the building of community between them to tackle common development challenges and deliver greater economic opportunity for the region’s nearly three billion people—the cornerstones of APEC’s agenda which he helped to put in place.
“We must grow the economy so that there is fire from the bottom and there is fire from the top just like the way we cook the very delicious Filipino rice cake called bibingka,” said Ramos.
“Fire from the bottom is the effort of the poor people at the grassroots—that includes industry, energy and even talent,” he explained. “Fire from the top means the leadership must provide connections with the global market, transfer technology and then distribute the assets.”
APEC economies are pursuing a 10 per cent improvement in supply chain performance based on time, cost and certainty, a 25 per cent improvement in the ease of doing business in areas like starting a business, dealing with permits and getting credit, and the reduction of tariffs on 54 “environmental goods” to five per cent or less in the region—all by the end of 2015.
“APEC has provided a very strong and liberalizing effect on our economy especially in regard to respecting market forces in our domestic economy and in our regional economy,” Ramos declared. “It is the economic benefit that people are really looking at.”
“In the end, it’s three meals a day, it’s a better home, it’s insurance for the kids so that they can finish college and the ability to travel and learn about other people after retirement—this is the ambition of every family,” he concluded. “Here again, APEC is in the lead.”
The Philippines will host APEC for the second time in 2015.