Philippines: Why Nations Fail - or Succeed

November 30, 2012

Harvard Professor visits Manila to share lessons why institutions matter for achieving shared prosperity

MANILA, NOVEMBER 30, 2012— Why are some countries rich and others poor? Is it because of location? Is it culture? Is climate a factor, too? Or is it because leaders do not know the “right” policy or strategy?

Dr. James A. Robinson, an economist, political scientist and co-author of the widely read book ‘Why Nations Fail’ is in Manila to answer these questions in a series of lectures and discussions with policy makers, academics, business organizations, civil society groups, and media representatives from December 1 until December 12. He is also going to meet President Benigno S. Aquino III and the Cabinet.

Dr. Robinson is the David Florence Professor of Government at Harvard University.

Built on fifteen years of research, ‘Why Nations Fail’ captures the success and failure of countries to achieve inclusive growth. The research vividly illustrates why some countries were able to improve the lives of their citizens, while others were not.

Dr. Robinson says that societies that succeeded in achieving prosperity for most of their people are those that made both political as well as economic institutions more open and responsive to the majority of the population. These societies rewarded innovation or new and better ways of doing things, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities, not just a few elites, and had governments that were responsive and politically accountable to its people.

World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi said that the country is at the type of critical juncture described in the book. A huge window of opportunity exists for accelerating important reforms that would bring long-lasting benefits to many Filipinos, especially the poor.

“The country’s macroeconomic fundamentals are strong. Its leadership is supported by most Filipinos and has shown boldness in pushing for important reforms that were difficult to push in the past in pursuit of the country’s inclusive growth agenda,” said Mr. Konishi.

According to Mr. Rogier van den Brink, World Bank Lead Economist, inviting Dr. Robinson to visit the Philippines is part of the Bank’s knowledge-sharing program.

“The stories of Jim Robinson have struck a chord in the community of development economists, political scientists, and policymakers around the world, including here in the Philippines,” said Mr. van den Brink. “We hope that exchanging views with him will provide inspiration, determination and focus to those who aim to make growth more inclusive in the Philippines.” 

Dr. Robinson will also speak at the Angara Center for Law and Economics on December 5. Joining him will be leaders in business, academe and media, including Dr. Felipe Medalla, member of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; Dr. Gerardo Sicat, Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines School of Economics; and Ms. Maria Ressa, Chief Executive Officer of

Dr. Robinson will also conduct lectures at the Asian Institute of Management, the University of the Philippines, and will meet with civil society groups, and private sector groups.

Visiting the country for the first time, he will also be meeting local communities in Davao and Cebu to observe and learn from local stakeholders—farmers, fishermen, businessmen and politicians.



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