Thursday, 2 December 2010

No to reproductive health; yes to reproductive wealth

By Willy E. Arcilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:57:00 11/25/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine economy is booming—GDP growth rate is accelerating while inflation remains benign. The stock market is on a bull run and the real-estate sector is soaring. OFW remittances, BPO and export revenues are reaching record heights. Unemployment is falling as the job market grows and employee compensation rises.

Interest rates remain low, encouraging investments in high-potential industries like real estate and tourism, manufacturing and BPO, agriculture and mining. The consensus of local businessmen and economists, foreign investors and MNCs is the future is very bright. Based on the latest independent surveys, even the percentage of people claiming hunger and poverty is retreating—all these positive news despite the absence of a Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

Should we not all pause and reflect if the RH bill will help rather than hurt the country?

Let us learn from the errors of the Western countries saddled by aging and shrinking populations, and closer home, even from Asian economic tigers that have regretted their aggressive population-control policy, which are now scrambling to correct their impending crisis of depopulation—Japan and Korea, China and Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.

No less than US past president Bill Clinton found himself an unlikely spokesman for the anti-RH bill advocates when he categorically admonished political and business leaders at a recent visit to Manila, “You have a large and young population that is a boon.”

A country’s people can be harnessed to become its strongest asset and greatest wealth—both as a market base and a labor force. This is evident in the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), touted as emerging dynamos not only because of their high growth rates but their absolute size and strength, in which population is a vital ingredient. These four countries alone combine for 2.9 billion people, 48 percent of the world’s population. Even the 10-member Asean’s attractiveness lies not just in being a low-cost production hub, but also in becoming a potentially lucrative market of over 600 million consumers.

Let us not allow the RH bill to distract and divide us. Rather, let us unite and focus on realizing the long-delayed Philippine economic miracle. Let us undertake a structural transformation in our economy, starting with revitalizing agriculture and fisheries to attain self-sufficiency in food production and drive high-value agricultural exports; investing massively in infrastructure; reviving industry to provide gainful employment and export world-class quality products instead of world-class Filipino talent (whom we should safeguard as our competitive advantage in the global economy); promoting the country as an investment haven and a tourism destination. All this will help transform the economy from an over-reliance on OFW remittances and consumption spending so that our people may grow in productivity as workers and in affluence as consumers.

Let us learn from host countries and foreign employers of 11 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and emigrants, who have discovered that Filipino workers are of world-class caliber, but paid in Third World wages in their home country—and rewarded them financially more than we have.

I dread to imagine how our Almighty God and heavenly Father will punish our leaders and our people not just for our collective greed and lust, but our ingratitude for the blessings of a nascent Philippine economic miracle if we insist on legalizing a contraceptive mentality (“more people=more poverty”), and sex without consequence.

Instead of sex education, let us promote “love education”; a culture of life, not a culture of death. Instead of reproductive health, let us promote what I would call “reproductive wealth,” as practiced by the early Christian communities when the faithful worked according to their ability, and consumed only according to their need. “Reproductive wealth” that begets more wealth calls for the rich helping the poor and the poor helping themselves. Once the millions of poor Filipinos can reach middle-income status through better compensation such as profit-sharing, then rich Filipinos can become even richer.

When companies practice profit-sharing, the nation’s 38 million employees will feel more empowered by a real sense of ownership. Workers who are part-owners are more productive. They will drive revenues, cut costs and conserve cash without being told. Such companies will expand further, create more jobs and, collectively, help the country achieve economic growth that will be faster, more inclusive and therefore sustainable.

Here lies the secret to eliminating poverty and corruption. P-Noy (Aquino) says, “Pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” The RH bill implies, “Pag walang tao, walang mahirap.” But the truth is the poor do not need more sex and artificial contraception. Rather, they need better-paying work. The rich need to give the poor not more condoms, but more rewards for work to motivate their performance. As someone once said, “We need to put a condom on greed.” Given a chance to reach middle-income status, the poor will not find time to get drunk or gamble, nor enough energy for irresponsible sex. No to Reproductive Health. Yes to Reproductive Wealth. “Pag walang suwapang, walang mahirap.”

(The author is president of Business Mentors Inc. Feedback at

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