A Singaporean's Point of View: Why the Philippines is a Poor Country

My take on the main reason why Singapore is rich and why the Philippines is poor is the rules that guide Singapore and the Philippines.

Singapore started off as wilderness that was developed into a modern port. People were attracted here not merely because of its good location, but by other factors that most people tend to take for granted or outright ignore. What made Singapore different was that we were governed the British laws that offered protection, did not discriminate on race, religion or caste, ability to own property, and that if you worked hard, saved your money and started your own little business, you can get rich. Early migrants to Singapore also had the freedom to build their temples, churches, mosques, etc etc. Can you say the same for most other societies?

The British gave these laws to colonies like Singapore and Hong Kong, in order to attract migrants to a nearly deserted territory. Such laws were not common in most parts of the British Empire. You will find similar laws in place in Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand, which also explains why they are rich, and not poor like most mineral-rich Third World countries. They too, started off very similarly like Singapore - migrant workers and settlers who moved into undeveloped lands that were sparsely populated. And these are the same laws that governed Singapore into prosperity. It was not the work of a single man or a single party.

Rather, the rules that governed Singapore from its early days played a very huge part. The leaders who grew up in Singapore grew up under an education system and laws that protected property, rewarded hard work with financial gains, and did not discriminate against race and religion. When they came into power, they passed similar laws and improved on the existing laws.

For the Philippines, things were pretty different. it was founded as a Spanish colony. All of its colonials laws were designed to exploit the native people. You also have laws that favour one religion over another. Many of their leaders grew up under such exploitative rule and moral values. Hence in such countries, revolutions tend to not bring about any real change. They usually end up replacing one tyrant with another, one corrupt government with another hoping to be just as corrupt.

In Philippines, like in most Third World countries, many people are farmers. The farmers there are poor not because they are too stupid or too poor to afford ways to improve their harvests.

The farmers are usually poor because they have very little incentives to find ways to improve their efficiency. The local government would usually force the farmers to sell their crops at way below market price and pocket the difference, tax them at very high rates or simply confiscate their land at low prices to sell to their cronies for development. When such things happen, farmers have very little incentive to improve their yield, be it by investing in a tractor or even as simple as getting a cow to plow their land.

Farmers are usually the most hardworking and the most honest of all professions. The farmers work hard and long and provide a valuable service, and will most likely die very poor. So, that tells you how exploitative their society really is. It also teaches people that honesty is a lousy policy, since honest, hardworking farmers will most likely die poor. Therefore smart people are not honest, and honest people are not smart.

Your hardworking and smart Filipino workers need to find work overseas because most people, local and foreign, don't trust the Filipino society enough to invest in it. Locals don't invest enough to build their own infrastructure because they know most of the money will be wasted in bribes. Locals don't invest enough to start honest businesses because they know they are not likely to succeed unless they have enough inside connections. The society does not have laws to protect ownership and reward people for starting businesses. Many students don't invest enough in their own education because society has pointed out that it is far more rewarding to cheat in the exams or to simply purchase a fake certificate. The society doesn't provide enough incentive to invest in itself to improve.

When society is governed by laws that are exploitative and encourages corruption, the society will go downhill towards Third World level. It doesn't matter how hardworking or smart the people are. They will know that honest, hard work does not pay. Neither does it pay to be smart. So, those with the means will either re-locate to other countries in search for good pay for honest work, or stay behind and use their intelligence to be corrupted or exploit others to enrich themselves.

In most countries, it is important for students to pass exams and get a certificate. How do students in various countries cope? In places like Singapore, Korea and Japan, students study hard and get tuition. In many Third World countries, many students and parents are more likely to instead resort to cheating or simply buying a fake certificate. The way how students and parents behave towards a national exam tells you what sought of moral values the society truly believes in. Don't be deceived by public display of piety. Most of the time, it is nothing but crap. It's just for show. People can act pious, but at the end of the day, they will still expect a bribe from you or believe in exploitation and dishonesty in order to succeed in life.

Unless the Philippines change the basic rules that govern their society, nothing will change. They can pray, fast and act pious all they want, but they will remain poor and wretched, even if their society is made up of Einsteins and Edisons. It's pretty much the same for most of the Third World countries too.

And by the way, it is not by chance that the Edisons and Einsteins are born in developed societies, the same societies that reward hard work, honesty, and provides incentives for people to invest in themselves to improve, be it in farming or industry or education. You won't find an Einstein or Edison in societies like North Korea or Sudan or Bangladesh, regardless of how hardworking the people there are, or by the length of the society's ancient history.

I would like to acknowledge the book 'Why Nations Fail' for inspiring my post.

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Posted by user "bahay kubo" on PinoyExchange.com:


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