Bad Economic Record of Marcos’ Martial Law

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:36:00 02/24/2011

EVEN AS Filipinos commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, there seems to be a growing impression that despite gargantuan corruption and human rights abuses, Marcos’ 20-year rule, including 14 years of martial law, produced remarkable and unequalled economic and social gains for the nation. This impression has more and more assumed the semblance of truth as years pass and memories fade, and as post-Marcos administrations perform just as, or even more, badly.

To begin with, poverty drastically increased during the Marcos years. In his Pulitzer prize-winning book “In Our Image, America’s Empire in the Philippines,” Stanley Karnow wrote: “A World Bank study estimated that the proportion of people living below the poverty line in cities had risen from 24 percent in 1974 to 40 percent in 1986. The countryside was no better.”

This is explained by the regime’s pitiable economic growth. Penn World Tables reported that while real growth in GDP per capita averaged 3.5 percent from 1951 to 1965, under the Marcos regime (1966 to 1986) annual average growth was only 1.4 percent. Thus even as the population grew, national income shrunk.

Between 1982 and 1986, the real wages of unskilled labor in Metro Manila declined annually at 5.8 percent, and those of skilled laborers at 5.2 percent. Agricultural wages also declined at the same rate, according to James K. Boyce, associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts in his book, “The Political Economy of Growth and Impoverishment in the Marcos Era.”

Income inequality worsened. In “The Marcos File,” Charles C. McDougald noted that in 1980 the top 12.9 percent of the Filipino population received 22.1 percent of total income, while the bottom 11 percent just received 16.6 percent. In 1983, the top 12.9 percent received 45.5 percent of total income, while the bottom 11 percent received only 6.4 percent. Hence the Marcos regime made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The financial situation deteriorated. The peso-dollar official exchange rate was P3.90 to the dollar in 1966 when Marcos became president. It fell to P20.53 to the dollar in 1986. The Philippines? foreign debt rose from $360 million in 1962 to $28.3 billion in 1986, said Boyce.

The insurgency under Marcos significantly increased. Not only did the communist insurgency strengthen, the Muslim insurgency erupted and a protracted war forced the Marcos government to sign the humiliating Tripoli Agreement, giving concessions to the Moro National Liberation Front.

By all standards, economic, political and social, it is crystal clear that the Marcos 20-year regime from 1966 to 1986 was a total disaster for the nation. It showed definitely that dictatorship is not the path to progress, a lesson now being learned by the Arab nations. For the Marcos family, it raised a great fortune that now finances a flourishing political dynasty, which could have another stab at the presidency in six years’ time.



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