Gerardo Sicat

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Gerardo P. Sicat
Gerardo P. Sicat.jpg
1st Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority
Concurrently Minister of Economic Planning
In office
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded by Himself (office created)
Succeeded by Placido Mapa, Jr.
Chairman of the National Economic Council
In office
President Ferdinand Marcos
Succeeded by Himself (council dissolved)
Chairman of the Philippine National Bank
In office
President Ferdinand Marcos
Personal details
Born October 7, 1935
San Fernando, Pampanga
Nationality Filipino Philippines
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of the Philippines
Occupation Professor Emeritus of Economics
Profession Economist, public servant

Gerardo P. Sicat is a Filipino economist, educator and public servant. He is the first Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippine's national economic planning agency. Later, he was named Minister of Economic Planning and member of the now defuct Batasang Pambansa (National Legislature) under President Ferdinand Marcos.

A graduate of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he founded the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), currently an attached agency to NEDA, and contested in the 1999 selection of the University of the Philippines president together with prominent figures such as former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani and sociologist Ledivina V. Cariño but ultimately lost to political scientist Francisco Nemenzo, Jr.

Sicat is a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines School of Economics.

Youth and education[edit]

Gerardo Sicat was born in San Fernando, Pampanga on October 7, 1935. His parents were poor but hardworking. His father finished only the first year of high school and his mother only the lowest primary grade. They brought up a family of eight children to a fulfilling full education up to college. He was second-born and would reach the highest educational distinction among his siblings on his own hard work and turn of good luck. He would study only in Philippine public schools up to his graduate education in the University of the Philippines. Awarded a generous Rockefeller Foundation scholarship in support of the faculty development program of the University of the Philippines School of Economics in 1959, he finished his doctorate in economics studies in record time at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963.

When he was 6 years old, his father moved the whole family to Manila where he grew up. The war delayed his schooling though he spent one year in grade school. His postwar schooling was entirely in the Greater Manila area: elementary schooling in Mabini Elementary School, high school in the Arellano High School where he graduated in 1953, and the University of the Philippines.

Sicat initially enrolled in the pre-medical program of the University of the Philippines. Even while doing well in his studies, he underwent a personal reassessment of his life course during his sophomore year. Calculating personal and family circumstances, he moved toward the study of the social sciences, history, politics and economics – through his shift of his studies to the undergraduate foreign service curriculum of the University.

He graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, B.S. in Foreign Service (1957) and A.B. (1958), both degrees with cum laude. He continued his studies in 1957 in the economics graduate program and earned the M.A. from the University of the Philippines in 1958. His studies in the University was for a period of five years, from 1953 to 1958.

Early career as economist[edit]

His first career track began when he joined the U.P. Diliman Department of Economics faculty in 1958 immediately upon finishing his studies at U.P. A year later in 1959 he went to the United States to study for his doctorate in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1963, he returned to his university post as Assistant Professor of Economics. He rose in the ranks to Professor of Economics by 1969. At the then newly founded (1965) University of the Philippines School of Economics, he blended teaching and administrative duties with research. His research work was prolific and covered a variety of subjects: trade and industrialization issues, regional economic development, industrial economic structure, input-output analysis, production functions and the improvement of national income estimates. He widely shared his research conclusions in public discussions of national issues. In addition, he was actively involved in the formative years of the Philippine Economic Society, serving as editor of its Journal from 1965 to 1974 and as president in 1967-1968.

Research work on Philippine development. His research work in economics and his involvement in economic development issues marked him for national attention. In 1967, he was recognized as one of the ten outstanding young men (TOYM) of the Philippines. His economic research work and active public engagement in economic development and industrialization issues gained him notice at the national level.

After his return from doctoral studies in 1963, he became busy with various policy and economic studies dealing with industrial development in the country. He finished two main works during this stage of his career. The first was a book on industry and trade with John H. Power, that was published by Oxford University Press and which was part of a World Bank series of studies on industry and trade in the world. The other book was Economic Policy and Philippine Development, published by the University of the Philippines Press. Both works would be influential in setting the course of economic liberalization in the Philippines during the 1970s and 1980s.

Government career[edit]

In July, 1970, he was drawn to the second stage of his career. At the age of 34, he was asked to join the national government to a Cabinet position as Chairman of the National Economic Council. This position was at the helm of the country’s national planning agency and at the same time as principal economic adviser to the President. With this job, he began his 11 years of service as head of the country’s economic planning agency. In 1973, he was appointed to head the newly created National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and became its first head of that agency as Director General, and later, concurrently, as Minister of Economic Planning.

In this job, he therefore organized the slimmed NEDA staff out of the former National Economic Council and the former Presidential Economic Staff. He put in place the regional development planning machinery of the national government. He held this job until mid-year in 1981 and then became Chairman of the Philippine National Bank, a post that he kept until he finally left the service of the government in 1983.

When he was in the national government, he was also made concurrently a Regent of the University of the Philippines, through which position he continued to wield influence in the directions of the UP’s development from 1971 to 1983. At about the same period, he served also as a member of the Board of the Philippine American Educational Foundation, which administered, among other functions, the educational grants and programs of this institution to Filipino scholars for study in the United States.

Career at the World Bank[edit]

The third stage of his career (1985–1997) was in the service of international development as a member of the staff of the World Bank. He was an observer of Philippine developments from this distant vantage point during his absence from his country. He watched the unfolding and conclusive outcome of the Philippine EDSA revolt in 1986 in Washington D.C.

At the World Bank, he headed the public economics research of the Bank and then moved on as economic adviser in the Bank’s Operations at the central vice presidency for lending operations. Later and after a major reorganization of the Bank, he worked in operational evaluation. His experience at the World Bank spanned work and travel that covered structural adjustment and public economics issues in many countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Aside from contributing to the discussion of reforms in taxation and public expenditure management and in structural adjustment, he was involved in direct analysis of economic issues in specific countries that included Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Uganda, and Cameroon. Uniquely, this work provided him a direct experience in the World Bank’s activities in research and in lending operations and, later, in the evaluation of that the Bank’s development mission and operations.

Institution building work[edit]

His career in the public service covering both his university and national government service had a wide range – in research on policy and economic issues, in institution building within the university and in the nation at large, in economic development during a critical period of the country’s history, in furthering the country’s economic interests in international economic cooperation, and in economic education.

As a government official, he was instrumental in focusing the nation to liberalize economic policies, especially in trade and industrialization. Conscious about the importance of institutions of research for policy work, he devoted his energies toward strengthening the foundations of these institutions through deliberate promotion of their growth and the improvement and strengthening of their mandate to undertake studies for national development.

As a means of instilling progress in the economic policy debate, he caused the building of permanent institutions of research and intellectual founts for the assessment of economic policies. He helped Dr. Jose Encarnacíon, Jr., who was dean of the School, to make the UP School of Economics into one of the strongest units of the university. This, he did with the founding of the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) that provided the School with more resources to build and support its faculty development and to establish its physical infrastructure.

He helped in the decision to lay the University of the Philippines campus in the Visayas in Miagao, Iloilo when he served as a Regent of the UP. He had hoped to make this new campus a distinguished part of the University System as the home of the marine sciences the way the Los Baños campus had become the country’s premier agricultural university campus. In this, he would be disappointed because of shifts in that unit’s direction after he left the UP’s board of regents.

He conceived the founding of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in 1978. This institution was to serve as a think tank for economic policy studies for the country. He helped nurture it slowly through the appointment of young and competent research administrators and research staff and fostered its linkage with the network of other social and economic research institutions in the country. Today, the PIDS stands as the principal research think tank in economic policy making in the nation. To fortify Philippine social sciences, he helped to buttress the finances of the Philippine Social Sciences Council through a one-shot government unconditional assistance that induced an increased endowment support from the Ford Foundation and a building grant from the Japanese government. Today, the social sciences association continues as a confederation of Philippine social sciences societies that include all the major national disciplines.

With respect to regional economic cooperation among ASEAN countries, he provided Philippine leadership in improving the framework of cooperation with Southeast Asian neighbors. He headed the economic ministerial delegations for a period of six years, from 1976 to 1981, to the ASEAN economic ministers’ meetings. As such, he worked with his counterparts, the pioneers of ASEAN cooperation, to fuel the ideas and projects for the formative years of ASEAN Economic Cooperation. The economic ministers recommended the setting up of a permanent ASEAN secretariat that the Bali Summit of ASEAN leaders adopted in 1976.

The creation of a central secretariat for regional economic projects of cooperation was strengthened by a system of national secretariats based in each ASEAN country that took chairmanship of an aspect of economic cooperation. ASEAN was essentially a dream club that involved the foreign ministers of each country. Today, ASEAN has evolved into a strong economic grouping, and the major foundations for the economic cooperation agreements fostered under it began to take root firmly with the formation of the mandate for economic cooperation made possible by in 1976.

During his years of service in the national government, he served in major national government councils and committees that fostered coordination and policy-making. This included, of course, the coordination of the work of the whole NEDA, with the president as chairman. In addition, this included chairmanship or membership in committees that substantially dealt with major recommendations on fiscal and expenditure issues, on monetary policy (as a member of the Monetary Board), and on trade and industrial reforms. He served as Chairman of the Population Commission that drafted a far-seeing program of family planning. (Unfortunately, the program was reversed when he left the government in 1981).

At the School of Economics, he helped to motivate undergraduates by instituting an award for the best undergraduate research papers in Economics for graduating students. Established in 1973, the G. P. Sicat Award has become a major prize anticipated by the brightest students of the School who compete for it by graduation time. There is today a roster of more than 200 winners of the award. The roster includes many successful economic professionals in business and economics. The School had given the prize for the best and the second best economics papers, and encourages collaborative co-authorships by students.

Contributions to economic education[edit]

After he left his work as a development planner, he devoted his time to write a textbook for Philippine economic students. This resulted in Economics, a textbook that was published in 1983. This one-volume work profoundly affected Philippine economic education, as it became a standard reference and text in the teaching of economics in the country. This is his major legacy to the improvement of economic education in the country.

The publication in 2003 of his three-volume revision of his textbook on Economics (I- Introductory Economics, II - Macroeconomics, and III - Philippine Economic and Development Issues) serves as testimony to the prolific stage of his current work even after retirement. His pursuits include speaking to collegiate and university professors of Economics, suggesting ways and approaches to the teaching of the subject. For instance, after finishing the revision of the work, he organized major forums involving professors of Economics in Metro Manila colleges and universities, in the Visayas and in Mindanao.

The first edition of Gerardo Sicat’s Economics book (1983) was translated in Indonesian and revised to include Indonesian content under the title Ilmu Ekonomiks untuk Konteks Indonesia. This edition (1992) was published in Jakarta. The late Professor Heinz Arndt, who served as co-author in this edition of the book, guided a number of Australian economists at the Australian National University in Canberra and some Indonesian economists to Indonesianize the examples of the book that were employed as learning tools for Philippine students. As such, the book is widely used in Indonesia as a major reference and textbook. Introducing the Indonesian edition of his book, Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, former dean of the faculty of Economics of the University of Indonesia, wrote in the preface: “It is my hope that it will become an alternative to textbooks currently available, including the translations of works from the world’s leading economists, whose writings are relevant to a different context from that of Indonesia.”

In 1984, Professor Kunio Yoshihara of Kyoto University, wrote of his book in the Malayan Economic Review: “…The book is a remarkable intellectual achievement…. No economics textbook written by Asian scholars seem to be as comprehensive as this and at the same time, [as] readable.” Reviewing the recent revision of the textbook in 2004, Professor Hal Hill of the Australian National University said (Asian Pacific Economic Literature, May 2004, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 62-72.): “This is a monumental book by a remarkable author, the living father of the modern economics profession in the Philippines, and arguably the most eminent academic economist in Southeast Asia.”

Post-international career: At UP again[edit]

After his from the World Bank in Washington D.C., he resettled in the Philippines and resumed his career at the U.P as Professor of Economics. He was later appointed Professor Emeritus, a lifetime appointment reserved for those who have rendered outstanding service in teaching and research at the University.

Since his return to academic life after his career abroad in 1997, he has given his time toward providing counsel to various organizations. He serves as a member of the board of director of the U.P. Foundation, a financial arm supporting the activities of the University of the Philippines and of the Angelo King Institute for Economic and Business Studies at the De La Salle University. He has served on important advisory panels of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies for special tasks. He serves on the advisory panel of the National Statistical Coordination Board. He continues to participate in the activities of the Philippine Economic Society in which he is considered among its elder statesmen and pioneers. He has also contributed toward advising government committees when his expertise was needed.

Today as Professor Emeritus at the U.P. School of Economics, Gerardo Sicat focuses his time to teaching young people and to improving of teaching materials for economics throughout the country. He continues to undertake economic studies that question bad policies but offers alternative economic policies in their place. He actively participates in public forums where economic issues are discussed. He has written extensively on labor market reform issues in the Philippine economy, calling attention to the need to create employment as a means of speeding up development. He has a forthcoming book on the reform of the economic provisions of the Philippine constitution. He has contributed to the current debate on the revision of the country’s constitution, having spoken on this issue before the Philippine Economic Society, the Congressional think-tank, the Philippine Constitution Association, the Economic Policy Center at the Asian Institute of Management, and seminars sponsored by other major organizations, including the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.

Starting in November 2010, he began writing a weekly column in the Philippine Star that deals with the topic of Philippine economic and social progress. He thinks that the nation is failing to take full advantage of its vast economic potentials. To harness those potentials, the government needs to settle toward the proper mix of liberal economic policies that need steady maintenance. His strong economic reform advocacies are told in this column.

As a senior citizen, Gerardo Sicat continues to maintain a healthy life style that sustains his writings and lectures. His main passion in his senior years is still to improve his tennis and is also training his golf strokes. He had been a moving force in the running movement in the Philippines during his time in the government. He prides himself in having climbed a few of the country’s mountains when his knees were still strong, including the peaks of Mount Mayon and Mount Kanlaon.

With his wife, Loretta Makasiar Sicat, Ph.D., who was a retired professor of political science at the U.P. (and who died in 2010), he had five children who in turn have yielded for them nine grandchildren to date. All the Sicat children have fulfilling professional lives.

Selected Works[edit]

  • Gerardo P. Sicat (1983). Economics. National Book Store. ISBN 971-08-0084-1. 
  • Gerardo P. Sicat (2003). Economics (New Edition). 1 (Elementary Economics). Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 971-27-1336-9. 
  • Gerardo P. Sicat (2003). Economics (New Edition). 2 (Macroeconomics). Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 971-27-1337-7. 
  • Gerardo P. Sicat (2003). Economics (New Edition). 3 (Philippine Economic and Development Issues). Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 971-27-1338-5.