Gerardo Sicat

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Gerardo P. Sicat: A Short Biography

Gerardo P. Sicat
Dr. Gerardo P. Sicat, Filipino economist, has a wide body of work on his country’s economic development issues. His practice of economics spanned three different worlds: a university career of teaching and research, a government career in the highest councils of national economic policy making, and a career in international development work in one of the world’s development institutions – the World Bank.

Youth and education

Gerardo Sicat was born in 1935 in San Fernando, Pampanga, a province in Central Luzon. His parents were poor barrio folks who, despite the limitations of their education, struggled to rear eight children through to their education. During the early months of the Second World War, his father moved the family to Manila where he grew up into manhood. He studied in the country’s public schools up to till his graduation from the University of the Philippines, the state university.

Career cycle

Gerardo Sicat began his career as an economist when he was appointed in 1958 as assistant instructor in Economics at the University of the Philippines. After one year of teaching, he was awarded a scholarship financed by the Rockefeller Foundation to study Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) where he obtained the Ph.D. in 1963. MIT is among the foremost graduate centers for the study of Economics in the world.

Returning to his teaching post at UP upon completion of his studies as Assistant Professor, he worked on economic research on Philippine development issues. He quickly rose in the faculty ranks to become full Professor by 1969. By then, he had become nationally recognized for his research work.

At the age of 34 years in 1970, he was made the country’s economic planner as Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC). At NEC, he headed a national planning agency that also coordinated foreign aid and oversaw statistical development. He presided a high economic policy council composed of members from both Congress and the Senate, the private sector and some economic officers of the Executive branch of the government.

In 1973, the planning agencies were reorganized. He was chosen to head the new and more powerful National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) as its Director General. In this post, he was also made concurrently Minister of Economic Planning. He organized and staffed this new government body from zero-base so that he appointed the best possible staff to senior and technical positions. He headed this body from 1973 to 1981.

After NEDA, he briefly served as Chairman of the Philippine National Bank, then a government financial institution, from 1981 to 1984. But by then he had shifted his attention mainly to the writing of his textbook, a principles text in Economics, which was published in 1984.

In 1985, he joined the World Bank as a senior official in charge of the public economics group. When the World Bank reorganized, he moved to the central vice presidency where he served as economic adviser dealing with the Bank’s lending operations. He ended his international career in the economic evaluation of the Bank’s lending program. After retiring from the World Bank in 1997, he rejoined the School of Economics as Professor of Economics, where later, he became Emeritus Professor of Economics in 2002. During his government career, he also served concurrently as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines. As a regent from 1970 to 1983, he was involved in the direction of policy at the state university.

Writings and economic contributions

Dr. Sicat’s early works on Philippine development were on the structure of industry and on income accounts. Then his work began to focus on the problems of industry and its relation to trade policies. His diagnosis of Philippine economic problems began to criticize the highly protectionist industrialization program.

Most of his works dealt with reducing the trade barriers that hampered industrial growth. His work influenced the liberalization of trade and industry during a period of high protectionist barriers. He also directed attention to resource policies – especially land, labor, and capital. He diagnosed the country’s excessive cost of labor brought about by very high standards of labor protection and minimum wages. He argued that the reform of the country’s labor market policies would make Philippine industry and the economy more internationally competitive that would produce even more productive labor and higher living standards for workers. He also pointed out that highly restrictive economic policies had to be changed and to open the country to more foreign investments.

Dr. Sicat has also had written on the public finance issues, regional economic development, and on the improvement of national income accounts.

His contributions in economic education began in the early 1964 when he co-authored and edited Economics and Development. This was a book that was authored by senior colleagues in the UP School of Economics, including visiting professors, who wrote specific topics to cover the teaching of elementary economics.

In 1983 while in transition from his government career, Dr. Sicat decided to write a major textbook, Economics, which became the major source of teaching elementary economics with an economic development viewpoint in the Philippines. Dr. Sicat also made contributions directly to Indonesian economic education. This was on the suggestion of the late professor Heinz Arndt of the Australian National University, who later organized the team of Australian and Indonesian economists that undertook the adaptation of the Sicat textbook. The result of this effort was Sicat and Heinz Arndt, Ilmu Ekonomiks untuk Konteks Indonesia, published in 1989 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In 2003, he further revised this textbook and replaced it with a three volume Economics text. The first book was on elementary economic principles, the second, macroeconomics, and finally, a third, which covers Philippine economic development issues. ‘Institution building.’ In order to strengthen the economic profession and to keep alive the need for the improvement of economic policy in the country, Dr. Sicat undertook the founding and strengthening of local research institutions. During his work as economic policy maker, he founded the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED). Dr. Sicat also was instrumental in strengthening of the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), a private association of the country’s social science societies, by instituting assistance programs that made it more financially independent. PIDS is today the foremost Philippine development think tank for the national government. PCED was established to provide financing and institutional support to the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines. PCED helped to build the physical facilities of the School and provided additional finance for research and training programs. This transformed the School into a national resource for the training of economists in the country.

For a longer version of this biography, visit this Wikipedia entry.