I mentioned last week Prime Minister David Cameron’s “golden thread” of conditions that enable economies and societies to drive prosperity and growth for all. These are the rule of law, the absence of conflict and corruption, and the presence of property rights and strong institutions.
If you have ever thought that pursuing President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” is more like navigating a complex maze than the literal “straight path,” then the golden thread may be the answer. It could serve a similar purpose to Ariadne’s silk thread in Greek mythology, which guided Theseus out of King Minos’s labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur.
I believe that these fundamental building blocks of global growth which we are promoting during Britain’s G8 Presidency this year are critically important to many countries inside and outside the G8, including the Philippines.
This applies no more so than on the issue of tackling corruption — central to the matuwid na daan. The relevance of conflict resolution in this list is also vividly demonstrated by the example of Mindanao.
Peace in the new “Bangsamoro” will not only create the conditions for much-needed investment in that region. It sends a much broader signal to international business about the Philippines’ development path, and will boost confidence in the country’s stability more widely.
The rule of law is necessary for the protection of human rights and to ensure justice. It is also essential for prosperity, and a key component of an attractive business environment.
Companies will not risk investment unless they know that the right laws and policies are in place, and that these will be implemented consistently. They need to have confidence that contracts will be respected according to the law rather than the political calendar, and that policy decisions, once taken, will not lightly be reversed.
Strong institutions are closely bound up with this last point. The law is only as good as the institutions which make, interpret or implement it.That means courts which hear cases fairly and expeditiously, ensuring that public rather than vested interests are served, whether in respect of property rights or any other issue.
It means competent, honest and dynamic government departments and agencies. And we should remember here that institutions are no more than mere bricks and mortar without sufficient numbers of high quality, dedicated and fairly rewarded staff.
However, government does not hold the monopoly on important institutions. We need confidence in our schools and universities, confidence in our media and civil society.
In Britain, where we have traditionally had lots of respect but also a healthy scepticism of politics, it is often failings of non-government institutions that cause the most public unease. It is no surprise therefore that over the past two years it has been the failings of the BBC and some of our national newspapers that have topped the headlines.
The National Health Service, one of our most famous institutions, is the subject of the most intense support and scrutiny in equal measure.
The G8 is not a forum that can impose solutions on its own members or on others. But it can give a lead and provide positive reinforcement to those countries which are trying to achieve greater prosperity.
In a global economy, attracting trade and investment is a competition between nations. Success in implementing the elements of the golden thread, including here in the Philippines can give one economy a critical competitive edge over the others.
As for Theseus in the Greek myth, it can lead to a bright new dawn.
As published in the Philippine Star, 17 January 2013.