Back to the land

This material originally appeared as  a chapter in W. Bello and J. Chavez (eds.) State of Fragmentation: The Philippines in Transition. Bangkok: Focus on the Global South.

This entry is the third of a four-part serialization.

Part I
Part II: The new rules of the game

Part IV: The city and the restoration of class power

All these transformations—the Philippine brand of neoliberalization, the unique vectors through which its economy globalized, and its uneven sectoral and geographical development—converge in urban real estate. Mirroring the trajectory of the economy as a whole, real estate development began the decade in crisis: the sector shrank from 2000 to 2002, hitting a 24.7 percent year-on-year contraction in the first quarter of 2001. But beginning with 2003, residential lot sales, coupled with office and retail space rental and leasing, have sustained record levels of growth: from the second quarter of 2004 until the fourth quarter of 2008, it sustained a double-digit streak, broken only twice by dips into high single-digit growth rates (see Figure 3). In the third quarter of 2006, the sector grew at a record pace of 26.2 percent year-on-year, breaking a record that was previously set in the third quarter of 1982. This record was broken yet again when the sector grew by 27.7 percent in the second quarter of 2010. At the end of its bust period in 2002, the gross value added of real estate development stood at approximately PhP8.8 billion. In 2010, it had grown to PhP22.1 billion.[1] If considered as a separate subsector, real estate was the second-fastest growing sector of the economy over the past decade, outpaced only by mining.

Continue reading “Back to the land”

The city and the restoration of class power

This material originally appeared as  a chapter in W. Bello and J. Chavez (eds.) State of Fragmentation: The Philippines in Transition. Bangkok: Focus on the Global South.

This entry is the last of a four-part serialization.

Part I
Part II: The new rules of the game

Part III: Back to the land

All told, the new Philippine economy saw billions of dollars churned into the land by overseas Filipinos and foreign investors, land that had been newly liberated from the state, agriculture, and domestic manufacturing, and redeveloped into subdivisions, condominiums, office space, and malls. This picture so far provides an account for what the new economy is, and why, how, and where these changes are taking place; what is so far lacking is an account of who benefited from this new economy.

As in any other economy, power in the brave new Philippines lies in the opportunities available for capitalist accumulation. Just like ownership of land under hacienda agriculture or dictatorial largesse under import-substitution industrialization, control over these opportunities will mean control over the creation of wealth.

The new economy saw, on one hand, the possibility of amassing wealth from haciendas or from small factories propped up by the state has been decisively closed off, even as important sunshine industries such as electronics manufacturing and business process outsourcing have daunting technical and financial entry barriers. On the other hand, the torrent of foreign investment and remittances that it has unleashed are creating immense opportunities in sectors which, whether by accident or design, are reserved for Filipinos.

Real estate development is one of these sectors. Over the past two decades, an array of crony capitalists, manufacturing-oriented taipans, and landed elites have converged on urban real estate as a central component of their strategies to diversify from their traditional sources of wealth. Continue reading “The city and the restoration of class power”