‘UP School of Economics at 50 – the GPS awards’
CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) - Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2015 - 12:00am

I pay homage to my home institution. This year commences the celebration of its 50 years as an academic unit of the University of the Philippines. The active alumni of the School are primed under a campaign called “Bond for Gold”. A grand alumni gathering will be held at the UP Alumni Hall on Feb. 7, 2015. 

“Capsule history and place in society.” It was in 1965 when the School of Economics was founded as an independent academic unit. Economics as an academic offering had been around much longer though in the university. The capsule history of the school is explained in pages 110 to 115 of my recent book, Cesar Virata: Life And Times Through Four Decades of Philippine Economic History (UP Press, 2014).

Dr. Amado A. Castro was the first dean of the School. It was Dean Cesar Virata who requested UP president Carlos P. Romulo to spin off Economics from the College of Business Administration. 

At the time of founding, the School was housed in Benton Hall, a building jointly owned by the College of Business and the Institute of Economic Development and Research (IEDR). The School of Economics was in fact a unit born of the fusion of this institute that was founded in 1957 whose first director was also Dr. Castro , with the Department of Economics.

The golden years of the School continued under the long leadership of Dr. Jose Encarnacion, Jr., its second dean, from the mid-70s to the early 90s. Few units of the university have had significant early success. Many of its faculty and graduates have been active in government, in research institutions, in the private sector, in private and public corporations, and in international development institutions.

NEDA, for one, had been led by faculty from the School that included Solita Monsod, Cayetano Paderanga, Felipe Medalla, Dante Canlas, and Arsenio Balisacan. Many deputies of NEDA have also come from the School, among them, Ruperto Alonso, Jr., Florian Alburo, and Emmanuel Esguerra.

Graduates of the School have significantly staffed the NEDA, Finance, Budget, and government sector departments and corporations. Many central bankers were trained in the School of Economics. World Bank, ADB, other international and financial institutions have harnessed graduates of the school. The private sector continues to demand its economics graduates.

At last week’s Ayala-UP School of Economics forum at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati, John Philip Orbeta, speaking for Ayala Corporation, commended the School for producing scholarship and alumni that have shaped the course of Philippine economic policy. Further, he cited Ayala’s Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala as praising the “rigor of thinking and the clarity of the logic” that characterize the work that comes out of the School.

“The GPS awards.” Allow me a moment of immodesty and to talk about something that I am very proud of. It might be, in the scope of things, very small. But the end product has turned up very positive for the students and the School.

I refer to the so-called “G.P.Sicat awards” for the most outstanding undergraduate papers at the School. In 1972, I was no longer in the faculty because I was actively engaged in national economic affairs. I suggested to both Drs. Amado Castro and Jose Encarnacion, Jr. that I contribute a small award to give a prize to the most outstanding paper by a graduating senior. To make it possible, I started a small fund. Through the years, the small fund grew, and, especially after 1983, royalties from my Economics text filled it further. It was able, even, by the 1990s, to sponsor at least an annual graduate scholarship too.

In 1973, the prize for the first outstanding undergraduate paper was chosen and Mercedes Sanvictores won the award for her “Supply functions of rice and corn in the Philippines.” During that time, the nation was in the midst of the “Green Revolution.” Student interest was fanned by the work of UP and IRRI economists who were studying the supply response of farmers to new rice and corn varieties.

By 1975, the Economics faculty decided to encourage teamwork and allowed papers written by two students eligible for the prize. By 1980, the awards were further broadened to recognize not only the “best” paper but also the second- and third-best.

From 1973 to 2014, a total of 206 student were recipients of the GPS awards among the best graduating papers. Had the original plan of a yearly prize for only one paper each been followed, there would have been only 41 prizes.

Dean Philip Medalla apprised me, when I was working in Washington D.C. at the World Bank, that the quality of student papers had gone up, that the best students were spending their time writing on a variety of relevant development topics in economics, and that on commencement day when the award was also announced, the GPS award became among the most coveted by the top-rung graduating students.

Looking back, the students are goaded to do their best when the faculty also give their best efforts. The faculty imparts the needed learning and, in turn, students read and digest the relevant literature and research on the necessary materials to reveal their excellence. The faculty through criticism and guidance sharpen the student’s research experience.

A selected sample of first prize winners is listed below indicating the year won, title of the paper, then author. However, for 1981, the first and second prizes are listed to highlight that two senior managers of the Bangko Sentral today were classmates then:

2014, “It takes concentration: measuring the impact of agglomeration on growth,” [L. A. A. Costales and P. G. B. Gonzales]; 2013, “Nature versus Nature: Is trust innate or learned? An analysis of human capital determining trust,” [D.L.Dumo and M.K.Rabe]; 2008, “Electoral cycles in Philippine fiscal and monetary policy,” [D.P.Evangelista & P.A.Libre]; 2006, “Petroleum prices, the value-added tax, and the welfare of poor households in the Philippines,” [D.K. Ngwe].

2001, “I decide: Evidence of autonomy and childbearing in the Philippines,” [A.B. Consebido and C.J.M. Perez]; 2001, “The myth of legislation: Determining the real barriers to foreign equity investment in the Philippines,” [D. Desierto and J. Villacorta].

1996, “Facial attractiveness and its relation to initial income: A study of UP School of Economics graduates, Batch 1991-1995,” L.Q. Basilio and D.M. Gundaya]; 1989, “Child labor force participation: A case study on the garments industry of Taytay, Rizal,” [M.A.S. Duenas and L.J. Gadin].

1981, “Traffic congestion taxes for Metro Manila,” [N.A.Espenilla, Jr.]; 1981, “The impact of the discount and interest rate policies of the Central Bank of the Philippines on the developent of rural banking system, 1953-1975,” [F. Dakila].

My email is: gpsicat@gmail.com. Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/

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