Natural Disasters in the Philippines
Every year, hundreds of natural disasters are reported worldwide. In 2019, 409 natural disasters occurred, many in the Asian Pacific region. Natural disasters in the Philippines are quite common and they pose great difficulties for islands with large populations and vulnerable infrastructure.

Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines is one of highest-risk countries for natural disasters. The nation’s location exposes it to storms that lead to floods, mudslides and typhoons. Additionally, the presence of offshore trenches such as the Manila Trench puts the Philippines at risk for tsunamis. Unfortunately, the list does not end there. The Philippines is also on top of the Ring of Fire, a path in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where there is a high risk for earthquakes and active volcanoes.


The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, which poses many challenges to improving infrastructure. Natural disasters also disproportionately impact infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas. That being said, in the past decade, the Filipino government made strides to improve infrastructure and make the nation more disaster-ready.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of the Filipino government’s budget was allocated for infrastructure. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to allocate 6% of the nation’s GDP to infrastructure by 2022. His “Build, Build, Build” program has played a large role in this increase of funds, which will be allocated to projects such as the Manila subway and other modes of transportation, water resources and energy.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has outlined $2.5 million in funds being used for infrastructure projects in the Philippines. GFDRR focuses on understanding and reducing disaster risk, strengthening governance and improving recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. GFDRR currently has three active projects in the Philippines. First, the “Support to the Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Tourism Project” is set to be complete in June 2021. The second project is “Philippines Disaster Risk Financing,” scheduled to be complete in August 2020. Finally, the “Support to the Earthquake-Resilient Greater Metro Manila Program” is set to be complete in September 2021.

Poverty Reduction

According to the World Bank’s October 2019 report, the Philippines is expected to sustain its progress in poverty reduction. The Philippines’ GDP growth was roughly 5.8% in 2019 and is expected to reach 6.2% by 2021. Many believe this growth is tied to transportation infrastructure among the Filipino islands. According to the 2013 Philippines Human Development Report, economic integration will be key to creating sustainable growth throughout all of the Filipino islands and reducing poverty in rural areas.

The main production sectors in the Philippines are electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing. Agriculture is also a significant sector; however, self-employed farmers are the most susceptible to geographic hardships from natural disasters. Additionally, many farmers struggle due to a lack of insurance, inadequate post-harvest facilities, inadequate irrigation techniques and limited access to the market as a result of poor transportation services.

To address these problems, the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 plans to expand economic opportunities for those engaged in the agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This plan aims to get rid of irrigation fees for small farmers, pass the National Land Use Act to protect important natural lands, implement the Agrarian Reform Program to distribute land to landless farmers.


The Philippines is still considered at third world country according to its GDP, human development index, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. However, while the Philippines still has many structural issues inhibiting its growth, its progress over the last decade has been momentous. Equipping islands to handle natural disasters in the Philippines and supporting farmers are two key ways the country can reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Determinants of Development
The enduring issue of why some countries are rich while others remain poor has long been the subject of great interest among scholars. New research on the determinants of development, though, appears to better identify the driving force behind development by taking an incisive look at the three traditional economic explanations for these cross-country disparities – economic policy, political institutions and geography.

Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that the primary determinant of developmental success may be the strength of institutions.

Economic Policy, Political Institutions and Geography

The research first laid out the traditional arguments for the importance of policy, institutions and geography as determinants of development.

All three are pretty straightforward: economic policy, such as a nation’s savings rate and the strength of its currency, clearly dictate, to some extent, the economic vitality of a country; geographic factors can also matter, for instance, a landlocked country like Chad – without access to the ocean or major rivers – is at a natural disadvantage because trade becomes a logistical nuisance; institutions — like the rule of law to maintain public safety, ensure property rights, and mitigate corruption — still were found to have a greater impact.

However, the researchers’ revelation was not just that policy and geography took a back seat in importance to the role of institutions in development, but that they were, independently, hardly influential at all. Research sampling 72 countries found that while poor policies may hurt growth rates temporarily, they did not have the sort of impact on long-term income levels that many had previously suspected.

Promotion of Stable Institutions

The relationship between geography and development was a bit more complicated. Although nations with poor geography and stable institutions still do well, the authors acknowledge the role geography often plays in promoting stable institutions historically.

Specifically, nations colonized by Europe in unfavorable regions (in regard to disease and other conditions) were typically turned into rentier states and dealt poorer institutions. Conversely, regions which could be settled were afforded European-mainland style institutions: democracy, property rights and the rule of law.

Determinants of Development

So, Europe’s unique colonial history shows that geography did affect the type of institutions implemented in various countries, and it is these institutions that explain differences in development.

In a sense, the revelation that among the determinants of development, growth is primarily a function of institutions should be somewhat heartening, as institutions can be reformed. Therefore, instead of nations across Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Central America being condemned to second-class status economically, focus can shift to the ways their poor institutions can be altered to better catalyze development.

Although researchers failed to explain the means of doing so directly, recognizing that building robust institutions is the best path toward progress is an important insight.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr


Cape Verde is a small archipelago island nation in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa. The country is mired in absolute poverty, with 30% of its citizens below the poverty line. The World Bank estimates that 14% of the population is living in extreme poverty. With a crisis of this magnitude, the government of Cape Verde is dependent on the receipt of international aid to maintain relative stability.

Poverty in Cape Verde is precipitated by a number of factors, but the main inhibitors of economic growth are a gross lack of a natural resources and a limited economic base. Due to repeated droughts, Cape Verde is beleaguered by water shortages and poor soil. Due to a lack of domestic agriculture, over 82% of the country’s food supply is imported. The nation’s narrow economic base stems from over dependence on tourism as the sole source of economic revenue.

The World Bank has agreed to provide significant amounts of funding to Cape Verde and has developed an economic strategy to alleviate the poor conditions there. The World Bank’s plan is four-fold, involving an improvement in the quality of education and healthcare, a diversification of the economic base (exploiting tuna fishing as an additional source of income), an improvement of the already existing infrastructure, and the institution of welfare programs for the disadvantaged.

These changes will have to be implemented from the top down in order for them to be successful. The World Bank is working with the government of Cape Verde to implement these much needed changes. This combination of economic diversification, aid, and development will most assuredly provide a way for Cape Verde to rise out of extreme poverty.

Josh Forgét 

Sources: The World Bank, The CIA World Factbook
Photo: Cape Verde Against Poverty,

Poverty in Mauritania

The West African country Mauritania borders the North Atlantic Ocean and marks the western edge of the Sahara desert. Like many countries in North Africa, it is rich in oil and other natural resources. Unfortunately, Mauritania itself has one of the lowest GDP in Africa; like similarly resource-rich countries, it, too, suffers from what is known as the resource curse. Poverty in Mauritania is quite prevalent — the World Food Programme estimates 42% of the population is in poverty — and is caused by a number of factors.

1. Geography and Climate: Only 0.5% of Mauritania’s land — a little over 1 million square kilometers — is suited for agriculture, but a majority of Mauritanians still depend on agricultural subsistence or raising livestock. Food insecurity is a severe problem due to incessant cycles of drought and erosion; such cycles were severe enough to force nomadic Mauritanians to the main cities in the 1970s and 80s. Because of Mauritania’s placement against the Atlantic Ocean and prevailing winds, the country is afflicted by intense dust storms at times.

2. Increasing Terrorist Threat Discouraging Investment: Travel to Mauritania has been discouraged in the last decade as militant Islamic groups have moved into the North Africa region; kidnappings of travelers for ransom or by al-Qaida groups (AQIM) have been reported by US State Department travel advisories as recently as May of this year. Travel is particularly dangerous in the northern and southeastern regions of the country. The security risk discourages foreign investment, especially in extractive industries where natural resources are located in rural areas.

3. Spill-Over from Neighboring Conflicts: Even though health care services are strained for funding for Mauritanian citizens, the country also faces further difficulty due to conflict that spills over from neighboring countries. Tens of thousands of refugees from Mali fled ahead of the conflict erupting in their country; the Mbera camp is one such refugee camp in which NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has worked extensively. These camps are often far removed from the rest of the country, straining degrading or nonexistent infrastructure required for transportation of health care supplies and food.

On the whole, Mauritania has a great opportunity for improving the living conditions of its population. Its vast natural resources have been left relatively untapped — oil was discovered first only 12 years ago — which presents an opportunity for responsible resource extraction and processing so as to avoid the worst of the “resource curse.” The country has a long relationship with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and its inflation rates have remained steady in the past few years despite the risk for severe crises due to high food prices. If foreign investors can find a secure environment in which to responsibly invest in its vast natural resources, Mauritania has great potential to face — and overcome — its extreme poverty.

Naomi Doraisamy

Sources: CIA World Factbook, International Monetary Fund, MSF, World Bank,World Food Programme
Photo: Cultureist