Charmaine G Ramos

The Politics of Production: Colombian Coffee and Philippine Coconut in the 20th Century


Colombia and the Philippines count among unsuccessful post-Second World War late developers, unable to break into high-growth orbits and see to processes of industrial upgrading. The workings of a clientelistic state incapable of providing incentives for production are central to the narrative of failed late development in these countries. However, the distinct social histories of these countries have led to variations in the political organisation of their polities, with Colombia achieving an organisational robustness the Philippines never did. Exploring the developmental impact of this political difference is a key objective of my project. I propose to research this by investigating a set of institutional arrangements governing the creation and use of sector-specific investments in agro-export sectors in these economies--coffee in Colombia and coconut in the Philippines--whose establishment exhibits the exercise of the politics of privilege by the state but that yielded starkly different developmental outcomes.

The institutional arrangement established to develop these key wealth-generating sectors is characterised by two core features. First, it involves the collection of taxes to build up funds that would be used to heighten the competitiveness of the sector. Second, it mobilises producer associations in the disposition of these funds. Thus, the state in these countries effectively established an institutional framework that involved the use of state power to extract resources from producer groups, who were then given the power to expropriate these resources.

In Colombia, it was a framework that enhanced state capacity to coordinate development by giving rise to organisations that the state was able to mobilise around the goals of coffee production. In the process, it also helped build the rural base for processes of economic modernisation. In the Philippines, the same strategy led to starkly different outcomes that had very little to do with neither coconut production nor the welfare of coconut producers. The institutions were utilised to advance the personalistic goals of a cabal of individuals and an authoritarian president. Here the framework yielded the worst aspects of primitive accumulation without dynamic benefits accruing to the economy.

Given two states seen as similarly failing at late development, why did the private appropriation of public power produce dynamic benefits in one setting but only exhibit the worst aspects of rent capture in another? This comparative case study of Colombia and the Philippines provides an occasion for interrogating and constructing theories on the ways in which political organisation may shape the developmental impact of rent-creating state interventions.


  • Professor James Putzel

Research areas

Governance and politics; development and institutional theory; Trade and agriculture policy


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  • Filipino (native speaker)
  • English (3S, 3W)
  • Spanish (1S, 1W)
  • Visayan (2S, 1W)

1 = basic; 2 = intermediate; 3 = fluent

Contact information

Charmaine G. Ramos
PhD Candidate
Department of international Development (ID)
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Tel: (UK) +44 (0)20 7849 4631