125 Influential People and Ideas
Cesar Virata

1896

Through a Wharton fellowship, W.E.B. DuBois undertook his classic study of the social and economic conditions of urban blacks.

Progressive Leader for the Philippines

Cesar Virata, WG’53

Stressing technological advancement and economic development to achieve social progress, Cesar Virata became one of the Philippine’s most progressive prime ministers and finance leaders.

Starting as minister of finance in 1970, Virata oversaw the Philippines’ budget and restructured debt while dealing with international monetary institutions. Yet, massive deficits began to build during the later years of the Marcos regime (1965–1986), partially caused by the oil crises and mass protests against Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was charged with government mismanagement, political repression, and financial corruption.

Although Virata — the grandnephew of the first Philippine president, Emilio Aguinaldo — helped the Philippines grow economically during terms as minister of finance, as well as prime minister from 1981 to 1986, he was replaced through revolution as prime minister by Salvador Laurel via the appointment of Corazon Aquino.

Still, during the 1980s Virata made energy a top priority in the Philippines, establishing more hydroelectric, as well as fuel and coal manufacturing systems, in hope of making the Philippines less dependent on foreign-sourced energy and freer to solve its other socioeconomic problems. He focused on social development and its connection to improving food production, wealth distribution, manufacturing, transportation, and communication.

It’s vital, he wrote for the United Nations Chronicle in 2002, that “governments will continue to play a basic role in maintaining peace and order, providing a judicial system; providing basic social services of education, health care, and welfare; protecting labour; and caring for and protecting the environment.”

Returning to private enterprise and serving as the president of the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines, Virata has been involved in strengthening the Philippines’ money exchanges. He remains highly respected as a business and political force.