Harvard 'Mafia' Advises Aquino Government

Alumni and Institute Play Key Roles in Philippines

"Do we have a Harvard Mafia running our country?" queried a recent edition of The Philippine Star, a Manila-based newspaper. Four of Aquino's cabinet members, a Supreme Court Justice and the director of the Central Bank are among a core of Harvard-trained high-ranking officials in Philippine President Corazon Aquino's government.

And numerous Harvard researchers are currently advising the Aquino administration on issues ranging from agrarian reform to industrial policy, as Aquino attempts to strengthen a floundering economy.

Harvard can claim an influential role in a number of countries, either through its graduates or its faculty.

Edward P. Seaga '52, prime minister of Jamaica and Benazir Bhutto '73, a top opposition leader in Pakistan, are graduates of the College. And Mexico's President Miguel de la Madrid-Hurtado and Greece's Prime Minister Andreas G. Papandreou earned masters at Harvard.

Three of the people working most closely on solving the Mexican debt crisis are Harvard graduates--President Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexico's minister of budget and planning, and Elliott Abrams '69, United States assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs.

And University scholars are working on a variety of development-oriented projects ranging from fiscal reform in Indonesia to health planning in Chad.

But Harvard's collective impact in the Philippines is especially strong because its many alumni hold key positions in the government, while faculty members continue to advise these former students, who are now high-ranking officials.

The Aquino-Harvard connection was forged between 1980 and 1983, when the President's late husband, Benigno S. Aquino, an opposition leader to deposed President Ferdinand Marcos, served as a fellow at the Center for International Affairs. At the time, Corazon Aquino was a homemaker, living in Newton.

"Harvard is known internationally," says John W. Thomas, a lecturer at the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). "But, the fact that Ninoy [Benigno Aquino] was at Harvard has enhanced the University's reputation with the Aquino government."

Since coming to power last February, the Aquino government has frequently turned to Harvard graduates and faculty to assist the fledgling administration. The HIID, which assists developing countries on economic, political and public health issues, is working on a number of projects in the Philippines.

Researchers at the HIID have conducted four major development programs in the Philippines during the past year, some of which are still ongoing.

.Three members analyzed government policy towards, small and medium-sized businesses by interviewing Philippine government officials and businessmen from June to September. The three Harvard researchers--Tyler Biggs, Jeremy *** and Brian D. Levy '80--made policy recommendations to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Conducted under the auspices of a $6 million worldwide U.S. State Department funded project, the HIID study was part of a Reagan administrative initiative to enhance the economic strength of developing nations through aid to smaller, more labor intensive firms.

.John W. Thomas is advising the Minister of Agrarian Reform, Heherson "Sonny" Alvarez, on key economic issues affecting the Philippine peasantry, Alvarez was a Mason Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he met Thomas.

.Peter Timmer, Black professor of Development Studies at Large, recently completed a study of price support of agricultural products. His recommendations will soon be evidenced in new technical training programs established by the Ministry of Agriculture.