Monday, November 20, 2017

“We owe it to ourselves”

That’s a quote from Boo Chanco: “Competitiveness,” DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 16th Nov 2017. “Our ASEAN hosting showed we are capable of delivering better. I have no doubt we have competitiveness in the ASEAN region, if we put our best minds to it. Tourism, infrastructure, peace and order… we can and should do better. We owe it to ourselves.”

Does it bring back memories of the 1976 IMF meeting in Manila when we supposedly established the Philippines as a world-class convention center? Forty-one years later we’re still about can and should?

“[I]n an industry like tourism where we should have natural competitive advantage, we trail our neighbors in ASEAN. Vietnam has overtaken us. Vietnam has a tourism promotions budget of $5.3 million vs our $50 million, yet produces eight million visitors to our 5.4 million.” [Chanco, op. cit.]

Recall the blog has repeatedly talked about an ecosystem. There is no shortcut in development nor is there a silver bullet. We must, if we are to borrow from education reform, develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight.

But first and foremost, we must toss “crab mentality” and learn about community and the common good. Sadly, Juan de la Cruz isn’t predisposed to internalize the power of purpose. And in our case, it is about development. The sense of purpose is not on our radar screen, not in our psyche.

It is even embarrassing that we appropriate advertising as a core competency: it doesn’t mean spending $50 million in promotion per se and why Vietnam attracts more visitors. Boo discussed the building blocks of tourism and we are wanting in all respects other than our God-given natural beauty.

Indeed, we owe it to ourselves. And that means we must pull our respective weights and demand that enough is enough. And it must start with every one of us. And that’s the first challenge and why the blog constantly raises who and what we are. If we don’t know Juan de la Cruz, how are we to face the world?

We are parochial and insular … we defer to hierarchy and expect paternalism in return … we value and rely on political patronage and dynasties … and oligarchy. The bottom line: we have yet to develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight.

As the blog has stressed, democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet because of our instincts of leader-dependency, we cede absolute power to our leaders as if we haven’t learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We create and deserve the leadership that we get.

And do we want the Chinese and the Russians to do as we do? And the Americans too? How could we – compared to the rest of the world – overrate leaders that take the rule of law for granted? Does it explain our culture of impunity? Because we like to look around to pin the blame on another?

The writer has pointed to the church as a great influence on Juan de la Cruz and referenced Padre Damaso to make the point – of subservience. Yet, speaking to a young person that went to an Opus Dei school in Manila, it was refreshing to know that millennials indeed have a mind of their own. Opus “dehins” is how they acknowledge their education.

And more to the point, Francis himself doesn’t reflect the conservative wing of the Curia. People can and do change, as the writer himself has witnessed with his Eastern European friends. But then again, Jesus Christ was a progressive – “Crucify him ... Crucify him” – and embraced sinners and the lowly peasants and fishermen. He who is first is last, and he who is last is first.

But that’s anathema to the Philippine elite – where our leaders come from. Political dynasties given the power they wield – aka patronage – and oligarchy are two sides of the same coin. And we all fall in line behind one or the other if not both. Indeed, we owe it to ourselves.

Sadly, if we don’t have a good handle on development, chances are we can’t develop the 6th sense demanded by innovation and competitiveness. And leader-dependency in fact undermines innovation from the get-go. But we still need to wrap our head around that.

As some would know, the writer introduced his Eastern European friends to the challenge of innovation and competitiveness 14 years ago, a carryover from his MNC days – and competed globally for decades.

And for us Pinoys, there is another piece that brings about a double whammy: Logic, as the blog has discussed – which in Western higher education is likewise a dilemma – is overrated when it connotes linear and incremental thinking.

Think IBM and GE, even P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser. These once blue-chip enterprises – e.g., IBM holds the most patents in the world – today no longer carry the aura that earned them Wall Street’s absolute respect.

Yet we Pinoys in our heart of hearts believe that we are smarter than our neighbors? Do we wonder why we’re the regional laggard? It is not about smarts but to be outward-looking so that we learn from others and don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

As he writes, the writer and wife and family friends from the Philippines are in Italy on holiday. Talk about tourism. The group’s preference is to stay in B&B’s (Bed & Breakfast.) They are warmer than typical hotels, more homey, relaxing and pleasant.

And there appears a common thread among European B&Bs. Obviously, they attract lots and lots of visitors being developed countries – on top of their storied histories. And – surprise, surprise – infrastructure sets these B&Bs for success whether in Italy, France, Switzerland or Spain.

It is not atypical for a B&B to be owned and operated by a husband and wife team. And it is not a walk in the park. They need a great location, acquired at the right price and then turned into an ideal B&B – which makes for competitive advantage but a price, a 24/7 grind (including baking bread and pastries for breakfast) at least 7 months of the year, or what they call high season.

In one case, a retired couple fixed the inherited parents’ home. They were not wealthy, the woman worked in a garment factory. And to augment their retirement pensions, the income from the B&B was a necessity.

It is about the ecosystem. As the new UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) have articulated, it is imperative that: (a) we are unequivocal in accelerating infrastructure development; (b) be laser-like in our focus on industrialization, not be at the mercy of political patronage and oligarchy; and (c) dogged in the pursuit of innovation and competitiveness.

It is about development. It is not about the war on poverty or the war on drugs. It is not even about dictatorship which we tried before. Remember Marcos? We lag our neighbors as the last 50 years have demonstrated and have yet to come to terms with reality. Remember the times that try men's soul?

There is no shortcut in development. There is no silver bullet. But we cannot develop an ecosystem if we don’t develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight. We shall remain shortsighted otherwise. And be ruled by “crab mentality” – that empowers dictatorship – instead of community and the common good.

“Why independence, if the slaves of today's will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Neither here nor there (II)

Is prayer all that is left for us? “Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” [Many would attribute that to the Ignatian spirit.] If we still don’t believe we’re running around like a headless chicken, we can only have our head buried in the sand? Consider: ‘RevGov’ is Duterte’s bid for total power, John Nery, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Nov 2017.

How about “After 50 years of Asean, why are we behind (?),” Ramon Farolan, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13th Nov 2017? And this one: “Looking at Metro Manila from the window of a plane trying to land in daytime, one can’t help feeling disgusted. There are spots of modernity in the Makati, Bonifacio, Alabang, Ortigas and Bay Area. The rest is unmitigated urban blight.” [Urban blight, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 13th Nov 2017]

And let’s put them in a bigger context: “Nation-states and the challenge of globalization,” Randy David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12th Nov 2017.

“This is the paradox we confront today. The world’s political system remains segmented into unequal nation-states. Yet, the problems the global system generates have become far too complex for any nation-state, no matter how dominant, or, for any regional organization like Asean or Apec, no matter how encompassing, to manage in any effective way. When push comes to shove, every leader tends to fall back on his or her nation’s sovereign rights.

“In most instances, behind the rhetoric of cooperation that permeates these gatherings, bilateral talks take precedence over multilateral discussions.

“Name any issue: trade and investment, migration, freedom of navigation, climate change, technical cooperation, terrorism, narcotics, human trafficking, etc. No position is conceded, no privilege is extended, and no access is given without something expected in return. In all these discussions, governments like to pretend they speak for the various interest groups in their countries as though they had full control over them.

“The reality, however, is that in almost every conceivable field, nation-state boundaries have long been breached by the global nature of transactions and communications. Today, except in totalitarian states, it is difficult to imagine how a government can dictate where its nationals may work, or study, or live, or where they may spend, invest, or keep their savings.

“A government may offer incentives, or provide strong moral or ethical reasons for its citizens to want to live and work in or even go to war for the country of their birth. But, in the modern world, where multiple affiliations abound, there is no guaranty that an individual will necessarily identify with the country in which he or she was born or raised.”

And what is the worldview of Du30? “Back in 2015, when Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was genuinely conflicted about running for president, he located part of that conflict in what he said was the lack of power of the Philippine presidency. The office, bound by rule and tradition, was simply not up to the task of running a sprawling, dysfunctional nation, he argued. If he were elected, he said in a June interview, ‘I will give myself six months to one year to do the reforms I want to do. If the system becomes obstructionist and I become inutile, I will declare a revolutionary government.’

‘I have to stop criminality and corruption. I have to fix this government. I won’t do it if you want to place me there with the solemn pledge to stick to the rules,’ he said. Then he added something truly startling: ‘The wellspring of corruption is the Constitution itself,’ meaning the limits that the post-dictatorship charter placed on the powers of the executive branch lent themselves to graft and dysfunction.

‘All money matters and budget appropriation [are limited by the Constitution],’ he said.

“In contrast, drawing the wrong lesson from his quarter-century as feared and fearless mayor, he said that in Davao City he could easily revamp an agency ‘from the head down to the janitor.’” [Nery, op. cit.]

Yet, “Philippines equity markets do not seem to be concerned about a big drop in President Rodrigo Duterte's approval rating in a recent SWS survey—from ‘very good’ 66 to ‘good’ 48.” [Panos Mourdoukoutas, Duterte's Rating Is Rising, Forbes, 10th Oct 2017]

And how do we rate Trump? “69 percent of Filipinos are confident that Trump will do the right thing when it comes to matters involving international affairs.” [Pinoys love Trump – survey, Janvic Mateo, The Philippine Star, 29th Jun 2017]

On the other hand, how do Americans rate Trump? From Gallup: Trump’s recent approval rating (Nov. 6-12, 2017) is 38%. Duterte and Trump are seeing big drops in approval but are we Pinoys still partial to Americans especially the American president? What about the Chinese and Russian presidents?

“Slightly more than half of Filipinos also expressed confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Chinese leaders’ global trust median is at 28 percent. Xi got significant support from the Philippines, where he obtained a trust rating of 53 percent as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tries to improve the once-frosty relationship with the world’s second largest economy.

“More than half of Filipinos are confident that Putin will do the right thing on the global stage. The Russian president, in contrast, got a median trust of only 27 percent.” [Pew survey: Filipinos trust Trump, Xi, Putin in world affairs, Audrey Morallophilstar.com, 28th Jun 2017]

Is the bottom line simply that we Pinoys look up to leaders more than others do? Recall the blog has repeated called out our way of life. That we are parochial and insular; defer to hierarchy and expect paternalism in return; value and rely on political patronage and dynasties … and oligarchy.

Unsurprisingly, we read this coming from a supposed pillar of Philippine business and industry if not economy, “Countries with best infrastructure are dictatorships – Razon,” Roy Stephen C. Canivel, Inquirer Business, 13th Nov 2017.

What else is new?

“A three-day non-working holiday for Metro Manila and outlying affected areas was declared. Government offices and schools were closed … Clark airport in Pampanga was used as the arrival option for most of the arriving heads of state and traffic managers condoned an ASEAN lane to assure quick passage to Manila, while throttling traffic for the general public.

“A grand tsunami of disturbance was the inevitable consequence … The measures taken to impose discipline on the country’s traffic – probably inescapable and required because of our traffic gridlock – were severe. They resulted in momentary loss of business, work disruptions for ordinary workers and of essential government services that are already wanting.

“According to current estimates, traffic congestions cost the nation P3 billion per day. These include costs to worker efficiencies and the rise in the cost of goods and services. Disruptions such as work holidays drive those costs higher. Hence the country becomes less efficient.

“The expansion and modernization of the country’s transport infrastructure is a long-term cure. The bottlenecks in the transport grid, the lack of new capacity, the need for an efficiently run and extended mass transportation system for people to move efficiently is the need of the hour.” [The ASEAN Summit, logistical nightmares, and the Phl regional lag, Gerardo P. Sicat, CROSSROADS, The Philippine Star, 15th Nov 2017]

Do we realize how far behind we are given the context referenced above re nation-states and the challenge of globalization? Yet a tycoon’s response is dictatorship? We all know which side of the bread has butter. But when will we ever learn community and the common good?

Does Mr. Razon know about the Soviet empire? [As some would know, the writer has called Eastern Europe his second home and they still are in pain whenever they recall communist rule. They see it no different from fascism.] Or other empires for that matter? And closer to home, what about Marcos? Did Marcos do a Lee or a Mahathir or a Deng? What Pinoy model can Mr. Razon point to? But we love tyranny?

Is prayer all that is left for us to do? What about pursuing community and the common good as if everything depends on us? 

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Beyond TRAIN, the PSE, transport infrastructure, aid and sovereignty … etc.

They are – individually and collectively – a microcosm of why we are the regional laggard, even a fourth-world country?

“[W]e have been shooting ourselves in the foot almost every step of the way. We simply cannot get our act together … Unless we do so quickly, we will eternally remain a third world economy and run the risk of being marginalized and relegated to a fourth world country … God forbid!” [PH a fourth-world country (?), Francis Lim, Point of Law, inquirer.net, 19th Oct 2017]

For example, “THE Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) said the Senate should review its version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, the projected revenue for which will be inadequate for the government’s infrastructure program.

“Expected revenue is ‘less than the overall goal to raise around P134 billion’ and ‘will barely cover the estimated cost of the government’s public service programs and the requirements of the Build, Build, Build program,’ the FEF said in a statement.” [FEF says Senate tax reform bill inadequate for infra program, Arjay L. Balinbin, BusinessWorld, 28th Oct 2017]

But the administration assures us there is always the debt mechanism available to us. “[T]he DOF and the BTr are keen on issuing renminbi-denominated bonds and global bonds ‘sooner than later’ to prepare for the administration’s spending program in 2018.” [DOF eyes Samurai bond issuance in 2018, Mary Grace Padin, The Philippine Star, 30th Oct 2017]

And assuming we can generate the funds to support the administration’s spending program, are we in fact poised to execute Build, Build, Build? “One reason why I no longer want to attend public discussions of this administration’s transport infrastructure program is that I get terribly bored. I hear the same old stories of grand plans. I am aware of hindrances to the projects like right of way issues that I know are not being addressed.

“NAIA is hopelessly congested and inadequate. It is now handling over 40 million passengers a year when its rated capacity is 30 million … It is clear that if government really wants to deliver its grand infrastructure plans, they have to tie up all loose ends.” [Same old story, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 30th Oct 2017]

But let’s get back to the risk of being a fourth-world country. “The PSE only has 269 listed companies compared to Bursa Malaysia (901), Singapore Exchange (753), Stock Exchange of Thailand (667), Indonesian Stock Exchange (555), Hanoi Stock Exchange (379) and Ho Chi Minh Exchange (340).

“In terms of average daily value turnover, the PSE only trades $138.2 million compared to the Stock Exchange of Thailand ($1.2 billion), Singapore Exchange ($864.8 million), Bursa Malaysia ($530.9 million), Indonesian Stock Exchange ($394.6 million) and Ho Chi Minh Exchange ($147.05 million).” [Lim, op. cit.]

At the end of the day we can also turn to foreign aid – but which apparently carries its own risks. “It is inappropriate for the EU to pour resources into organizations that directly or indirectly support the NPA and deliberately undermine people’s trust in the government. Considering the EU’s strictness as far as the Philippines’ adherence to the protection of human rights is concerned, it is ironic that other aid from the EU might actually lead to increased violence and rights violations.

“Of course, the government – national as well as local – is guilty of failing to provide basic services, not least education, to marginalized populations in far-flung areas.” [On aid and sovereignty: Who is worse – China or the EU (?), Marit Stinus-Cabugon, 30th Oct 2017]

We indeed have our hands full. And the blog offers a quote from a recent post. “Then think why we have been left behind in: (a) infrastructure development; (b) in industrialization; and (c) in innovation and competitiveness. Instead of stepping up to the plate, we accepted OFW remittances and more recently the BPO industry as the path to progress, growth and development – aka “pwede na ‘yan.”

“Where we have been left behind – surprise, surprise – are the requisite development levers espoused by the new UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

“Yet instead of taking stock of what we did – and failed to do – we are injecting form of government, for example, in our hypothesis [yes, it’s what it is, not a fail-safe solution] reminiscent of what we did with land reform. That it was the be-all and end-all.”

It appears even our best efforts won’t suffice to get us over the hump. What are we missing? We’re caught in the continuing dilemma, which comes first the chicken or the egg.

And given our culture of impunity, we’re not quite equipped for self-government. And yet we must elect leaders from among us. In similar cases in other countries, despots have thus emerged. And it appears that is what some of us are counting on? Better be careful what we wish for.

And why the blog shares the writer’s experiences living and working in an ex-Soviet satellite state. And they give him firsthand knowledge that people can and do change – that even ex-socialists born and raised under communist rule can embrace democracy and the free-market system, including the challenge of innovation and global competition. But not Juan de la Cruz?

Beyond our brand of Christianity which the blog has raised, i.e., why our nature is not one of dynamism, is the influence of higher education – not only in PH but globally. As discussed in an earlier post, education reforms call for a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset; and beyond teacher-directed learning is learning through discovery – i.e., developing one’s own hypothesis and experiment.

They are meant to move us away from logical, linear and incremental thinking ... and hone our foresight. For example, in working with his Eastern European friends, the writer introduced model thinking – a carryover from his MNC background where industry was critical of Western higher education. And so, progressive companies developed their own education and training curriculums – because for an undertaking to yield sustainable outcomes, it must mirror a virtuous circle. And the solar system is the best example – aka an ecosystem.

It applies to both private and public sectors. If it isn’t obvious yet, the writer guides his Eastern European friends through a series of principles on how to develop their own hypotheses and experiments, e.g., from understanding human needs in product development and innovation to beating the hell out of competition. And they are subsets of the bigger [virtuous] circle that must also hone their foresight, i.e., to constantly imagine and visualize their vision to be the best in the business – that in turn informs their efforts.

It is beyond logical, linear and incremental thinking. Which historically Western higher education assumed as the be-all and end-all, and why countless researches aren’t worth the paper they’re written on (as a columnist recently discussed.)

And as far as the public sector is concerned, the Asian Tigers come to mind. They went beyond (consistent with the models in the program, “From poverty to prosperity: Understanding economic development,” offered at Oxford University and discussed in an earlier post) the conventional wisdom of monetary and fiscal policies – and rapidly grew their economies.

On the other hand, what do we have to show? See above re TRAIN, etc. In other words, when will we demonstrate: (a) the unequivocal commitment to infrastructure development; (b) the hard-nosed drive to industrialization; and (c) the dogged pursuit of innovation and competitiveness? [And we wonder why we have a trifling 269 listed companies in the PSE?] They are the subsets of the bigger [virtuous] circle of sustained economic growth and development that we must constantly imagine and visualize – that in turn must inform our efforts.

Unsurprisingly, well into the 21st century, Boo Chanco writes “Same old story” re infrastructure development. And we worry about the EU undermining people’s trust in the government. Recall the blog has repeatedly raised that Lee, Mahathir and Deng begged for Western money and technology. Ergo, had we become a first-world nation like the Asian Tigers, we won’t rely on foreign aid. Likewise, we worry about the direction of technology (e.g., AI) because we could face even greater economic challenges.

These concerns are a microcosm, that we are behind the curve, not ahead. It’s called foresight. For example, the 21st century isn’t about modernizing the jeepney. It is about an efficient public transportation system. Sadly, we are a generation behind, if not more. And we only have ourselves to blame.

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]