Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Benchmark . . . for national pride?

(This article tees up the dichotomy of national pride)

Where must we compartmentalize and where must we harmonize?

We ought to compartmentalize when we are assessing gaps against a set of norms, i.e., what precisely and where precisely are the gaps between our performance and the norms used by IMD (Institute for Management Development, a Swiss business school) in the Competitiveness Yearbook? In other words, to be able to objectively assess these gaps we need to be dispassionate and not allow our “sama ng loob” to get in the way?

It is what benchmarking is all about; it is reducing the deviation against the norm such that the tolerance is practically nil – or why German and Japanese cars have a superior quality index than American cars; and why the US auto industry is all but demised. Do we believe we are doing better than, say, Singapore because they are in a recession (owing to the global financial crisis)? That will be akin to embracing the GM mindset, i.e., they have been in denial – a “dead-man walking” – given declining market share for decades; while “Singapore is a nation of homeowners” and their GDP per person is better than the US? Benchmarking imposes the straight and narrow and has no tolerance for fallacy, e.g., it will tell us that countries with meager GDPs per person and alarming poverty rates like we do have economies like we do, i.e., focused and reliant on domestic economy?

We are not new to benchmarking (in private industry) and we can adopt the same perspective when we benchmark our competitive performance against other Asia Pacific countries.

On the other hand, it is imperative we harmonize when we are figuring out how we would address these gaps as well as when we execute whatever plans we devise. In other words, we ought to harmonize our best ideas and the efforts of industry and public sector leaders. Clearly, inertia will work against us as we purposely broaden our economic base to compete for and win overseas markets, hence the need to pull together. (Tripling our exports will mean a huge positive for us but still a drop in the bucket in the global economy and thus should find markets if we strive for competitiveness. See other articles in

But first we must look at the competitiveness rankings like a mirror, nothing more and nothing less.

Money . . . or industrialization . . . may not be important to us. What about national pride and interest?

Our latest competitiveness ranking is bad news says a news report by Business World. We stand at number 43 in a group of 57 countries (and “the worst among 13 Asia Pacific States”) measured by: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure.

Does national pride represent a dichotomy though as The Economist magazine sees it? See: The romance has gone; April 30, 2009: ”. . . Filipino national pride often obscures the national interest . . .” And to “Filipinize” the economy, policymakers have risked even economic setbacks. Anti-Chinese economic measures starting in the 1930s (which included retail trade nationalization in 1955) apparently put many Filipinos out of work”. That’s how a respected Filipino writer (Juan T. Gatbonton) explains the Filipino mindset; and adds: “Protectionist sentiment may be only one expression of our inward-looking nationalism. In our country—as in Latin America—nationalism has been shaped by the overpowering presence of the United States. Resentment of the Americans—coupled with a recognition of our utter dependence on them—had produced self-doubt and turned nationalism inward, toward cultural authenticity and economic preferences for nationals.”

How do we deal with our economic challenges while lifting national pride and not undermining national interest?

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