Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is industrialization really in our psyche?

(This article highlights a study on what makes us happy and their implications on our economic development. It has a link to a paper relating culture to economic outcomes.)

It appears that we could not care less if we catch up with the living standards of industrialized countries. So the Asian Development Bank (ADB) report that appeared on May 7th, that it would take nearly two centuries for the Philippines to catch up is irrelevant to the Filipino? (While the top 5 % are thinking: “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?)

On June 8, 2008, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the study by Ma. Gladiola M. Santos (PhD, Dean of the College of Sciences of Adamson University) about what makes the Filipino happy. And “family, not money, makes Filipinos happy”.

“Material possessions came fifth (out of twelve themes) as a source of happiness . . . it shows the practical side of the Filipino. But more than anything, it proves that economics is not the topmost source of well-being . . . Responses related to . . . national prosperity and clean government came sparingly.”

What about the poor?

“Surprisingly, the spiritual life occupies only the seventh rank. Faith in God, joining spiritual activities and doing good to others were the variations on this theme. Filipinos are supposed to be known for their religious piety but they have also been criticized for their “split-level Christianity.”

And it appears we can more or less tolerate corruption in public service, i.e., “responses related to . . . clean government came sparingly.”

We’ve survived Marcos and Erap; and we will survive the current and the next one too?

The good news is the export sector is pursuing a more aggressive agenda in order for us to raise our competitiveness and win overseas markets, including setting up R&D capability in electronics, our biggest export. And it appears we’re likewise stepping up efforts in agribusiness. In the same manner that we have strong individuals driving private-domestic business, we surely do have strong individuals to drive our new export agenda.

And of course, the remittances from our OFWs shall tide us over until we become a more competitive exporter.

Albeit slowly it seems we are moving forward, i.e., as the export sector moves up the learning curve we would pick up greater competitive skills. And that they would be able to overcome whatever cultural biases we may have re global trade? (For instance, do we believe that big countries can exploit smaller ones? Yet, it does not require one to be big to succeed in global business; what it demands is competitiveness and economies of scale – which is what Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner, prescribed for our economy to achieve sustainable growth. The Asian tigers were not born tigers.)

See: - an example of “how economists have begun to apply their analytical frameworks and empirical tools to the issue of culture and economic outcomes”.

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