Saturday, May 9, 2009

“Just do the doable(s)”

“Let’s be pragmatic”, must be another way to express the thoughts of the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) in their recent meeting with Secretary Favila of Trade and Industry: “The JFC members would like to see the immediate implementation of the economic enhancement measures [that they had discussed] so that when the economic upswing happens the Philippines would be ahead of everybody else . . . That the issues they raised are what would make the Philippines ahead of its competitors.” (c/o The Manila Bulletin)

Admittedly there are barriers imposed by our constitution . . . that given our nationalistic fervor we erected. But as the JFC folks are saying, “let us not wait for these barriers to be [officially] brought down, there are doables that we can do and let’s just do them”.

In fairness to the Secretary there are numerous challenges and barriers (see that we need to confront as a people if we are to markedly move forward, in our economic development.

In an earlier article the writer talked about the 7 pillars of Western wisdom that China and the Asian tigers have copied shamelessly, one of them being pragmatism. They have focused on driving their economies such that the “old [ideological] debates have been left behind”.

Aside from eliminating red tape (a major point raised by the JFC) that makes doing business with us costly, what are these doables that we can pursue now, for example – and they reflect our partnership efforts with Japan and Taiwan?
  1. Focus on driving economy
  2. Driving exports (3 times) to $150 B
  3. Focus on vital few industries that will deliver the bulk of export goal
  4. Defining the product architecture of each industry and identify products and services that offer competitive advantage, e.g., higher-value added
  5. Creating a task force by industry to work with the Department of Trade and Industry and folding in entities that will support industry goals, e.g., input to raw materials, infrastructure (power, logistics, etc.), human resources, among others
  6. Aligning government infrastructure initiatives/budget against the above industries
  7. Developing overall and specific investment proposals for foreign investors
We should be setting the agenda in our meetings with these foreign-investor groups instead of them effectively leading us? It is noteworthy that our economists are making our and the region’s concerns known to the West.

But each of the above doables requires leadership at every level, beyond the Executive Branch – who can establish the focus on driving the economy – all the way to the industry-wide or enterprise-level development of specific investment proposals. Recent efforts to harmonize our export initiatives and presenting a common face to foreign investors are steps in the right direction, i.e., we are building credibility.

Beyond leadership we need to develop a greater sense of nation-building? As one Filipino priest admonished, “beyond the Filipino focus on family, we have the community to sanctify”.

The above doables indeed look daunting when viewed from the prism of our individual perspectives.

Yet we are among the few relatively low-cost locations with potentials to develop (from basic infrastructure to industrial base to consumer demands) which is why the JFC is urging us to get moving and attract greater investments. There is something in it for them too!

These doables (i.e., being focused and aggressively pursuing the vital few as opposed to the trivial many) are no secrets; our tycoons are what they are because instinctively they do these doables all the time. They never view these doables as daunting. They view them as imperatives to achieve their goals.

We cannot all be tycoons or view challenges like they do but we can come together as a people to pursue nation-building or can we?

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