Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Moving forward with competitiveness

It is encouraging that we appear to recognize that the regional, if not the global, market presents opportunities to drive our economy? And that we must become competitive to make it a reality? Which means generating the confidence and the capacity to be truly competitive? It is not easy for a battleship to change course, more so a country and a culture? Circulating in cyberspace are photos of ‘Manila when it was first in the region’. And one could almost see oneself in very pleasant surroundings, window shopping along Escolta all the way to Plaza Moraga?

Our best days need not be behind us? But we have to first get rid of the thought that somehow whatever ails us could be solved by external help? An attendee to the recent forum of PhilDev (on innovation and entrepreneurship) writes in his blog that perhaps given our colonial past, we seem married to the notion that some big brother would help us? But of course we have a few big ones who can help – and they are our major enterprises? They are in the best position to make this battleship change course – but not if we’re glued to the past. Unwittingly we may be reliving the ‘gilded age’ in America when oligopoly ruled – granted we are in that stage of our evolution and development? Yet we welcome and need their investments! But they must figure out what it will take for Philippine industry to be competitive – and thus able to expand our market beyond our shores?

Industry captains can push for eliminating foreign investment restrictions which have held back economic development? While we see some degree of progress we keep sub-optimizing our efforts owing to our “paki” culture which is a hair removed from inefficiency if not corruption? Our major enterprises can spearhead bringing ‘science and technology’ to the country? Given their credibility, they can call on our legislators to make the Philippines competitive via statutes that attract foreign investments and encourage technology and innovation, and talent, product and market development? To whom much is given much is expected – which is another way of expressing the 80-20 rule, especially in prioritization? Of course it will not be a cakewalk – to reorient a business from local to one with regional, if not global, reach would require a new mindset and greater investment, which is precisely what the Gokongweis are doing, for example?

Instead of railing against MNCs, we should in fact encourage our major enterprises to become MNCs themselves. And the reality is Fortune 500 companies are able to spread economic benefits because of their confidence and capacity to be globally competitive – i.e., they invest aggressively in technology and innovation, and talent and product and market development. The writer shared this reality with his Eastern European friends, and one of his greatest thrills is seeing them come along, raising their standard of living in 8 short years. They have become a model for how a local concern could compete beyond its borders, and so the EU has taken notice of them.

We, in the Philippines, remain mired in crafting livelihood projects because our economy is insufficient to feed 100 million Filipinos – and why the abuse inherent in corruption and crony capitalism is criminal? It would take lifting our average income ten-fold before we could be a developed nation! But we can raise our sights and muster the confidence and generate the capacity to be globally competitive – and steer our battleship to change course? And as The Manila Times July 7th editorial, while teeing up Taiwan as a model, points out: we need to focus on the economic objective [even] of populist initiatives like land reform for them to be sustainable; we can’t waste 50 years on major initiatives for naught? Kindness to a fault is compassion misplaced – i.e., we’ve wasted so much scarce resources in unsustainable efforts?

Watching the administration’s ‘Pilipinas Natin’ (TV broadcast) present its economic initiatives during its first year, one can’t help notice the focus on “inclusive” – which the moderator in fact queried: “Is it even realistic?” It probably is semantics, but indeed the realistic approach is to focus on driving competitiveness? Initiatives like “OTOP” or agriculture as an industry can only be sustained if they are anchored in competitiveness? Put simply, we cannot gloss over the requisites of competitiveness – i.e., investment in technology and innovation, and talent, product and market development – if we are to enlarge our economic pie, for the common good? Competitiveness – coupled with integrity – must prevail if we are to put meaning behind our favorite buzzword, “inclusive”?

No comments:

Post a Comment