Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An open letter to President Aquino

It is a wet Sunday morning in the New York metro area, and countless are reading about President Obama. His popularity has dropped even lower than his unfavorable rating and the feeling is he is a president lost. And it’s a pity because he campaigned under the banner, ‘The audacity of hope.’

The writer is a product of globalization thus the reference and interest beyond our borders. The emphasis on ‘globalization’ is intentional because we Filipinos have yet to fully appreciate and embrace this 21st century reality or "given"? As a lifelong observer and participant from the private sector of the ‘world around us,’ he has realized the value of a few fundamental givens. And he traces them to his Filipino upbringing where our faith is a major influence: The Pareto principle (from the Great Commandments), optimizing returns on resources (from the parable of the talents), the power of the human spirit (from the lesson of Eden), not to confuse faith with responsibility (from ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’)

The writer has watched at close range how others not only Americans renewed themselves, while we Filipinos would always be hailed for People Power. And your parents, both, would always be remembered for it. It would take the life of your father for us to stand up for freedom. (Today we have to stand up for freedom – from poverty?) America’s history is bloody, yet modern America has demonstrated a propensity to repair itself – and thus the frustration with President Obama? Or should people own up – i.e., greed created the housing/credit bubble and brought the Great Recession? And until the housing spoils are mopped up, the countless industries touched by housing would remain anemic, and the economy likewise? And why Buffett wants the superrich like him to share, via higher taxes, the pains of the average American, and is asking US legislators to stop coddling them?

Your administration started with a great message of hope too. And we are grateful that you are tackling the scourge of corruption head on. Beyond destroying our moral fiber, corruption undermines efficiency, productivity and thus economic output. And as an underdeveloped economy, we badly need to drive our revenue or GDP. The JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) has developed a simple roadmap that would truly drive economic output – via the strategic industries they have identified would attract $75 billion in investments. And given their multiplier effect should yield incremental GDP of over $100 billion – which should move us closer to a Thailand, with a much better poverty scenario than we currently do. And this is where faith, if you will, can’t be confused with responsibility?

President Obama recently met with a handful of CEOs to discuss how to address the issue of unemployment. It could be a good model for us to adopt? For example, as the leader of the nation, you may likewise want to meet with the JFC to appreciate the vital few initiatives that must be pushed at the highest levels in order to turn the roadmap into an action plan synonymous to success? The writer, coming from the private sector, indeed has a bias for simplicity – a simple roadmap, a set of priority initiatives and the imperatives of execution. President Obama has a political liability in that he has to run for reelection; you have the luxury of retiring from the presidency in a few?

There are a couple of things that would turn the JFC roadmap into a winner for Juan de la Cruz: dramatically lifting investments and competitiveness. And in both cases, we need to prioritize which initiatives must occur ASAP. President Clinton took the bully pulpit while he pushed his (‘It’s the economy, stupid’) mantra with Treasury Secretary Rubin, and doggedly worked with Congress to balance the budget. There will always, always be barriers to execution, which is why a laser-like focus on driving investments and competitiveness is imperative. How could the administration keep the focus? Who in the cabinet could be the taskmaster working with you? A taskmaster is one who has no patience with the ‘ifs and buts’ – because failure is not an option?

Please pardon the unsolicited advice and the simplicity. The private sector is acknowledged as more efficient and effective because it is driven by simplicity – their key to execution. And thus Reagan and Clinton took note. More power to you! And thank you very much for teaching us to abhor corruption!

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