Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beyond investments and competitiveness . . .

. . . And . . . corruption . . . we must challenge ourselves about our . . . problem-solving and execution, like the way ex-NEDA secretary Dr Sixto Rojas did? To paraphrase him: ‘it is not the absence or lack of consistency of economic plans that has made us economic laggards . . . we need new thinking?’ We were the gold standard in economic planning such that our neighbors would simply ‘copy and paste’ our plans?

It is a well-informed and sophisticated Filipino that foreigners see in Juan de la Cruz – and why many have made it abroad. But it won’t be surprising if Filipino expatriates say that our worldview does not necessarily match those of developed economies? For instance, Gibo Teodoro was viewed by the business and foreign communities as an ideal leader. In an interview he expressed that perhaps it was his instincts that they sensed from his message and his responses. And which he thought came from his overseas experience – where success was a pretty intense process. And in the inelegant lingo of corporate America, for example, it means ‘daily blocking and tackling.’ (How it reminds the writer of Charlie Badion!) And it is for the same reason that we believe Mar Roxas is an ideal right-hand man for President Aquino?

One columnist calls it our ‘pusong mamon?’ Our instinct is to lead with our heart – and thus ‘inclusion and compassion’ is what Juan de la Cruz is about? A Filipino scholar whose concentration was in ‘culture management’ would stress though that . . . ‘if we’re meant to lead with our heart, it would be situated where our head it, perched above our shoulders?’

Socialism is meant to be inclusive and compassionate. Yet after 8 years in the writer’s second home, he has not heard that it is what the young people want. In fairness, the older folks would prefer the ‘good old days’ when they had their share of the community’s jobs or farms or basic necessities – from bread to vegetables, etc. But as the world now knows, Deng Xiaoping went against the grain and embraced market economy?

The writer is still awed by the length and breadth of Ukraine’s wheat farms, yet the system failed. The lack of bread caused riots across the region – i.e., low-pricing may be enticing yet proved violent. Today, people wonder why the communist leadership put up an aluminum plant and a truck factory (read as inefficient!) in their town, among many other examples, when the source of raw materials and target markets were ill-defined – i.e., job creation per se was unsustainable. And Putin doesn’t seem to have learned, still banking on oil, while behaving like a modern-day czar? But has Juan de la Cruz learned his lesson? We don’t want to lionize oligarchy – i.e., livelihood efforts would characterize a cacique structure more than an egalitarian society, which is driven by sound economic fundamentals?

A market economy demands loads of problem-solving and execution, and investments and competitiveness? It is a fundamental given yet not instinctive to Juan de la Cruz? We valued a high minimum wage – except that as the ILO says, we missed to value skilled labor? (And the converse is: we value slack, precisely why our elders warned us to guard against Juan Tamad?) We valued the OFW phenomenon giving jobs to millions – except that as we now know, we missed to value industrialization? We valued patrimony – except that as we now know, we missed to value investments and competitiveness, i.e., the Asian tigers and China and India have been getting a disproportionate share of technology, innovation, education and talent development as well as product and market development?

The human ego can go haywire (Maslow) and seek higher needs instead of building up from a strong foundation? (The Soviets sought the lofty aims of an arms race while failing to build the fundamentals of its economy?) And in our case that means: a world-class airport, electricity, infrastructure or simply roads to our biggest revenue-generating tourist attractions to begin with (i.e., prioritize!), and the strategic industries spelled out in ‘Arangkada’? Arangkada is a straightforward road map to push industrialization via a vital few industries that will deliver the biggest bang (i.e., prioritize!) for the buck, i.e., $75 billion in investments and lots of jobs over a decade, and incremental GDP of >$100 billion. What do we need to get there? To remember . . . that our heart is not perched above our shoulders?

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