Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ideology, sustainability and education

As we are well aware the battle over ideology is creating a lot of uncertainty in the US – notwithstanding the friendly golf game between Obama and Boehner? The Bush-Cheney ideology, rightly or wrongly, has been perceived as being at the root of decisions that plunged the world into chaos? And Christian ideologues, to the horror of many, have taken the law into their own hands?

As committed Christians, it’s not surprising that we want to live up to our ideals. And so in crafting policy initiatives, say, pushing PPP projects, we prescribe cures like job creation; or safeguarding the interests of small farmers in agro-industrial efforts. They are not bad! The problem as we know is that when we’re too close to the trees, we miss the forest? Says the Director of our Wage and Productivity Commission, “. . . Our high minimum wage (at 90 v. the 70 index of ILO) disrupts the whole economy, it doesn’t value skilled workers . . . it leaves most of the country’s technical personnel or skilled workers vulnerable to seeking better opportunities abroad,” Business Mirror, 29th Sept.

The writer remembers many months of protracted negotiations with the Chinese on a joint-venture. In hindsight, they had understood the benefits of a market economy . . . perhaps from Deng Xiaoping? As the plans took shape the Chinese confessed they needed education and time to fully comprehend competitive advantage and sustainability. Fast-forward: the venture beat a similar facility in the West in productivity – and as importantly, it took less time to get there. And the issue of job creation went away – as the partnership pursued more investments and generated greater economic impact.

The model, unsurprisingly, is being replicated in the experience of the writer’s Eastern European friends – amongst a few others the writer had witnessed before, including in Africa – who (similarly) intimated early on that they needed education and time to better understand what competitive advantage was about. We have our own experience re the shortcomings of land reform: it became a giveaway to middlemen, who ended up as the new, if not worse masters, of the small farmers? Net, it is economic viability and sustainability that we must aim for – which is what competitiveness is about? [Perplexed, given ‘scarcity of resources’ and ‘supply and demand’ especially, the Provost of UMass shares with the writer what she learned in a recent trip to Asia: People don’t relate economic sustainability to competitiveness? And the writer suggests: Harmony and serenity reflected in a Japanese garden would explain it?]

Those who lived under Soviet rule are the first to realize how liberating freedom is. Yet, education and progress don’t come automatically. And in a cacique structure like ours, those who have access to the outside world, by definition, fortify their standing; and explains why the gap between rich and poor hasn’t narrowed? It should be funny that in the 21st century we still have radicals whose views conflict with those in the mainstream? Yet it is not surprising because they see the gap between the haves and the have-nots? How could they appreciate ‘competitive advantage’ when they view the system as suspect? And given that we’re economic laggards how can we truly embrace the free market, like Deng Xiaoping did; and when parochialism has handicapped us to be confident players in a globalized economy?

Our challenge beyond education is to progress with the rest of the world – and we won’t get there if we believe that our faith is meant for us to stand still, for example? And education does not start in school. It starts in shedding backward-looking beliefs? In the same manner that economic reforms became the seeds of political reforms in many parts of the world, economic success would inject an expansive education paradigm? Parochialism, on the other hand, has narrowed our perspective and unsurprisingly, education – meant to lift Juan de la Cruz – is paying a dear price?

Now we’re talking about charter change. The bad news: (a) in a cacique structure the radicals don’t trust the elites, suspected of being behind charter change; and (b) those who want to preserve the status quo would find an excuse to undermine the efforts? Are we up to the challenge? Should we get something done in the meantime, e.g., a world-class airport, electricity, roads to our biggest revenue-generating tourist attractions? And being serious about ‘Arangkada’? Let’s focus like a laser on a few things for a change?

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