Friday, October 7, 2011

If Russia has its oil, we have our OFWs

Putin doesn’t say it but people believe that he thinks he is God’s gift to the Russians? So long as oil flows Russia’s coffers won’t be bare? And with our hardworking OFWs, we’re truly blessed? And are we God’s gift to mankind – given our faith? Yet as one columnist-priest says, God bless us if the inquisition is resurrected?

Those who have done it before believe that economic reform is what would push Russia forward! Does it also apply to the Philippines? But there is reform and there is reform?

The good news is President Aquino started on the right foot: “Ang daang matuwid.” Shares a friend (who lived under Soviet rule) upon seeing the fourth BMW pulls in by an open-air café: The Customs collector at the airport says it would take him one year to afford a BMW; while the one at the north border would take one month. But the one at the south border needs to take out his PC, Googles something and then opens an EXCEL file; he appears to be running some numbers and then declares: “It would take 3 years to buy BMW – you know how much their market cap is? I need to offer a generous premium.”

Beyond fighting corruption, we need structural change or reform, but that presupposes not ‘tweaks’ but a ‘re-design’ of our economic model – that has been dictated by deep-seated beliefs? To redesign we need to recognize that where we’re coming from . . . may not give us a new paradigm? And this may be our biggest hurdle – because we wrap our mindset in euphemisms: resiliency, ‘Filipino abilidad’, faith, etc.? We have to stare reality in the eye: we can’t build a world-class airport; we can’t provide adequate energy at competitive rates; we can’t bring tourists from the major cities to our strategic (i.e., biggest revenue generating) attractions; we can’t elevate gross investments and competitiveness and yet aren’t committed to ‘Arangkada’? Ergo: we must be focused on assembling and erecting the building blocks of the economy – from the elementary to the strategic – beyond reviewing GDP growth goals?

The writer’s Eastern European friends struggled to undo the belief that the only way to do business in a poor Eastern European country is to develop cheap, economy products and brands. And the writer could feel for them. Instinctively, they would scrimp, installing motion detectors so that the lights in their staircases will turn on only as needed. And their mindset when an expense is under consideration is: “It’s not necessary.”

They started as ‘doubting Thomases’ before they realized the imperative of mechanizing the packing lines in their first factory – which meant spending for equipment while getting rid of unnecessary headcount. Fast-forward: Today, with four state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and marketing in over 20 countries, their headcount is several times more. Ergo: the object is not to create employment per se but to attain competitive advantage – which simply means ‘sustainable profitable growth’! [In defining ‘inclusive growth,’ it pays to heed the fundamentals of TQM – i.e., growth must be sustainable, like total quality, and must be built into the design and the process? Simply put, it is substance beyond form? And indeed it’s an axiom – i.e., even a global icon like P&G is currently under pressure (given operating margins lag those of peer companies) to deliver sustainable profitable growth, Financial Times, 25th Sept.]

And as the writer’s friends pull their latest expansion plans together – to directly attack Western markets – they are exuding confidence, ‘keeping it simple.’ A manager with a PhD in economics would crack the team up: “This game plan would not merit a PhD but none of our business plans would,” and she was grinning from ear to ear.

The test of the pudding is in the eating? And as Einstein would explain, “The value of education is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think”!

Between our instincts of ‘inclusion’ and ‘compassion’, it’s not easy for us to keep things simple? Unfortunately, in subordinating ‘result-orientation,’ the people are the ones paying the price, via massive poverty? And more profoundly, we’re the economic pariahs in a region that is meant to lead the world in this century?

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