Monday, November 28, 2011

Community sense

Is there in fact an industry out to discredit President Aquino? Whether people are out to discredit the president may not be the real problem of Juan de la Cruz. Our real problem is our lack of community sense?

Our efforts in power generation, for instance, must recognize regional if not global competition because we are competing for foreign investments at the front end and trade at the back end – beyond parochial issues that seem to consume us perpetually! Is the problem simply too big and we don’t have the capacity to solve it? But we would scramble to provide electricity if there is a rule that says: until we become supply- and price-competitive with our neighbors, no electricity will be supplied to all gated communities! And we’d surely call a national campaign? In the meantime, vested interests are celebrating because they have controlled the industry? Are we, as the writer’s Jesuit friend lamented, missing something, like authenticity? Or we simply don’t care? It is a microcosm of our failings or the state of denial we’re in! In Europe once dirt-poor Eastern Europeans couldn’t help give a dig to their neighbors: “4 hours work guaranteed plus 4 hours ouzo break!” “We’re Italians, don’t expect logic from us!” These people are simply blind to reality? What about us?

After President Diosdado Macapagal, with an exception or two, we lost the credibility of leadership and nationhood? (And the US is probably mirroring us – from Clinton on to Obama, Whitehouse leadership credibility has gone kaput!) Put another way, after President Macapagal, we have elevated two if not three amongst the most corrupt leaders of modern times! And their cohorts are still around – protecting their good names? How much more backward-looking do we want to be? We’re still in the “dark ages”!

Of course we have more billionaires today, yet poverty remains stark? What we proudly call our consumption-driven (essentially OFW-driven) economy – as opposed to an investment-driven economy – in fact sets up and strengthens the oligarchic character of our economy! We like to think we’re different from the more progressive-thinking, yet secular West? But are in the same boat? And now we worry that our schools don’t meet international standards – which means our road to the future is on a downward trajectory?

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? We won’t be able to figure that out unless our starting point is a community sense? Vested interests behind the power industry (and the broader infrastructure industry) believe Juan de la Cruz in fact owes them a debt of gratitude? In the meantime, did the stakeholders behind tourism, one of our strategic industries, finally come together? We are our own worst enemy! Within industries we have pseudo-tsars flexing their muscles especially proud of past accomplishments – that we’re the economic basket case of the region?

What is reality? We are lagging behind our neighbors not just in the infrastructure basics, but more alarming is the stark absence of the building blocks of industrialization! Screams Business Mirror, 10th Nov: “Exports plunge 27.4% to 2-year low.” That is to be expected – i.e., our celebration of oligarchy is a celebration of backwardness manifested by our failure in power generation! And if our best business minds see crony capitalism simply as our way of doing business – “I’m in good company, I am no solitaire” – we are totally out of sync with the 21st century! It is the age of competitiveness, driven by technology- and innovation-focused investments! We can’t cling to “whom you know” – and must move on to “what you know!”

It would take a community sense if we are to move forward with dispatch – whether with NAIA 1 and NAIA 3, for instance; and if we are to indeed prioritize, implement and succeed in the pursuit of the strategic industries we have identified (e.g., ‘Arangkada’) and put us on the path to industrialization. It is heartening that DoTC secretary Roxas is talking about the imperative to prioritize!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

‘Creativity, leadership and problem solving skills’

The new World Bank report, Putting Higher Education to Work, says about the Philippines: “. . . [E]mployers and employees find . . . gaps [in the right skills] to be particularly severe in creativity, leadership and problem solving,” Manila Times, Random Jottings, 23rd Oct. The good news is we don’t have a monopoly of this problem. Progressive global enterprises have it in their crosshairs, and its constant fixing is part of the business. To develop an organization and its people and elevate their skills in creativity, leadership and problem-solving to world-class levels cost money. But it’s a must-do. For a business to be true to its role as a contributing member of society, it must be committed to the proposition that it is a sustainable, profitable enterprise! Yet it does not mean ‘rent-seeking’ oligarchy or inward-looking, underinvested uncompetitive enterprises out to make a fast-buck via “products” that insult Juan de la Cruz. It's the formula to sink a country like it did empires past, e.g., the Soviet’s. The good news is our furniture makers apparently have learned that to succeed in the global arena they have to move up the value-chain! Bravo!

It is encouraging to hear the views of the UST Rector: “. . . A sincere examination of conscience among our legislators” is called for, Manila Bulletin, 23rd Oct.Government funds allocated for [public universities] could have been better spent to improve basic education . . . Garbage in, garbage out . . . When I was a student in philosophy, one of my professors taught us the distinction between a product and a creation . . . A creation . . . is something that begins simple, even imperfect, and then evolves from simplicity to complexity, from imperfection to perfection . . . What we sorely need today is not the quest for perfection but for simplicity; not just the search for productivity but creativity . . . The government can lead the way towards this by being more creative in addressing problems in education.”

It appears the good rector is echoing the findings of the World Bank. “So why isn’t higher education fulfilling its potential? The main reason identified by the World Bank report is that higher education institutions have been managed as “disconnected” individual institutions. Governments have a fundamental role in making higher education work as a system where individual institutions are well connected among themselves and to firms, research institutions, and earlier levels of education.”

That is clearly easier said than done . . . unless we keep our nose on the grindstone – as one, not as disconnected parties! Even amongst the best in the private sector, they can’t simply raise their creativity, leadership and problem-solving skills – they work . . . and work . . . hard for it!

"I want them to meet this deadline, but at 31 hours from that deadline with 175,000 customers still out, I am skeptical," Malloy said of Connecticut Light and Power, noting that to meet the deadline the utility will have to restore power to affected customers at a rate of 5,500 residences per hour. [CNN, 5th Nov.] As a result, Malloy has directed CL&P to provide him by 10 a.m. Sunday with a town-by-town, hour-by-hour restoration schedule. They need to work through the night, they need to hold their crews, they need to have as many people as possible on the streets of Connecticut to meet that goal," Malloy said, adding that if by 10 a.m. Sunday the utility "knows it's not going to meet its goal, I want to know that . . . Malloy said earlier Saturday he is bringing in a consulting firm to do an immediate analysis of the power company's response, and legislative action is possible. Connecticut's attorney general has already called for regulators to investigate CL&P.”

Even the public sector can be hardnosed, committed to execution! Who will do what, why, when, where and how? Says President Aquino: “. . . Our administration, when we started, was bequeathed quite a whole set of problems, so much so that I won’t say that we’re the best experts—omniscient prognosticators of all of these problems—but it has given us a confidence in handling these problems to have an attitude that every problem presents an opportunity.” [Business Mirror, 5th Nov.] There is hope for Juan de la Cruz after all?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A new day, not a perfect storm just typical bureaucracy

It’s delightful reading President Aquino’s interview with Business Mirror and Philippines Graphic, 5th Nov. “Renewed business confidence in the Philippines, Mr. Aquino said, is reflected in the re-investment of firms that had previously written off the Philippines as an investment site . . . And he is convinced that the Philippines won’t just have to dream of becoming a manufacturing country—by all indications, it can happen . . . The emerging markets of which the Philippines is a part of presents high growth rates for people who are looking for investments. So it behoves all of us to have that environment where we correct the so-called issues against us. So we welcome all of these investors who are looking for that safe haven. The problems elsewhere in the world can translate into opportunities for us and you can see that in so many fields.”

The writer remembers many years ago managers at General Electric seeing themselves as “too US-centric” – as they benchmarked with corporate friends wanting to internalize what being global meant. And the writer thought sitting in New York even for a month would turn one into “too US-centric.” And, of course, there is such a thing as corporate politics to contend with; so corporate-types aren’t exactly naive of the real world. The key is to strive for simplicity – the foundation of competitive advantage because it informs execution – by keeping people singing from the same hymnal because in the free market, failure is not an option! (And why New Yorkers had to ‘occupy Wall Street’; they wouldn’t put up with the chutzpah of greedy bankers who resisted regulations after being bailed out for their colossal failure. And the gall to brag about their smarts when Bear Sterns and Lehman, for example, were offered for a song through the kindness of the Fed – i.e., even bozos could generate profits under those terms!)

Indeed it is important for President Aquino to be confident and self-assured. And reading from the flow of his spiel, it is clear he wants to turn the tide and make us an investment haven. And even beyond that, to be a manufacturing country. Yet even MalacaƱang can’t escape the phenomenon of “too MalacaƱang-centric” especially given the reality of cordon sanitaire. And, of course, Philippine politics is much more severe than corporate politics and thus the challenge to get the rest of the country singing from the same hymnal is exponentially larger.

Should there then be the corresponding sanctions if administration managers don’t get the simplicity of the president’s game plan? For instance, we want to raise GDP by >$100 billion via a few vital industries, like tourism and mining to name just two. How discombobulated are these two strategic industries becoming to be? The good news is, after all the highfalutin rationale that froze us into inaction, we are finally doing something with NAIA 1 and NAIA 3. But is our issue with foreign airlines about losing 2 billion pesos in tax revenues or is it about protecting local airlines? Haven’t we been in protectionist-mode for decades which has cut us by the knees, i.e., foreign investors wouldn’t touch us with a ten-foot pole? We don’t want to keep sowing chaos and confusion – the breeding ground of influence peddling, oligarchy and thus corruption? Instead we want to seek simplicity? If a major enterprise cannot compete in the global marketplace, it has its rightful place? Where is Pan American or TWA? In the private sector, failure is not an option – one either sinks or swims? Thus behest loans that are written off by our government financial institutions are worse than the bank bail outs in the West – i.e., they still had to pay them down? What about electricity so basic for an economic activity and heightened development? What about the escalating conflicts surrounding mining regulations?

Beyond simplicity is leadership – and even in a hierarchical structure, the key is ‘to sell’ the game plan, not simply to impose one’s will, which could just be ignored in a democracy! The object remains: to get buy-in and alignment!

Hopefully, the administration is ushering a new day. And that what we are witnessing is typical bureaucracy, not a perfect storm?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of comfort zones and paradigms

People including foreigners respect the caliber of the leadership in our private sector – despite all the unfavorable news about our economy and beyond – given our history and decades of experience. And it is not surprising since we were supposed to lead Asia into the new century; and the decision to make Manila the HQ of ADB was a confirmation of that belief by the international community.

Indeed the private sector has its core of progressive enterprises. Unfortunately, the rest of the economy hasn’t matched the progress achieved by our neighbors . . . . And so our economic managers proudly unveiled PPP in order to accelerate infrastructure development. And the JFC, working with both the public and the private sectors, developed ‘Arangkada’ to get us on the road to industrialization by focusing on a few vital industries like tourism. Sadly, before it even got off the ground it conflicted with another initiative, to raise the efficiency of our tax collections! (Confusing 300 tenets from the Greatest Commandments like the Pharisees?) And so foreign airlines are staying away; and given our high electricity costs, exporters are also thinking of leaving! And they are on top of our avocation of taunting (if not milking, as one columnist described it?) foreign investments – and we wonder why we only get a pittance? And unwittingly we’re coddling ‘rent-seeking’ oligarchy believing we’re patriots – and wonder why a third of us are hungry? A system that is underinvested cannot generate wealth for 100 million Filipinos – especially when investment is controlled by a handful! It is no different from the time of the tsars! And we’re walking around proud of tradition?

Home” – our comfort zone – is where we can let our hair down and prop our feet up? Hopefully the house isn’t burning? We’ve stuck with our comfort zone for decades; and with the 21st century now a reality, it appears we’ve recognized the world has dramatically changed! What to do? We reinvent the wheel? Unfortunately, our ‘default menu’ may be ‘factory set’ and we appear unable to override it! And so the solutions we come up with have a common thread: inward-looking and, sadly, feeble. Our compassion (or “awa”) wouldn’t take radical surgery even if it was the prognosis – yet we grew up with an abundance of parables? Compassion stops where ‘crab mentality’ begins? If Brazil and Mexico with per capita incomes several times ours still needed CCT, how do we expect ‘farm to market’ roads, for instance, to be the prognosis for our underdeveloped economy?

Which also explains why we struggle with interventions sometimes demanded by institution-building like restructuring – i.e., we personalize the downsides because of compassion. But a leg has to be cut to save a life! Unsurprisingly, our institutions are weak – and thus despite our smarts we can’t build a nation? And we’re entertaining initiatives akin to import substitutions that stunted our manufacturing like they did our economy? The only way we can compete and thrive in a globalized economy is to invest and leverage the investment via technology, innovation, education and talent development as well as product and market development. And that’s done by partnering with the outside world not locking them out. There is no free lunch!

Yet even contract manufacturing, for example, does not have to be one-way, from the West to the East! The writer’s Eastern European friends signed up a Western enterprise to manufacture for them! An enterprise from an ex-communist state just out of the dark ages is the principal, not the hired hands! They are about competitiveness, not ‘rent-seeking’ meant to thrive in crony capitalism and its safety net, political patronage. Simply put, they must sustain profitable growth if they are to carry on their contribution to their economy thus the common good. And it means investing in product development and in technology via product sourcing, in this particular case.

We can talk ‘paradigm shift’ but now must walk it? When the writer covered the region, the only place where he heard ‘paradigm shift’ was in the Philippines, but it was in the neighbors where he saw it! Unfortunately, the world will not change the rules to fit our comfort zone! Nor is it about reinventing the wheel; it is about leveraging what an interconnected world has to offer. It is not about being steeped in tradition; it is about challenging an unfortunate present and creating a better future. We can’t be too heavily laden and weary to formulate a contemporaneous worldview – we have to keep the faith!

Monday, November 14, 2011

To romanticize is not to problem-solve

To problem-solve demands execution which is hardnosed: Who will do, what, why, when, where and how? Indeed we must promote tourism, being a strategic industry. But we have to in short order learn to raise our expectations – we’re in a downward spiral, which if not yet obvious is glaring if we simply look outward? But it is heartening that we are addressing the need for a word-class airport and the infrastructure network to support tourism and, as importantly, our broader industrialization needs?

But the real question is: how hardnosed are we? Poverty will keep staring us in the eye until we learn to stare reality in the eye? To romanticize is not to problem-solve? Thus, we must be able to pose the question to ourselves: Does our economy need fixing? If it does, who will do what, why, when, where and how? That demands loads of leadership! Unfortunately, we instinctively lead with our heart and thus get quite romantic? There is nothing wrong with romanticism – passion is synonymous to great achievements! Yet, problem-solving is fundamentally hardnosed?

Of course we value a high minimum wage? Of course we value our OFWs? Of course we value patrimony? They are great examples of how we romanticize instead of problem-solve? We should have valued skilled work, industrialization, and investments and competitiveness? And it is one of the reasons why we’re not comfortable with foreign investments especially from the West – they’re too hardnosed, not romanticists? But that’s how higher education in the New World was founded by the Christians from the Old World, via the select-few Ivy League institutions – i.e., imbued with academic rigor? And so many of us put our children behind those ivied walls? And when they return home, we look up to them too? But that’s because they occupy some higher tier in our social hierarchy (not unlike in the US.) And given our hierarchical culture, we romanticize them too?

Yet, problem-solving is hardnosed? Two Nobel laureates were behind the implosion of the once sterling hedge fund, LTCM? To be hardnosed is to ask the tough questions no matter who the players are and how high they are in the hierarchy? The Catholic hierarchy in the US is paying a heavy price for taking it for granted!

Does our economy need fixing? If it does, who will do what, why, when, where and how? And we can’t be half-hearted, we must leapfrog! Who will leapfrog the what – i.e., our anemic investment levels, antiquated technology, outdated innovation, plummeting education and talent development, outmoded product and market development pursuits? Why? We can’t even put body and soul together for Juan de la Cruz! When? Like yesterday! Where? Prioritize, e.g., critical basic infrastructure and vital few industries! (To prioritize goes against our grain of inclusion and compassion?) How? Don’t shut the rest of the world out – and nurture oligarchy, which is why we’re still in the dark ages! Peter the Great at least invited the best Europe had to offer to modernize his country? And CSR can’t be our best shot; it is simply insulting and at best condescending! The indios are good in livelihood projects – only?

Our 10-million strong OFWs bring $20+/- billion to our economy. Now we expect them to bring 10 million tourists too? We have a problem with our tourism program like we have a problem with our economy? We are an underdeveloped economy driven by OFW remittances – thus a natural haven for oligarchy, i.e., free money is coming without the imperative of competing in the global arena! We call it ’Filipino abilidad’ when it’s unmistakably cacique in character, confining us to the dark ages! What athlete will skip global competition and expect to be and win in the Olympics? In the meantime, we defer to hierarchy and celebrate oligarchy, wickedly trapping us in a vicious cycle! Unsurprisingly, we have become an object of charity, i.e., international financial institutions see us as CCT-dependent!

It is the 21st century and even countries that were once pariahs are zooming past us? Our response ought to be strong enough for the rest of the world to view us as an investment destination, beyond tourism! That we can build a world-class airport and critical basic infrastructure – and as importantly, that we can pursue the vital few industries (i.e., overcome ‘crab mentality’) that will put us on the road to industrialization! We don’t live in trees anymore!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An institution not a fiefdom

The worldview of Juan de la Cruz values hierarchy, ‘inclusion and compassion’ and above all is family first? The writer’s Eastern European friends came from the dark ages – the repressive Soviet rule! But they’re self-deprecating: “The new subway system is up in two years; it will leapfrog us 20 years, which means we’d still be 80 years behind!”

I am asking the older daughter to help me sell to the younger one the benefits of being disciplined especially with schoolwork.” The writer’s friend is sharing that he just took away the laptop and the iPhone from his 14-year old – to give her a lesson for doing less than she did the previous term. Instead he got her an ergonomic chair – to sell her the idea that her priority lies elsewhere, i.e., in her schoolwork. And so he was delighted when the girl said that without her laptop and iPhone, once she gets home, she is able to straightaway do her homework.

I don’t want them to simply follow my footsteps. I want them to pursue what would make them happy so that they’d have the passion for it. And so she’s taking Spanish, now that she knows English. And my brother and I agreed that we should not position our children to run an operating company within the group. They could be involved with the holding company, and as a family we could structure our investments as much as we like. But we must leave the operating companies to the professionals, who must be motivated and not worry about competition from family.”

The day has come! The brother’s older daughter completed her Harvard MBA and is now in the process of understanding the holding company. And the freshly minted HBS grad (with investment banking under her belt) sits down with the writer. “Whatever little I know about industry, as you know, I picked up in the West. I am a stranger in my own country and in our own company. But I agree we are building an institution not a fiefdom.” Time flies. The writer still remembers when she had first approached, to review the curriculum vitae she was putting together: “I hope to get an internship in a good outfit either in New York or London.” She was attending the university at Bath in the UK. The scenario could be straight out of Connecticut (where George W. Bush grew up, and attended Yale and Harvard.) How did they learn about modernity so fast, so soon?

The writer wondered how he would ‘sell’ – as opposed to impose – a lesson to a 14-year old! Would he have the heart to take away her laptop and iPhone? Why would they not simply give the plum job to a family member who’s a Harvard graduate – i.e., we personalize before we professionalize? And unwittingly we undermine transparency, if not engender corruption? What does that mean for our brand of democracy? We don’t get the best answers because we’re ruled by hierarchy? The writer’s Eastern European friends recognize that until their culture is able to breed a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs or a Larry Page and Sergey Brin, they’d still be closer to their socialist and dark communist roots than the 21st century!

Until we learn to respect a 14-year old? Until we respect reward and discipline? Until our institutions learn that they have the obligation ‘to sell’, not simply impose their will, we would be closer to the dark ages? And so radical groups are emboldened to be critical of our establishment? Unfortunately, they unwittingly romanticize socialism yet Deng Xiaoping isn’t their model – whose radicalism was to embrace market economy? He practically begged the West to bring money and technology to China? He knew the harsh realities a closed, socialist economy brought to them? Yet our nationalists hyperventilate whenever they hear the word foreign? There is nothing more important to them than to put that pot of soil under lock and key? The church ought ‘to sell the parable better?’

Should we then remember Deng Xiaoping when dealing with the US, for example? Also, technology has leapfrogged less advanced countries to ably compete against Uncle Sam, e.g., Singapore is ranked higher in competitiveness? And globalization has exposed their vulnerabilities, their cost structure and their greed? That should enrich our formulation instead of blaming everyone and his uncle why we’re an economic basket case? We must grow up!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Of white elephants

Roxas uncovers 46 white elephants,” Manila Bulletin, 19th Oct. Our airport issues keep piling: from the downgraded airport to the worst airport to 46 white elephants across the country! Not surprising given our ‘inclusive-compassionate’ mantra – which, unfortunately, has equated to ‘crab mentality’? Instead of prioritizing and pursuing sustainable initiatives, we spread scarce resources thinly and miss their benefits altogether – a formula for sub-optimization and inefficiency, and over the decades poverty? With due respect to an economist: Brazil and Mexico’s GDP per person – at PPP of $10,800 and $13,900, respectively, versus our $3,500 – is why their poverty picture is better, not CCT per se!

While representations from the public and the private sectors worked with the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) to develop an industrialization road map – i.e., ‘Arangkada’ – some of us are still railing against mining, against capitalism, against globalization, against what-have-you? That’s fine so long as we don’t seek perfection (not even the prelates are perfect?) and be reduced to inaction and rendered helpless? We grew up with the Great Commandments and the Parable of the Talents and know about focusing on what matters and optimizing yields from our God-given resources?

Efficiency is what we want in tax collection. But efficiency doesn’t mean undermining a strategic industry like tourism, where we expect elevated revenues, assuming we do our homework and execute accordingly – i.e., put the right pieces and infrastructure in place? Fundamental in competitiveness is benchmarking – i.e., do our neighbors have the tax problem that we have with foreign airlines? Taxation is the job of Congress – and so we have the LEDAC, to align the initiatives of the executive and the legislative branches?

As an underdeveloped economy our primary goal is to raise our total output, and that means our GDP. Unfortunately, we don’t have the track record. Which puts us too close to the trees (tax receipts) and thus miss the forest (GDP)? Indeed we must push efficiency in driving our total output, e.g., like low-tax rate Singapore? And ‘Arangkada’ spells out the vital few industries that will deliver the biggest bang for the buck: investments of $75 billion, incremental GDP of >$100 billion and lots of jobs over a decade. Raising our GDP by such magnitude will raise our tax receipts!

Of course it will not happen tomorrow, but a third of Filipinos have been wallowing in poverty for decades! We simply have to step up to the plate! “What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down,” Steve Jobs says to Larry Page, Bloomberg, 22nd Oct. “Sharpen the company’s focus . . .” Until we’re truly globally competitive engaged in daily blocking and tackling that will be Greek to us – and mired in counterproductive efforts? And until we step up to the plate and learn the ropes, poverty will stare us in the eye!

In the meantime we’re enjoying the sideshows mirroring Hollywood’s celebrity culture? E-mails a friend from Manila: “Do you want easy money? Our government financial institutions can lend money in a flash, not for development purposes – to unload their own equity holding at a spread, and proudly so; and conveniently dodge ‘luto sa sariling mantika’ – and you can turnaround (for an even wider spread like the middlemen who benefited from land reform as opposed to the farmers?) and ensure a friendly party gains controlling interest of a publicly-traded company – and where all the parties involved sit in its board?

But given our “informal” (big boys) culture Juan de la Cruz sees it as ludicrous (adding insult to injury!) that sitting in the same board should be taken (hook, line and sinker) as an arms-length scenario? Of course, legal niceties could render a different verdict – and prove once again that Juan de la Cruz is simply too smart for his own good? And explains why the world ranks us poorly in ease of doing business or attracting foreign investments? Who cares – it’s what patrimony is about, like protecting our tax code or favorite oligarchs?

We ought to invite George Clooney to turn us into a hit Hollywood movie? Pixar would be an alternative? Or Saturday Night Live? It’d be an insult if it were a zarzuela!”

Friday, November 4, 2011

“Not in my generation . . .”

That’s probably what Rizal thought too, and so he was hopeful the youth was going to be the future of the Philippines? The wife and 3 Filipino friends, after traveling together, had the sense that the country wouldn’t get fixed in this generation? And it is not for lack of trying? As a Jesuit friend (May he rest in peace!) would lament: ”Juan de la Cruz has to internalize authenticity – to be ‘plastic’ is not authentic?”Don’t judge a book by its cover!’ But we like to present the beauty that is the Filipino, as Imelda would stress. And unsurprisingly, our priority in tourism is a new slogan? (While Mahathir decades ago had as his focus and priority building the Malaysian road network. It was reminiscent of Eisenhower, educated by the autobahn as a soldier! And so the writer would remind his Eastern European friends: “We can’t be running around like a headless chicken competing with these global behemoths!”) And thus we’re proud of our hospitality, our deference to hierarchy and beyond? And we would put our guests in our own bedrooms, offer them to partake of our humble meals – and we do it from the kindness of our hearts?

The problem is when the guest has a standing in society – like a politician or a government official – we effectively set up a conflict of interest? And we can’t get a grip on corruption because its genesis is positive? And when a guest does not respond according to our expectations, we conclude they are insensitive – no ‘debt of gratitude?’ And our expectations rise even higher when it comes to outsiders or foreigners? We expected the Americans to demonstrate greater sensitivity – and when they didn’t, they’d be ‘ugly Americans?’ But they are imperfect; as are the Japanese or Chinese or even Europeans and whoever, and thus would always be ugly? And it would explain why we’re less welcoming of foreign investments than our neighbors?

At 100 million Pinoys, we are a big market and should have a robust economy? But not when our GDP per person is a mere fraction of our neighbors’ and even once deprived satellites of the Soviet empire? We have now accepted the need for stronger institutions – to create a stronger base to build a strong economy and nation? Thus it is encouraging that President Aquino is personally carrying the fight against corruption? (Still, the government has to deliver – e.g., how could we drive a complex initiative like the PPP when we can’t resolve a tax issue with foreign airlines, for example, and when tourism is supposed to be a strategic industry?) And we have other institutions too, like the church and the school? Institutions are made up of humans, and in our case it’s Juan de la Cruz! Wherever it came from we have set very low, if not narrow, expectations for ourselves? (In the vernacular, ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan?’)

Writes the Rector of UST, Education Blues, Manila Bulletin, 16th Oct: “. . . I felt the need to overhaul my vocabulary. The latest educational jargon . . . is now mostly derived from economics, business, and information technology. And these point towards the new directions for higher education . . . it is subject to market forces and, just like any other commodity, comes with a price . . . Given the fast pace of obsolescence of technological tools, schools are forced to spend millions to acquire the latest and the best software and hardware, to keep abreast with the competition . . . Schools are gauged in terms of their functional, not fundamental relevance, to society . . . without regard for a solid humanistic foundation . . .”

Progressive (as opposed to greedy) global enterprises are educated on the confluence of economics, theology and ethics, e.g., “Why Lonergan’s Economics,” Stephen Martin, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies Department, Seton Hall University, 2006 Nov. These companies comprehend the role of education, and as importantly, recognize the responsibility of business. They are committed and heavily invested in education and talent development, knowing full well that in a globalized, highly competitive economy, investment must come in concert with technology, innovation, education and talent development as well as product and market development.

Is the challenge for our institutions then to develop in Juan de la Cruz a “solid humanistic foundation?” But that cannot happen by ‘being an island unto ourselves,’ especially when it perpetuates a cacique system and structure? And having a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs isn’t the answer either – if we’re starved of teachers, priests, nuns, artists, policemen and women, doctors, scientists, among others? And we can’t keep putting the onus on the youth?