Saturday, February 11, 2012

‘Cause and effect’ II

The nearest the writer could translate it in the vernacular is "puno't dulo." And in a culture that is spontaneous – and concededly a fun place – it is taken for granted. While it is imperative to be focused, it is necessary to establish an end goal – “a vision," if you will – otherwise we could find ourselves simply spinning wheels. On the other hand, it does not have to be the source of complexity. For example, there are reports on the road map that will guide our fisheries and aquaculture industry – and ideally there must be an effort to reduce it into a simple, actionable plan: who will do what, why, when, where and how?

It appears that local enterprise Alsons has gone full circle in its aquaculture business – from development to international commercialization, i.e., China. In the private sector a similar experience would rate as best practice – and progressive, globally competitive enterprises spare no efforts to replicate best practice models in rapid fashion. And so the news about Myanmar tapping Singapore’s expertise in economic development should put ‘a fire in our belly’ – i.e., benchmarking must become instinctive to Juan de la Cruz, and “to shamelessly adopt success models!” The object is to be globally competitive.

One of the strategic industries we know we must pursue is tourism – and indeed we must. Yet there are critical parameters we must bear in mind so that we don't stray from "puno't dulo." The JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) has identified 7 industry winners that must be our priority. But of course given our instinct of inclusion we want 13! Try prioritizing 7 and we could still be tripping all over as we are witnessing in the mining industry. What more of 13? And so a columnist offers to start with three: tourism, infrastructure and agribusiness. Yet we must sharpen the parameters of strategic and priority industries. For example, sustainable efforts and competitiveness – not just ‘a flash in the pan’ – must always be paramount. We gave jobs to lots of people when we ventured into garments and likewise our OFW focus. What have we learned? Simply, just to talk about jobs could be short-sighted! It means going beyond prioritizing the agenda of the poor – and beyond setting very low expectations that generate insufficient yield, and being a victim of crab mentality.

Thus Obama’s oratory is not for us! The US is a fully developed economy but the imbalance makes unemployment a major issue. Our own imbalance is not caused by full development but in fact by underdevelopment. And thus our priority must be development. We keep talking about growth but growth beyond form . . . is substance. And what we’ve labeled growth for decades was more form than substance – with due respect to cheerleaders of past administrations. Substance on the other hand would have elevated us to first-world nation by now – after over half a century. It is not a subtlety – it explains why we're economic laggards! ‘Pinoy abilidad’ is not straightforward and is in fact complex, to the point of inaction. It explains the gross and utter neglect of progress and economic development. And worse, corruption and abuse thrive in an environment of complexity. And which also explains why we can't find resolution and agreement in most things critical to nation-building. We must thus seek clarity and simplicity – i.e., it’s not about perfection which has also become our defense mechanism for inaction. The evidence: NAIA, power generation, mining, etc.!

Greece has a well-developed tourism industry accounting for 15% of GDP, more than the 10% accounted for by our OFW remittances. What must we learn? Greece, explained the writer’s Greek friends themselves, has not developed a competitive economy – or generated products and services that are competitive which would find markets overseas. Unsurprisingly, they are a big headache for the EU. Tourism is a low-hanging fruit and thus in our case, the JFC talks of 7 industry winners. Simply, we must prioritize industries that we can translate into sustainable efforts and competitive advantage. With due respect to a priest (understandably expressing compassion) tourism is good but it is not nirvana.

On the other hand, the Alsons model is a good one because it demonstrates the confluence of investment, technology, innovation, and talent, product and market development. But they can’t sleep on their laurels either – i.e., continuous improvement. Still they present a classic example of cause and effect or in the vernacular "puno't dulo." We must move beyond 'Pinoy abilidad' – and recognize the critical pieces we must assemble and the dynamic they must generate.

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