Saturday, March 10, 2012

Erring on the side of ‘rational’

Global competitiveness is simply what it says; and that means we in the Philippines must set our sights higher because the rest of the world is not asleep. And thus, while we must indulge our ‘intuitive perceptions’ – that our efforts are finally moving us forward – we have to in short order develop the bias for erring on the side of ‘rational perceptions.’ For a nation digging out of a hole it demands greater, and more purposeful efforts; our individual success stories notwithstanding – i .e., to Juan de la Cruz they're intangible!

Here is a sampling of the news the world reads: PHL ranks high in green index (Philippine Star, 20th Feb); There is a need to increase technological development in the Philippines and exploit it for the country’s progress (Manila Standard Today, 20th Feb); The yield and export of the world’s famous Manila mango has been dwindling over the years in tandem with other Philippines agricultural products (Manila Bulletin, 20th Feb); An appeal was aired Sunday . . . for President Benigno S. Aquino III to look into the power shortage that has resulted in regular and massive brownouts in the South (Manila Bulletin, 19th Feb); Three of the top business organizations in the country . . . have opted to keep quiet on, and appear indifferent to, this [Corona impeachment] gripping national issue (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17th Feb); The WSJ report accused Kasuo Okada of paying $110,000 to Philippine government regulators. Okada is formerly a close ally of Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts Ltd, and is deemed as "unsuitable" based on an internal investigation, and Wynn is forcibly redeeming his shares in the company (Fox Business, 19th Feb.)

The progress in our ‘green’ efforts is indeed welcome news – yet it’s not for us to rest on our laurels! For example, our industry hasn’t invested in technology at globally competitive levels – and rightly so because it is easier to win in our protected market and thus we’re not truly keen to be global players? Unfortunately the consequence is our underdeveloped economy! And thus it is not surprising that we aren’t investing for the long-term in agriculture, not even on our world famous Manila mango? And why would we invest in power or energy for the short- and the long-term? And our top business organizations have opted to be quiet and appear indifferent to a gripping national issue? And courtesy of our regulators, we've been dragged into a high-profile corruption case. And should we then wonder, given that only a fraction has been expended on our military modernization program, and given how the PMA alumni association has ostracized one of their own involved in military budget disbursements, how much more corruption would there be with the announced step-up in military modernization?

It’s a pity. Those who are altruistic won’t stand a chance to overcome the cancer in our society? But we have to keep at it because as Ninoy Aquino professed, the Philippines is worth dying for? Asks Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, reports the Vatican Insider Online, 16th February: “Where did we fail? What is happening to our catechesis? What is happening to Catholic education? Are we able to form consciences? How come that many of them are products of Catholic schools but when they get into the political system, and government service, service disappears and becomes self-serving? What has happened to the formation of conscience?”

Have we become the virtual ‘Juan Tamad,’ if not worse, that our forebears had feared? Can we call on the human spirit to show us the common good and how to pursue it? The Joint Foreign Chamber went through a rational exercise and developed Arangkada for us – to address the underlying weakness of our economy, i.e., the crying need to attract a meaningful chunk of foreign direct investments. On the other hand, we have yet to demonstrate that we can get our act together re power generation and basic infrastructure, and throw our unequivocal support behind the JFC’s identified strategic industries. But on the sidelines we are proud that investors are interested. To be proud is not enough; we have to act, not just feel good that they are interested. We must look at the future and be dogged in creating it and not be distracted by the past – which we have to get over, whether it’s culture or history or whatever.

And it boils down to discipline once again – especially when vested interests can overpower the common good? Unfortunately, as the wife noted, discipline escapes us because we shelter and pamper our kids? And probably why the writer’s maternal grandfather – May he rest in peace! – had frequently spoken about the backbone of Juan de la Cruz?

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