Monday, April 2, 2012

Que sera, sera

Japan has so far recovered from the disasters, Mr. Takashima noted, adding that the country’s output, currency and exports have returned to pre-earthquake levels,” reports Business World, 16th March 2012. “At the sidelines of a forum on disaster management at the Asian Institute of Management, Hatsuhisa Takashima, Japanese Kizuna (resilience) ambassador, said the Philippines should follow the example of Japan whose roads and railways were immediately restored after the earthquake-tsunami disaster a year ago . . . This month, industrial output is expected to reach 98 points, exceeding pre-earthquake figures,” Mr. Takashima said, adding that share prices at the Tokyo Stock Exchange are also rising . . . “Recovery was sped up by the fast rehabilitation of infrastructure,” Mr. Takashima noted.”

Of course we agree with the Japanese ambassador. Unfortunately, the distance from the head down to the heart is the farthest ever known to man? Even Americans who have brought man to the moon couldn’t get their rhetoric down to the heart so much so that the lady US senator from Maine opted to quit. “In announcing her plans, Olympia Snowe, 65, emphasized that she is in good health and was prepared for the campaign ahead. But she said she was swayed by the increasing polarization in Washington . . . Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” Snowe said in a statement. [The Washington Post, 29th Feb 2012]

President Aquino has to be positive and confident that his administration would be successful especially in getting the Philippines “back in business” and in combating endemic corruption with his “daang matuwid.” But when we’re told about something that has been right under our nose for decades, it simply reveals that instinctively, our mantra hasn’t changed: it’s still “que sera, sera”? Consider the strategic industries identified by the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) in Arangkada – that we apparently supported, with many of us active participants during its formulation; how much progress have we made? Politely, the JFC has sounded positive yet when we hear the circular arguments – in power generation and mining, to name just two – we indulge in, the only conclusion is we can’t move beyond rhetoric?

We can't be undermining our development efforts with the well-being of Juan de la Cruz at stake. And given that the development challenge is confounded by the imperative of competition, we have to dig deep for the human spirit so that conviction can spring forth. The JFC’s Arangkada can use more conviction demonstrated by Juan de la Cruz!

The writer for many years had responsibility over labor relations (at the local, regional and global levels) and he would learn that conviction comes from transparency and credibility, not from “paying a living wage" per se, for example. A living wage and then some was what the Eastern Europeans were led to believe they enjoyed from their Communist rulers. They didn't know any better because they were isolated from the outside world and had only access to two propaganda TV channels. And so when reality hit home, they realized they had been impoverished all along. But we Filipinos would likewise be impoverished if we tolerate cheap, uncompetitive products [which the writer saw in abundance in Eastern Europe] that can’t travel beyond our shores. Because they equate to driving our efforts towards mediocrity as opposed to committing to excellence; while boxing ourselves in such that our mantra at best is “paying a living wage.” And yet as economists tell us, that violates the imperative of valuing skill – and thus would make us inefficient, unproductive and uncompetitive! Thus the writer is precisely arguing for treating employees fairly!

The other day a business unit manager (with the writer’s Eastern Europe client) proudly showed him her new SUV, not the pedestrian version but a luxury car. She reminded the writer that it was six months ago when he endorsed her request for a new car, but it took that long because customers had to wait in line – the car being a big hit in the community. What the writer talked about then was that competitiveness is simply being head and shoulders above competition – i.e., a sustainable, profitable business is competitive not just in its outputs, from product development and innovation, but also in the inputs to the business, including compensation and benefits. And the writer would explain: “we must be able to look employees in the eye because the mantra of transparency and credibility feeds our conviction.”

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