Monday, May 7, 2012

“Kuro-kuro,” parochialism and the “common good”

How much is the common good in fact in our consciousness? Could it be that "thinking with the end in viewis not prominent in our thought process? Are we more predisposed to linear thinking? People from developed economies, given their experience, have developed a more adaptable thought process. And the writer has observed the contrast over the last nine years – working and living with his friends – in Eastern Europe. (But they've realized this contrast and are embracing more and more an adaptable thought process especially as they’ve pushed their business to over 30 countries and counting.) The first time the writer heard the distinction was many years ago from a then young Brit who today is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

And two recent news articles may remind us that our default-thought process indeed is closer to linear thinking: (a) “Stakeholders in renewable energy raise other concerns” [Business World, 19th Apr 2012] and (b) “Lawmakers push bill to regulate large scale foreign investments on land “[, 20th Apr 2012]. The intentions of the people behind these news reports must be sincere and credible. But if we are to “think with the end in view,” we would be stating our perspectives and positions differently. For example, as far as energy is concerned, the common good is adequate and sustainable supply at competitive costs. And with foreign investments the common good is to create a bigger economic pie and generate a larger and sustainable ecosystem. The failure of land reform is something to think about. While it addressed the ownership element it missed to recognize that its “endpoint” ought to be a sustainable economic undertaking – i.e., efficiency across the board: credit, production, logistics, marketing, financial management, etc. Similarly, we shall perpetuate our juvenile economy if the juvenile instinct to ‘have our cake and eat it too’ is our definition of patriotism in an interconnected world?

Reading the above news reports, it is understandable that everyone may have legitimate concerns. But what is “the endpoint” and where is the bias for the common good? And what is the order of priority? Even the Creator needed seven days, which means that to prioritize is inherent in creation, including secular undertakings?

If we are committed to the common good, then our discussions could turn to: How do we get there? What must we invest in time, talent and treasure to get us there? And how do we prioritize so that we optimize the efforts, be efficient and effective and get the biggest bang for the buck? Investments are a prerequisite of an undertaking – something we’ve finally realized and thus want to attract foreign investments? Or are we still conflicted about it? It is this lack of conviction that drives foreigners away – unwittingly reinforcing our cacique system!

The reason the private sector is more efficient in generating and sustaining economic output is precisely because it follows the thought process described above. For example they could simply state that the common good for a business is “sustainable profitable growth.” But does Juan de la Cruz have a problem with that or with the profit motive? It is not the profit motive per se that is bad; it is an economy that is skewed to oligarchy that is bad. When we say “inclusive,” we ought to mean a broad-based economy, not one under oligarchic control? A broad-based economy generates a larger economic pie and produces a larger ecosystem that can create jobs – as we have seen with our neighbors. Conversely, it is not about creating livelihood projects, which at best is condescending and is characteristic of a cacique environment! And the fact that it is ‘our normal’ reflects our economic infirmities!

International agencies have urged us to be pragmatic and model ourselves after our neighbors. It is not an insult to our “abilidad and creativity.” While we are thankful for OFWs and BPOs given their contributions to the economy, what we sorely need is a broad-base economy, one driven by the requisite elements of a robust enterprise: the fundamentals of power generation and infrastructure, strategic industries and competitiveness – i.e., investment, technology and innovation and talent, product and market development. And that means we need to: (a) channel our “kuro-kuro” to nation-building, (b) develop the instinct for the common good and (c) the bias to prioritize, and (d) recognize that our understanding of “inclusion” has been narrowed by the reality of our cacique system and structure, and our economic mismanagement.

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