Thursday, May 24, 2012

There is momentum that we must exploit

To accelerate progress we must keep adding fuel to the fire. President Aquino’s personal fight against corruption is beginning to pay dividends – with foreign investors manifesting keenness to bet on the Philippines. The other good news is that the administration seems to have gotten the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) initiative off the ground; and is poised to get more projects in the pipeline and keep the momentum going.

Indeed the administration deserves praise! But the key is for us to keep the fire burning; and that means we ought to stop: (a) what President Ramos calls “crab mentality” and (b) the “us versus them” game. The enemy is the hole that we’ve dug ourselves in such that we can’t lift our economy up to developed nation status, not in this generation – and which means the task is truly gigantic, bigger than all of our egos put together. In plainer English it’s “nation building.” And we owe it to future generations to hand over a robust economy, not one that will brand them “laggards” – and objects of charity. Isn’t trampling the nation’s pride for half a century long enough?

Our cacique system remains very much in place. And it is a reflection of how we’ve allowed the past to keep us hostage – and which is not what being true to our culture means? (This is the 21st century where the culture of innovation rules.) And unsurprisingly vested interests are behind every major infrastructure project and strategic industry that we must put on stream. And their loudspeakers keep the volume loud and even louder, so in the end their patrons win – the country be damned? The mindset is not easy to change. Until President Aquino showed steely resolve we assumed that corruption at the top is a given?

The administration for its part must get the energy game plan out in the open to ensure transparency – with only the common good as the yardstick. People around the world pay for higher prices, for example, but they must be convinced that the plan is workable. And that is probably a potential flash point – i.e., when was the last time Juan de la Cruz was convinced that a plan was workable? But it is the kind of heavy lifting that leadership must do. We have been unwittingly sidestepping our challenges and putting Juan de la Cruz at the mercy of fate – “que sera, sera.”

Then there are the strategic industries that we must erect and their supporting or intermediate industry clusters in order to create a viable ecosystem. And if we are to learn from Deng Xiaoping, the key elements are: (a) foreign investment and (b) technology – the dynamic of which we must be able to optimize if we are to become an innovation culture. Until we develop the bias for value-creation (e.g., product development), we would proudly indulge in influence peddling (i.e., political patronage) or third-party contracting (e.g., OFWs, garments, semi-conductors, call centers.) And they are reflective of an opportunistic or a reactive as opposed to a proactive and a competitive character. There is more to culture development than what we were born into and embraced – because the human spirit is boundless.

Influence peddlers will always surface as the nation pursues big-ticket infrastructure projects and strategic industries – because our cacique system is tailor-made for them, with the rest of us being the partners in crime. And it is precisely why transparency is an imperative – i.e., it’s time we move past rent-seeking and seek the common good. The administration must institutionalize – like they do in the private sector – the communication of plans and likewise the monitoring of progress. It is easier said than done, but if President Aquino can take corruption head-on, there is no reason why he can’t take transparency head-on as well.

Indeed we must exploit the momentum that the world is seeing! And that means we must not take our “way of life” for granted – “Pinoy kasi”! It is simply insulting – that as a people we cannot move forward and reach for the common good! It’s time we move beyond the rhetoric of patriotism!

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