Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We don’t need to contrive a crisis


In the 1980s when Japan, Inc. was perceived as poised to take over the world with their technology and manufacturing prowess, enterprises in the US saw the need “to contrive” a crisis situation given the apparent nonchalance of people – in order to recreate a “Pearl Harbor moment.” What was left unsaid is that “education [was meant to have] prepared them for the future life – given them command of themselves; they had been trained to have the full and ready use of all their capacities.” [John Dewey; On education, Wikipedia]

We don’t have to contrive a crisis; we have been in crisis mode for half a century? Beyond lagging our neighbors in attracting foreign direct investments and our pathetic power situation, we can add two more challenges: (a) “our agribusiness, which accounts for about 40% of GDP, is uncompetitive in the global markets;” [Balanced farm and fisheries growth; MAP Insights, Alejandro T. Escaño; Business World, 4th Jun 2012]; and (b) “the country did not fare well in six of seven innovation indicators in the Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 of the World Economic Forum.” [Govt sets survey on local R&D efforts; Mayvelin U. Caraballo, Manila Times, 5th Jun 2012]

Poverty in the Philippines is an agricultural phenomenon with 70% of the poor in the rural areas that are agriculture-dependent . . . Philippine agriculture hosts millions of farmers, fishers and landless workers below the poverty line. It is not competitive in the global markets . . . The answers lie in low productivity, poor diversification in crops and fishery, and undeveloped value adding. The record of tree crops expansion is dismal. Export winners (coconut, banana, pineapple, tuna, and carrageenan) are the same since the 1980s. The country is the only net importer among ASEAN peers . . . At the same time, low productivity and inefficient supply chains lead to high food costs, and in turn, high malnutrition and incidence of hunger. Solve the problems in agriculture, solutions to poverty will follow.”

“The country did not fare well in six of seven innovation indicators. Notably, it ranked last among the Asean countries in government procurement of advanced technology products; it ranked second from the last in university-industry collaboration in R&D and third from the last in the availability of scientists and engineers.”
How did progressive US enterprises pull themselves together? Peter Senge captured it best in his bestselling book, The Fifth Discipline, in 1990: “People put aside their old ways of thinking (mental models), learn to be open with others (personal mastery), understand how their company really works (systems thinking), form a plan everyone can agree on (shared vision), and then work together to achieve that vision (team learning).”

It is not surprising then that the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) developed “Arangkada Philippines” covering the 7 strategic industries that could bring $75 billion in foreign investments, appreciably raise national income and create millions of jobs. And agribusiness is one of those strategic industries. The bottom line: we need purposeful leadership if we are to mirror Peter Senge’s five disciplines: (1) systems thinking, (2) personal mastery, (3) mental models, (4) shared vision, and (5) team learning. But it doesn’t mean President Aquino has to go it alone. Precisely, Senge speaks to a learning organization that values, and derives competitive advantage from, continuing learning, both individual and collective. [Rebecca Cors; Engineering Professional Development, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 5th May 2003]

A nation cannot operate like a business organization, but people are able to come together when they have a sense of national pride and nationhood – i.e., we are the region’s economic laggards for a reason? We take it for granted that we have established institutions but the test of the pudding is in the eating: we rank poorly in governance, rank poorly in competitiveness, rank poorly in education? The one thing that we have institutionalized, unfortunately, is our cacique system and structure. And thus our continuing inability to recast our economic model because the elite which enjoy its spoils and call the shots will – given the human condition – be the last to undo what works for them?

1 comment:

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