Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Christianity is a profoundly realistic faith . . .”

Thus writes Amy Welborn (an American Roman Catholic writer, public speaker and theology teacher) in the Living Faith, 15th Sept 2012. “Some religions declare suffering to be an illusion. Our own popular culture encourages us to try to ignore or distract ourselves from suffering. Christianity does none of these . . . not because we are masochists but because we are realists . . .”

Indeed it is good for our national psyche to be gung-ho especially when our GDP numbers appear robust as our economic managers pointed out in their projection of a strong finish in 2012. [Business World, 17th Sept 2012] Unfortunately, when the numbers [GDP forecast trimmed, Business World, 13th Sept 2012] show a less than favorable trend, we jump all over looking for someone to blame – obviously the administration especially when the unemployment picture looks worse when combined with the underemployment number? [Underemployment surges, Business World, 18th Sept 2012]

We are an underdeveloped economy and poverty precisely comes with underdevelopment. Are we influenced by how Americans react to US GDP numbers? That is like comparing apples and oranges. The dynamics of our economy are different from a fully developed one like the US. A 6% bump in their $15 trillion GDP is over the top. But in our case, until we get our structure fixed, a one-time 6% increase doesn’t erase our infrastructure gaps nor raise our industrial capability – which we must address if we are to be a sustainable economy. And so beyond our quarterly or even annualized GDP numbers, we must recognize our structural challenges. And our economic managers know them. We are still a consumption-driven economy (with a huge hole investment-wise) and thus OFW remittances remain a key economic driver. And so we recognize the necessity of raising gross investment like our neighbors have done, and that means aggressively attracting foreign direct investments.

Our economic managers have endorsed Arangkada Philippines, an industrial development game plan from the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) that will attract $75 billion in investments, raise our GDP by over $100 billion via seven strategic industries and create millions of job. That is no small challenge and it gets much bigger with international agencies confirming (at 7% annual growth) that it will take us over a generation to become a developed economy. And it is why President Aquino’s personal fight against corruption is getting sympathy and support even from beyond our shores. Every moment of the day it appears corruption is able to rear its ugly head: starting at the highest echelons of our society with influence peddling, all the way down to the hoops one must jump through when paying taxes – or something even more innocuous as mail from overseas especially the US being pilfered (because it is assumed they have something of value?)

The administration understandably must present a brave and happy face given the enormity of their charge. Our economy lags in many respects. [PH economy 'unfree,' judiciary 'inefficient', Business Mirror, 19th Sept 2012; Worst ‘branding’ in Asia, Manila Standard Today, 21st Sept 2012] We need more than happy talk! It is noteworthy that industry wants to talk about transformation. But has Philippine industry understood and accepted that transformation must mean that the very foundation of our industry isn’t gamed for the benefit of the few?

And not surprisingly, a tycoon is threatening to pull out the investments of their foreign principals? How could Juan de la Cruz allow himself to be under the gun? Unfortunately, that’s what our parochial and hierarchical culture is about? Benchmarking is not instinctive to us. For example, a tiny country in Eastern Europe, with barely 7% of our population, has generated more than twice in foreign direct investments – $53 billion against our $26 billion! Thailand has $141 billion. Malaysia has $112 billion. Vietnam has $66 billion! The bottom line: We keep shooting ourselves in the foot given our parochial and hierarchical bias?

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