Saturday, January 26, 2013

Even Japan can't be archaic

Japan is still grappling with the fallout from a decade-long, seemingly unstoppable decline of its electronics sector, once a driver of growth and a bedrock of its economy.” [NY Times, 28th Dec 2012] . . . “But for more than a decade, these technology companies have experienced little growth . . . To blame are plunging prices across the board for their products, brought about by intense competition from rivals in South Korea and Taiwan as electronics increasingly become widely interchangeable. Overstretched and unfocused, Japan’s tech giants also ceded much of their cutting edge to more innovative companies like Apple.”

The way forward for Japan’s embattled electronics sector, for now, is a globalization strategy that shifts production and procurement from high-cost Japan to more competitive locations overseas. As Japan’s manufacturing giants become truly global, a country that has so depended on its manufacturers for growth must look to other sources of jobs and opportunity, like its nascent entrepreneurs — a transformation far more easily said than done.”

Globalization, at the end of the day, came about as a matter of necessity? Why is the premise important? Development is not static nor can it be confined within parochial walls. But in the same manner that the US could not anticipate how globalization would play out, the Japanese likewise are learning the lesson – that competition can come from anywhere in the world, for example. And so the key is for a nation to be equipped to adapt to its challenges. And which is why Einstein, inquisitive and forward-looking as he was, thus preached: “the value of education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.”

While Japan learned from the Americans how to rebuild their economy after the war, and even writing up their constitution for them, the Japanese did not surrender the entirety of their culture and heritage. What they did was take on what was useful. For instance, they embraced the mantra of American quality guru W. Edwards Deming and developed their manufacturing prowess that became the envy of the world. Still, both Japan and the US have to reinvent and transform themselves. And even China, newly minted as the second largest economy, has to face the reality of a slowing global economy that has yet to play itself out. These countries have indeed demonstrated their strengths but clearly "nobody is perfect.”

In the Philippines where rank gives many of us privileges, we seem to have found our nesting place? And we see that as a blessing? But have we unwittingly confused faith and responsibility and not surprisingly hierarchy has become preeminent in our value system over dynamism? Dynamism – the antithesis of “pwede na ‘yan” – is central to development and competitiveness as the above countries learned. And so while we are prudently addressing the global measures of development and competitiveness, we may be mirroring a pilot going over his preflight routine? But we're not poised to fly yet while the ecosystem of flying has all been figured out?

Our economic, political and belief systems, on the other hand, are a throwback to "our old jeepney culture": a local lord owns the jeepney that isn't guaranteed to run the entire shift yet the driver is subservient and grateful for the opportunity. And he drives on streets that aren't functional and efficient. And before he knows it a cop stops him for morning coffee or "after hours" beer? He then suffers a flat tire and limps back to the garage of the local lord; he scratches his head with barely enough to cover the rate or "boundary" for the day. He piles his IOUs and stops by the church to pray on the way home. [That’s a translation of Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz’s book, “The Price of Inequality," about rent-seeking – which we’ve embraced as nationalism and promoting local investment?]

What are we missing? A community sense to espouse an entirely different paradigm; it starts not with hierarchy but with "men are created equal" and thus premised on respecting Juan de la Cruz; it means creating an economic and a political system that is designed for the common good . . .

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