Saturday, January 5, 2013

Transparency and beyond

Major undertakings that call for disparate groups and ideas to come to terms invariably demand transparency? And if we are to ever neutralize traditional politics and vested interests that have dominated our life as a nation, we need to set for ourselves a superior vision. And which in turn demands superior execution – i.e., hard work or more precisely, focus and discipline.

Unfortunately, transparency is among the values that we’ve least embraced because of our bias for a hierarchical structure? President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” is precisely meant to arrest corruption. But corruption thrives when transparency is not a preeminent value of a nation. How do we then create the climate conducive to crafting and articulating a superior vision when transparency is missing in the first place? We’ve created a low-trust environment that is reinforced by the belief that the system is rigged? We may not like to hear that when James A. Robinson, the co-author of “Why Nations Fail,” speaks to a cross section of our society. Our politics and oligarchy have created this rigged system that the rest of us have acquiesced to by sharing with them the spoils of a dysfunctional system? Simply, we are all part of the zarzuela?

The elements of transparency, vision-driven and focused and disciplined are the building blocks of major undertakings. But that’s not how Juan de la Cruz thinks? We like complex models. And in economics Juan de la Cruz is at home dissecting GDP growth rates [unfortunately, given our low base, even a 10% increase unless sustained over time doesn’t correct our structural deficiencies] and debate monetary and fiscal policies? They are very important, but as both Reagan and Clinton and Kennedy before them demonstrated, establishing an end goal is where it begins. But then execution has its own stringent demands like focus and discipline; again, not the way Juan de la Cruz thinks? What we value is “inclusiveness” – and fallen into the trap of crab mentality? Inclusive as Robinson will tell us is the antithesis of our comfort zone, a hierarchical structure where rank and privileges have kept us in bed with the 1% of our society.

And unsurprisingly critics contend that “daang matuwid” is not a guaranteed success? If “daang matuwid” fails, we have to recognize that its desired outcome demands more than the commitment of President Aquino. Its success or failure is dependent on our way of life which, unfortunately, we consider as cast in stone, i.e., it is what we are: “Pinoy kasi”?

Beyond our local values there is the global community's overarching or umbrella of values which we have yet to appreciate because of the blinders of parochialism? Sadly, we expect perfection from the bigger world when we ourselves aren’t? The pragmatism of Mahathir is a lesson that has been lost to us – i.e., hate them but run with their money and technology – which was likewise embraced by Deng Xiaoping. And so we’re left clutching the empty bag – pushed around by the rest of the world because we have not equipped ourselves to stand eyeball-to-eyeball with them? [And it brings to mind my Bulgarian friends who would blurt out of the blue, “Thanks for believing.” And my response would always be: “it is your belief in yourself that you must thank.”]

We have yet to internalize why innovation matters and why the fuss about competitiveness given that our success models are our major enterprises that have been shielded from global competition because of the fortification we've erected to shut out foreign investments and, sadly, state-of-the-art technology? [The “rural development versus industrialization” debate of old is passé: we’ve always lagged in technology and thus failed in both, including land reform.] If we want to prudently address our rankings in "ease of doing business, competitiveness and economic freedom," we better keep our eye on the ball – something we sorely need. For decades we’ve kept up the barriers to foreign ownership yet with a stroke of a pen we brought in characters of dubious credibility in the gambling business, for example? We aren’t setting ourselves up for failure?

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