Thursday, March 7, 2013

Be authentic to keep it simple

"What you see is what you get" presupposes authenticity. Simply put, keeping it simple demands authenticity. For the longest time we hailed OFW remittances and more recently the BPO phenomenon as feathers in our cap forgetting we were trapped in our "Dutch disease"? Was it unwittingly turning a blind eye on our failure to industrialize – as we trumpeted that our "consumption economy" has shielded us from the Great Recession?

And what is surprising is everyone is surprised that "what we see isn't what we get" – that a 6.6% GDP growth would even produce a big unemployment number? International institutions have said that the arithmetic shouldn't be lost to us – that it would take a generation at 7% annual GDP growth for us to become a developed economy. The problem is we – not only our politicians – have been caught up in these numbers mixing the short- and the long-term. We can't be mixing apples and oranges. Meanwhile we haven't discarded our worldview that has undermined decades of development efforts? As one businessman laments, “Instead of training ourselves to become competitive, we would take the easy way out whenever we sensed a threat: protectionism!” We've kept to long-held biases that ignored the imperatives of industrialization especially in these contemporary times – a globalized and highly competitive world where far wider and greater options are available to nations and people who have embraced these realities? While we cannot undo the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution overnight, we have to seriously revisit our mind-sets that have informed our policies and actuations reflected in our poor standing in the global community – from competitiveness to governance to economic freedom, etc.

And as the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) have constantly reminded us, we must focus on a handful of initiatives – i.e., basic infrastructure starting with power and the seven strategic industries they offered – if we are to attract investments and technology and raise our economic output in a big way. Same old, same old will continue to yield frustrating outcomes like widespread poverty. And that same old is unmistakable in what the world reads about us: the same political and economic dynamics that have for so long defined us, i.e., influence peddling and oligopoly on the one hand and bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption on the other?

It's been 15 years since my decade-long Asia Pacific regional-management role ceased and to be back in Hong Kong with my Eastern European friends negotiating a partnership [to expand global reach] would confirm why Hong Kong is at the top-tier in competitiveness. By mid-afternoon (following a quick "dim sum” lunch) the parties had signed the agreement despite a couple of sticking points that our side had put on the table. Early on, after my Bulgarian friend explained the concerns we had, the opportunity was there for me to explain why a consultant (from New York which they read on my business card) was at the table. "What you see is what you get. Yet there is something behind the "great product" [fundamental to global competitiveness] that you claim is why you want a partnership. This enterprise is founded on the values that have been passed on from the parents (of my friend) and handed on to the next generation and that likewise have defined the company. We don't pay lip service to "partnership." It is established on integrity, and precisely why we are very open with our concerns. Once these concerns go away, partnership to us means the two of us "planning together" and "executing together." We will have only one business plan. And together we shall commit only on winning. We are here for both of us to succeed unmistakably . . . together."

Moments after the deal was signed the two parties stitched together the most critical success drivers: who will do what, when, where and how. And the Hong Kong partners swiftly demonstrated their commitment and efficiency. The next day they emailed the agreed detailed project elements and timelines. They won't play second fiddle to other successful partnerships my Eastern European friends have wherever in the world. What you see is what you get.

No comments:

Post a Comment