Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Political and economic institutions

Underdevelopment is an albatross in our neck especially when the hierarchy in our institutions can dictate and preserve the rules that perpetuate underdevelopment – and that is the story of Juan de la Cruz? And beyond our political and economic institutions we have to recognize the role and influence the church has played in our life and history as a people? The poor have no choice and find the church a haven if not provider, e.g., Catholic Charities – together with government, e.g., CCT – even of their basic physiological needs. But as we get more exposed to the outside world, including the realization that our neighbors enjoy greener pastures, the weaknesses of our institutions come to the fore? For example, is the passage of the RH law a manifestation of the waning influence of the church? [In Eastern Europe they came to the conclusion that Soviet rule had played such a mind-game on them – that reality was lost to them – when they finally understood that neighbors were more progressive and developed. Early on inequality had brought about socialism and communism to Europe that later spawned the Soviet empire.]

For good or ill it's again an election year and that means 2013 will see continued higher levels of consumption. We know full well that beyond direct-election spending that elevates consumption, vote-buying also does? And then, again, the poor have no choice but to be subservient? But what is the source of the "pot"? For incumbents access to government coffers is one source and for candidates in general the goodness of industry is another? And when all is said and done, we’re back to normal: our hierarchal system and structure is reinforced and perpetuated. Simply, the people especially the poor – comprising roughly half of our households – would be subservient to the political institutions with the latter beholden to their benefactors. Wittingly or unwittingly we have turned our institutions inherently weak to even expect good governance to thrive and flourish – nor for industry to be world-beaters and strongly drive a free-market system.

We have nurtured a system that is characterized by influence peddling and oligopoly and thus a very narrow and limited (political and economic) establishment. Until we break the back of this establishment we are only paying lip service to what we like to call an "inclusive economic system." An economic environment that is inclusive must be broad based to begin with – especially in the 21st century where the world has been globalized and thus the wide latitude available to nations and people that (through their own design) can leverage those options.

Unfortunately, Juan de la Cruz would rather invoke the myriad parameters he has carried through time – and proud of "Pinoy abilidad" which translates to equivocation or "having our cake and eating it too"? And for good measure these parameters have been woven into the banner of nationalism and patriotism and dyed with our unequivocal faith? Confusing? Precisely, because we equivocate when we shouldn’t yet are dogmatic like the curia – that even a cleric and trained theologian could sound less Catholic than Juan de la Cruz?

Nations fail when political and economic institutions have become well entrenched to protect the interests of the few. And if we continue to hedge on what an inclusive economic system demands, we would perpetuate a lopsided and shameful economy. To be sure, certain changes demand circumspection. But if we don't demonstrate political will, the rest of the world shall continue to leave us behind – especially that ASEAN is upon us. We are deluding ourselves, for example, if we celebrate election spending for its contributions to the economy instead of denouncing vote-buying.

Politics is meant to create strong institutions that would then pave the way for progressive economic institutions. But the kind of politics that consumes us is self-serving and what is institutionalized is influence peddling that comes hand in glove with oligopoly – and consequently not an inclusive economic system – thus the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.  

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