Friday, June 21, 2013


Unwittingly we would seem to succumb to “pwede na ‘yan”? For example, we know that without infrastructure tourism efforts will yield sub-optimized results. Is "unacceptable" in our vocabulary? It is tough-mindedness that separates winners from losers. And it doesn't get any better when we add our deference to hierarchy and assume that capital is the be-all and end-all, and forget that the foreign exchange reserves that got us the credit-rating upgrades come from OFW remittances – not our industry per se? Simply, we are not starting from a position of strength?

Thus, if we are to sell PHL as “a product” to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), for instance, we need more than “daang matuwid” and investment-grade ratings. Just like in tourism, to attract foreign investment we need infrastructure. But not only: we need an ecosystem that can translate capital into tangible competitive products that will be sought by the bigger global market. And “Arangkada Philippines 2010” is a good model to build on. Economic planning is more complex than business planning and if the latter demands lots of prudence in order to raise predictability and lower uncertainty, all the more the former? We may in our hearts believe that we are better than the Indonesians, but the level of FDIs we attract compared to them is in fact pathetic? If our best efforts have yielded $2 billion (or, say, we do 3X more) in a year, and they generated $7 billion in the last quarter alone, how should we react? “Pwede na ‘yan”? Or "unacceptable"?

We may have the best people doing the road shows to attract foreign investment, but it is not the singer but the song! It is the product! It means that PHL has the infrastructure and the ecosystem to turn investment into competitive products and services sought by the bigger global market. That is when investors will come knocking at our door. “Pwede na ‘yan” is never enough? [It is fundamental to do an income statement prior to a marketing campaign locally and/or globally. A “boondoggle” or a junket is unacceptable! Simply, opportunistic marketing is unsustainable especially when it is not the outcome of an integrated product initiative that is founded on value-creation (perceived by the user) through innovation – in order for the product to be highly competitive.]

A foreigner-columnist who claims to love PHL gave the quality of our newspapers a dig, specifically their news value. It brings to mind the Wall Street Journal with their Editorial and Op-Ed pages unabashedly committed to the conservative agenda. But still, the news value of the rest of the paper is worth the paper it is printed on. Looking back, I would include myself in our failure: of reinforcing the complacency of Juan de la Cruz. For many years I read our local papers from the standpoint of the elite class and thus was in incremental-thinking mode – and parochial. I was more concerned about the menu and the quality of the food in the country club in our gated community, for example, but not the decline in the competitiveness of PHL which was happening before my eyes – as I covered the region wearing my MNC regional manager’s hat, and a witness to the development efforts being pursued by our neighbors. I was a “proud Pinoy” – believing that Filipinos were better informed. "Unacceptable" was yet to find its way into my vocabulary.

When I was still based in Manila, a foreigner-friend commented that I was not living the life of Juan de la Cruz because my car had the stickers of military camps and gated communities that allowed me to cut my commute time. Of course, my driver and I would brush that aside; he did not understand our culture. Simply, I was not Juan de la Cruz. I was higher in the hierarchy and thus exempt from "pedestrian rules," if not above the law. Not surprisingly, columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, Manila Times, 9th May 2013 picked up Jillian Keenan’s “The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines' Economic Growth,” The Atlantic, 7th May 2013. []

It is refreshing that President Aquino was apparently candid: “We’ll have to be able to prove that this is not cyclical, or a temporary aberration,” President Aquino said in an interview . . . on the country’s economic revival. “We’ll have to be able to do it year in, year out.” [Bloomberg News, 9th May 2013] “His point was illustrated when the lights went out during the 90-minute meeting at Malacañang in Manila, as the nation’s capital suffered a major power failure.” Absolutely, "unacceptableI"? But it has yet to find its way into our vocabulary?

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