Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With due respect to the leaders of CBCP

In a previous blog I shared my high regard for Cardinal Tagle. But this one could easily be interpreted as being disrespectful to the bishops. And so I beg their indulgence. “The economic improvements of the Aquino administration did not impress leaders of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), as they gave President Benigno Aquino 3rd a failing mark for not harnessing growth to wipe out poverty.” [The Manila Times, 9th Jun 2013] “Bishop Broderick Pabillio, CBCP national secretariat for social action, said he rated the President three out of 10 because the vaunted economic growth has not reached the poor yet . . . Jose Palma, CBCP president and Cebu archbishop, said Aquino, rather than boasting the 7.8-percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth, should “tell the truth” in his state of the nation address (SONA) in July.”

The truth, as international institutions have repeatedly told us, is it will take at least a generation for PHL to be a developed economy at a constant 7% annual GDP growth. Simply put, neither this administration nor the next can wipe out poverty?

The best way to describe the PHL economic model is that it mirrors the Philippine church? And that is, it is hierarchical and parochial to boot? From the lands of the friars to the lands of the Ayalas we have retained our cacique and hierarchical system and structure and enshrined it in our constitution and reinforced our parochialism? Not only Pope Francis is demonstrating a contemporary, egalitarian example; the 21st century world is in fact contemporary and egalitarian with parochial giving way to global? Simply, an open and competitive market is a level playing field – and nurtures, as opposed to subservience, innovation, creativity and thus competitiveness.

Of course, “global” doesn’t equate to a perfect system either – but who or what is perfect given the human condition? And to be global doesn’t start with being big and a bully. And precisely, in this blog I talk about investment, technology and innovation as well as people, product and market development from the standpoint of a once small enterprise from ex-socialist Eastern Europe. And it always starts in the mind. One can choose to be parochial or global. There is no barrier imposed on anyone. Of course, we Pinoys would rather invoke that we're "ina-api" and "kawa-wa” – a manifestation of our hierarchical system and structure? I have lived and worked with a group of poor Eastern Europeans that have demonstrated that the human spirits can't be shackled. As President Kennedy famously said, “Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man.”

And what could man-made mean? “The interest groups that benefited [from the PHL economic model] support protectionism in the Philippines and do not want any form of competition, domestic or foreign, to threaten their almost monopolistic access to market shares and government influence . . . Kenneth Akintewe, portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management in Singapore, observes that family-controlled big businesses in the Philippines dictate the terms of business in the Philippines: “There is a real hesitancy to allow foreigners to come in and have a major say on how businesses are run. Until that dynamic changes, it is difficult to see foreigners being particularly enthusiastic” about investing in the Philippines.” [Priscilla Tacujan, Ph.D., The Philippine Star, 3rd Jun 2013]

We’re well aware that we have had land reform, CCT, etc. and even CSR from the private sector. But the reality is it is not charity that Juan de la Cruz needs . . . but social justice – which means crafting and pursuing a sustainable economic model and activity that does not perpetuate a cacique and hierarchical system and structure. And it demands leadership, like the one demonstrated by Kennedy. And not surprisingly none of our numerous charity efforts have moved the needle. And the above reference to “interest groups” and “family-controlled big businesses” that have “benefited from and thus support protectionism” and “dictate the terms of business” ought not to be unfamiliar to us Pinoys? PHL poverty is not a mystery and the truth about the economy is out in the open? And legislators who found Independence Day the opportunity to talk about our sad reality ought to know that action speaks louder than words?

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