Monday, August 26, 2013

" . . . Huge damage to the nation"

"What kind of Filipino who loves his country would not be bothered, especially if he is a follower of Jesus? Your heart would be crushed further. Can someone do that to his fellow man?" [Pork scam moves Tagle to tears, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Aug 2013] "Could those behind this stomach this huge damage to the nation?" That is about a Ps 10 billion scam.
My wife and I were fortunate to listen to then Archbishop Tagle (before he was named cardinal) discuss our OFW phenomenon in a retreat – and that would open our eyes to an even bigger damage to the nation. What have we mortgaged in exchange for the over $20 billion in OFW remittances that is the engine of PHL economy? In the simplest of terms, it is the future of the nation. It goes beyond the increasing HIV/AIDS incidence that it started (which has gotten worse albeit because of a later phenomenon, i.e., MSM, as a doctor-friend would explain to us, and also by a recent Manila Times special report) and that is, the nation contracting our version of the "Dutch disease.” And it goes beyond its impact on the currency, i.e., on our psyche and our mistaken belief that our economic fundamentals have been strong – stemming from the strengthening of the peso and our increasing foreign exchange reserves (we could even contribute $250K to Hurricane Sandy which was not lost to US Ambassador Thomas) and our robust consumption economy. And that has been generating a windfall for the 50 wealthiest Filipinos – to the extent of owning over a quarter of the nation's wealth – and reinforcing the lopsided character of PHL economy. Simply put, the Pinoy Dutch disease has been worse that the original Dutch disease because it took our eye away from the ball, e.g., infrastructure and industry, a double whammy, and has stunted economic development by at least one generation. If that is not a huge damage to the nation, what is?
We see pork as a scam but we don't see influence peddling as a scam because transparency is not in our DNA? For the longest time even the Vatican did not see that the absence of transparency was at the root of Vatican scandals. And for the longest time Juan de la Cruz did not see oligopoly as a scam. And the response to that is not land reform or party-list, not even EPIRA, i.e., they didn't move the needle? "Hunger worsens," reports Business World, 15th Aug 2013. The absence of transparency demands simply that, transparency. Even our professed nationalism can use transparency. We have gone to bed with oligopoly under the guise of nationalism (and shutting out foreign investment and technology) because we in the elite class have partaken of its spoils. [I worked with one for 8 years; and my father, all his working life.] Of course we strongly believe, from our history, that foreigners only want what they need, not our welfare, and we're too small and poor to negotiate with them. Granted that during primitive times that was true, progress and education have altered that dynamic. (It is also the natural law as in mutation.) Singapore is a very tiny city-state but negotiates with and is treated like an equal by others, because everyone wants to be identified with a winner. But because we are self-esteem challenged that is totally alien to us?
I came to Eastern Europe as a development worker and over the last 10 years have preached the reality of the 21st century world and the imperatives of a transparent, open and global competition. And my friends did not disappoint: (a) they’ve beaten the world's biggest consumer products company in its biggest business in the local market which the latter had dominated; and (b) they’ve been named one of the best and fastest growing companies in the EU. And they’ve expanded well beyond their home market and region, even into Asia and had recently opened an office in Singapore. And what is the secret? Plain and simple transparency – and thus there is clarity in how they view the world and their own future and how to get there. They've understood what to be forward looking is and what it demands – and not be tied down to the past courtesy of their former Communist masters.
In the case of PHL, we want to be a developed nation. Not one that is cacique- or oligopoly-ruled – our past, present and future master? If we've understood what transparency is and have such clarity, then we don't blindly scream "nationalism"? We could be like a Singapore – or like all our neighbors that have understood the interdependence of nations, if not hegemony – open to foreign investment and technology, and then some. Until we learn transparency, we shall be blind to the huge damage we’ve done to the nation?

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