Monday, August 26, 2013

The imperatives of rural development

It is important to spread out economic development. But then again, there are fundamentals that we can’t ignore – the road to failure is paved with good intentions? Let’s keep our failed land-reform program [and EPIRA, party-list, etc.] in mind? We can’t be operating from a guilt complex. We have to start with the end in view. A successful economic activity must be sustainable: it generates a surplus; it is market-driven, the product meets the needs of the market; and it is efficient and productive because of economies of scale, among others. And that is not unchristian as espoused by Bernard Lonergan, SJ. [Wikipedia: He set out to do for human thought in our time what Thomas Aquinas had done for his own time. Aquinas had successfully applied Aristotelian thought to the service of a Christian understanding of the universe. Lonergan's program was to come to terms with modern scientific, historical, and hermeneutical thinking in a comparable way. He pursued this program in his two most fundamental works, Insight and Method in Theology]
It brings to mind Albany in upstate New York and Shumen, Bulgaria; and also the regionalization of Spain that added fuel to their recession fire. Albany is from where New York State is governed and it is a great example of how parochialism could produce local and political lords. And because of the political genius of the Clintons, Hillary focused her campaign in upstate New York; and, not surprisingly, it helped elect her as the junior senator from New York. “Hey let's ask her what happened to those 200,000 jobs she promised New York back when she first ran.” [Rochester Forum, 2nd Jul 2008] Has Albany changed? Despite a Cuomo, born and raised Catholic, as governor, it remains a haven for local and political lords. “Political corruption boils over in Albany! [The Village Voice, 17th Jul 2013]
Communist rulers, consistent with their planned economic blueprint, put up a truck, an aluminum and a gunpowder factory in Shumen, Bulgaria [population 80,000]. That was their way of spreading economic development and employment. Today, the truck and gunpowder factories are gone. And the aluminum factory has survived owing to the country’s accession into the EU and the accompanying economic revival as Western money poured in – creating a property boom that, unfortunately, went bust.
“Only 11 of Spain's 48 regional airports are profitable and its newest project has yet to see a single passenger through its terminal. The gleaming new air traffic control tower shimmers in the midday heat, visible for miles around, it rises up above groves of orange trees in the agricultural region of Castellón, north of Valencia. But it has yet to guide a single aircraft onto the 3,000 yards of virgin runway at Spain's newest airport, inaugurated in March (2011) at a cost of 150 million euros. The metal clad terminal stands empty, its vast car park untarnished by a single vehicle, weeds growing up through the pavements, the only sign of life. It is the newest example of infrastructure "white elephants" that litter the Spanish countryside, huge projects often funded by taxpayer money that helped drive Spain's economic boom and that have come to symbolize the wasteful spending contributing to its spectacular bust. Castellón Airport promised to be a gateway to an undiscovered region, providing jobs for locals in a country struggling with 21 per cent unemployment rate, and delivering tourists tempted by cheap deals to some of Spain's most beautiful white sand beaches.” [The Telegraph, 5th Oct 2011]
The Pareto or 80-20 principle can’t be ignored. Whether it is the US or Europe or China, there will always be economic hubs that are a must for a sustainable economic activity. For instance, the Guangdong, Shanghai and Beijing hubs remain the gospel for investors in China to this day. The challenge is how to expand the reach of these economic hubs like creating a network of sub-centers that can logically be linked to the central hubs. It is not easy, but it is economic suicide to apply socialist principles and thinly spread out scarce resources, e.g., crab mentality (which we see as being "inclusive," and thus explains our inability to prioritize in pursuit of the common good?) And why the right infrastructure is a must. Yet retail politics and retail commerce remain preeminent in PHL? But nation-building demands more. And it starts with transparency which we can’t muster because of our cacique and personalistic culture – and bias for our favorite lords in politics and oligarchy, for example? Without transparency we can banish the thought of the common good – and economic development? Have we ever defined where we are, where we want to be and how will we get there? We can't keep giving ourselves too much credit given how we've turned into economic laggards?

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