Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Faith . . . system and people . . .

Those are from two articles: (a) Faith alone is not enough [Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD, Manila Bulletin, 4th Oct 2013] and (b) System and people change requires time [Federico D. Pascual, Jr., The Philippine Star, 8th Oct]. It is important for Juan de la Cruz to recognize those realities so that we don’t prematurely celebrate the enviable run of our economy over the last several quarters? And as this blog has consistently raised, international institutions have in fact figured that it would take us at least a generation to approximate a developed economy; and in the meantime, we must recognize the imperative of focusing on “the vital few” – and it starts with basic infrastructure, i.e., if we are to have a prayer in establishing a vibrant industrial base like the seven industry winners proposed by the JFC.
In any case, “staying in the moment” is the secret to a stress-free day? It is also the secret of a Malaysian friend, practically a scratch golfer, who cleaned up a bunch of Americans he met on a golf course in South Carolina. But it is also the secret of care-givers, apparently, especially those attending to dying people in hospices. And it is what compassion is about (i.e., it has no connection to outcomes) as explained in a TED Talk that my wife shared with me. [She knows that in my consulting in Eastern Europe, where I insist on transparency, I am committed to outcomes, the object being to create and spread wealth. Economic development demands it as well in a bigger scale?] And does compassion explain why we Pinoys are a happy people – and proud of our resiliency? And not surprisingly, we support efforts like GK, CCT, CSR and even comprehensive land reform – i.e., they all demand compassion yet haven’t made a dent on PHL poverty?
Wrote Fr. San Luis: “Our Lord replies, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted…and it would obey you” (Lk 17:5). That does not mean faith will give us power to move trees literally. But faith will give us power to COPE with difficulties and obstacles, and not lose hope . . . But faith or trust in God alone is NOT ENOUGH. As much as we must implore God’s help in crisis situations so must we do our part. Remember the oft-quoted saying, “God helps those who help themselves”? When people come to me asking me to bless their cars, I tell them: “My blessing is good only up to 90 kilometers per hour; what’s beyond that is your responsibility.” Obviously that’s just a joke. Indeed, even if I pour a drum of holy water on your vehicle, if you’re reckless in driving, my blessing won’t work. Maybe we should pour the holy water on the driver! That’s true also in solving our national problems. We may be a prayerful people but if our leaders think only of their vested interests or keep on plundering government funds, we will not prosper as we should.”
And from Federico D. Pascual, Jr. “Walk the city streets. Drive on EDSA or in the “looban”. Buy foodstuff in a public market. See where your meager wage goes. Monitor the news, mostly about corruption and violence.… Something’s terribly wrong. Mr. President, Sir, what’s happening to our country? The nation seems to be breaking into pieces, and we are going nowhere. We feel having been left to fend for ourselves. “Kanya-kanya na ba”? It seems we cannot even trust many of our officials, our leaders. It is obvious that the country is not being managed well enough. And, we must admit, all of us are to blame.”
“CHANGE NEEDED: Before the situation spins out of control, somebody — logically the President, the father of the nation — should do something fast and drastic. But what to do? No need for another costly research . . . From my vantage, I see a gathering consensus for both System Change and People Change. The ill-fitting political system lifted from the American model is not conducive to good governance in a Filipino setting. And then, we the people need re-education. But while effecting System Change and People Change is long-term, our problem calls for immediate attention. The patient on the operating table cannot wait.”
“CHARTER CHANGE: Unfortunately, pursuing System Change and People Change appears to be beyond the competence of an administration that is still improvising with only less than three years left of its term. In fact, its critics say that the Aquino administration itself is part of the problem — that it carries and spreads the very germs of the corruptive disease it is trying to cure. The move to amend the Constitution is trapped in the stalemate between the status quo groups, who benefit from the system, and the reformist, some of them radical, sectors.”
Is it high time for Juan de la Cruz to own up – precisely what Francis wants from the Vatican?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

With due respect to the bishops

It is indeed encouraging that the church is taking a leadership role in denouncing pork. Yet pork is only a symptom of what ails us as a nation. We've been going round in circles because we haven't truly faced up to the reality that our basic assumptions as a culture are at the root of why we're deep down in the abyss?
And this blog has consistently highlighted a few themes because they speak to what we cherish and are proud about as a people. For example, we've accepted hierarchy as a given and not surprisingly, we'd expect that as we move up PHL hierarchy, we'd deserve the privileges that come with our stature? And so we've come to define normal as living in our version of the caste system – and it brings subservience and the absence of transparency? And when the sun isn't allowed to shine, power and hubris and greed and hypocrisy set in? And so church "infallibility" (but which Francis calls narcissism and leprosy?) political patronage and oligopoly, our most defining values, are what we must address – especially by the church being the de facto dispenser of what is and isn’t legitimate, as in its imprimatur?
It is understandable that because industry drives investments, representatives of Philippine industry would be defensive given the reality of PHL poverty. Yet the world knows that we're economic laggards because we're investment laggards! But because we defer to our cacique masters, we've boxed ourselves – investment-wise – in our little corner? And in the process we've perpetuated backwardness and anti-progress mentality? It is no secret that the Asian Tigers became tigers because they opened their economies; and Deng Xiaoping even had Communist China embrace capitalism. Is it China who got it all confused or is it Juan de la Cruz because he continued to erect barriers around PHL's pot of soil, nurturing oligopoly and political patronage – the two sides of the same coin?
And while we can't be proud [or are we?] that we’re the epitome of inequality – having the worst gap between rich and poor in the region – we could still be proud of our faith? We must . . . but not because it sets us apart. Francis has debunked that by simply saying that there is no Catholic God! And so where do we stand really? The church, the school and our homes are from where we learn how to face the world. And have we produced: (a) a corrupt public sector that thrives on political patronage; (b) an uncompetitive private sector that luxuriates in oligopoly; and (c) in the lower caste, OFWs?
And now ASEAN 2015 is upon us. That is one reality; and the other is between our public and private sectors, we aren't geared for regional and much less global trade and competition. The public sector has miserably failed in infrastructure building and to add insult to injury, has bragged about the pork system to stimulate the economy. 
And in the case of the private sector, it has miserably failed in establishing a vibrant industrial base such that 3 of our neighbors dominate regional trade to the extent of 70%. We may have sophisticated bankers, lawyers, economists, or whatever, but our forebears knew from the age of the barter trade that trade required goods. And which in the 21st century presupposes globally competitive goods that can only come from an innovation culture, not the cacique culture that we still value? It has nothing to do with destiny; it is shooting ourselves in the foot time and again? 
And not surprisingly, Juan de la Cruz has yet to overcome our parochial definition of patriotism – i.e., between our oligarchy, nationalists and leftist elements, we don’t believe in an open economy? It goes back to our inward-looking and parochial instincts and which with our hierarchical system and structure have brought upon us the perfect storm of underdevelopment? Precisely what Rizal fought against, that is, backwardness and anti-progress? What must we then learn if we are to reset the Rizal mantra? A progressive and an innovation culture but that means a total reset of our values?
And Francis has led the way. The church has to cease being narcissists and cure its leprosy. It means being a horizontal structure where transparency not subservience rules; not power, not privilege, not hubris. And the school and the family could take their cues accordingly.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Focus on a few things . . .”

“And get them done.” That’s not from a Westerner. “[T]he Indonesian co-chair of Pacific Economic Cooperation Council [PECC], Jusuf Wanandi, insists that APEC is missing on the priorities that will lead it to be less diffuse, ‘focus on a few things and get them done.’ Thus, Indonesia is presenting a little over 20 deliverables for approval by member economies in the meetings of 2013. Hard infrastructure financing is one of the ‘connectivity’ agenda -- and even before the Leaders’ Meeting, China announced an Asian Infrastructure Investment Fund of $10 billion to be a vital symbolic drop in the bucket of the $8 trillion infrastructure funding gap in the region.” [Business World, 7th Oct 2013]
Europeans saw a similar focus on infrastructure as the EU pursued integration, and Spain and Portugal, for example, benefited from it. And it happened again as Eastern Europeans gained accession into the EU. And in the case of APEC, as it moves forward, we Pinoys have our place in the table: In November 1995, the APEC Business Advisory Council was established as a permanent body composed of business leaders from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member economies that will serve as an independent voice of business within the APEC process. ABAC’s main task is to review the progress of APEC’s work on trade and investment liberalization. The Philippines’ representatives to ABAC—Doris Magsaysay Ho, Tony Tan Caktiong, and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala—are pursuing APEC issues that have an impact on the Philippine economy. MBC serves as the secretariat of ABAC Philippines.” [Makati Business Club website] And looking up the Board of Trustees of the MBC, the above-named Philippine representatives to ABAC are in fact trustees. In a small country like PHL, that is probably to be expected.
“The theme chosen for the Indonesia APEC meetings is connectivity and inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific, far from the original Bogor goals of a free and open trade and investment zone set 19 years ago . . . [T]he concern of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members is that the emphasis on the TILF (trade and investment liberalization) issues has resulted in greater income inequality in their region.”
The question to ask is: What can PHL bring to the table at ABAC about inclusive growth given that we have the worst gap between rich and poor in the region? And since Ayala is a pillar in Philippine industry, what do they say in their website? “Ayala - Pioneering the Future. Ayala Corporation is one of the oldest and most respected business groups in the Philippines with a diversified business portfolio that includes real estate development, banking and financial services, telecommunications, water distribution infrastructure, electronics manufacturing services, automotive dealership, overseas real estate investments, business process outsourcing, renewable energy and power . . . Founded in 1834, Ayala has built a pioneering legacy in various industries and to this day maintains leadership in key sectors of the Philippine economy.”
Recall the line: “Ayala - Pioneering the Future.” There aren’t many companies from the 1800’s that are still around? And Google answered the question. A US firm was founded (following a merger) in 1892: “. . . Twenty thousand patents this decade, and counting…Making GE an “industrial company first” and pushing our competitive advantage in technology — they’re key themes at GE in 2010 and ones that take center stage in a new letter to shareholders in this year’s Annual Report. “In 2010, we will spend about 5 percent of our industrial revenue on R&D,” writes GE’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in the note. “We have filed 20,000 patents this decade. We have nearly 40,000 engineers and scientists around the world. We have developed more than 150 core technologies that create leadership across our company. We share technologies and innovation across multiple platforms to create technological scale. We benchmark each of these against our competition and lead in many . . . As Jeff notes in the letter, “Time magazine called this era ‘The Decade From Hell,’ and ‘when you are going through hell,’ Winston Churchill advised, ‘keep going.’” But in the midst of “one of the worst global economic downturns in history,” the focus on technology R&D continues to be critical to industrial growth.”
Of course we don’t expect our enterprises to be like GE . . . Yet 3 of our neighbors – Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – dominate regional trade to the extent of 70% . . . because we’ve neglected infrastructure development? And without it we can’t create a vibrant industrial base, composed of a few select strategic and competitive industries like the 7 winners teed up by the JFC? And we won’t get anywhere near that if we can’t get our act together? Focus on a few things . . . And get them done . . . Is that being un-Filipino or un-Asian? How come an Indonesian could be insistent? Have they simply learned?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ease of doing business

We have been addressing that challenge for a time now. And if we “start with the end in view,” the bottom line measure of whether we are successful or not is the level of foreign investment that we are able to attract? That is the North Star. And it isn’t about a slew of activity, but which in the private sector, for example, they would call an “overarching value.” And clearly, if we are approaching or approximating what Senator Miriam Santiago called a "failed state," then we can conclude that we have failed in our efforts to raise our ratings in “ease of doing business”? As Senator Santiago explained, a failed state "is caused by rampant corruption, predatory elites who have long manipulated power, and an absence of the rule of law." [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5th Oct 2013] In other words, we may announce to the world that we have reduced the number of steps, for instance, to set up a business in the Philippines – call it a “one-stop shop” or whatever. But if we are a failed state, foreign investors – as our pathetic levels of foreign investment would show – would ignore us.
And foreign investors don’t have to do extensive research. All they need to do is read our dailies. “Galling . . . What did they lose? President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda is correct to challenge 27 recalcitrant Customs collectors with that question. The collectors . . . were being transferred to the Department of Finance’s Customs Policy Research Office, which was created by Executive Order No. 140 to review tariff and customs administration policies. But apparently, such is the collectors’ fidelity to their jobs that 15 of them petitioned the Manila Regional Trial Court to issue a temporary restraining order on their transfer—and got it.” [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9th Oct 2013]
“Many of us are led to lament how too many people working in government still seem to find great difficulty with genuine public service, honesty, consistency and even common sense. Instead we find too much of unnecessary hurdles, brazen corruption, arbitrariness and ineptness. While I do believe that “daang matuwid” is making real progress, I can’t help feeling that the road ahead remains quite long indeed.” [Cielito F. Habito
, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7th Oct 2013]
“Do the latest credit ratings mean that things are going well? Obviously the credit-rating agencies bullish pronouncements “do not reflect the real economic situation of the Philippines,” as noted by the IBON Foundation. The Philippines ranks at no. 138 out of a total of 183 countries on the World Bank’s 2013 “Ease of Doing Business” survey, and at least 28 percent of the population are living below a very low poverty line. It brings to mind the Democratic Republic of the Congo where President Mobutu had a special airstrip constructed for the Concord to use, which he hired to take him on his shopping trips while the rest of the country starved, and where the 2012 GDP growth is forecast at 7.1 percent! The Congo is at position no. 181 on the Ease of Doing Business ranking. I am not seeking to compare the Philippines with the Democratic Republic of the Congo but am trying to make the point that GDP growth forecasts are not only to some degree adjustable depending on how you work them out, but are also not immutable indicators of economic development. They give some broad sort of directional idea but that is all.” [Mike Wootton, The Manila Times, 8th Oct 2013]
“Despite recent fame, growth remains heavily dependent on consumption and investment linked-to-consumption, while being predominantly in the services sector,” BPI’s lead economist Emilio Neri Jr. said. According to Neri, the Philippines is still behind even regional laggard Indonesia in terms of cementing reforms that are needed to sustain the country’s economic pace. The Philippines has seen robust growth on the back of consumption, but gross domestic capital formation is still one of the lowest in the region, and is one-dimensional as it remains largely in the usual suspects of real estate and malls.” [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9th Oct 2013]
Why aren’t we attracting foreign direct investments like our neighbors are? Juan de la Cruz has the answer or is the reason?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Narcissists . . . leprosy

The world now knows that those words came from the lips of Francis. [Pope, in New Interview, Vows to Change Vatican Mentality, The New York Times, 1st Oct 2013.] It must be to share with the world the challenge in front of him – “to change the Vatican's mentality”? And that includes addressing narcissists and leprosy [Tzaraath]; and the latter, in biblical terms, could mean that the Vatican has to seek repentance and forgiveness?
Wikipedia: “Narcissism is a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe a person characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness; an erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes . . . The concept of excessive selfishness has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Greece the concept was understood as hubris . . .
“The Hebrew noun tzaraath . . . describes disfigurative conditions of the skin and body hair mainly referred to in chapters 13-14 of Leviticus . . . [T]he classical Jewish sources argue that cure from tzaraath only came about through repentance and forgiveness . . . According to Gates of Repentance, a standard work of Jewish ethics written by Rabbenu Yonah of Gerona, if someone commits a sin, a forbidden act, he can be forgiven for that sin if he performs teshuva, which includes . . . regretting/acknowledging the sin . . . forsaking the sin . . . acting and speaking with humility . . . acting in a way opposite to that of the sin . . . confessing the sin . . . praying for atonement . . . correcting the sin however possible . . . pursuing works of chesed  ["loving-kindness"] and truth . . . remembering the sin for the rest of one's life . . . refraining from committing the same sin if the opportunity presents itself again . . . teaching others not to sin.”
Given the magnitude of the challenge, it now makes sense why “Pope Francis has promised to do everything in his power to change the Vatican's mentality, saying in an interview published on Tuesday that it was too focused on its own interests . . . In the long interview with the atheist editor of the left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, he said too many previous popes in the Church's long history had been "narcissists" who let themselves been flattered by their "courtier" aides.”
"The (papal) court is the leprosy of the papacy," said Francis . . . The interview, conducted last week in the pope's spartan residence in a Vatican guest house, appeared as he began a three-day, closed-door meeting with eight cardinals from around the world to help him reform the Vatican's troubled administration, known as the Curia . . . There are some "courtiers" among the Curia's administrators, he said, but its main defect is that it is too inward-looking. It looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, in large part temporal interests. This Vatican-centric vision neglects the world around it and I will do everything to change it," he said. . . . Francis said the eight cardinals he had chosen to make up his advisory board did not have selfish motives. “They are not courtiers but wise people who are inspired by my same feelings. This is the start of a Church with an organization that is not only vertical but also horizontal," he said.”
I had to read and re-read The New York Times article and had to Google words like narcissist and leprosy if only to appreciate where Francis was coming from. The words indeed then appeared to come together – and even come to life. And as a Pinoy, figuring out what Francis has been up to, I couldn’t help but remember Rizal. The one other time I was reminded of Rizal was when my wife and I were in a resort by the Black Sea, and tall cylindrical planters that were all over the resort had been inscribed with Rizal’s Ultimo Adios. And it was noteworthy because the resort was managed by a Spanish hotel chain.
In this blog I’ve talked about the church being a major dimension of our culture. And the “backwardness” and “anti-progress” that Rizal raised are as true today – i.e., PHL has the worst gap between rich and poor in the region? And hopefully with Francis, the church would soon come to terms with the challenge of change? But it wouldn’t be easy for Juan de la Cruz and/or the church to step up to the plate precisely because backwardness and anti-progress aren’t predisposed to change? And so while we continue to seek for answers, we need to ask ourselves a simple question: what did our neighbors do to become Asian Tigers? Studies and more studies can go only so far – if we don’t acknowledge the mistakes we’ve made, and made repeatedly – especially being cellar dwellers with no track record to speak of? 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why we’re still off-course . . .

. . . Despite a slew of investment grade ratings . . . “Finance Asia business editor Nick Ferguson said in a report Thursday that while Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima gives credit to "sound fiscal and monetary policy" under President Benigno Aquino III, it is the 15 million OFWs who contributed to the upgrade.” [OFWs, not gov't, lifted Phl to investment grade, Philstar.com, 4th Oct 2013] . . . Yet the world is dancing to a different music – beyond OFWs and BPOs. For example, “The number of large companies from the emerging world will rise according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) . . . In fact we have seen all this before. In the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese carmakers began gaining global market share and, in some cases, out-competed their US counterparts. More recently, South Korea’s Samsung has weakened Apple’s grip on the global smartphone market. In the decade ahead, this type of story will play out on a much bigger scale, and the rate at which newcomers topple industry leaders will probably accelerate.” [Urban world: The shifting global business landscape, Report/McKinsey Global Institute, October 2013]
“Such up-and-coming companies could disrupt entire industries by designing superior products at lower cost, by bringing them to market faster, and by streamlining business processes. Many of these businesses, having been nurtured in difficult operating environments, are not only more agile than their counterparts from advanced economies but also prepared to invest for the long term, even if this cuts earnings in the next few quarters. Many new players will be setting their sights on expanding into international markets.”
“Our research shows that the emerging economies’ share of Fortune Global 500 companies will probably jump to more than 45 percent by 2025, up from just 5 percent in 2000. That’s because while three-quarters of the world’s 8,000 companies with annual revenue of $1 billion or more are today based in developed economies, we forecast that an additional 7,000 could reach that size in little more than a decade—and 70 percent of them will most likely come from emerging markets.”
The role of business in economic development is widely acknowledged, as in: Over 500 local and international entrepreneurs, businessmen and politicians are gathering this week at the Enchanted Farm Village University in Angat, Bulacan to discuss the power of business and solve some of society’s most pressing problems.” [Global innovators gather for summit, The Philippine Star, 4th Oct 2013]
But . . . if we pause for a bit and examine the undertakings – and their scale – highlighted in the McKinsey report, clearly they demand responses that may be beyond our comfort zone: (a) designing superior products at lower cost, (b) bringing them to market faster, (c) streamlining business processes, (c) being more agile, (d) investing for the long term and (e) expanding into international markets. Indeed the world is dancing to a different music. OFWs and BPOs are music to our ears yet ASEAN 2015, for example, calls for something much more – and something dramatically different. And we even know that 3 of our neighbors have a mind-blowing head start given that they dominate 70% of current regional trade.
And precisely because of these realities, this blog talks about “the vital few” – the requisite foundation that will bring about a vibrant industrial base. For example, accelerating the erection of such basic infrastructure as power, roads and bridges, among others, as well as rapidly developing a select few, strategic and competitive industries as in the 7 winners teed up by the JFC. It is not about social programs, for instance, that both East Germany and India tried without success. It is about a sustainable economic undertaking; and for developing nations like PHL to lift their people out of poverty, it is about reaching the scale described in the McKinsey report – or what Japan and Korea achieved in the 70s and 80s and after.
We are way off-course . . . yet we may want to take comfort in Francis, who he is showing the Vatican that change is in fact positive? It is no different from what Rizal saw in Juan de la Cruz while he was in faraway Madrid as a student and exposed to the Age of Enlightenment. The contrast between what he knew were the conditions obtaining back home and how rapidly the world was progressing made Rizal realize that Juan de la Cruz was stuck in the rut of backwardness – to the point of being anti-progress. In the case of Francis, “he promised to do everything in his power to change the Vatican's mentality.” But how does Juan de la Cruz do that? One way is to step beyond "Pinoy abilidad" – celebrating oligarchy while making do with OFWs and BPOs – and start to focus on "the vital few," for example, so that we would learn to dance to “the music of progress”?

“Willful blindness”

That’s from Margaret Heffernan’s latest book, “Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.” [http://www.mheffernan.com] “She argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don't see – not because they're secret or invisible, but because we're willfully blind. She examines the phenomenon . . . and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? And how can we change? Examining examples of willful blindness in the Catholic Church . . . Nazi Germany . . . and the dog-eat-dog world of subprime mortgage lenders, the book demonstrates how failing to see—or admit to ourselves . . . the issues and problems in plain sight can ruin . . . and bring down [institutions.]”
Indeed, how can we change? How can we change when our knee-jerk is: "wala tayong magagawa; ganyan talaga”? Not surprisingly, Rizal had to turn to the Filipino youth. To the Philippine Youth: Hold high the brow serene, O youth, where now you stand; Let the bright sheen Of your grace be seen, Fair hope of my fatherland!
Fast-forward to today. Francis hasn’t stopped airing his views about change: Pope, in New Interview, Vows to Change Vatican Mentality, The New York Times, 1st Oct 2013. “Pope Francis has promised to do everything in his power to change the Vatican's mentality, saying in an interview published on Tuesday that it was too focused on its own interests . . . In the long interview with the atheist editor of the left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, he said too many previous popes in the Church's long history had been "narcissists" who let themselves been flattered by their "courtier" aides.”
"The (papal) court is the leprosy of the papacy," said Francis, who has brought a new style of openness, consultation and simplicity to the papacy. The interview, conducted last week in the pope's spartan residence in a Vatican guest house, appeared as he began a three-day, closed-door meeting with eight cardinals from around the world to help him reform the Vatican's troubled administration, known as the Curia.”
“There are some "courtiers" among the Curia's administrators, he said, but its main defect is that it is too inward-looking. “It looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, in large part temporal interests. This Vatican-centric vision neglects the world around it and I will do everything to change it," he said. . . . Francis said the eight cardinals he had chosen to make up his advisory board did not have selfish motives. “They are not courtiers but wise people who are inspired by my same feelings. This is the start of a Church with an organization that is not only vertical but also horizontal," he said.”
“Speaking of his personal faith, Francis said: "A Catholic God does not exist... "I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my master and my pastor, but God, the father ... is the light and the creator. This is my being . . . In the interview, the Argentine pope said that on the night fellow cardinals elected him in the Sistine Chapel on March 13, before formally accepting, he had asked to go to an adjoining room to be alone. "My head was completely empty and a great anxiety came over me. To make it go away and relax I closed my eyes and every thought went away, even that of not accepting, which the liturgical procedures permitted," he said . . . On September 19, Jesuit journals published a landmark interview with Francis in which he said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful.”
Is Juan de la Cruz willfully blind or is he capable of change – especially when the elite class is calling the shots? How does he learn to be outward-looking? And how does he learn about a horizontal as opposed to a hierarchical system and structure? At every level of society we are expected to define patriotism – and even a booming economy – with deference to our cacique masters? And then we turn around to champion “inclusive growth” via our favorite CSR programs and/or charity efforts? Every high school kid, from Economics 101, knows that investment is fundamental; and we lag in investments especially compared to our neighbors – by design to protect our cacique masters? How and where will inclusive growth come from – more so that we are perpetuating subservience? Reads a Philippine Daily Inquirer (2nd Oct) article about our tycoons: "If only the government would show them back some love." And compare that to an ABC (2nd Oct) news item: "Major Microsoft investors want Bill Gates out as Chairman." And Gates is more than the wealthiest American, he is behind the office/business-productivity revolution that defied even quantum leap and in more ways than one generated wealth across continents and reduced poverty worldwide? What about our tycoons – they preserved, protected and defended oligarchy that turned us into investment and economic laggards? And we are all in bed with them?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Leadership. Leadership. Leadership.

That is what it would take if PHL is to successfully respond to the challenge – to reduce poverty – spelled out by Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank’s vice president for East Asia and the Pacific of the World Bank. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26th Sept 2013] “[D]eep-seated issues . . . rooted in the long decades of policy distortions . . . weighed down agriculture and manufacturing in the last six decades. Agricultural productivity has remained depressed, manufacturing has failed to grow sustainably, and a low-productivity, low-skill services sector has emerged as the dominant sector of the economy. Lack of competition in key sectors, insecurity of property rights, complex regulations, and severe underinvestment by the government and the private sector have led to this growth pattern, which is not the norm in the East Asia region.”
While the issues are deep-seated, the WB vice president was kind and respectful of Juan de la Cruz: “After the 1986 Edsa Revolution, several industries, notably the telecommunications and airlines industries, were opened up to competition.” But that was then and this is now: “After two years of consultations and research, the Philippines Development Report (PDR) concludes that there’s no quick fix that can address the jobs challenge overnight. But based on the country’s experiences, reforms can be implemented, especially if the country’s leaders from the government (both the executive and legislative branches), private sector, labor, civil society can come together and work out a strong coalition for reform.”
And he has high hopes for President Aquino: “The Aquino administration has demonstrated that it is not afraid to try and tackle vested interests in areas that had previously been too sensitive to reform. Several reforms have successfully started, notably in public financial management, tax policy and administration, anticorruption, and social service delivery. The country now therefore has a great opportunity to deepen reforms to protect property rights, promote more competition, and simplify regulations, while sustainably ramping up public investments in infrastructure, education, and health.”
The fundamental challenge we face is the inherent assumptions Juan de la Cruz has had since Rizal said, over a hundred years ago, that our culture was backward, anti-progress, etc., etc. Unfortunately, that is not easy to take dispassionately? Padre Damaso is long gone but did he leave an indelible mark? Let’s start with patriotism. Is Singapore (or any of our neighbors, for that matter?) less patriotic than PHL for opening its economy and thus attracts investment and technology and beyond like a magnet? Is the average Singaporean destined to hell while Juan de la Cruz isn’t? Yet even Francis calls himself a sinner – and has promised to do everything in his power to change the Vatican's mentality.” [NY Times, 1st Oct]
Poverty is the effect not the cause . . . with due respect to our best minds. Instead of recognizing that we blew it – making do with OFWs and BPOs – and doggedly pursuing industrialization, we like to demonstrate our concern for the poor – as in pork is necessary? But that doesn't change the equation: we don’t have the requisite foundation to build on a robust economy – and reduce poverty! Band-Aid treatment and window dressing smack of Padre Damaso? When ranking legislators could even conceive that pork was meant to stimulate the economy we know we're doomed. We're reading too much US-style politics when we're an underdeveloped economy. Stimulus in a developed economy works as a stop-gap but in an underdeveloped economy like ours it becomes permanent because the economy has no foundation to begin with. And it doesn't stop there. With ASEAN 2015 we talk about all "the trivial many" but not "the vital few," once again. Indeed we have our top ten exports to ASEAN countries but we know that 3 of our neighbors dominate 70% of regional trade; ergo, we're again down the abyss! As marketers know, the first fundamental or the first "P" is the right product or products!
Prayers are always called for but, as the Dane expatriate told us, we better learn to solve our problems. While the Malaysian said we must develop local leaders. Ergo: what is different from over a hundred years ago when Rizal took up the cudgels for Juan de la Cruz, are we no longer backward and anti-progress, etc., etc.? Or are we unwittingly still because we’re parochial and inward-looking? Can we learn something from Francis, who says of the Curia, “its main defect is that it is too inward-looking . . . A Catholic God does not exist...” [Pope, in New Interview, Vows to Change Vatican Mentality, New York Times, 1st Oct 2013]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bottom-of-the-pyramid > farms-to-market roads > pork

That’s a simple way to illustrate why compassion can be misplaced. When we focus on the bottom-of-the-pyramid we could unwittingly be perpetuating our cacique culture. As the pork barrel scam clearly pointed out, everyone and his uncle would raise their hands “to help” the poor yet end up helping themselves. And why this blog talks about Pareto's 80-20 rule. (Clinton today may mean Hillary but “it’s still the economy, stupid!”) And it wasn’t surprising Francis would say that while John XXIII saw the “maximum dimension” he focused on the fewer impactful initiatives. Clearly Vatican II was an illustration of that. Ergo: the “vital few” is universal – and it applies even to the scribes and Pharisees? Will Juan de la Cruz ever get it?
And in the midst of poverty, we thought MNCs were evil out to exploit the masses? “Down with MNCs” (from my student days) came back when I read that a Philippine business icon was positive about 2015 – i.e., he expected their businesses to prosper even more with ASEAN’s bigger market. Yet Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand would run rings around us given they dominate 70% of ASEAN trade. Have we learned our lesson yet – i.e., not only the West and oligarchy could be MNCs?
My Eastern European friends have rapidly learned Western MNC skills especially because they're an FMCGC (fast-moving consumer goods company.) Poor countries like those in Eastern Europe mean families spend whatever little they've got mostly on food and consumer products. But some of these countries have less poverty than PHL. Thus one would shake his head reading about a Philippine bank equating sales of more cars to a good economy instead of saying “the business of the bank was good!” It had nothing to do with a prosperous economy; it had to do with human needs – and the "Dutch disease"! Our over $20 billion in OFW remittances support the economy and make our CB smelling like a rose. It’s called “sound economic fundamentals” – similar from before derivatives exploded? And why the WB and ADB wanted us to focus on manufacturing. Is it any wonder JP Morgan, for example, was to settle mortgage probes in the billions of dollars? [Disclosure: As a US market investor I've stopped reading bank reports long ago; straight to the recycling bins they'd go.]
Indeed, even at the bottom-of-the pyramid, people need to survive, and then some. And Maslow’s hierarchy of needs captures why they would sacrifice even a bit more to indulge on something more desirable. And my Eastern European friends today now would laugh with me as the iPhone 5S sold more than the cheaper 5C during the first weekend of its launch – that included China, not just the US. They would remember when I asked who among them had smartphones and designer jeans; and most of them did! Yet they claimed when I first arrived ten years ago that they were poor Bulgarians!
Figuring out the prognosis of the business in consumer goods is not rocket science – i.e., comparing consumption per capita and GDP per capita essentially defines the market potential when arrayed side-by-side in a universe of countries; and even pinpoints where to focus, i.e., Pareto’s 80-20 rule. Of course, my friends had to first learn and invest in product development and that marketing and R&D are Siamese twins; the key being to develop products across the value-addition chain to be able to compete in different markets – emerging, developing, developed.
What about the economy? First and foremost, an economy needs a strong foundation; not oligopoly, but infrastructure. When the requisite infrastructure is present foreign investors would have the confidence to bet and invest in manufacturing, in technology, in innovation, in education and training, in product and market development. Precisely what the world saw with the Asian tigers. It will not happen overnight – and there are no shortcuts. A clear vision, transparency, focus and discipline are a must. We can’t continue spiraling down the abyss – given our corrupt culture while proudly protecting our cacique masters and blocking foreign investment and technology and innovation and education and training and product and market development! We’ve been jostling for excuses especially “kuro-kuro” which may be fun while completely missing the common good, reducing poverty – i.e., our national income or GDP remains Third-World?
We’ve denounced MNCs instead of learning to be one too (and ASEAN is clearly a vehicle) because we’ve been in bed with oligarchy; one day we’re proud of them and the next, we’re angry? When we hear a business icon talk about the bottom-of-the-pyramid, it has nothing to do with a prosperous economy but a prosperous business. And India has seen it lately as their economy stalled again – while the Brahmins continued to prosper. The concepts of “an inclusive economy” and “bottom-of-the-pyramid” were developed by Indians. And it is not surprising given their hierarchical system and structure. But they still must address their weak economic foundation like we do in PHL.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fatalism and/or insanity

Do we believe that a few points gained (coming from such a low base) in our competitiveness ranking would translate to economic development – i.e., that we would be an inclusive, developed and a model economy? While the Jesuits preach that Christ is in everything, there must be time that is dedicated for work (of course we know the chapter and verse and the song too?) or faith without works doesn’t compute? I learned it after being a lazy student for the longest time to the frustration of my parents. Translation: we are doomed if even our best minds buy into Pinoy fatalism and, worse, conclude that our economy is breaking out and is to takeoff and soar? For example, we will miss our much ballyhooed export target and the similarly hyped rice self-sufficiency. [And in the meantime, and for the umpteenth time, the World Bank and the ADB are urging us to pursue economic and industry reforms. That means beyond the sense of urgency we need the sense of closure so that challenges don’t pile up? Or is that what “que sera, sera” is? “Filipinos not only tend to avoid conflict, but problems as well,” says an expat, a Dane.] Yet one major daily has been heaping accolades on those press releases without vetting them as in "where is the beef” or, simply, who will do what, when, where, why and how? That is insulting, not patriotic – i.e., folks from ex-Soviet satellites could give us an earful! Or is that Padre Damaso redux?
Was Rizal right about our backwardness – and being anti-progress, etc., etc.? How deep in the abyss are we? We won’t recognize it if we’ve ignored what is going on with our neighbors, much less with the rest of the world? It is not surprising that Cardinal Tagle has put his finger into our culture – we don’t hold the keys to heaven nor want to be the modern-day scribes and Pharisees? Francis and John XXIII must both have such courage and conviction to go against backwardness? It’s laughable how some quarters worry that Francis has thrown out the window all safeguards implicit in hierarchy; for example, calling people directly on their cellphones could open the papacy to impersonators. Transparency needs no such safeguards. Didn't our mothers say that honesty is the best policy? 
And I am reminded of the time that I had to read the riot act to the management team of a subsidiary in my old MNC company: “From here on forward, every employee in this subsidiary must be connected to the company’s email system, full stop! [And that was before the age of Yahoo or Google or even AOL.] Communication is fundamental in a functioning enterprise.” I was simply dumbfounded when an employee called my hotel room to request a meeting about something that ought to be out in the open – not uncommon and in fact normal to us Pinoys? And then I realized that the subsidiary was stunting open communication. Fast forward: many years later I would break into a grin every time my Eastern European friends would be quizzing one another, including the big boss. Translation: they’ve developed an egalitarian environment such that the best thinking and ideas would percolate to the top.
From basic infrastructure like power . . . to a vibrant industrial base . . . we are lagging the world! And we will, even after a hundred years, until we overcome our subservience to hierarchy? Or why church secrecy, for example, is abhorrent? And so for a hundred more years we would remain underdeveloped – because we value secrecy and hierarchy over transparency? Ergo: oligarchy, political patronage and corruption are in our DNA? And so we can’t but be fatalistic? Or is it insanity as Einstein pronounced – to be doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome?
In fairness, I am reminded of the Monsignor in our New York suburban parish. [May he rest in peace!] One Sunday he had a word with me: I understand your daughter is going to an Ivy League school – they are very liberal . . . I don’t have to tell you . . . And my response: between the home, her school and the church, I am confident that she is ready for college, wherever. He not only acquiesced; the following year and the next, my daughter was invited to speak to the students at her former high school to talk about how to be admitted in an Ivy. And while she was the first from that all-girls Catholic school to go to an Ivy League school, more followed suit. (It was taken for granted that graduates would move on to a Jesuit college in the state or elsewhere.) The Monsignor was an efficient church administrator and the parish, thanks to the system he institutionalized, has been a model of financial viability; and, more importantly, a true church to the community. He was a friend to most everyone and would visit homes and break bread with families. And just like many of us, he had his favorite Italian restaurant, and had his particular taste of Italian wine. He even introduced my family to Key West (Florida): You want peace and quiet in your holiday, try Key West.

Culturally speaking – from two expatriates

Call it coincidence. I was reviewing my notes before flying to Tallinn (Estonia) to make a presentation to the European culture-management community about culture in an organization – how it is created and maintained – and in the news was the “Asia CEO Forum’s Leadership Summit about Filipino idiosyncrasies.” [Manila Bulletin, 16th Sept 2013] For many years at my old MNC company, I was the de facto Asian desk. And the Malaysian expatriate who spoke about their success in PHL being sensitive to Pinoy culture reminded me of my own introduction to Malaysia. Like in most of Asia, relationships are the first imperative – and the Malaysian expat’s instincts I thought were true to form. The challenge is with Westerners. Yet it is dangerous to generalize. For example, the most culture-sensitive I would remember in the expatriate community were a Dane and an Australian. Yet there were also a Dane and an Australian that couldn’t figure out the Asian culture.
“Filipinos not only tend to avoid conflict, but problems as well. Problems are there to be solved, but some Filipinos may think that if they just leave it alone, it will go away. But I tend to think that the first mistake is often the cheapest so let’s try to get straight to it and get it resolved,” said the Dane in the Manila Bulletin article. And from the Malaysian: “We have to create a sustainable talent pool here in the Philippines. In my own opinion, the Philippines is favorable today because of the cheap labor, but one day, maybe 15 years from now, that would not be the case. To make this place sustainable, we need to bring research and development to the country. We need to be engaged in that sector of the business. To make that happen, we need to develop local leaders.”
What I shared with the Europeans: It is important for an organization and its people, irrespective of nationality or culture, “to sign up to the enterprise’s reason for being." And that presupposes treating everyone as an equal – otherwise, why engage them about the object of the exercise? The problem with some organizations, including local PHL firms and even MNCs, is they don’t want to share that with the people. And it sends the signal that the enterprise is a “command and control” environment. The one characteristic of a well-known MNC that we came to know about (through the people that left them and joined my friends in Eastern Europe), for example, was their “mantra of execution.” They didn’t realize that despite the efforts they put behind training and developing their people, there was no clarity in the organization’s reason for being. It was assumed that everyone knew the drill. Yet apparently people felt more like robots. (In contrast, working with my friends, these people found meaning at work.)
And the reason for that could be secrecy rules; for example, some don’t want to talk about the profit motive, among others. But successful enterprises are such precisely because they are a sustainable economic activity. And which is why even in ex-socialist Eastern Europe, people had to understand the “whys” of the profit motive – and that secrecy doesn't rule. And that means beyond the drive for profit is the sensitivity and commitment to transparency and integrity; and that means being a good corporate citizen within and without, being ethical and responsible, giving not simply taking. (I understood that even Europeans may not be unequivocal about transparency as a French-Canadian and a French-Dutch, from academe, approached me in Tallinn awed that my Bulgarian friends responded to the challenge posed before them.)
Once the organization’s reason for being is crystal clear, then it is imperative to reinforce the egalitarian footing of the enterprise: the business goals are understood, shared and owned by the organization and its people. And so commitment and motivation is internalized by everyone, and that assumes that it is a marketplace of ideas: who will do what, when, where, why and how – including “what’s in it for me.” People come together to spell those out being an honest-to-goodness team environment. And which is why, for example, the Balanced Scorecard became a global phenomenon – it facilitates goal alignment. (Disclosure: I opted against it because the process could overshadow “the object of the exercise,” i.e., we had to find a simpler way to institutionalize the process.)
Culture management is among the soft and the hard elements found in successful enterprises – which is also true for infrastructure, i.e., it is not only hard but soft as well. And that is why the expats in the summit touched on problem solving and leadership. We Pinoys can’t be all soft. Subservience by definition emboldens the powerful! Put another way, in a democracy we will always get the leadership that we deserve!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Problem-solving and leadership

“Filipinos not only tend to avoid conflict, but problems as well.” That came from a Dane at the “Asia CEO Forum’s Leadership Summit about Filipino idiosyncrasies.” [Manila Bulletin, Tricia V. Morente, 16th Sept 2013] “To make this place sustainable, we need to bring research and development to the country. We need to be engaged in that sector of the business. To make that happen, we need to develop local leaders.” And that’s from a Malaysian.
Problem-solving and leadership. Reflecting on them a bit, that was precisely the culture shock that hit me when my old MNC company moved me to the headquarters. And I didn't automatically get it. I remembered back in PHL we always were proud of “being resilient.” I finally realized that it was a euphemism for our instinct of inaction? And even the OFW and BPO phenomena happened because we didn’t want to pursue industrialization since it demanded opening up our economy to foreign investments and that would mean stepping on the toes of our cacique masters – our definition of patriotism? We like to write our own rules and so about morality, we would denounce in the strongest terms divorce, contraception and abortion but be in bed with oligarchy – to which Francis was critical because of his Latin American experience, while embracing a divorcee, for example, and describing himself as "I am a sinner"? Or to Rizal much earlier, we were backward, anti-progress, etc., etc.? And the proof is all around us?
We couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t act because we would be stepping on someone else’s toes? But we’re just being compassionate – and/or subservient to hierarchy? In short, is it simply the human condition – of taking the path of least resistance? The bottom line: We are economic laggards owing to our pathetic levels of investment, technology, innovation, education, product and market development – and the ultimate reward being underdevelopment?
Thus the only option left is fatalism because we’ve run away from problem-solving? And consequently we’re not developing leadership in Juan de la Cruz because followership comes hand in glove with our instincts? And so while we supply the greatest numbers of seafarers to the world, the Pinoy ship captain is the exception not the rule? And when we hear that the wealthiest Filipinos are the Chinoys, our knee-jerk is “man does not live by bread alone”? ‘Pinoy abilidad’ could make anything sound good, but it is not about setting higher goals?
It is a worldwide phenomenon that minorities in a country are motivated to excel because the cards are stacked against them. But that doesn’t mean the rest ought to just claim happiness? That is truly stretching Greek philosophy and yet we’d rather claim that we are among if not the happiest people on earth? Who cares if the world has reduced poverty and we can’t? As a consultant from Denmark explained, "We were reported to be the happiest people yet we have the highest suicide rate. It is about all those "freebies" that come with our socialist system, which we in fact pay for in higher taxes. But there must be a big bunch of freeloaders that give us the good rating and enough of those that give us the dreadful image. And Denmark’s population is less than 6 million." While a French-Canadian psychology guru offered, "the goal of our efforts must be the betterment of man."
With due respect, President Aquino’s credibility to the outside world may have gained sympathy but it has yet to win investors – because investment is not just soft, it is likewise hard, like the imperative of healthy returns. And so while we are riveted on the pork scam, we like to think that President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” per se would win the day? In a grade school experiment we first planted mongo seeds before we saw the sprouts? Put another way, some hypotheses or arguments that we may hold dear don't hold water? We need mass and weight to power a select few industry sectors and be globally competitive; unfortunately, we don’t see crab mentality when we spread resources thinly? And consequently we get feeble outcomes? And why in this blog Pareto's 80-20 rule is a recurring theme.
When I presented the case study of my Eastern European friends to the European culture-management community during their recent conference, I warned them upfront that the secret (in the former being named one of the EU’s best and fastest growing companies) was really very simple. During the conference we heard lots of theories and on the final day of the conference my goal was to demonstrate how a few select themes had delivered results – or what in this day and age Google calls analytics. But before the days of computing and communication, it was simply expressed as "separating the wheat from the chaff."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mission accomplished – the war or the economy?

The image of the swagger displayed by George W. Bush aboard an aircraft carrier would come back when President Aquino declared that he was in-charge of the Zamboanga armed conflict? Meanwhile President Ramos, schooled as a soldier, expressed concern about "collateral damage" – as contemporary wars have in fact taught the world. On the other hand, President Aquino must be commended for taking the leadership role when leadership is demanded. Thus, the world has applauded his "daang matuwid," as in "kung walang 'corrupt' walang mahirap." He indeed put his finger on the heart of our being economic laggards. In contrast to Ramos, Aquino was schooled as an economist. The challenge is how to push the envelope? He has talked about "the Philippines is back in business" and that oligopoly is not the way to a level playing field, and that competition elicits the best in people, in enterprises and in economies.
If the president could be away from MalacaƱang to personally direct an armed conflict, he could likewise personally direct our economic development efforts, including addressing oligopoly? And he could start by giving the orders to prioritize, plan and accelerate the execution of infrastructure projects, with power at the top of the priority list? Beyond saying "yayaman lang diyan si MVP" (translates to: awarding them that infrastructure project will only enrich MVP), he ought to put a stop to oligopoly? For example, by amending the "negative list" and thus create room for foreign investment and technology. Speaking from both sides of our mouth has sent the wrong signal to foreign investment for the longest time? We need clarity in our thinking and consistency in our pronouncements and actuations? It's not easy and will demand from Juan de la Cruz to embrace transparency instead of cheerleading and reinforcing subservience to our cacique masters? It wasn't easy for China either to meld communism with capitalism?
If we were able to open the doors to foreign gambling's suspicious characters, should we then pause and consider if in fact the multiplier effect of manufacturing investments especially driven by technology will be greater than gambling, because the latter has a pretty low value-addition? Gambling on Sentosa Island in Singapore came about only after industrialization was clearly in place, making Singapore a First-World economy; and so that locals would no longer take their gambling monies to neighboring countries? Translation: we seem to copy the wrong model instead of the right economic model? Yet didn’t we elect two economists in the recent past?

Moreover, the president could take charge and dialogue with the JFC (they represent foreign investments that we claim we want to attract) in order to confirm or update their 7 industry winners and, as importantly, pull out all the stops and get these industries off the drawing board sooner than later – and usher what we sorely need, a vibrant industrial base? We need “mass and weight” in investment levels if we are to attain competitive advantage in whatever set of industry winners we identify and define. We need some quick hits and wins – because we need at least a generation to approximate a developed economy, and indeed that brings despair. But we can't keep our head stuck in the sand because of crab mentality? Our mental model is in lockstep with conglomerates where a CEO could run 50 companies; but given that we're an oligopoly we've demonstrated no real concern about regional much less global competition? Unsurprisingly, we've institutionalized political patronage and kept our economy closed and restrictive to foreign investment and by extension technology? Ergo: PHL is the least competitive within ASEAN, and its people the poorest. And with due respect, social programs are not the simple answer! Remember Clinton? It’s still the economy!
How do we deal with the 50 industries that are working on their road maps? What is our understanding of “an economy that has a level playing field”? For example, these industries must demonstrate that they have the ability to compete beyond our shores. And that starts with the right products – it is not about seeking government support in organizing foreign roadshows with products that are not targeted to specific consumers or customers, because they have not been defined to match a competitive and winning product promise; and thus such products are guaranteed losers. On the other hand, the right products have (a) committed competitive levels of investment, (b) tapped into state-of-the-art technology, (c) geared to move up the value-addition chain and reinforced by the organization’s innovation culture in order to sustain competitiveness, and (d) in place is the requisite market development infrastructure.
Two expatriates said that we Pinoys: (a) avoid not only conflicts but also problems, and (b) must develop leaders. President Aquino could then demonstrate both leadership and problem-solving in one fell swoop? Or we could instead demonstrate that we are indeed all talk and no action? For example, we need big tickets items like incremental exports of over $100 billion. But we have yet to internalize the 80-20 rule; so we’ve been pushing a zillion things (i.e., our “bida culture”) without “the end in view” thus have missed the bottom line for decades, i.e., our GDP per person remains woeful!