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]

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