Monday, November 4, 2013

Create and spread wealth

That is what PHL needs to do. Underdevelopment means poverty. The world has drastically reduced poverty as country after country succeeded in economic development. In PHL, we've been addressing poverty for decades – while ignoring the fundamentals of economic development! In the vernacular, we're "puro daldal, satsat, sitsit." As Deng Xiaoping put it, we need to make the country rich and strong. Sadly, we’re again stuck and this time debating pork. People Power against pork or do we vote every legislator out in the next elections? But are we again in a reactive mode? In the private sector they recognize such a challenge and thus they are tactical (addressing the short-term) on the one hand and being strategic (addressing the long-term) on the other. The administration keeps talking about DAP as an economic stimulus. It’s like saying hungry Filipinos need CCT. CCT is not a stimulus; it is to keep body and soul together. What an underdeveloped economy needs are fundamental building blocks, not stimulus. Politicians like it for “pa-pogi” points. But the science of compassion, as in CCT, says that it has no connection with outcomes – like poverty. Yet it triggers the brain akin to indulging in chocolate or sex or falling in love! And in PHL, it's also a natural spring not of water but of corruption!

We can take out pork – via people power – or boot out every legislator in the next elections, but that doesn’t change Juan de la Cruz? In a democracy we get the leadership that we deserve: a high-handed master because our paternalism says we're a bunch of"Bondyings”? “The ill-fitting political system lifted from the American model is not conducive to good governance in a Filipino setting,” says an opinion writer. Indeed political maturity is a requisite in a democracy. We haven't learned to say no; and we expect our leaders not to say no, either? We have yet to internalize transparency, for example. It is likewise the foundation of meritocracy – or why political patronage thrives in PHL? It’s no different from what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, etc. But then again, why are there Asian Tigers?

In this blog I shared about being a lazy thus a mediocre student for the longest time to the frustration of my parents. Students like nations can be mediocre. I know about being mediocre, and as a nation we are! Mediocre for a nation is to take the easy way by promoting the pursuit of the low-hanging fruit, i.e., OFW remittances and BPOs, instead of rapidly developing our infrastructure and pursuing industrialization like our neighbors did? Mediocre is to stay in the comforts of the past (which brings about obsolescence) instead of facing and responding to the challenge of the future? That is the simplest definition of development – as in economic development? It demands lots of work. It demands maturity. And worse is to assume “Pinoy abilidad” and reinvent the wheel instead of learning from our neighbors, for example? Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir, respectively, gave us the simple formula – be disciplined, don’t love the West but embrace their wealth and technology – but we’re smart and wanted complexity, i.e., corruption? In the meantime APEC countries won’t treat us like a debutante, and instead we must expect the big guys to bully us! We can't be Bondyings; we must behave like their equals. And that means we trade what we produce, and we get the short end of the stick if all we offer are natural resources and intermediate products – as in 3 of our neighbors dominating trade to the extent of 70%!

And we’re offended by foreign films depicting PHL as the pits? Marcos, Estrada, Arroyo, the 178 political dynasties that dominate 73 out of 80 provinces and the 40 families that control up to 76% of PHL economy are why we are the pits? And we think our CB patting ourselves on the back given our foreign exchange reserves (courtesy of OFWs) is the true picture? That positive picture comes from the financial services sector (i.e., credit rating agencies and banks) in the US, where the largest bank is reported to settle the multiple charges against them to the tune of $13 billion, and counting. This is the same sector that brought the Great Recession to the 21st century. Ergo, finance like any other resource must be utilized for productive pursuits, not financial mumbo jumbo. In private-sector lingo, what PHL needs is a restructuring! But as my maternal grandfather [May he rest in peace!] would say, “Where is our backbone?”

How do we create and spread wealth? Not by compassion but by being smart in the pursuit of economic development. We started well ahead of our neighbors down that road – granted, courtesy of our relationship with the US – but just like what the world has seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, etc., local lords took over the role of colonial masters? What an insult?

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