Saturday, November 2, 2013

Where is PHL, really?

If the track record of science is suspect (in generating knowledge) and if even the Vatican could be stirred into an upheaval by the pope himself (for its narcissism), what about an economic laggard and poverty-stricken nation like PHL (that appears frozen in time)? Where are we, really? Or is it what are we? 

We are considered the most unequal with the widest gap between rich and poor in the region. And that is reflective of the reality that in a 100 million-strong nation 40 families control up to 76% of PHL economy and 178 political dynasties dominate 73 out of 80 provinces. Ergo: We are centuries behind the times, whatever positives Juan de is Cruz is told aren't representative of his reality? Where is Philippine media?

Beyond the church, the school is likewise in turmoil given the sinking rankings of our universities compared to the rest of the world? The same could be said of the public sector – or are they in fact worse – given the corruption across the board or is it laterally and vertically? And the private sector has ceded 70% of regional trade to 3 of our neighbors – because beyond manufacturing, we have been left behind in investment, in technology and innovation as well as in product and market development?

How could we be so economically and commercially trade uncompetitive on the one hand and celebrating oligopoly on the other? Of course even the US is under the thumb of industry and Wall Street. And so there's a breath of fresh air with the news that its largest bank, JPMorgan, is to settle its numerous charges to the tune of $13 billion, and counting. And others in their industry are under scrutiny?

Where is PHL really? Cursing Manila traffic or NAIA or the absence of basic infrastructure speaks volumes about Juan de la Cruz? To add insult to injury, we're proudly trumpeting our PPP as a model for APEC countries – when Metro Manila made it to the world map because of the 'gates of hell'? [Our infrastructure deficit is not about to ebb especially when our neighbors aren’t standing still.] Do we know where we're going to recognize if we're coming or going? What about distinguishing the tactical from the strategic and the "vital few" versus the "trivial many"?

So our electronics industry which just revealed the truth about lower exports numbers for 2013 are looking at making PHL a major player down the road? With a big qualification, of course: if government would support the industry starting with our uncompetitive power situation. And the tourism industry is singing a similar tune – we can't meet our targets if government support (e.g., infrastructure) isn't forthcoming?

If Pope Francis calls ideological Christianity “an illness” what do we call our continued failings? How do we put two and two together – so that our universities don't rank as badly as our economy and our competitiveness? Just like transparency, competitiveness is a value. A nation that is addressing “competitiveness” at the intellectual level – e.g., via the ratings and rankings from international agencies – is akin to a learner that is still at the cognitive stage, and is ways away from expertise? The fact that we’ve been debating the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution for the longest time means that we don’t value competitiveness? And the same is true with transparency; the fact that we’ve been debating the FOI for the longest time says that we don’t value transparency?

Conversely, these debates confirm what we truly value – PHL's long-entrenched oligopoly and hierarchical system and structure yet our so called pillars of industry have rendered us regionally and globally uncompetitive – that finds deeper expression in the tyranny and corruption that have defined our way of life? How could Juan de la Cruz figure that out if the beliefs that we hold dear are completely at odds with civilized, just, equal and egalitarian societies? A columnist asked if we are simply corrupt. Man is constantly confronted with the choice between good and evil, and which is why civilized, just, equal and egalitarian societies value the rule of law! And Juan de la Cruz holds the secret in his hands. And it really is simple. Do we want to be a civilized people? Do we want to be a just, equal and an egalitarian society? Unfortunately, we can’t simply answer that because we value rank – because rank has its privileges?

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