Friday, March 7, 2014

Bad results are frustrating . . .

“Aquino scolds execs over power failure,” read a news item, Manila Times, Joel M. Sy Egco, 24th Feb 2014. Unfortunately, we are in for more bad results: ‘Our best isn’t good enough,’ Palace Admits Inadequate Gov’t Response To ‘Yolanda’ Disaster, Manila Bulletin, Genalyn Kabiling, 17th Feb 2014.

Will there be more scolding from the president? This blog has talked about how the private sector manages major challenges including pursuing restructuring in extreme cases. Unfortunately, in politics and public administration, denial is a convenient response given the multitude of constituencies that must be appeased. For example, those from the opposition, whenever they see blood, would most likely pounce on the administration. The problem with denial is when leadership becomes hostage to a make-believe world, and problem-solving is undermined if not abandoned.

It is noteworthy that the administration admits to inadequate government response in Yolanda. And the focus on getting key infrastructure projects going (while unwelcomed by the riding public) will be a big boost to productivity – which we have long forgotten being key to raising competitiveness and economic output. Still, given crab mentality and mistrust, there will always be projects that would suffer delays, e.g., Mactan airport.  Recall NAIA 3 – or have we forgotten? Mistrust is typical in underdeveloped nations, forgetting that the rule of law is why productivity, efficiency and competitiveness characterize First-World societies.

And when incompetence, if not anarchy, is a way of life, the seed of corruption . . . would sprout and then nurtured . . . until it becomes a monster. “DOTC $30-M extortion: Czech exec's affidavit. The $30-million extortion from Czech train supplier Inekon was in the news again last week,” GOTCHA, Jarius Bondoc, The Philippine Star, 26th Feb 2014. For decades Juan de la Cruz has taken incompetence and anarchy – best exemplified by Metro Manila streets – as a given because we're a Third-World country? “In catch up mode, daw! Senate Finance Committee chairman . . . announced a Senate investigation on the do-nothing DOTC,” DEMAND AND SUPPLY, Boo Chanco, The Philippine Star, 26th Feb 2014.

The good news is our neighbors are more developed than PHL so that indeed we have greater room to grow. And which also explains our attraction to the global community . . . yet so convenient to forget . . . and makes problem-solving efforts suspect? Of course, we must take the good with the bad. But it doesn't mean we're having a free lunch. The magnitude of the dollars to rebuild Tacloban is so great that even friendly nations are asking tough questions – i.e., we can’t expect handouts and must justify the project. And to simply say – given our compassionate heart – that we must give food, shelter and sanitation doesn't go far enough to justify such a project. We have to address beyond the symptoms . . . the real need.
If we want to connect the dots: populism per se breeds paternalism which in turn emboldens tyranny thus our cacique culture . . . which comes full circle to inequality. In other words, every time we invoke our supposed mantra of inclusion, we are back to square one. (And it is a microcosm of why PHL remains underdeveloped?) And precisely why political dynasties are more entrenched in provinces where poverty is greater and paternalism is a way of life. [“On average, there are more dynasties in regions with higher poverty, lower human development and more severe deprivation,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, Editorial, The time is now, 1st Mar 2014]

Reality. Reality. Reality. “Ukraine needs to show that it can absorb foreign aid and not waste it . . . It cannot be that [the E.U.] will organize huge funds for Ukraine and Ukraine will continue to waste this money by, for example, corrupt governments and oligarchs,” The New York Times, Tentatively EU weighs its options on support for a new Ukraine, 25th Feb 2014.

Sounds ominous? An underdeveloped economy, whether Ukraine or PHL, has to rely on the goodness of others but such aids aren’t ever absolute – which is just as well because self-respect is simply that, self-respect. And why development is about growing up – i.e., the problem with underdevelopment is that people behave mirroring that reality. And thus the world expects China, for example, to behave not like an underdeveloped economy being today's second largest economy. (While in the case of Russia, having botched the promise of being among the BRICS – succumbing to the easy path of oil wealth and oligopoly as opposed to a thriving modern and industrialized competitive economy – it needs to protect itself from within, as from its own self-image, and play the bully.)

It’s not a perfect world. And precisely why man must respond to his challenges – and he has over the centuries demonstrated that indeed The Creator endowed him with the character and the talent. And in this day and age the private sector, for example, continues to do its share. Take MNCs with operations in Venezuela, they are taking the turmoil in stride while taking a currency hit. And which is likely to happen with Ukraine too. Still, like in managing a portfolio – be it products or markets or countries – enterprises must be able to optimize their efforts in order to deliver acceptable net outcomes.

And optimization applies even in geopolitics. We in PHL appear to wonder if the US, for example, will defend us if China would invade. “I’m not going into hypothetical. I will just simply state again that we understand our obligations under Mutual Defense Treaty and we will live up to those obligations, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the United States Pacific Fleet,” I have two hands, COMMONSENSE, Marichu A. Villanueva, The Philippine Star, 26th Feb 2014. And that, of course, is something we would take as a cliché?

If aids aren’t absolute, what more of wars? Despite the military prowess between the two of them, the US and the EU cannot be fighting every war – including the atrocities the world sees in Syria, for instance. “Nixon envisioned a future in which more cordial relations among the major world powers -- the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Western Europe, and Japan -- would allow for ventures profitable to all,”“To many who had watched Richard M. Nixon build his political career as a Communist fighter, it must have seemed the ultimate irony. On July 15, 1971, Nixon announced on national television that he would become the first president ever to visit the People's Republic of China, a nation which had remained isolated from the West since the Communist   revolution in 1949.” [And to this day despite China’s saber-rattling, they continue to work with the West. For example, and it may not be surprising given the slowing of their economy, they are tapping the US for expertise from the private sector.]

On the other hand, The Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) was a war waged by coalition forces from 34 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.” [Wikipedia]

Bad results are frustrating. And what is even more crucial is for us to keep our eye on the ball – of responsibility. No one can do the job for us. Wrote Roger Cohen of The New York Times, “Cry for me, Argentina,” 27th Feb 2014, “In psychological terms – Buenos Aires is packed with folks on couches pouring out their anguish to psychotherapists – Argentina is a child among nations that never grew up. Responsibility was not its thing. Why should it be? There was so much to be plundered . . . that solid institutions and the rule of law . . . seemed a waste of time.”

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