Friday, March 14, 2014

Does PHL need a Francis?

“[A]s important as such structural and policy moves can be, church leaders and Vatican insiders say the 77-year-old Francis is really focused on a more ambitious (and perhaps more difficult) goal: overhauling and upending the institutional culture of Catholicism.” [Pope Francis' Reforms For The Catholic Church May Be Bigger Than Anyone Dreamed, David Gibson, Religion News Service, 8th Mar 2014] “Francis, they say, is bent on converting the church, as it were, so that the faith is positioned to flourish in the future no matter who follows him to the throne of St. Peter.”

We Pinoys ought to be proud of our culture but what about our hierarchical, cacique culture? What about the backwardness that Rizal saw over a hundred years ago? What about the culture of impunity? Wrote Atty. Romeo PefiancoReform laws on deaf ears, Manila Bulletin10th Mar 2014: The five acts enacted against corruption have not provided a mechanism to enforce them in a manner that people can call fast and efficient.  Only Erap was convicted of plunder some six years after the case was filed, but was promptly pardoned to run for president in 2010 and was elected mayor of the nation’s capital in 2013 . . . Without new judges, prosecutors, and court personnel, reform legislation cannot be enforced fast – like sending crooks to jail in five years or less from filing of complaints.  Permanent reforms should be enforced within the fastest time frame to convince dirty little crooks in government that WE mean business now and here.”

In short, do we need a Francis to upend the institutional culture of PHL? How many Pinoys believe that hierarchy – reflected in political patronage and political dynasties and oligopoly – is so embedded in the culture that it is cast in stone? Cardinal Tagle has called the faithful to change our culture and that is consistent with what Francis apparently is pursuing? “[W]oe to those churchmen who have been used to life at the top, and enjoy the view a bit too much.”

“Some in the Roman Curia” — the Vatican bureaucracy — “say, well, this pope is old so let’s wait a bit, and things will return to the way they were,” said the Rev. Humberto Miguel Yanez, a fellow Argentine Jesuit, who heads the moral theology department at the Gregorian University in Rome. “If this is the attitude, then his words and his reforms don’t mean anything. I think conversion is the most important thing, and that explains why Francis speaks every day, why he preaches every day.” [ibid.]

Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy. Bureaucracy. From Cielito F. Habito [Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary during the Ramos administration] in Paradigm shifts in agriculture, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer11th Mar 2014: The needed shift in focus from the production system alone to the entire value chain won’t happen for as long as the rest of that chain outside of the farm is considered the domain of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Such turf compartmentalization will not work in a government not known for strong inter-agency coordination.” Didn’t the administration organize the “economic cluster” within the cabinet precisely to put economic development front and center of their agenda? To overcome bureaucracy, the private sector knows one response: leadership! Or simply, a Francis?

“The DTI is largely involved in the industrial strategy, but the Department of Foreign Affairs should also be included to take care of government treaties that may be affected in the auto roadmap. The DOF is also necessary to address tax incentive issues.” [Auto roadmap should encourage local assembly – Nissan,Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin9th Mar 2014] “Toshiyuki Shiga [the second highest ranking official in Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.] who spearheads Nissan’s overall ASEAN operation, was alarmed that the share of imported CBU packs now dominates the domestic market with 60 percent share while the share of locally assembled cars is going down to 40 percent.”

“The Philippine situation runs counter to the trend in the region where locally assembled cars are at a high of 90 percent than imported CBUs. Indonesia and Thailand alone, their share of imported CBU packs is less than 10 percent of the market. Locally-assembled cars also account for 87 percent of the Malaysian car market . . . Shiga further noted the highly underutilized production capacity of the domestic industry. At present, the industry has a total production capacity of 200,000 units, but there are only 70,000 to 80,000 cars being produced by local assemblers.”

Did we say that we are crafting the road maps of 30 industries, including auto? And agribusiness too? But road maps don’t magically turn an industry into a competitive industry. And that is why inherent in the pursuit of major undertakings is to prioritize and focus. And in a market economy that means: (a) there is a market locally and/or overseas; (b) that the industry has defined a portfolio of products that is and will be competitive and deliver perceptible value; (c) that the industry has an appreciable impact on PHL economic output or GDP; (d) that it can tap and create the requisite supply chain – and linkages – to sustain the enterprise. In other words, a market economy is not defined by either local or overseas market per se but by competitiveness and the ability to win in a broad marketplace like ASEAN, if not beyond. The key being to generate the optimum returns in order to create a virtuous circle. Think of MNCs whose market values are a multiple of their revenues.

And, as importantly, the enterprise has the ability to fix things or solve problems. For example, it appears that PHL aviation doesn’t meet the yardstick: “In the process of desperately trying to apply wishful thinking to make a seven-year embarrassment go away and see Philippine air carriers welcome to expand their business in the US again, [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General] John Andrews has—apparently—misled his staff and management colleagues and impugned the integrity of the Federal Aviation Administration.” [CAAP completely loses its grip on reality, Ben D. Kritz, The Manila Times, 10th Mar 2014]

“While the purchase of new rescue equipment—while a little on the expensive side—is probably useful, it does nothing more than highlight the painful problem with the CAAP’s approach to the nagging FAA downgrade issue: Rather than do the hard work to address the shortcomings auditors have repeatedly and in excruciating detail explained to the CAAP, the agency stubbornly persists in trying to change everyone’s mind with window-dressing and boastful remarks. It hasn’t worked yet, and certainly won’t work now that Andrews may very well have destroyed much of the goodwill of not only the agencies he needs to impress, but his own people as well.”

Between the culture of impunity and bureaucracy, if not incompetence, what we truly need is a Francis? Otherwise, good governance and economic development shall be just a myth – and poverty the reality – to Juan de la Cruz?

“The Oxford Business Group (OBG) expects the economy to sustain its robust growth of 6.5 to 7 percent this year. They consider the Philippines a success story on the back of government’s emphasis on transparency, good governance and increased competitiveness of local industries. They note how President Aquino’s push for a more open, fair and just economy has gained widespread buy-in among civil servants and the general public. This has been the foundation of the country’s success, they assert.” [The Oxford Business Group’s forecast for PH, Andrew James MasiganManila Bulletin, 9th Mar 2014]

“But of course, if there is a yin, there is a yang. Amid OBG’s positive prognosis, they also identified the economy’s weaknesses and the factors that could impede growth . . . These warts are the reason why we are one of the last choices of foreign investors in the region. An estimated $120 billion of FDIs flowed into ASEAN last year and the Philippines’ share of the pie was barely four percent. [Does Juan de la Cruz recognize the import of that?] The OBG’s Philippine Report provides an accurate snapshot of the business conditions in the country.” But will PHL ever have a Francis?

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