Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nice guys finish last . . .

And softies are even worst? “The difference lies in the culture of the Filipino people. It is a soft, forgiving culture.” That’s a quote from Lee Kuan Yew courtesy of Ramon J. Farolan (Lee Kuan Yew on Philippines, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26th Sept 2011.)

There are two recent articles that should wake us up: (a) Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department, Janet Novack, Forbes, 26th Feb 2014; (b) Why Russia No Longer Fears the West, Ben Judah,, 2nd Mar 2014. In other words, when a competitor sees blood, it attacks – not celebrate prematurely? What is our worldview in light of global trade, and nearer home ASEAN integration – where three of our neighbors dominate regional trade?

“We’re poor Bulgarians; we can only sell our products at 50 euro cents.” That was one reason while my original role was that of consultant, I agreed at the request of my friends to run the sales force for two years, but only: “this is your company, you don’t want me running it for you.” These were very smart people and yet realized they still had to earn their stripes in global competition. And in Singapore recently, so that our new Singaporean team would indeed sing from the same hymnal, we explained how we built the company: We keep it simple; we are about creating value. Don’t get the mistaken notion that because we’re from a poor Eastern European country that we’re driven by costs. Indeed we’re thrifty that we like natural lighting so we don’t have to turn on the lights. And the Singaporeans had to giggle; but they could relate to it since many new buildings in Singapore are green.

Creating value starts in the mind. And it is how innovation comes about. And why this blog talks about thinking and thought processes. With ASEAN integration, we Pinoys have to be more mindful and conscious of our assumptions and biases, especially our thought processes? Like it or not, we are being thrown into the den of wolves. Nice guys finish last!

We may want to relish our GDP growth rates over the recent past being next only to China – that is, if we have the time amid a horde of wolves? Wittingly or unwittingly, our biases (or is it our proud culture?) make us respect sacred cows like oligarchy – which in the West is the equivalent of the 1% that has undermined democracy? And in our case, it has made us dirt poor and the region’s economic laggards? Self-respect should make us tougher – not subservient?

“De Ocampo fears for PHL becoming a regional laggard . . . He [the former Finance Secretary and Philippine Veterans Bank Chairman] has apprehensions the Philippines will become a “saling pusa” or a country that tried, but failed, to be one with the countries that merged harmoniously with its neighbors as intended under the regional integration plan set to begin in 2015,” Genivi Factao, Business Mirror, 7th Mar 2014. “The sad thing is that regardless of our level of preparedness (or the dismal lack of it), there really is no turning back now. The Asean integration has been on the table for quite some time now and countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have already prepared long and hard for it. They are ready. And true to form, we have not even gotten our act together yet. We’re not talking yet about how exactly do we position ourselves in the Asean community; we’re still stuck in the discussion about whether we should join or not, as if not joining is an option. Last I looked, most of our leaders seemed to still be in denial about our lack of options.”[Our state of unpreparedness, Bong Austero, Are we there yet (?), Manila Standard Today, 9th Mar 2014.]

The good news is the faults of the West come in spades – and they’re spelled . . . g-r-e-e-d. “I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them.” [Why I am leaving Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith, The New York Times, 14th Mar 2014.] The hypocrisy is palpable yet . . . “The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West?” [, Why Russia No Longer Fears the West, Ben Judah, 2nd Mar 2014]

“Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money . . . We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.” 

“A new report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations estimates that Credit Suisse Group AG helped as many as 20,000 U.S. taxpayers evade billions of U.S. tax, but says that so far the U.S. Department of Justice has gotten the identities of only 238 of those account holders.”[Forbes, Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department, Janet Novack, 26th Feb 2014]

We want to address poverty? We will have even worst poverty if we don’t stand up to the wolves – that is, rapidly make ourselves a wealthier economy? That doesn’t equate to greed – and in fact it is what nature is about, i.e., growth and development? And why people and nations develop – into First-World or egalitarian societies; while underdevelopment is characterized by a hierarchical, cacique culture. Which is our real problem, not poverty? Poverty is the effect, not the cause?

Do we have a doctor in the house – to remind us of cause and effect? And if we want to invoke our faith, we were made to the image and likeness of The Creator – we were “the chosen people” not discriminated against nor meant to be “kawawa”? It will not happen overnight as this blog has quoted international institutions – it will take us at least a generation even at a 7% annual GDP growth rate. But we won’t have a prayer – or a ghost of a chance – if we continue with same old, same old: the vicious circle from populism to paternalism to tyranny to inequality and back? And as my late maternal grandfather – who like Rizal joined Freemasonry – would summarize it: Where is the backbone of Juan de la Cruz? How else to explain a culture of impunity?

How do we get cracking? First we have to learn what it means to be focused and dogged; and that presupposes that we don't have a zillion balls up in the air! In other words, in competition, we have to adopt the mindset of a world-class athlete. And at that level of competition that means to be laser-like! Focus means getting power and infrastructure up the sooner the better? And dogged means to prioritize; it does not mean 30 “competitive” industries, for example! Not surprisingly, the Joint Foreign Chambers teed up “the seven big winners.” Not even Germany can make as many as 30 industries competitive – and that is not an indictment but science as in the Pareto principle. But we have yet to jettison crab mentality? If they are not, focused and dogged better be in our lexicon? Nice guys finish last!

No comments:

Post a Comment