Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reform matters – beyond “nationalism and political correctness”

Is Juan de la Cruz predisposed to reform? Consider: we grew up sheltered in a society that is parochial and hierarchical and where subservience is reinforced? My parents sent me to a parochial school – and so I can write about parochial – and I did it too with my daughter even in suburban New York. And we take it as a given that our cacique masters rule – or oligarchy or political dynasties? “Let's face it; honest media are still the most potent watchdogs to guard against corrupt public servants and jaded official conduct. One cannot underestimate the power of media not only to inform but to educate. That is of course, counting out the so-called‘envelopmental journalists,’ and there are legions of them, whether at the national or provincial levels. Broadcast block-timers who are adept at ‘ACDC (attack-and-collect, defend-and-collect) journalism’ are among them.” [Dr. Antonio Montalvan II, Miriam's shame campaign, Kris-crossing Mindanao, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24th Mar 2014]

And what do we read and watch and hear about – if not oligarchy and political dynasties? And we wonder why we can’t attract FDIs – when the world knows that ours is a skewed playing field? And on the one hand the DTI is husbanding the development of 30 or so industry road maps while on the other the DOE is saying that private industry must build more power plants? The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing?

How can we push industrial development without an energy infrastructure and absent government leadership in light of what a couple of legislators said, that vested interests have been fighting efforts in energy development? We can all be screaming reforms until we’re blue in the face but until we step up to the plate we shall be an “ampaw economy”? For example, we are more adept in manipulating the pork barrel system than pushing infrastructure development via the PPP? And how can we put up a modern airport when we can’t agree on most things – and thus can’t problem-solve most things?

“SINCE MID-2012, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) has been working to lower the cost of doing business in the Philippines . . . As in Gameplan 1.0, the basic elements of the plan are a series of videoconferences with IFC analysts in Washington and brainstorming and problem-solving workshops . . . in improving the 10 processes covered in the Doing Business report . . . If the objective is to lower the cost of compliance for entrepreneurs and businesses and thereby create impetus for new business growth and expansion, then one approach is to repeal or eliminate laws to create the overall effect of lowering the cost of doing businesses . . . Other countries including Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mexico, and Australia have done precisely this.” [Repeal laws and lower cost of doing business, By Guillermo M. Luz, Philippine Daily Inquirer,29th Mar 2014]

This is not the first time this blog has raised our sheltered upbringing. For example, is it true that “mababaw ang kaligayan ni Juan de la Cruz.” We can’t seem to have a sense of vision because most things have been paved for us? And so as one priest said, even our corruption is “Jesuit based.” Our world has been shrunk for our convenience? And, not surprisingly, we equate nationalism to parochialism? And no matter where in the world we traveled, when we arrived at NAIA, our sense is “there is no place like home”?

Unwittingly, that sense comes with the broadest definition of what home is? Let's set aside the soft spot in our hearts for a moment and figure out the fallout – beyond NAIA being among the worst airports – like corruption is not just “Jesuit based” but more so “family based”? And what about being left behind as an economy and as a nation? And now Francis is opening our eyes so that we don’t confuse faith with hierarchy, the root of our subservient culture? These people are supposed to be holy, and they're stealing!”

Many must have watched the Charlie Rose interview with Larry Page of Google. “We are supposed to make the world a better place.” And I am paraphrasing. “Where we are now is just scratching the surface. For example, information is power – but not until it becomes knowledge. That is what we are trying to do – computing must be able to do that by being able to sense what we need something for. And it is always to make the world a better place. Internet access, for instance, demands a lot of technology even satellites to be able to send signals to our gadgets, but what about people in poor countries? And so we asked ourselves, how can we mirror a satellite for these people? What about the concept of a balloon? And so we are developing a balloon that will give people access to the internet.”

And when Charlie Rose asked, Rupert Murdoch said curiosity would describe how his mind works, and Warren Buffett and Bill Gates said focus, what about you? “We think of what the future would be like and we ask ourselves how we can get there.” And it brings to mind the mantra of innovation: start with the end in view. [And focus ought not to be lost to Juan de la Cruz; it is something we have yet to demonstrate – as in nation-building, starting with energy and a handful of strategic, competitive industries?]

How could we Pinoys have a sense of vision? A vision is forward-looking, not directed and nailed to the past – that of a hierarchical, cacique and subservient culture – that breeds tyranny and corruption and is family based and “Jesuit based and ‘kaklase’ based and law school alumni based,” to quote a priest? Before we can embrace reform we need a vision for Juan de la Cruz and the ability to focus on that vision, say, nation-building?

The above comments came to me after reading the following articles:

From Dr. Jose V. Abueva, Our only republic, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22nd Mar 2014: “. . . In his column ‘Newsstand’ (Opinion, 2/12/13), John Nery questioned the historical and legal accuracy of a ‘Fifth Philippine Republic.’ We are also doing so . . . As an assertion of nationalism and ‘political correctness,’ President Diosdado Macapagal changed the date of Philippine independence to June 12, 1898. But this does not alter the historical and legal basis of the establishment of the republic in 1946.”

“So, in our view and in fact, we only have one Republic of the Philippines. It began on July 4, 1946. But 68 years later, our republic is still ‘a soft state’ that shows some signs of ‘a failing state.’ We are still suffering from the debilitating effects of the Marcos dictatorship and we have yet to consolidate our democracy 28 years after our glorious ‘people power’ revolt in 1986.”

“To consolidate our democracy, we have to make real and palpable progress toward fulfilling our constitutional vision to ‘build a just and humane society’ and ‘a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace’ . . . We need many more transforming leaders and even more empowered citizens who can effectively participate in politics and governance.”

“Moreover, we have to transform and reform several of our obsolete and dysfunctional political institutions . . . Some of these reforms will require amending our 1987 Constitution . . . As the largest Church, our Catholic Church must be reformed to make it truly conform to our faith and effectively involve the faithful in its mission.”

And from Carmen N. Pedrosa, From a distance, The Philippine Star, 22nd Mar 2014: “I attended the German Chamber of Commerce lecture discussion to see what the invitation could possible mean by “Creating more and better jobs: we can work it out.” The guest speaker was Rogier van den Brink of the World Bank.”

“There were many things that could be done but the government will have to do its bit about the ease of doing business here. Too difficult and that goes for local businesses as well . . . First, the central policy challenge facing the Philippines today is how to accelerate inclusive growth, the type that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty . . . [Y]ou already know what reforms are needed to create more and better jobs . . . the reasons why these reforms are well known, but not implemented, are also well known. Reforms create winners and losers . . . the winners have been unable to convince the losers that implementing these reforms would put the country on a much higher growth path than before, which would also benefit those who would lose out in the short term. Hence, there is no simple and quick technical solution for the reform agenda . . . Finally, and more importantly, seizing this window of opportunity is not just the job of the President: government, business, labor, and civil society, need to work it out with a sense of urgency and agree on an action plan on job creation.”

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