Sunday, April 6, 2014

The challenge of sustainable growth

The challenge of sustainable profitable growth comes from the private sector. And in the public sector we just drop “profitable” and it applies? And sustainable in either case means optimizing as opposed to sub-optimizing efforts – as in a race to the bottom? Put another way, if we Pinoys are predisposed to isolating ourselves – as in parochialism – because of our assumptions, we would indeed be in a race to the bottom? Even our faith ought not to be an ideology – or why Ecumenism came about, i.e., to embrace our Muslim brothers, for example? And which in reality is what development – aka maturity – is about? And could it be at the root of PHL underdevelopment? No one has the perfect belief system? Of course, ideologues think they do? And, not surprisingly, Francis minces no words in addressing them?

For instance, how could we heed the call of IMF for sustainable growth? “The IMF called for further reductions in bottlenecks that may be discouraging broader-based business activities, so that the Philippines may realize its full potential for “rapid, sustained and inclusive growth.” [IMF: PH challenge is to deliver sustainable growth, Mayvelin U. Caraballo, The Manila Times, 26th Mar 2014] And the “bottlenecks” are in the head of Juan de la Cruz? And that is why “the Pinoy mindset” is being raised by more and more concerned individuals?

Can we imagine that in the 21st century we would still read something as backward as this? “Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday asked the Department of Energy for a power master plan to end more than five years of suffering for the people of Mindanao because of recurrent power outages and extended blackouts. He said industry experts saw the need to rehabilitate aging hydropower plants, put up new generating companies, ensure reliability of transmission lines and secure efficiency of power distributors to prevent the outages. The Mindanao senator said foreign investors are interested in upgrading existing power plants and build new generators, but there is no clear roadmap to off-takers, some of whom have taken a wait-and-see attitude.” [Power master plan needed, Manila Standard Today, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Mar. 27, 2014]

I was away from Eastern Europe for over three months and when I came back [in the apartment] none of the appliance-digital clocks were blinking. Ergo: over the winter months, there was no power outage in this supposedly poor Eastern European country.

It’s not that we don’t know what to do – or that we can’t craft great plans and road maps – but what about the wherewithal to get things done? “MORE private sector investments in agricultural development are needed ahead of regional integration, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said . . . The Philippine government needs to enhance collaboration with the private sector to promote agricultural competitiveness . . . As Southeast Asian economies collectively gear up for regional integration, it is important to understand how public-private partnership schemes could facilitate the modernization of the agriculture sector and the revitalization of rural economies . . . [T]he absence or lack of efficient infrastructure -- particularly in transport, energy, and communications -- was one of the critical constraints to agricultural growth.” [NEDA urges more agri investments, Business World, March 26, 2014]

But then again, leadership matters? “With so many challenges facing the country today, MR. RIGHT 2016 would surely benefit from as many skills sets and as much leadership and management qualities that he or she can muster. Though he does not necessarily need to be a genius, he would need to have a wide set of competencies with enough leadership and intellectual capital to properly address the challenges that will be inherited from this administration.” [Finding Mr. Right: Competence, Manila Standard Today, Danilo Suarez, Mar. 27, 2014]

If we can’t carry out something as fundamental as getting things done, how could we deal with foreign affairs – which are convoluted by nature because every country has its self-interest to protect? “EVEN AS critics of the Aquino presidency’s decision to enter into a ‘de facto basing agreement’ with the US raise their voices in opposition, they must still nonetheless ask -- and answer -- the question, what are the consequences of NOT entering into such an ‘access agreement’ with the US? I think it should be obvious that this country’s foreign policy has to take into account geopolitical realities and that the makers of such policy will often need to make pragmatic -- if not necessarily idealistic -- decisions if we are to advance our own national interests.” [Pragmatic foreign policy, Rene B. Azurin, Business World, March 26, 2014]

“Having the military bases of a foreign power on our soil clearly upends traditional notions of independence and sovereignty, which understandably raises the hackles of the ‘nationalists’ among us. It seems to me, however, that those responsible for our foreign policy have to sometimes balance abstract ideals against the practical and concrete implications of not yielding a position on certain issues. And, as far as that’s concerned, actual costs and benefits, to the Filipino people as a whole, have to be valued and considered. Priorities, in terms of promoting the overall welfare, necessarily enter into these calculations.”

Can we fix or solve problems of consequence? Apparently we can although many quarters say challenges remain, which would again test our resolve: “The Philippine government signed a peace accord with the country's largest Muslim rebel group on Thursday, the culmination of years of negotiations and a significant political achievement for President Benigno Aquino III.” [Philippines and Muslim rebel group sign peace deal, Oliver Teves, Associated Press, 27th Mar 2014

"In signing this agreement, the two sides have looked not to the problems of the past, but to the promise of the future . . . After so many years of conflict, and so many lives lost, it is a momentous act of courage."

"For generations, fellow Filipinos in the (southern Mindanao) region were embroiled in a cycle of poverty, injustice, and violence," Aquino said. "If we are to truly address the root causes of conflict, we must close the gap between the region and the rest of Filipino society."

“Some in the crowd wiped away tears as presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said in a speech, her own voice breaking: "No more war! ... Enough!" 

What about “enough of underdevelopment” – and persistent poverty – or more precisely, enough of political patronage and plunder and oligopoly . . . and ideology?

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