Friday, April 11, 2014

Where our hearts truly are

When we say “reform,” where is our heart really? And does it explain our inability to figure out where we are and where we want PHL to be? There were fairly recent commentaries about our confusing nationalism and parochialism – and what about monopoly and oligarchy?

“Studies have shown that, in most cases, monopolies do tend to create a higher pricing structure for consumers over time, as a lack of competition does not allow the normal balance of supply and demand to determine price. For a monopoly to be most beneficial to the consumer, the company must work to find ways to improve its service and reduce the price. This does not happen easily in a monopoly environment . . . The debate on monopolies is never going to be fully settled. Monopolies need to be judged on a case-by-case basis when assessing the impact on economic welfare. However, anti-monopoly legislation could wind up creating a situation where the government picks the winners and the losers. That could be a bigger problem than the monopolies themselves.” [The question of business monopolies, The Business Mirror Editorial, 3rd Apr 2014]

But does the issue in fact go beyond monopolies per se? For example, PHL is unable to attract the level of FDIs our neighbors do and the debate continues about the restrictive economic provisions of our Constitution. And which is compounded by the reality that as an economy we are uncompetitive given our meager GDP per capita, the lack of infrastructure, the weakness of our industry and agriculture, among others. And behind all that is another reality that ours is an oligopoly – a disincentive to FDIs except that we’re still in denial? Put simply, we don't offer a level playing field and are not as advertised and why the dummy route exists! And what is the word – given we’re supposed to be sophisticated – pathetic? And while we debate the question of business monopolies indeed the gap between the haves and have-nots remains alarming that despite our enviable GDP growth rates we’re still mired in poverty.

“Despite its glowing performance, poverty and income inequality has remained high. In contrast, other neighboring countries [achieved] significant poverty reduction, [while] the Philippines experience seems to be a puzzle. [There are] certain policies and regulations that have constrained the transformation of the economy and the generation of more productive jobs. There is a need, indeed, to expand job opportunities so that economic growth can be made more inclusive . . .” [PIDS sees 2014 growth at 6.6%, Cai U. Ordinario, Business Mirror, 3rd Apr 2014]

And we will be reduced to spinning wheels if we aren’t prepared to examine where our heart really is? And as we confuse nationalism with parochialism, PHL shall be defined by oligopoly – and thus an uncompetitive economy – that comes hand in glove with poverty?

And, not surprisingly, “domestic servitude” remains alive and well in our homes: The technological machinery and public services that might encourage the middle class to depend less on servants are also far from developed. Servants, for their part, tend to be complicit in their own subservience. Confronted with few opportunities, they find ways to reconcile themselves to their position. As with colonial society, the bourgeois household relies on the ongoing collaboration of those below with those above. To the extent that domestic servitude lies at the material and ideological heart of middle-class life is the extent to which efforts at forging a more egalitarian society—efforts led today by the middle class itself—will remain inevitably forestalled.” [Servants, or the secret of middle-class life, Vicente L. RafaelPhilippine Daily Inquirer5th Apr 2014]

And for the nth time: In its annual National Trade Estimates (NTE) report, the USTR again urged the Philippines to open up areas such as agriculture, telecommunications, banking, insurance, logistics, advertising and retail to foreign investments.” [USTR urges liberalization, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 3rd Apr 2014]

“Trade officials were not immediately available for comment but United Broiler Raisers Association President Gregorio A. San Diego, Jr. said: ‘The tariff for chicken... is not barring the entry of US leg quarters. In fact, these are coming here at very low prices.’ The local poultry industry, in fact, is unable to compete due to this, Mr. San Diego claimed . . . Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., for his part, said: ‘We’ve gone a long way in terms of implementing the ‘sin’ tax. We’ve implemented a system where we level the prices of products.’”

We can cherry pick the issues raised against us but the bottom line is we, in the region, are the least able to attract foreign investment. And beyond those issues about PHL, we still have to demonstrate the ability to truly be competitive and drive economic development. For instance, when the public sector talks about adapting best practices from the private sector, one very critical piece is that of strategic thinking. And which can simply be expressed as: everything starts in the mind.

“Encouraging routine strategic thinking may be the most important thing you can do as a leader. It’s not an easy skill to teach or learn, because it is as much a mindset as a set of techniques – but it’s not impossible . . . Encourage people to ask “why” and “when.” Consistently asking these whenever a course of action is being considered enables people to fully understand the goal it aims to achieve and its impact.” [Strategic Thinkers Ask “Why” and “When”, The Management Tip, Harvard Business Review, 4th Apr 2014]

The problem we face though is beyond management thinking. It is the “Pinoy mindset” and the “Pinoy heart” that is getting in the way of PHL development?

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