Friday, May 16, 2014

Our assumptions reveal our values

Not all values are virtuous? And in the case of PHL, a lot of them are subsumed under our parochial and hierarchical culture which is intertwined with our faith and thus the certitude in our beliefs? For example, did we ever imagine that periodically granting minimum wage increases would be counterproductive – or simply shooting ourselves in the foot? But isn’t a “living wage” what our faith demands?“Minimum wage earners in the Philippines are among the least productive unskilled workers in the world . . . This stems from a long history of underinvestment in people, firms, and public investment . . .” [Filipino unskilled workers among world’s least productive—World Bank,Paolo G. MontecilloPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 8th May 2014]

Translation: If our economy is to be robust and sustainable and foster the common good, it must be productive, among others; and a big piece of the others is investment. Beyond our lack of predisposition to invest (as my wife would remind me given her own family’s history) is our parochial and hierarchical culture. Ergo: we don’t like foreign investment and expect our cacique masters to be our savior? In the meantime, given our meager economic output, let’s take care of the unskilled and give them a living wage? Though renowned ethicist-theologian-economist Bernard Lonergan, SJ argued that an economic activity presupposes a surplus – with the caveat that they are reinvested into the activity – if it is to be a virtuous circle.

Have we ever tried deconstructing our value system? For example, take inclusive growth, how does that square with parochialism and hierarchy . . . when inclusive growth presupposes an egalitarian character? And everything goes downhill from there, and even a priest said that we can’t get God to solve our problems given they are of our own doing?

Are we then surprised why PHL is dysfunctional? Here are news reports that would make us wonder if we’d ever be the good shepherds to our God-given talents and resources:

1.      ‘Koko’ slams unresolved power crisis, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Manila Standard Today, 10th May 2014: SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III on Friday slammed the government for what he called its failure to provide a solution to the power crisis in Mindanao. “Our people are angry. This burden has gone on for too long,” he said.

2.      Escudero blames govt for sluggish rehab pace, Macon Ramos-Araneta Manila Standard Today, 10th May 2014:LESS than 10 percent or only P3 billion of this year’s P40-billion post-disaster budget has been used to rehabilitate the communities destroyed by super typhoon “Yolanda,” Senator Francis Escudero said on Friday. He blamed the problem on the “sluggish pace” at which the government has been doing its job, saying it had been four months since the budget was approved and yet there was still no blueprint for rehabilitation.

3.      Recognizing shortfalls is 1st step to excellence, The Manila Times, 10th May 2014: We say this because there is one dominant characteristic of the President that everyone has seen these three and a half years-plus that he and the Liberal Party and its allies have ruled this country.  This dominant characteristic is his loathing for admitting mistakes and apologizing for them.

4.      What’s up with new Mactan airport deal? SHOOTING STRAIGHT, Bobit S. Avila, The Philippine Star, 10th May 2014: At this point, we are waiting for the SC to rule on this petition filed by Sen. Serge OsmeƱa. If the SC rules in his favor… then it is the end of future foreign investments to the Philippines. After the botched PIATCO deal at the NAIA 3, no one would dare come to our shores… thanks to this suicidal political intervention . . . Lest you’ve already forgotten, our airports are the welcome mats of our country and therefore we must make an extra effort to present to our tourists a wonderful experience when they arrive in our country.

5.      The solution to management problems is not more managers, Ben D. Kritz, The Manila Times, 9th May 2014: With all due respect to Secretary Pangilinan, these are issues that demand a better approach than “I’ll see what I can do.” The Department of Agriculture is a mess, and it’s a mess that’s gotten worse over the past four years. But a serious management problem is never fixed by applying more managers (as if the utter lack of accomplishment of the last “czar” appointed by Aquino wasn’t enough evidence of that), it is fixed by applying actual plans and processes.
What’s behind the string of unpleasant news? Sense of urgency, or the lack of it, for one – but we're so cool and resilient that it goes against the grain? And leadership is the bigger challenge because in our cacique system and structure it is not leadership but condescension that is manifest? And it comes with compassion and so we see it as virtuous – as in the inability of the administration to get rid of non-performing public servants, yet would move mountains to expel opposition members? And so there’s lots of politics woven into our dysfunctional system? And out of frustration, Juan de la Cruz whenever he doesn’t share in the spoils succumbs to ‘crab mentality’?

And if we want to trace how we got to where we are, chances are we would be pointed to our assumptions that have been our instinctive guide as a people? For example, the region has left us behind infrastructure-wise and industry-wise – and by extension we are the economic laggards – and yet we believe we can leapfrog development? It doesn't compute! (It will take us at least a generation if we follow the right path or at 7% GDP growth! A handful of billionaires and 10 million OFWs and the BPO industry, for example, haven't done it.) It is what fatalism is about which we have mistaken for our faith? 

Haven’t we witnessed the perfect storm given our value system in the power crisis, where we simply have it upside down? And so while the whole nation suffered, the big boys prospered in the playing field that for all intents and purposes is designed for vested interests ahead of Juan de la Cruz? If we wanted road maps for over 30 industries, where is our power-industry road map? And we don't want foreigners involved conveniently forgetting that Meralco is in Singapore and Nigeria? But which is not surprising given our parochialism? And we expect to solve major problems when we like to limit our options and box ourselves in a corner? Problem-solving is not an intellectual exercise, it's real-world stuff that brings poverty?

Another barrier we have to contend with, given that our industry is underdeveloped and uncompetitive, is that our view of the world by definition is limited? And so we continue to look inward despite ASEAN, for example? It’s understandable especially after we saw how our biggest exports, electronics, receded and then recovered. And that is precisely why we need to learn how value-addition (e.g., via technology and innovation) is inherent in product development, or why progressive MNCs are simply that – progressive – irrespective of the state of the world economy. And it comes from their mantra: to commit to investment and technology and innovation as well as people, product and market development. And it doesn’t take half a century to learn that . . . to the pleasant surprise of my Eastern European friends. But that perspective can’t get much traction in PHL given our underdeveloped industry and economy? Underdevelopment, like poverty, has a price?

Indeed, our assumptions reveal our values? Sadly, that makes us less able to “unfreeze” strongly held beliefs to make room for new thinking? The evidence: take the above news reports; and it is no secret given we are a well-traveled people, where are we versus the rest of the world? But we’re in good company – i.e., the Vatican Curia is much like us?

No comments:

Post a Comment