Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Vietnamese and the Pinoy worldviews

“Le Duy Anh, 24, a lecturer at Hanoi’s FPT School of Business (FSB), remarked to me when I visited his campus that whenever China does something to Vietnam these days people go to the American Embassy in Hanoi and demonstrate. For so many years, Vietnamese fought a war with Americans ‘trying to get you out,’ he said, ‘and now we are demonstrating to get you to intervene. We don’t want bloodshed, so we need someone to tell someone else to calm down.’” [More Chopsticks, Please, Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, 10th May 2014]

“So Americans may think we’ve lost influence in the world, but, the truth is, many people out here want our ‘presence’ more than ever. This is especially true of those living on the borders of Russia and China, who are each sort of half in and half out of today’s globalization system — beneficiaries of its trading and investment regimes but revisionists when it comes to playing by all the rules in their own neighborhoods. We may not be so interested in the world, but a lot of the world is still interested in us — and saying: ‘Yankee come hither’ more than ‘Yankee go home.’”

What about us? It’s been 68 years since our independence from the Americans, we don’t want to be like juveniles confused if we’re an adult or not? A country that we had to help because of the Vietnam War is rapidly catching up with us economically and is poised to overtake us if they haven’t yet? They have already beaten us in the ability to attract foreign investment; their stock of foreign direct investment is at $85.61 billion against our $33.28 billion; poverty is less of a problem for them, with their poverty rate at 11.3% while ours is 26.5%.

Their national saving rate is higher, at 38.4% versus our 22.9%, which means they have a greater pool to tap for investment purposes. And again, not surprisingly, the contributions of industry and agriculture to their GDP are better than ours, 38.5% and 19.3%, respectively, while ours are at 31% and 11.2%. And by extension, the contributions of these sectors to employment are better: 21% and 48%, respectively, compared to ours, 15% and 32%. On unemployment, theirs is much lower at 1.3% while ours is 7.4%.

We can’t dictate our terms on the rest of the world (there is PHL citizenship and there is “global citizenship”?) and Vietnam is only one example which, sadly, has yet to wake us up from our parochial stupor? With due respect to National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, yes we're a democracy but we can't sweep our 'culture of impunity' under the carpet? Not to be outdone, Senate President Drilon said the Senate is not in crisis? And again, with due respect, are we waiting for the [PHL] house to burn before we call a spade a spade?

But what a coincidence; after reading those two news items, I came across: “Ex-SAC Capital trader Steinberg sentenced to 3-1/2 years.” [The New York Times, Matthew Goldstein, 16th May 2014] Translation: crime must not pay, but not in PHL? And in the [competition] arena, to be seeing only one's credit side is considered being oblivious to sub-optimization – or why better performing enterprises can run rings around the laggards! Or is it simply, as in our case, mistaking fatalism for faith? And thus our problem-solving is suspect, and reflected in our inability to resolve our nagging problems? “De Leon said the credit rating upgrades achieved by the Philippines show that the global community considers the country as stable.” [Corruption scandals won't affect WEF, Iris Gonzales, The Philippine Star, 16th May 2014] Remember the spiel re the BRIC countries – which the world now knows is so yesterday? And in the case of PHL, the upgrades come with lots of caveats that we can only ignore at our peril? 

Not surprisingly, “VICE President Jejomar C. Binay said the economic growth must be sustained by diversifying into job-generating sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. Binay added that various critical areas need to be addressed to attract investments in these sectors. At the same time, he pushed for a review of the Constitution to allow the entry of foreign direct investments to the country.”[Economic growth ‘meaningless’ sans poverty eradication–Binay, Recto Mercene, Business Mirror, 19th May 2014]

“The goal is to liberalize the entry of foreign investments in economic priming sectors like infrastructure, energy and telecommunications,” he said. He also urged increasing infrastructure spending, as well as fast-tracking the implementation of public-private partnership (PPP) programs, particularly in the transport sector.”

Meanwhile, “Property investors said not too keen on Philippines,” Daphne J. Magturo, Business World, 15th May 2014: ‘WHILE foreign investors are said to be highly interested in pouring money into real estate, they are not very interested in the Philippines . . . This is mainly due to the country’s restrictions on foreigners’ land ownership, Jones Lang LaSalle Leechiu Country Head David Leechiu told reporters at a . . . pre-summit briefing, prior to the 2014 World Economic Forum on East Asia . . .’”

“He also said that many foreign investors complain about high tax rates in the country, as the government rakes in 35% of corporate taxable income while other Asia Pacific countries, such as Hong Kong, only taxes 15% and 16% of the respective incomes of incorporated and unincorporated entities . . . In the World Bank’s 2014 Ease of Doing Business Index, the Philippines ranked 108th out of 189 economies, a 25-point upgrade from its 133rd place last year. ‘We have improved a lot in a short span of time, but we still have a long way to go,’ Mr. Leechiu said.”

“With only 285 listed companies on its stock exchange, the Philippines is also said to rank low in terms of transparency and openness, compared with other economies. World Federation of Exchanges data showed that India has 5,336 listed companies, while the United States has 5,052, and Japan, 3,418.”

“Mr. Leechiu further noted that the country must have a ‘sensible’ land use planning through strict enforcement of laws. ‘We have to open up the country to convince them (foreign property investors) that they should put more money in the Philippines,’ he added.”

Sadly, these are like broken records that we’ve heard before – incessantly, for decades. Until Juan de la Cruz indeed wakes up, we shall be leaving to the ensuing generations a nation that is far worse than what our generation inherited? And clearly the Vietnamese have demonstrated that that is not acceptable?

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