Monday, July 7, 2014

Spinning wheels

“Singapore first, the Philippines last.” [Fragile: Survey shows how precarious the Philippine state still is, Benjamin E. Diokno, Core, Business World, 2nd July 2014] Have we been reduced to spinning wheels? Does it have to do with “Pinoy abilidad”? That instinctively we like to take advantage of the low-hanging fruit while making “pa pogi” or declaring victory? And while OFW remittances are the biggest example and represent our own “Dutch disease” we have many others? “The 2014 Fragile State Index (FSI) results suggest that the Philippines, compared to its neighboring countries and the rest of the world, has a long way to go before it becomes truly competitive globally.”

“Looking at countries closest to home, the Philippines has remained the most fragile among ASEAN-6 countries. This bloc includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The ranking among ASEAN-6 countries has not changed since four years ago: Singapore first, the Philippines last. This poor ranking is especially true in terms of poverty and income decline and public services. The latter includes public infrastructure.”

“The short-term perspective of the current approach to Philippine tourism (there are virtually no initiatives or forecasts beyond 2016) might be successful in boosting the industry quickly, but in doing so mortgages the economic future of tourism communities.” [Tourism: Mortgaging the country’s economic future, Ben D. Kritz, The Manila Times, 2nd July 2014]

“To the extent that he has influence over the broader approach to tourism policy—an extent that may actually be limited, given that the physical development of tourism infrastructure and destinations relies on other agencies and the private sector—Secretary Jimenez should prioritize sustainability over volume. That means extending tourism plans by 20 or 30 years; matching target numbers to stages of development, and designing those developmental stages to be re-purposed effectively after the tourists disappear.”

“After all, those who need to be “included” in the “inclusive growth” Jimenez and his boss in Malacañang say tourism can provide will still need to be included, whether there are any tourists or not; there is no point where policymakers can declare the job done. The present approach, while admirable for its fervor, suggests the government is not clear on that point, and that’s something that needs to change if tourism is to be truly successful in the Philippines.”

As marketers know it, there is such a thing as the “marketing mix” and in the case of tourism, the first element or the product is PHL itself – and beyond its God-given natural beauty, the product includes infrastructure. In other words, promotion (which is another element of the mix; the others being pricing and place) or advertising cannot make up on a sustained basis for an inferior product. We can employ big data and analytics to optimize the marketing mix; but as Jonathan Ive of Apple would recall Steve Jobs, “focus on product,” was what he learned directly from Jobs. [Jonathan Ive on Apple’s Design Process and Product Philosophy, Brian X. Chen and Matt Richtel, The New York Times, 16th June 2014]

Does it remind us of CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) or DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program)? They are like the low-hanging fruit which in the private sector equate to tactical efforts – but they’re part of a broader strategic perspective that would connect the dots? In other words, short-term tactical efforts, logical as they may be, are not the be-all and end-all!“Steve Jobs talked about [connecting the dots] in his famous commencement speech. He said that creativity is just connecting the dots. Creative thinkers produce ideas by finding the relationship between facts.” [7 Habits of Highly Creative Minds, Antoinette, 4th July 2012]

“The once vaunted “Filipino First” policy has morphed into a “Rich Filipino First” policy, as much of the country’s resources and wealth have been gobbled up by economic oligarchs. Simply stated, the remarkable economic growth has not been inclusive, bypassing the poor and the unemployed.” [Strategies for inclusive development, Robert EvangelistaPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 29th June 2014]

“While it is true that our chronic twin problems of poverty and unemployment may not be solved overnight, their alleviation and mitigation can be considerably hastened with innovative, stimulating and productive transformational strategies that will significantly uplift the lives of all Filipinos, including the poorest of the poor. Our people cannot afford to wait for remedies that are agonizingly slow in coming. They need solutions with immediate and powerful impact.”

“The constitutions of other countries are wisely silent on economic issues and, thus, they retain great flexibility in enacting economic laws responsive to the demands of the rapidly changing times. But not the Philippines, where we have disregarded or overlooked this principle on constitution-making, for our fundamental law expressly embodies ultranationalistic economic provisions limiting foreign ownership and investments in vital sectors of the economy.”

“As a consequence, the Philippines has harvested the bitter fruits of this monumental constitutional blunder. Because of these misguided economic policies deeply embedded in our Constitution, for decades the Philippines has lagged far behind its Asean-5 neighbors in economic growth, foreign investments, job generation and poverty alleviation.”

And here it gets more confusing; it’s not simply reconciling the short- and the long-term but we have to dig deeper into our beliefs? At the end of the day, do we want to be an island unto ourselves notwithstanding the risk, if not damage, from being isolated from the bigger world – as in perpetuating a cacique culture that is parochial, hierarchical and paternalistic while undermining PHL’s competitiveness?

In other words, what is the context of our worldview that we seem to accept the label regional laggards matter-of-factly? We can’t run the nation that is PHL to the ground?  And it isn’t compatible with our sense that we Pinoys are creative? “Creative thinking involves calling into question the assumptions underlying our customary, habitual ways of thinking and acting and then being ready to think and act differently on the basis of the critical questioning.”[]

And settling for the low-hanging fruit does not equate to creativity? And critical thinking presupposes identifying and challenging assumptions; recognizing the importance of context; imagining and exploring alternatives; and developing reflective skepticism.” [ibid.]

It’s too bad, so sad if we’ve been reduced to spinning wheels – finding no traction in our pursuit of the low-hanging fruit?

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