Monday, August 18, 2014

Development, nation-building and the common good

Philippines’ HDI (human development index) value for 2012 is 0.654—in the medium human development category—positioning the country at 114 out of 187 countries and territories. The rank is shared with Uzbekistan . . . The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.” [UNDP Human Development Report] And unfortunately, in 2013, PHL’s rank moved down to 117 while Uzbekistan came at 116.

What? We not only shared our ranking but are now outranked by Uzbekistan (with a 2011 PPP Gross National Income per capita of $5,227 vs. PHL’s $6,381)? I’ve spent most of the last 11 years in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to support the private sector – commencing at the time Bulgaria and Romania were pursuing their accession into the EU – and visited very tough territories, but not Uzbekistan.

And we worked with a cross-section of their societies during the two years we organized, managed and trained the sales force of my Bulgarian friends to be able to do business beyond their country – especially institutionalizing the concept of partnership with the trade and retailers, i.e., manufacturers and retailers can serve the consumers better if they’re partners and not adversaries. For example, we didn’t do marketing for marketing’s sake but were heavily invested in continuous product innovation so that consumers would find value in the day-to-day products that they buy – from a rational, emotional and experiential standpoint. And that was a major departure from their mindset that we were a cheap, poor imitation of Western brands. And to this day whenever we do store checks around the region, there would always be need to focus them on performance improvement and continuous improvement. In Pinoy vernacular, “pwede na ‘yan” – or good enough – is never good enough! [N.B. When we expanded our reach around the region, we announced that we would only do business with those that would embrace our culture, not just a pledge, of integrity. An environment accepting of corrupt practices emanating from their then Communist masters was not an excuse – they must change on a dime. Yet in PHL we sincerely believe change takes forever – because that is our definition of compassion? But Francis got rid of the entire leadership of the Vatican Bank and reconstituted the Curia itself on a dime?]

And so with a bit of curiosity, I re-read a recent report from a business unit of my Eastern European friends: “Currently 98.5% of HPC business is in the focus 10 countries outlined in our April Management Meeting (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Macedonia, Georgia, Armenia, Belorussia, Serbia and Poland).” It appears we can’t be everything to everybody and are confirming Pareto’s principle. Some Western MNCs cover as many as 30 CEE countries and in our case we’re generating almost 100% [of our HPC] business from a third of the region.

And not surprisingly, there was this news report: After years of expansion into areas like pet food and beauty products, Procter & Gamble announced on Friday that it would cut as many as 100 brands from its arsenal to focus on others, like Tide, that made the company a powerhouse over the decades . . . The move is part of a strategy to improve the company’s financial performance by doubling down on about 80 brands that generate 95 percent of the profits and 90 percent of sales . . .” [Procter & Gamble to Streamline Offerings, Dropping Up to 100 Brands, Rachel Abrams, The New York Times, 1st Aug 2014]

Translation: even a P&G has to respect Pareto? Reads their website: “The Power of Purpose. Companies like P&G are a force in the world. Our market capitalization is greater than the GDP of many countries, and we market our products in more than 180 countries. With this stature comes both responsibility and opportunity. Our responsibility is to be an ethical corporate citizen—but our opportunity is something far greater, and is embodied in our Purpose.”

What can we in PHL elite class learn from the reality of the world? That “Pinoy abilidad” has no match to the world we live in – meaning, like P&G, we must learn to adapt? It is not about being copycats of the West where because of hubris many of their countries have been brought down to earth?

But it doesn’t mean either that we can dictate our beliefs on the rest of the world? “Access to knowledge and a decent standard of living” are two of the three dimensions of human development. We can’t assume that we have all the knowledge in the world “to lift all boats”? We are among the most underdeveloped – confirmed by the comparison to Uzbekistan – our happiness index and elite-class hubris given our quality of life, notwithstanding?

Should we go back to the drawing board and relearn what human development is? What about nation-building? Wikipedia:“Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run . . . Legitimate authority in modern national states is connected to popular rule, to majorities. Nation-building is the process through which these majorities are constructed . . . Nation builders are those members of a state who take the initiative to develop the national community through government programs . . . Nation-building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth . . . However, many new states were plagued by tribalism . . . This sometimes resulted in their near-disintegration . . .”

What about economic development? Wikipedia: “Economic development is the sustained, concerted actions of policy makers and communities that promote . . . standard of living and economic health . . . Economic development can also be referred to as the quantitative and qualitative changes in the economy. Such actions can involve multiple areas including development of human capitalcritical infrastructure, regional competitivenessenvironmental sustainabilitysocial inclusionhealthsafetyliteracy, and other initiatives.”

“The scope of economic development includes the process and policies by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The University of Iowa's Center for International Finance and Development states that: 'Economic development' is a term that economists, politicians, and others have used frequently in the 20th century. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. Modernization, Westernization, and especially Industrialization are other terms people have used while discussing economic development. Economic development has a direct relationship with the environment. Although nobody is certain when the concept originated, most people agree that development is closely bound up with the evolution of capitalism and the demise of feudalism.”

And finally, the common good. Wikipedia: In philosophy, ethics, and political science the common good or common weal is a specific ‘good’ that is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community. The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things — such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, water, and shelter — that are always good for all people.”

This blog has raised the challenge to our institutions. The good news is the church, through the CBCP, has acknowledged that it is a sick institution. But what about the others? The family, education, government and society-at-large? Has our soft culture paved the way for paternalism and populist leadership – and they came hand-in-glove with tyranny that made us a most corrupt nation?

What are we missing? Transparency and visionary leadership, for example? They are elements that the West that has led the world in human development has discovered. See above re most people agree that development is closely bound up with the evolution of capitalism and the demise of feudalism.” And a Singaporean scholar has reinforced the treatise by arguing that the recent coming of age of Asia – referring to the Asian Tigers – could be traced to their ability to learn from these Western models.

We don’t want to be the example of the species that Darwin described that have gone extinct because they didn’t have the ability to adapt to the world?

In the meantime we know that we can’t mitigate our cacique hierarchical system and structure via our failed land reform program? Is the barrier our belief system? For example, we must first want to pursue an egalitarian model and create the requisite symmetrical ecosystem – or we shall indeed leave to the generations to come a PHL that belongs to the dark ages, not the 21st century?

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