Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wake-up call: how many more?

“The ADB rating should be seen as a wake-up call,” Henry J. Schumacher, executive director of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said. [Philippines found wanting in innovation, Business World, 12th Sept 2014]

Granted we need to learn the 21st century world just like many other nations, if we pause for a moment and measure ourselves against the rest of the world, have we considered how we ought to be debating transparency or competitiveness, for instance? Did we not recommit to democracy and free enterprise with People Power because Marcos had upended freedom and installed crony capitalism? 

The FOI comes to mind, and the competition law. What is the backdrop or the reality of the 21st century world that we are in? That we lag in the ability to attract investment as well as in innovation and creativity? 

Is the FOI or the competition law our honest-to-goodness response and more to the point, will they fit the bill? Should we first be asking ourselves why we don't have a transparent or competitive environment – and thus the fallouts that we have to suffer? For example, should we even be surprised why the FOI has stalled; and take the power “crisis,” which has been a crisis for decades, and the general lack of infrastructure, are they a microcosm of our worldview, and our beliefs and our values?

This blog has raised it before: kids are always asked, what do you want to be when you grow up? It is meant to teach them how to look and think ahead and develop a vision or a purpose in life. But how come as a nation we never developed and established a vision for PHL? Yet we're instinctively subservient to hierarchy and against the rest of the world we rank poorly; ergo, how could we even imagine that we can be competitive? If water seeks its own level, as in the law of nature, do we believe that we can confine ourselves within our borders as evidenced by our parochial cacique system and structure? What about our penchant for the bureaucratic and inefficient – and where corruption lurks if not resides – be they legal or otherwise?

And not surprisingly, “Asian Development Bank (ADB) Managing Director General Juan Miranda said the government should remove all legal hurdles that delay the procurements and awards processes of the deals.” [ADB: PHL needs to stop being too legalistic on PPP deals, Lorenz S. Marasigan, Business Mirror, 16th Sept 2014]

“He then urged the government to review its policy on being too legalistic on the contracts, as this would make the deals more palatable to the taste of the investors. The government should do away with the legal hurdles and market the Philippines as the destination for investors—not just foreign but also local ones—to venture into national infrastructure.”

“But the government should bear in mind that the client is the public. It is what really matters. The pipeline of key infrastructure projects number to almost 60 deals, 27 of those are under the transportation agency, while the others are spread among other government offices. Manila is a champion city that needs champion infrastructure and fantastic public-sector transport. It doesn’t matter who manages it. The important thing is we have to shift people from one place to another a lot faster.”

This sentence is worth repeating: It doesn't matter who manages it.

“Let’s get proper infrastructure in place. Manila needs it. From the airport down to the points within the city, so people can go to work and don’t spend hours and hours in traffic . . . [N]o matter how quick the current government is in improving the infrastructure in the country, these projects will have to cross to another administration.”

“Anyone can start, and even if they cannot finish it, someone else can . . . [T]here is plenty of time for the current administration and for others to do it. This is a thing of national interest.”

That last sentence is worth repeating: This is a thing of national interest.

“British Ambassador Asif Ahmad is urging diversifying Filipino businessmen to turn to the United Kingdom for fresh opportunities, including new inventions and startup projects from the laboratories of British universities and research institutions.” [PH conglomerates urged to tap UK institutions, Doris C. DumlaoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 5th Sept 2014]

“If you want to go into established businesses, you’re buying all the goodwill and brand. If you are at the early stages, you pay next to nothing, and you can be in the next big business,” he explained. Ahmad implied that it would not matter where the invention was made for as long as it would benefit not just the investor but a borderless global community in general.”

“Let’s say they buy into something that enhances crop growth at two times as fast as anything we’ve ever known, and this is the thing that Filipino business acquires over there. There’s nothing that stops it from being a startup here. Another thing is, if you look at a way in which lot of retail (business) is done here, most of them are foreign-invented, foreign brands, foreign discoveries which are brought here and sold to the Philippines. . .”

The ambassador said a mouthful and does it boil down to our worldview [again?] and how we problem-solve? For example, we’ve talked about developing R&D but we want to build R&D capability locally from the ground up? What about thinking laterally and outside the box? And because size to us matters – given our cacique system and structure – we assume that conglomerates are the ones that can pursue opportunities overseas, and the one route we know is buying established brands or businesses? 

And do we perceive the worldview of the ambassador as suspect, even unpatriotic, for wanting foreigners to acquire his nation’s (UK) ideas and businesses? What about the pope, is he un-Catholic or less Catholic than we are?

“Pope Francis married 20 couples on Sunday, some of whom had already lived together and had children, in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive.” [Pope Marries Couples Who Have Cohabited and Had Children, The New York Times, 14th Sept 2014]

“Bishops from all over the world are due to come to the Vatican in October for a major meeting on the family, which the Jesuit pope referred to in the homily to Sunday's Mass as the "bricks" on which society is built. The bishops are expected to discuss issues such as marriage, divorce and contraception at the synod, from Oct. 5-19. The pope has said the Church must end its obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and become more merciful, or risk collapsing ‘like a house of cards’.”

Are we awake yet?

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