Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Poverty, backwardness . . . and ‘Arangkada’

“But as the erstwhile Jorge Bergoglio prepares to celebrate on Friday the second anniversary of his election, he will be keenly aware that a crunch is looming over the question of how to reconcile Catholic thinking on the family with the realities of how many believers live their lives in the early 21st century.” [Two years and counting: Pope's opponents play waiting game, Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere, AFP, 12th Mar 2015]

“‘What the synod confirmed is that there is now an open conflict within the Vatican over very serious questions,’ said Marco Politi, a Vatican expert who has recently published an essay entitled ‘Francis among the wolves’ . . . The pope himself is worried . . . Politi believes the historic decision of Benedict to retire rather than die in office -- and 78-year-old Francis's own hints he could do likewise -- have been game-changers inside the Holy See. This is a pontificate with a limited timeframe . . . That means opponents can watch the clock and tell themselves, ‘we only have to wait four, five years and it will be over.’”

“Francis has also encountered subtle opposition to his bid to reform the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that runs the Church worldwide. Publicly, resistance has been muted, but with long-established ways of doing things under threat, ‘changing mentalities is not so easy,’ says an inside source.”

“When he demands that servants of the Church live modestly, as he does, you do not see many bishops giving up their palaces.”

Poverty or backwardness? Which is our real enemy? The Catholic Church is a big part of our culture. And our efforts to fight poverty isn’t that different from the charity preached by the Church. Yet poverty like wealth, in the context of the region, is a function of economic development – i.e., it was how once impoverished nations became the Asian Tigers. Why are we then the regional laggard? Because we are the least developed – and where poverty is a given!

Because we value our hierarchical system and structure, we take its consequences for granted. And chances are, Juan de la Cruz won’t imagine a Philippines being a developed nation? Not surprisingly, we could be critical of our more advanced neighbors. Yet until we see evil in a feudal, oligarchic economy and embrace an egalitarian society, we will be no different from the opposition encountered by Francis in the Curia because of their long-established ways – changing mentalities is not so easy.

If bishops won’t give up their palaces, what are the chances of Juan de la Cruz seeing our feudal system being upended? In the meantime, we have taken as gospel truth that the way to address poverty is by alms-giving? And so President Aquino has been a no-show at Arangkada two years in a row? He has raised the budget for CCT, why bother with Arangkada? And who will be the next president, Binay?

Why ignore Arangkada? Because the administration sincerely believes they have succeeded in “kung walang ‘corrupt’ walang mahirap”? President Aquino as his sister points out doesn’t line his pocket. Yet has influence peddling stopped? And is Arangkada unwelcome because it would upset our culture of impunity and influence peddling?

And it explains why our power crisis is evergreen? But if we have to give credit where credit is due, indeed the campaign against corruption got the international community applauding. Yet as reality hits home, they continue to raise the imperative of reform. And that is where we as a people must truly get credit, our track record of non-delivery! And not surprisingly, poverty hasn’t gone away! 

“Politicians with feisty tongue and racy humor like Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson are a vanishing breed now . . . Lacson at Plaza Miranda could hold a big crowd for hours, including students who preferred to miss their classes. Lacson’s main targets were the squatters (now euphemistically called “informal settlers”) living near esteros, on riverbanks, uninhabited buildings and vacant public/private land in Intramuros. Lacson scolded and asked them NOT to vote for him. Local officials now view the squatter families as addition in politics, despite the filth and petty crimes attributed to them. Squatter ghettos enjoy the protection of most barangay officials.” [Oldies to replace the President (?), Atty. Romeo Pefianco, Manila Bulletin, 13th Mar 2015]

Over the recent past, we’ve had two presidents that were trained to be economists yet economic development continues to elude us. Because the challenge of nation building demands much more! Think leadership personified by Lee Kuan Yew, Mohamad Mahathir and even Deng Xiaoping. Nation building is more complex than private enterprise yet private enterprise – because there is no free lunch – continues to develop new thinking and new ways of enterprise development.

They swear by diversity in pursuing innovation and creativity and competitiveness because there is no one source of answers. But diversity does not equate to complexity. Simplicity is the best policy especially in the 21st century where speed is synonymous to success. And it demands even greater visionary leadership and strategic thinking, meaning the bias must be on the outcome not the activity.

On the other hand, both PHL and the Church are inward-looking and why Francis is invoking that catholic is universal, i.e., open and welcoming. And add the convolutions inherent in a hierarchical system and structure, we have two institutions stuck in a rut? But what is the old guard invoking, the truth? Why did the Church preach charity in the first place? That the truth is in the eyes of the downtrodden? Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – not in the “palaces” or the circles of bishops or in an oligarchic economy or in our exclusive schools, country clubs and gated communities.

Arangkada is our most credible attempt to finally crafting an industrialization program that would erect a truly robust platform for the economy, not one skewed to cater to a dozen vested interests. Is it a surprise foreign chambers are behind it? Because we Pinoys value a feudal not an egalitarian society? But then again, the reality of raw politics is that “the few” are the kingmakers, and if the most incorruptible presidency is unable to free itself from their clutches, it is not surprising that they would now be lining up to anoint the next king in Binay? If you cannot beat them join them!

If we had the Marcos dynasty and the Aquino dynasty, it's par for the course to be witnessing the next one? Who will demand that the next leadership must be committed to nation building not the personal or the party and friends or their hometown or the vested interests that funded the elections?

We like to see the glass as half full when we have yet to: (a) erect a platform that will support a (b) robust economic enterprise (c) designed for the pursuit of nation building. And what do we have? (a) The backs of 10 million OFWs that are (b) driving the economy but which (c) we take for granted yet (d) leaderships past and present would take credit for? If that is not a stark illustration of our backwardness, what is? 

“The Arangkada report tracks action on its detailed recommendations and releases an annual assessment . . . For 2014, the JFC’s overall assessment is that despite being Asia’s second fastest growing economy after China, the Philippines is still “growing too slow.” [“Growing too slow,” Ana Marie Pamintuan, SKETCHES, The Philippine Star, 13th Mar 2015]

“For a nation that’s trying to attract more foreign direct investment, the leader can use a bit more enthusiasm. Last week, President Aquino didn’t show up at the annual gathering of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines . . .”

And why do we even do those overseas roadshows when right at home we won’t engage the JFC that represent foreign investment? Are we fighting . . . poverty or backwardness?

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