Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stop corruption and . . . say no to “drugs”

. . . The ones of listening to what we want to hear [and parochialism]? “Pope to bishops: Stop ordering faithful around, fight graft,” AP, Manila Bulletin, 18th May 2015. Pope Francis is giving marching orders to his bishops, telling them to strongly denounce corruption and to act more like pastors than ‘pilots’ ordering the faithful around.”

“He also complained that the Catholic Church often organizes conferences where ‘the same voices’ are heard over and over, an apparent reference to the practice of hosting only like-minded speakers. Francis said such a practice ‘drugs the community, homogenizing choices, opinions and people.’ He urged bishops to instead go ‘where the Holy Spirit asks them to go.’”

But what to do with corruption? “Roots of corruption, Ana Marie Pamintuan,” SKETCHES, The Philippine Star, 20th May 2015. “Recent corruption controversies should give urgency to the passage of a law overhauling and regulating campaign finance. Many sweetheart deals and other transactions involving large-scale corruption have their roots in campaign donations and expenditures. Even election violence can be blamed partly on the huge cost of mounting a campaign.”

“Corruption must be fought relentlessly,” Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina Jr., 20th May 2015. Not a few were horrified at what seemed like a cruel joke, but were somehow relieved days later when Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made an apparent turnaround as she clarified last week that the third batch of cases pertaining to the pork barrel scam would still be pursued in court.”

“The continuing clamor for accountability and punishment for crimes concerning the infamous pork barrel system should serve as a litmus test for our legal institutions to rise to the challenge of dispensing justice to appease an enraged citizenry. Let us always bear in mind the words of Pope Francis, when he came to visit our country four months ago, as he challenged ‘everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor.’ It takes commitment to safeguard government from thievery and plunder. Let us be unrelenting and fight corruption to the finish!”

Beyond corruption, what else should we guard against? While good news is always welcome, we can’t fall into the trap of listening only to what we want to hear? “PIDS flags risks as economy seen to miss growth target,” Danessa O. Rivera, The Philippine Star, 20th May 2015. “The biggest drivers for growth will be private and government consumption . . . The state think tank’s forecast is a tad lower from the official target range of seven to eight percent this year.”

“Last year, gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.1 percent, slower than the previous year’s 7.2 percent. Among the risks PIDS highlighted for the economy is the decline in government revenues. This is attributed to the lower oil importation, tax exemptions on de minimis benefits and productivity bonuses of workers and higher tax exemption ceiling on the 13th month pay . . .

“This has serious implications on government spending for infrastructure and social services . . . While the Philippines exhibited resiliency when the US Federal Reserve announced it will start easing its multi-billion dollar bond purchases in 2013, the PIDS still counted equity price risks and capital outflows among threats to economic outlook. It also stressed that the long problem in infrastructure, weakness in exports and the impact of the El Nino phenomenon are among the major risks this year . . .”

“. . . [T]he Philippines could sustain a seven percent growth beyond 2015 by working on several policy responses. Among the policy responses recommended by the PIDS include ensuring the reliability of power supply and transport infrastructure, facilitating the transmission of resources from the financial to the real estate sector and closely monitoring regional and global developments. . . [T]he Philippine government should take steps in narrowing down the saving-investment gap. Mobilizing long-term capital could be done through massive market research and project development under infrastructure and agribusiness at the local government level . . .”

The above policy responses recommended by PIDS are not new! But would they reflect the need for us to leverage the power of the mindset (i.e., develop a sense of purpose, respond to challenges and focus on what we can control because the buck stops with us) and dig deep into our emotional intelligence (i.e., the capacity to manage shortcomings and demonstrate results orientation, collaboration, leadership and change) and look beyond our borders and overcome parochialism?

For example, “Internationalizing small firms,” Cielito F. Habito, The Philippine Inquirer, 19th May 2015. “It is often said that small firms are the backbone of any economy. If they are, then we don’t seem to be taking care of our backbone too well, and unless things change, our economy may find itself stooped and bent some time in the future. If it’s any comfort, we are not necessarily alone in this situation. Across the Apec region, small firms consistently account for more than 97 percent of all enterprises; for the bulk of the region, including the Philippines, the share is in fact 99 percent or more.

“But there is a wide divergence of their contribution to the economy. Contribution to gross domestic product varies from a low of 21 percent in Russia to a high of 59 percent in China and Indonesia; the Philippines is lower than average, at 36 percent. Contribution to total employment ranges from a low of 25 percent in Russia to a high of 92 percent in Indonesia (with Canada a close second at 90 percent); we are again below the average (67 percent) at 61 percent.”

“As for exports, the small firms’ contribution ranges from below 15 percent (Australia, Chile and Peru) to nearly 70 percent (China). Unfortunately, we lack reliable data to be able to determine exactly where the Philippines lies in this range, but indications point to our MSMEs’ export contribution being near the bottom end. What we know from sample survey data is that the bulk of Filipino enterprises do not export at all.”

“We need to continue to build financial institutions... We need to uphold transparency, be mindful of contagion and risks...,” the BSP chief said. And as banking systems in Southeast Asia are set to integrate as part of the planned ASEAN Economic Community, Mr. Tetangco said there should be “effective management of risk exposures and enforcement of governance culture at the bank level.” [No room for complacency despite economic gains, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 20th May 2015]

No room for complacency? Is that a commitment or a rhetoric?

“Ugly politics and why we have to change now (!),” Bobit S. Avila, SHOOTING STRAIGHT, The Philippine Star, 21st May 2015. “ANC reported that the Liberal Party (LP), the reigning or party in power is starting to break up simply because many LP members cannot agree with DILG Sec. Mar Roxas as their standard bearer. Rep. Edgar Erice wants a Roxas-Poe tandem, while other LP members want a Poe-Escudero tandem . . . How many times have we written that political parties today have become irrelevant to our people and have given way to personality politics? This is why we need to change our system of governance right now…not tomorrow!”

Have corruption, being inward-looking and parochial drugged us? Sadly beyond them, there are fundamental skill sets (e.g., visionary and strategic thinking and priority setting, critical thinking and problem solving, among others, which in one word is creativity and defined simply as connecting the dots by Steve Jobs) in nation-building that we need but will miss?

For example, we take it for granted that the elite class can do no wrong given our hierarchical culture – and they call the shots? But should the right to pontificate and moralize come with the responsibility and accountability to answer for our failings? See above re Pope to bishops.

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