Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Can we move forward?

“Perhaps it’s better late than never, but it’s still dismaying to learn that it took 43 years to resolve a graft case in this country. The four public officials indicted are dead, prompting the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft case against them involving P71 million in behest loans granted by the Philippine National Bank during the Marcos dictatorship.” [EDITORIAL - A national embarrassment, The Philippine Star, 2nd Jun 2015]

“The Philippine Fair Competition Act (House Bill No. 5286) passed the House of Representatives on third and final reading last week, taking well over two decades to get this far—dating back to President Cory Aquino and the Eighth Congress, in fact.” [Game-changing reform, Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26th May 2015]

“The RFI, which has failed to pass Congress for 16 years now, is considered the twin measure of another proposed bill, the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (Timta).” [DTI, DOF stall progress of RFI bill in Congress, Catherine Pillas, Business Mirror, 1st Jun 2015]

How about moving forward for a change? There have been recent commentaries about the need for liberal education. And if higher education is about critical thinking – the key to discovery – is Francis then the role model for his questioning of the Curia’s assumptions? If we are to move forward must we first learn to question our own assumptions? The good news is we’re not alone. In the West they recognized that the educational system has failed to address 3 fundamental skills set: teamwork, communication and critical thinking.

What about us? “Who are we Filipinos (?),” Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, The Manila Times, 24th Apr 2015. “Let’s engage on the dynamics of our values as a system rather than dwelling on each value singly. Beforehand, let’s admit that values – the mainsprings of action — are not easily understood since they are abstract in nature. We can only ‘feel’ values or realize what specific values we are witnessing when these are manifested in a culture. Let’s suppose the governor of our province helped my son to have a better-paying job. Pay from this job has made possible for the younger sister to enroll in piano; for otherwise she would have to stick only to her academic pursuit. Come fiesta, our family invites the governor. Naturally we want to show our gratitude. We lavish our guest and his staff with expensive wine – something too much for us to spend on.”

“How do we explain our action? What values are the mainsprings of our behavior? We justify our digging deep into our pockets this fiesta by the fact that our son’s new job has given a better life for our family (familia). We owe (utang na loob) this to the governor. It’s a shame (hiya) if we don’t invite him and treat him as well as we can (smooth interpersonal relations or pakikisama). This example shows that we can better explain our behavior not by referring to a single value but rather to our values system. Jesuit Filipinologist Fr. Jaime Bulatao lists four major Filipino values — familia, hiya, utang na loob and pakikisama. All the rest of the values in the values system are secondary to these four major ones.

“Examples of values secondary to the four major values are hospitality and the round-about or circumlocutory manner a person asks favors from a friend who may have bailed this person out of difficulty many times over. Under such circumstances, such as too much utang na loob makes a person hesitate (mahiya) to ask for additional favor. Since culture is dynamic, values change to certain degrees.”

Not surprisingly, we read: “Political patronage,” Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2nd Jun 2015. “LONG CITED as a major drag on the Philippines’ development, political patronage is defined as the allocation of favors or rewards such as public office, jobs, contracts, subsidies or other valued benefits by a patron (usually an elected official) to a client (usually a donor or campaign contributor) in return for the client’s service, such as voting for the patron or providing money for electoral campaigning. Political patronage has also been mentioned in many studies as a major factor why industrialization did not happen as planned, why manufacturing degenerated, why land reform failed, and why the Philippines has been economically overtaken by its neighbors.”

“Late last month a visiting political scientist from Harvard again cited the ills brought about by political patronage—vote-buying, corruption, political dynasties—which hinder attempts to foster an “inclusive” economy that will benefit others besides the rich and the well-connected.”

Do we need a leadership that will show us the way? That it is about developing a sense of purpose as a nation? Are we mired in controversies yet?

“COA says Shell owes P53 B in royalties,” Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 3rd Jun 2015. “This tax exemption issue has also recently plagued Manila Water and Maynilad Water. An arbitration panel has ruled that Manila Water has no right to deduct as operating expense the amount equivalent to the income tax paid . . . Both water concessionaires, however, insist the tax privilege is written in their concession agreements. It would probably take a Supreme Court ruling to resolve this issue for the water companies and likely, for the Malampaya consortium as well.”

“Investments and the rule of law,” Business Mirror Editorial, 23rd May 2015. “FINANCE Secretary Cesar V. Purisima knows his finance but knows his politics better.  In a recent Financial Times-First Metro-Philippines Investment Summit, the secretary read a speech saying that “the prevalence of the rule of law in the country helped in increasing the confidence of investors in doing business in the Philippines . . . The secretary was indulging in irony, for it is clear he didn’t want to appear to be lecturing his boss. The fact of the matter is that the present administration has shown little respect for the rule of law at least twice since it took over in 2010.”

“The Philippines has a long way to go before it can catch up with its ASEAN-5 peers, according to the recently released results of the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook.” [Daunting challenges for the next President, Benjamin E. Diokno, Core, Business World, 2nd Jun 2015] “In Singapore, 80.5% of respondents see policy stability and predictability as the most attractive factor for the economy. By contrast, only 12.1% of the respondents see that as a factor for the Philippines. By inference, a great majority of respondents find policies in the Philippines as unstable and unpredictable.”

“The results of the IMD world competitive survey are a grim reminder that all’s not well with the Philippine economy. Not surprisingly, it has attracted the least foreign direct investments . . . Boasting that the economy’s growth in recent years is higher than its historical average has a good ring to it. But it’s not a guarantee that the economy might not suffer a reversal in the future unless existing problems such as policy inconsistency, unreliable infrastructure, government incompetence, an unfriendly business environment, an uncompetitive tax regime, and others are fully addressed by policy makers.”

This blog has discussed the imperative to discriminate between analyses and deliverables. [In the private sector, it’s called strategic thinking.] Because we can’t be getting the shorter end of the stick, if not left empty handed. For instance, judicial and/or academic rigor must have a purpose that informs the principles that we are to uphold. But it can’t be limited by a parochial worldview.

There’s got to be a higher purpose?

Will we find it if question our assumptions behind: (a) NAIA 3 . . . and our archaic infrastructure; (b) our economic model and persistent underdevelopment; (c) our responses to the demands of self-government; (d) our pace of maturity as a people; (e) our hierarchical system and structure?

Why has Francis been battling the Curia, for instance? The Vatican can’t be a government of the few, by the few and for the few? Because people, institutions, states and nations cannot standstill? Because anachronism has a price?

In the case of PHL, it’s poverty . . . and the laughing stock of the region, if not the world? Can we move forward?

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