Saturday, August 22, 2015

When progress is obstructed

“A new chapter: For only the second time in our history the ownership of The Economist changes,” The Economist, 15th Aug 2015. On August 12th we announced the most important change to our shareholding structure in almost 90 years. Pearson, the owner of the Financial Times, which has had a non-controlling 50% stake in us since 1928, is selling.”

All four of our living former editors have welcomed the change: it provides a platform for future generations to continue their work as a liberal voice in a world that needs to hear liberal arguments. Since 1843 this newspaper has engaged in what James Wilson, our founding editor, called ‘a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.’”

Timid ignorance obstructing progress? Could this be an example? “Bountiful oil has made Bruneians the fourth most wealthy people in Asia, with generous state handouts. That has helped forestall criticism of an autocratic government. But now reserves of hydrocarbons are dwindling, to which the government seems to have few answers—other than fostering a harsher form of Islam. Last year it announced plans to introduce a severe form of sharia (Islamic law).” [All pray and no work: An autocratic sultanate turns more devout as oil money declines, The Economist, 15th Aug 2015]

“Yet Brunei is no brash Gulf emirate. The capital is quiet and surprisingly scruffy, even if Bruneians seem pretty content. The sultan, who has ruled since 1967, enjoys genuine popularity, especially among the ethnic Malays who make up the majority of the population. Bruneians pay no income tax, enjoy free education and have access to cheap home loans and social housing. Many men find comfortable jobs in government: attendance at Friday prayers and royal ceremonies is compulsory; hard work is optional.”

Is that something we Pinoys would call inclusive? Consider: “The elitist and oligarchic structure of Philippine society is no longer sustainable in the light of the truism that the real foundation of the country’s economic redemption after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the collapse of fundamental institutions wrought by martial rule is not the taipans, the peninsulares, the ruling political and economic elite, or foreign investors. These groups are, in fact, the beneficiaries. Economic redemption happened despite them.” [Inclusive Way: An Aug. 21 initiative,Danilo S. VenidaPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 21st Aug 2015]

“The real movers are those who found no viable options in the country and were forced to go abroad to work: the overseas Filipino workers who remitted foreign currencies in the billions of US dollars year in and year out, through good times and bad, to support the families they left behind. In the process, they built up the Philippines’ economic resources way beyond what the elite could have mustered. The Inclusive Way is the challenge to which the OFWs will respond, along with their advocates, fellow Filipinos of goodwill, who will mobilize and organize with them for the cause.

“This is a real call, a challenge to pursue the Inclusive Way. This is a response to Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the peripheries of society and deliver opportunities for integral human development where these are dismally absent. Perhaps an Atip, a roof for all under one roof, can be organized to mobilize Filipinos who see the futility of relying on the present toxic and traditional politics to deliver the required transformation in society for all.”

The sad reality is so long as we have the elite class lording it over the country, we will be stuck with same old, same old. Why change when our hierarchical system and structure pays – like crime does in PHL that Juan de la Cruz has fallen into “learned helplessness”?

One can only smile when we call Juan de la Cruz “bobotante” as though it doesn’t apply to the elite class? Haven’t we all with our eyes wide open embraced the vicious circle of hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy?

Consider: “Worst of all, import substitution lacking strong central authority preserved the dominance of the politically powerful landowning families—who used their political capital to transfer their assets from landowning to industry. In the World Bank’s view, these powerful vested interests came eventually to capture policymaking and to shape economic policy— ‘to protect and enhance their privileged position, often to the detriment of national well-being.’ This view sums up pithily our national situation until now.” [Protectionist tendencies hobble investment despite globalization, JUAN T. GATBONTON, EDITORIAL CONSULTANT, The Manila Times, 15th Aug 2015]

Have we learned our lesson? If we haven’t after decades, when and how can we expect change to be a reality in the Philippines? And we can’t find comfort in “the glass is half full” as a perspective when it equates to a “fixed mindset” that social scientists postulate as undermining progress – and which they link to a “growth mindset.”

“Revolutions and other political upheavals are supposed to result in dramatic changes. For the better, it is hoped, although this is not always the case . . . In our country after the 1986 people power revolt, the change from dictatorship to democracy was dramatic, but structural reforms remain a work in progress three decades later.” [Make freedom work, Ana Marie Pamintuan, SKETCHES, The Philippine Star, 21st Aug 2015]

“Anniversaries present opportunities for assessing how much has changed. Today we commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr . . . This failure to identify the brains and hold the person accountable for Ninoy Aquino’s murder surely contributed to the prevailing impunity in political violence. Today all over the country, political rivalries are still often settled by murder.

“The same impunity characterizes corruption. As I’ve written in previous articles, our government has confiscated billions in ill-gotten wealth but has failed to punish anyone who might have done the stealing. We have a crime – world-class plunder – without a criminal.

“And as in any crime where there’s no punishment, failure to bring any plunderer to justice breeds impunity and guarantees the persistence of the problem.”

And more problems? “The independently-formed Investigation Unit (IU) at the ERC had announced its findings last June that several companies allegedly committed breaches of the must-offer rule of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, hence, causing extreme supply tightness which had driven up the power rates. In essence, some sectors branded it as “collusive act” of the GenCos.” [ERC to flesh out concerns in ‘collusion case,’ Myrna Velasco, Manila Bulletin, 20th Aug 2015]

“Implicated companies include state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), Pan-Asia Energy Holdings, Therma-Mobile Inc. (TMO), CIP II Power Corporation, Trans-Asia Power Corporation, 1590 Bauang Private Power; AP Renewables Inc.; GNPower, Strategic Power Development Corporation, Sem-Calaca and Udenna Management Resources Corporation; as well as Manila Electric Company (Meralco) because it has been in-charge of nominating and pricing the offers of its TMO-contracted capacity.”

In the meantime, we are up in arms given MM traffic and the malfunctioning A/C system at the airport until we’re reminded of the “Pattern of incompetence,” Editorial, The Manila Times, 20th Aug 2015. “THE current inability of the Department of Foreign Affairs to keep up with the demand for new or renewed passports is only the latest embarrassing addition to a record of basic incompetence within the Aquino Administration. It is also further warning that ‘continuing Aquino’s reforms’ should be the exact opposite of the broad policy objective the next president should have.”

Do we have the capacity to overcome “an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress,” to quote James Wilson? 

No comments:

Post a Comment