Monday, September 7, 2015

“Think big, execute ideas”

“‘Think big. Regional expansion is key for Southeast Asia,’ John Fitzpatrick [of Amazon Web Services] said. ‘It’s the execution that counts. Having ideas means nothing if you don’t go out and do something about them.’ Fitzpatrick also underscored the importance of having the right attitude in facing roadblocks. ‘You have to like winning. Attitude determines outcome,’ he said. ‘You got to be resilient because that’s what separate winners from the rest.’” [Young tech entrepreneurs told: Think big, don’t worship Silicon Valley, Yuji Vincent Gonzales,, 21st Aug 2015]

“‘A lot of those who jumped into our radar fastest were seen outside the Philippines. If I see you actively engaging other markets even if you are not there yet, even if you are just testing your market, talking to people outside and actively engaging with investors, then that tells me, this person is taking beyond the Philippines,’ [Golden Gate Ventures principal] Justin Hall said.

“[He] added that foreign investors like him had been looking for startups with ‘aggressiveness’ and ambition to expand. ‘We’d like to invest in very aggressive founders. If you are in Southeast Asia, you got to expand to other markets. There needs to be a rollout. That’s a trait that we are still trying to find in Southeast Asia,’ he said.” [PH, Southeast Asia ‘bright spot’ for tech investments, but …, Yuji Vincent Gonzales,, 21st Aug 2015]
Where are we in gearing up to meet the challenge of AEC?

“[Former Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and head of USAID’s Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE) Project] Dr. Cielito Habito stressed that the key instrument for inclusive growth is empowering and developing SMEs through government-wide coordinated support to expand financing options, increase access to technology, and improve market access.”[Enabled PH enterprises key to inclusive growth, Manila Bulletin, 28th Aug 2015]

“Habito explained that SMEs, for their part, should strengthen and professionalize their financial and overall business management, and be prepared to cluster with other competitors when volume orders especially from overseas calls for it. He also said it is important for SMEs to study and utilize government programs designed to . . . help them gear up for competition under the AEC. He went on to explain that the Philippines’ trade with other member countries in ASEAN is mostly in products in different stages of the value chain in the same industries, especially electronics, vehicles and chemicals. ‘This makes our TRADE with ASEAN more complementary rather than competitive in nature, and trade protectionism can be self-penalizing in this context,’ he asserted.”

What is our frame of mind or our mindset? This blog has discussed the difference between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” If we are to be a successful or a leadership economy – and not the regional laggard – we have to learn and embrace what that entails. Social scientists call them the 3 Cs: commitment, challenge and control. It means we must commit to the imperatives of a highly globalized and competitive 21st century and overcome our inward-looking parochial instincts otherwise AEC will pass us by. We can't be in that old paradigm that AEC is another OFW land. That is suboptimal, if not worse, the inability to lift ourselves from underdevelopment.

Economic blocs are not for the faint of heart as the Greeks now know. We have to step up to the challenge of AEC and demonstrate that we are in control. We can’t expect the rest of the AEC, if not the world, to defer to us. The change must come from us, which is what social scientists mean by control, not our oligarchic definition of control. As a noted physicist said, we can’t fall into “arrogance of success.” At home we may be the elite and successful. Yet being the regional laggard in this day and age that is not relevant – given our underdevelopment and the persistent poverty confronting us.

Before we can think big, should we in fact figure out what it means?

“The Case for Teaching Ignorance,” Jamie Holmes, The New York Times, 24th Aug 2015. “IN the mid-1980s, a University of Arizona surgery professor, Marlys H. Witte, proposed teaching a class entitled ‘Introduction to Medical and Other Ignorance.’ Her idea was not well received; at one foundation, an official told her he would rather resign than support a class on ignorance.”

“Dr. Witte was urged to alter the name of the course, but she wouldn’t budge. Far too often, she believed, teachers fail to emphasize how much about a given topic is unknown. ‘Textbooks spend 8 to 10 pages on pancreatic cancer,’ she said some years later, ‘without ever telling the student that we just don’t know very much about it.’ She wanted her students to recognize the limits of knowledge and to appreciate that questions often deserve as much attention as answers. Eventually, the American Medical Association funded the class, which students would fondly remember as ‘Ignorance 101.’

“Classes like hers remain rare, but in recent years scholars have made a convincing case that focusing on uncertainty can foster latent curiosity, while emphasizing clarity can convey a warped understanding of knowledge.”

Should we be offended by the subject or the idea of ignorance? Consider: “In her book, ‘Political Booms,’ Lynn T. White of Princeton University explains that ‘the Philippines has just about the longest experience of free elections in the developing world—yet this voting has not done much over many decades for the quality of governance there.’” [The future of Philippine democracy, Christopher Ryan Maboloc, inquirerdotnet, 26th Aug 2015]

Is that something we ought to seriously reflect upon? “In an opening statement, Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said an outdated and inefficient land administration system has resulted in fraudulent, overlapping and duplicate or triplicate land titles and widespread land grabbing in the Philippines.” ['Philippines inefficient land administration system causing fraudulent titles,’Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington bureau, The Philippine Star, 23rd Aug 2015]

“‘The perpetrators are local politicians, foreign investors and well-connected people,’ he said. Royce lauded President Aquino for his ‘considerable efforts to reform and clean up politics’ in the country, but said his few years in office cannot undo the years of damage done by deposed President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Royce said during a visit to the Philippines as part of a congressional delegation several years ago, he himself was personally prevented at gunpoint from accessing the property of a constituent by what appeared to be local security forces.

“Jonathan Stivers, an assistant administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said protecting land rights was key to promoting growth in the rural and urban areas of the Philippines. The high cost of property registration and the fact that seemingly routine registry processes like correcting clerical mistakes, issuing lost titles and weeding out fraudulent certificates require lengthy court processes, are among the constraints to secure property rights, he said.

“As an example, he said 90 percent of land cases handled by the Supreme Court in 2012 took more than 20 years to make their way through the system of hearings and appeals to higher courts.”

Is it the rule of law that we ought to figure out first? And it starts with our understanding of freedom and democracy – and the free enterprise system? This blog constantly raises our values of hierarchy over an egalitarian ethos, political patronage rather than good governance and oligarchy as opposed to a competitive economy. Because nation building is a pipe dream if we can’t commit to community and the common good.

Indeed we must figure out “the how” and our progress in fighting corruption – and our regional or AEC competitiveness. But we must foremost get a fix on “the why.” We need a deeper sense of purpose if we are to develop the capacity to think big.

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