Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wall Street’s short-term thinking . . . and traditional politics

“The economic growth rate has nowhere to go but up given the economy’s traditional strong performance in the second half, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday . . . Philippine economic expansion has been ‘good’ so far and would ‘continue to improve’ in the second semester. Growth slowed to 5.3 percent in the second quarter from 6.4 percent in the same period a year ago. The government has set a seven- to eight-percent target for the year, but has long resigned to hitting even just an average of six percent.” [Economy has nowhere to go but up – Abad, Prinz P. Magtulis, The Philippine Star, 22nd Oct 2015]

Do we have a perfect storm in our hands? On top of short-term thinking there is fatalism and resignation and disconnect to boot? “I received this e-mail from a reader, Eric Cantuba.” [Duterte the political rock star, Boo Chanco, The Philippine Star, 21st Oct 2015] “On a recent trip from Davao to Manila, I bumped into Sec. Procy Alcala . . . I asked him if he can relay my message to Sec. Jun Abaya since they are both in P-Noy’s circle of friends. He said he has a direct line to Sec. Jun while brandishing his phone.

“So I told Mr. Alcala na baka pwede namang ayusin ng DOTC yung traffic management sa NAIA runway. Our flight had already been delayed for two hours. Sec. Procy just shrugged his shoulder like it is not a big deal . . . He continued by saying “ganito din naman katraffic sa ibang bansa” . . . I was saddened and totally felt our government officials are so disconnected with the common tao.

“. . . I no longer wonder why Mr. Abaya, or any personality within P-Noy’s inner circle are just going through the motions na busy sila. I feel bad about the state of our country lalo na sa mga kamay ng kagaya nila.”

“‘There’s still a lot of growth to further heighten the domestic demand component of the economy. The capacity is huge,’ Abad said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at the Luneta Hotel.” [Magtulis, op. cit.] “Traditional drivers of holiday spending, as well as accelerated government spending would work on the economy’s favor. The budget chief said this would help offset weak external factors which are ‘beyond our control.’ Among the weaker spots of growth in the second quarter came from exports, which grew by a slower 3.7 percent in the first half . . .”

But how disconnected is government? “Arbitration cases against the government should be the last resort in settling business claims. But when they become frequent, foreign investors take notice and begin to wonder about the business climate and the regulatory risks in a country.” [Arbitration cases harming PH image, Ray S. Eñano, The Standard, 14th Oct 2015]

“Foreign businessmen weigh the regulatory risks in doing business in the Philippines. Such risks are manifested in the level of foreign investments, which the Philippines is trying to attract. Manila, so far, has a poor scorecard in this aspect . . . The dismal investment figure is not about to improve, if the government of President Benigno Aquino III keeps reneging on its contractual obligations.”

But there’s a breath of fresh air. “For the 2016 candidates, an agenda for service,” Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina Jr., Manila Bulletin, 19th Oct 2015. Widespread poverty, injustice, joblessness, disease, homelessness, and traffic chaos, among others — the reversal of this dire situation demands that we elect in to public office not just popular personalities but God-fearing, highly competent, and compassionate local and national leaders who can bring to the nation excellence in governance.”

“To succeed, the new administration must implement the 10-point agenda for reform and development proposed by a nationwide multi-sectoral movement of workers, farmers, fishermen, urban poor, indigenous people, people with disabilities, senior citizens, youth, women, faith-based, and advocacy groups who comprise the “Katipunan ng mga Manggagawa at Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (KMMP).”

“This agenda for reform and development is as follows: 1.Modernization and industrialization of agriculture, with full implementation of agrarian reform, natural resources and fisheries reform, as keys to achieve food security, job creation, poverty eradication, and balanced rural-urban development.

“2. Rapid industrialization and employment creation through appropriate investments (including public-private partnerships), government spending, promotion of micro, small, and medium enterprises, and self-employment schemes.”

With due respect to the Senator, the writer is not quoting the entire 10-point agenda. Given his private sector background he is scared every time he reads a dissertation-like program or agenda. Why? Given our Pinoy “crab mentality” whenever one gives an inch, it translates to surrendering much more. It’s not about the more the merrier or it's “more fun in the Philippines” – it’s chaos and confusion . . . and why we haven’t moved beyond square-one?

More precisely, we have to internalize the imperative to erect the building blocks of major undertakings – or the equivalent of an ecosystem – and prioritize the ones that give the biggest bang for the buck. Even the Creator needed seven days to complete the task.

But then again, there is welcome news. Mindanao gets bulk of infra projects approved by PRDP,” Carmelito Q. Francisco, Business World, 22nd Oct 2015. “A total of 190 infrastructure projects with a combined cost of P11.3 billion have been approved for implementation under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), with Mindanao cornering the bulk at P5.1 billion for 113 sub-projects.”

“Luzon, on the other hand, has 52 sub-projects worth P4.3 billion, while the Visayas got the green light for 25 sub-projects at P1.932 billion, according to a statement issued on Wednesday, which also indicated the change in the PRDP title to ‘project’ from ‘program’.”

This blog constantly talks about visionary and strategic leadership. And the writer had a smile on his face reading the above title change – from program to project. Indeed the PRDP appreciates the import yet a national imperative remains: to develop a vision for the Philippines.

“The Price of Wall Street’s Power,” Gautam Makunda, Harvard Business Review, June 2014. “Clayton Christensen argues that management’s adoption of Wall Street’s preferred metrics has hindered innovation. Scholars and executives alike have criticized Wall Street not only for promoting short-term thinking. . . The financial sector’s influence on management has become so powerful that a recent survey of chief financial officers showed that 78% would ‘give up economic value’ and 55% would cancel a project with a positive net present value—that is, willingly harm their companies—to meet Wall Street’s targets and fulfill its desire for ‘smooth’ earnings.

“So why do managers make choices they know are wrong? Why do so many believe (or act as if they believe) something that simply isn’t right? I’m a political scientist. That means that, just as an economist thinks about money or a soldier about armies, I think about power. There are lots of situations in which people—and countries—act against their own interests.”

Is that what traditional politics is about? Everyone can learn from Iceland, especially bankers: “Iceland, Where Bankers Actually Go To Jail For Committing White-Collar Crimes,” Alan Pyke, Think Progressive, 23rd Oct 2015.
“Nearly all the financiers who headed powerful American firms in the run-up to the 2008 economic crisis remain wealthy, powerful, and free. Not so in Iceland, where jail sentences handed out last week bring the number of bankers imprisoned over the meltdown to 26. Combined, the bankers will spend 74 years behind bars. While critics of such stringent treatment of the business community often warn that cracking down on finance hurts the economy, Iceland’s experience has shown it’s possible to pursue corporate accountability and broad growth at the same time.”

What about traditional politicians, what are they accountable for?

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