Saturday, November 21, 2015

Human consciousness

Should we examine the Filipino worldview and consciousness?

Human history and developmental psychology tell us that changing our thinking can elevate our worldview and consciousness. In other words, development is informed by a people’s worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership, among others. And human development evolves in stages; we don't grow continuously like trees. But instead would experience sudden transformation – akin to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a tadpole becoming a frog. And every transition to a new stage of consciousness would usher a new era in human history. And at every juncture everything changed: society changed from family bands to tribes to empires to nation states; economies from foraging to horticulture to agriculture to industrialization. Power structures and the role of religion also changed. And Einstein put it succinctly: problems couldn't be solved with the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place. [From: Reinventing organizations, Frederic Laloux, Nelson Parker, 2014; pp. 5, 14]

Consider: in 1976 the IMF and World Bank Group's annual meeting was held in Manila; in 1996 the Philippines hosted the APEC meeting and again in 2015; and each time over at least the last 40 years countless Filipinos had high hopes about the prospects of our economy.

“The true cost of APEC,” Andrew James Masigan, Manila Bulletin, 15th Nov 2015. “As a major global event, the eyes of the world will be affixed upon us for a whole week. It will be our chance to show how far we’ve come, economically and otherwise. For the last and most definitive time, we can dispel the derisive misnomer that we are Asia’s sick man but rather a healthy, thriving athlete they better watch out for. With luck, the event will give us more gravitas in international diplomacy whilst strengthening our position as a viable destination for foreign investments.

“I am supposed to be feeling happy, even excited about the APEC Summit. Why then am I feeling a sense of contempt towards it? While I know that hosting APEC is a good thing for the nation, in my gut, I know that doing it in Metro Manila is a huge mistake. Let me explain exactly how huge.

“Metro Manila accounts for 36% of the national economy. By declaring a two day holiday over the APEC week, factory productivity will screech to a halt, supply chains will be disrupted and financial markets will be shut down. As it stands, exports have already shrank at its steepest pace in four years, contracting by 24.7% in September!

“Rough calculations show that APEC will cost the economy R11 billion in foregone productivity on top of its actual cost of R4.6 billion. This will translate to a drag of nearly one percent in our fourth quarter GDP numbers. Considering, too, that GDP growth for the first semester has already been underwhelming at just 5.2%, another one percent reduction will be a painful blow.

“But keeping our skies clear will cost us the most. As of this writing, more than 1,200 flights have been cancelled to ensure aviation security and mask our embarrassing situation of airport congestion. Again, supply chains will be disrupted as a result of cargo immobility, small hotels, and resorts in the provinces, who rely on foreigners and visitors from Manila, will face a dry spell. Business opportunities will be foregone while personal dislocation will be experienced by the public.

“But the most severely hit, sadly, will be our workers who get paid by the day and those who live on a hand to mouth basis. For them, two days without wages could mean no food on the table or inability to make rent.”

“I had a two-hour lunch interview with Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima last Wednesday. He told me a good story. So in the interest of fair play, I write about it.” [Purisima’s confidence game, Tony Lopez, Virtual Reality, The Standard, 13th Nov 2015] “The President-elect wanted Purisima to lead his economic team. ‘He [Aquino] empowered me,’ Purisima recalls. The new President asked the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management MBA: ‘What are we going to do?’ Readily, Purisima thought of one word to describe his game plan—confidence, which stated differently, is exactly Aquino’s slogan—Matuwid na Daan.

“Purisima had to inspire confidence from three groups of stakeholders—in the government, among investors, and among the people. That is what the Finance chief calls the virtuous-cycle strategy. To restore confidence in the government and in the country, the government must raise revenues, tighten or rationalize its expenditures, and put order in borrowings, here and abroad.

“The government had to gain the confidence of the financial markets . . . Today, the deficit-to-GDP ratio hovers at 0.6 percent (0.2 percent in October 2015), down dramatically from 3.7 percent in 2009, while the debt-to-GDP ratio is 44.9 percent as of June 2015, less than half of the value of economic output.   

“Purisima also reduced debts denominated in foreign currencies (as a percentage of GDP), from 38.4 percent in 2009 . . . By June 2015 the ratio was 25.7 percent . . . The significant reductions, along with complementary reforms, improved the Philippines’ credit standing. Today, the country is investment grade—a first in history. The Philippines actually received 22 positive credit rating actions since Aquino took over. Fourteen of those were upgrades, since 2010.

“The positive upgrades and the investment grade ratings mean lower borrowing cost, from abroad and locally . . . Filipino consumers have saved some P41 billion on their consumer, car and housing loans, due to the dramatic lowering of interest rates since 2009. The government itself reduced its debt service payments (interest and principal yearly), from P689.8 billion in 2010 . . . to just P515 billion by 2014.

“The restoration of confidence brought in investments. Net foreign direct investments ballooned from $1.07 billion in 2010 to $6.2 billion in 2014 . . . The overall impact has been unbridled economic dynamism. Under Aquino, the size of the economy has expanded from P8.026 trillion value of GDP in 2009 to P12.642 trillion GDP by 2014, an expansion of 58 percent in six years.”

“But the question today is the same that it has been every day for the last 25 years: Why can’t the Philippines fulfill its economic potential?” [Bold moves seen needed to sustain growth momentum, realize potentials, Krista Angela M. Montealegre, Business World, 26th Oct 2015]

And missing from the good story is how dependent we are on OFW remittances and the BPO industry, which don't translate to an industrialized economy – anchored in investments and competitive products and services, and key to how developed economies became wealthy. “They can brag but should have been there when the Binondo Central Bank had to save us,” intimated a retired banker. And the Marcoses and their ilk now want to rewrite history?

We are playing catch up in a big way. LeBron James can score over 30 points and still not make his team world champions. And while it stands to reason that we should feel positive, we can’t afford to be mired in the same worldview and consciousness. Which explains why we’ve blown the last 25 years, if not 40 years? And if the reality of our government officials is not shared by half of our people, who continue to claim if not suffer abject poverty, we better heed Einstein: problems couldn't be solved with the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place.

Why can’t we move beyond family bands to a true nation-state? And beyond agriculture to industrialization? And beyond power structures that are hierarchical? Why can’t we move from an oligarchic to a competitive economy? And beyond viewing competition as cutthroat – to one of curiosity, inquisitiveness, discovery and innovation inherent in human progress and development?

We can’t take the status quo – if not complacency or fatalism – as a virtue when Juan de la Cruz and poverty have become synonymous. And must indeed examine our worldview and consciousness?

It’s not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survives but the most adaptable to change. But that demands transformation that can come if we are able to change our thinking – and move up from the levels of law and criticism and conflict to the level of wisdom. And should we heed Francis and move beyond ideology?

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