Friday, November 27, 2015

Raising our level of consciousness for development

“We have been pouring investment incentives for years and wondering why our FDIs remain dismal compared to regional competitors like Vietnam. Early this week, I caught a story quoting Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima saying our economy is doing marvelously even with our relatively low FDIs.” [A PPP project goes bust, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 20th Nov 2015]

“That’s not the attitude I was hoping for. It is like saying we don’t need to do anything more because we are doing well... we don’t have to remove Constitutional restrictions on investments and ease the red tape investors must deal with to start and run a business here.”

Have we reinforced ‘learned helplessness’ and our vaunted fatalism given our inability to attract FDI? To quote an earlier posting: “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 . . . 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.” [From: Reinventing organizations, Frederic Laloux, Nelson Parker, 2014; pp. 5, 14]

And this is where we are in our consciousness: “Obama was all praise for our small business entrepreneur and innovator Aisa Mijeno. The US President seems to have done his homework and did background check on the diminutive Filipina inventor. Obama was profuse in his endorsement of Aisa’s invention—a LED lamp that is powered by a chemical solution produced out of sea or saltwater. Interviewed later by Ted Failon, Aisa was asked what help the Aquino administration gave her. She groped for an answer.” [Obama, Aisa and illumination, Tony Lopez, Virtual Reality, The Standard, 20th Nov 2015]

Si Obama pala. I was surprised it was the White House who invited Filipina scientist Aisa Mijeno to the APEC CEO Summit last week. Interviewed by Alvin Elchico of ABS-CBN News, Aisa said ‘White House po ang nag-invite sa akin. I was surprised. Akala ko prank call ang na-receive ko nung Monday!’ Mijeno said she had to be escorted by the US Secret Service to be able to enter the venue of the forum because she had no APEC ID.” [Lessons learned, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 23rd Nov 2015]

“It was in fact Obama’s staff who found Mijeno online and pushed her to center stage, where she met world-famous entrepreneur Jack Ma. The richest man in China promptly offered her a scholarship to an entrepreneur school in his country. So where’s that vaunted government support for local SMEs? What are local officials doing to solve the energy problem in their communities? Why must it take outsiders—in the case of Mijeno in Kalinga, and Obama and Ma during the APEC—to find solutions to a domestic crisis? How long before they see the light?” [Let there be light, Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22nd Nov 2015]

“Thanks to the kind invitation of Tony Tan Caktiong, conference chair of the just-concluded ‘Apec 2015 CEO Summit’ (and board chair of Jollibee Foods Corp., the ninth largest quick-service restaurant on earth in market capitalization), I had a ringside seat (on the first row) listening to US President Barack Obama speak on climate change, Chinese President Xi Jinping on trade pacts, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on fighting terrorism, and several other leaders on other issues.” [Internet, the globalization equalizer, Artemio V. PanganibanWith Due RespectPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 22nd Nov 2015]

“. . . President Obama’s unorthodox ‘moderating’ of a panel composed of Jack Ma and Aisa Mijeno, the young Filipina who pioneered the production of electricity from salt water, drew the most applause. It showed entrepreneurial ingenuity at its best, with an accomplished giant and a very promising startup both being buoyed by free enterprise.”

If we don’t raise our level of consciousness in the pursuit of development, our ‘absorptive capacity’ shall remain low versus our neighbors. What is absorptive capacity? From: Rethinking absorptive capacity,” Robert D. Lamb and Kathryn Mixon, A Report of the CSIS Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation, Center for Strategic & International Studies, ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD, June 2013.

“Whatever tool is used [in measuring absorptive capacity] it is critical to identify the resources, capabilities, knowledge, or conditions that are required for the [development] intervention to work but that are not provided or produced by the intervention itself. These are usually called assumptions, risks, or external factors . . . or prerequisites . . . Any good political economy analysis of the recipient system will help identify these prerequisites . . .”

That may sound too technical but if we go back to the above-referenced articles like the one quoting Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima [saying “our economy is doing marvelously even with our relatively low FDIs”], we would get a sense of where our level of consciousness is in the pursuit of development and why we lag our neighbors.

And the fact that we had to shut down Metro Manila for APEC was a flagrant display of our low absorptive capacity. It may pique the interest of major foreign infrastructure builders, for example, yet our Constitution poses a barrier. As a friend would ask the writer, do you believe we can change our culture? And that is where the problem lies. We’re not conscious of our instincts (or values?) because we take our culture for granted. On the other hand, in an egalitarian culture where innovation is truly valued, a president (and it so happened to be the most powerful nation in the world) would go out of his way to seek and invite to a major forum an unknown personality like an Aisa.

And why this blog has raised our biases: hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy. They undermine not only our faith (that every person is made in the image and likeness of the Creator) but also the building blocks of competitiveness, development and nation-building. Infrastructure development and industrialization are two critical building blocks yet our laws, practices and priorities by definition have been dictated not by competitiveness, development and nation building but by hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy. And consequently foreign investments have not come our way to the same extent as they have poured into our neighbors.

In the meantime we like to monitor and address our competitiveness ranking yet there are things sacrosanct that we have not touched? Until we raise our consciousness for development, we would rank low in absorptive capacity. And do we even risk going the opposite direction?

“In some countries, the old liberal arts colleges have either shrunk or completely vanished under its sway. Entire departments have been dismantled in many of the big universities abroad, their offices and faculty items taken over by new programs.” [General Education in the modern age, Randy DavidPublic LivesPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 22nd Nov 2015]

“The functional specialization of learning displaces value orientations that have been entrenched by previous academic traditions. As a result, literature and the arts, nationalism and civic duty, philosophy and moral education, etc.—along with classical notions of what constitutes a learned human being—gradually lose their foothold in the modern university curriculum. Their place—equivalent to the number of units allotted to subjects outside the core curriculum of every college—has shrunk over time.”

That would go against the imperatives of development. “Development is informed by a people’s worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership, among others.” On the other hand, functional specialization can reinforce linear thinking. And if development has many facets, linear thinking risks marginalizing specialists?

And not surprisingly Steve Jobs defined creativity as “connecting the dots” – which implies lateral thinking. And to be able to appreciate and identify the dots to connect, an enterprise, a society or a nation must be purposeful, even soulful. Otherwise linear and short-term thinking would undermine the overarching vision. And we are the living proof: Philippine underdevelopment.

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