Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Taking responsibility

“Given the comparative advantages of the Philippines in terms of our talented people, vast natural resources, and strategic geopolitical position in the Asia-Pacific, we ought to have succeeded much better by now in governing ourselves, accelerating our economic development, and strengthening our social cohesion. That we have not fully attained such desirable conditions is history’s reproach to us.” [Nation-building: Remembering Andres Bonifacio, Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, Manila Bulletin, 28th Nov 2015]

Sadly, President Ramos may be in the minority? Is Juan de la Cruz taking responsibility for our failings? And with the rest of us President Ramos could easily be outnumbered?

“Reflecting on the booms-and-busts in our history, our people seem to have repeatedly faltered during each new era. After brilliant triumphs, we appear to fall short again and again in the aftermath. That is how we lost our head starts in nation-building – in the 1950s by clinging to the illusion that self-government would effortlessly bring about development.” [Ramos, op. cit.]

Why is Darwin not in our consciousness, for instance? It’s not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survives but the most adaptable to change. Does it have to do with our faith? Yet Pope Francis asserts creation is not incompatible with evolution. We can’t be the ideologues – suffering from leprosy or at the very least neurosis – that Francis denounces?

Is that the heart of our problem? Everything is set in stone – like our archaic jeepney – and why we value “materiales fuertes”? While the world keeps passing us by? We can’t be critical of our state of affairs nor offer solutions while silent about how we lag in human development – reflected in our values of hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy? And when all is said and done, the status quo benefits us anyway being head and shoulders above Juan de la Cruz? Who is left to suffer our failure to be a nation state, if not as a failed state?

“Equipped with obsolete tools of earlier periods, we tried to make our way up in the postwar world. By adopting unworkable models and copycat ideas, we missed the boat of modernization in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

“We can no longer afford these past failures and present-day delusions that: democracy without civic responsibility can insure development; while maintaining the unjust structures that have kept our economy stagnant, we can progress sustainably; prosperity automatically trickles down from the rich few to the impoverished many. Expectedly, we may fail again – if we content ourselves at this time with flawed policies, greedy officials, self-serving dynasties and widespread corruption.” [Ramos, op. cit.]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors have an obligation to this country to report events, accurately and fairly, with all sides in a controversy or an ongoing debate on major issues well covered and represented.” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“As a rule today, this does not happen. The current rules governing mainstream media are imbedded in the following indelible principles: First, protect the interests of their owners and those whom their owners support. Second, on issues that do not affect their owners, media persons, as a rule, are practitioners of “envelopmental journalism” and the ACDC principle (attack and collect, defend and collect), meaning whoever gives the money could see their names and ideas in print or in radio or television. Third, partisanship and bias are the names of the game.

“If you belong to their crowd you can get your name in the newspapers, radio and television, even if your activities and ideas are inane or stupid or both. Fourth, there is no serious discussion of ideas. Fifth, there is no in depth knowledge of events and their implication on the life of the people. Sixth, there is no effort to educate the people. Seventh, there is stress on idiotic entertainment and game shows. Eighth, never mind ideas, just know whether he holds public office; it makes no difference whether his ideas are idiotic or insane, quote him.

“In plain and simple words, there is celebration of documented irrelevance.”

President Ramos raised the issue of obsolete tools. Aren’t we current with techniques and tools from the developed world? Isn’t training and education good business in the Philippines? While the writer has been away the last 3 decades, he remembers hearing right from the horse’s mouth (Edward de Bono) the techniques of “lateral thinking.” He was still wet behind the ears (45 years ago) but there were pretty senior Philippine business leaders who were there too. And over time we brought in more thought leaders.

But as a nation we haven’t developed visionary and strategic leadership, for example? When hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy rule; and when OFW remittances (read consumption) drive the economy; where we are an island unto ourselves, we should not expect to develop the compulsion for modernization and industrialization and competitiveness? And that will explain why we see competition as cutthroat if not evil – not about curiosity, inquisitiveness, discovery and innovation inherent in the history of man? 

In the meantime we’re religiously dissecting the yardsticks of global competitiveness but have yet to relate them to the requisite platform of competiveness – comprised of investment, technology, innovation as well as people and product and supply chain and market development? For example, it’s not about being a super salesperson or a super host. We saw that in Imelda. Neither whitewashing nor window dressing creates a great product. Many have asked, how much FDIs have our roadshows netted.

Competitiveness comes as connect dots, not singular isolated initiatives! And not surprisingly our SMEs are not availing of our trade agreements? They grew up like the rest of us – sheltered – and cannot be faulted for not developing the consciousness and imagination to visualize a bright future and think outside the box? Taken collectively as a nation, it explains why we haven’t developed visionary and strategic leadership?

That cannot be taken as lack of credit, primarily, with due respect to international institutions. Fundamental to credit access is “water seeks its own level.” Didn’t Aisa get the attention of the White House? She did not have access to capital necessarily yet her idea, being a technological innovation, would travel across the seas especially given today’s digital world!

If there are SME owners reading this, the writer came to Bulgaria to help a couple of SMEs with the exact same challenges as our SMEs, and credit and capital never became a barrier per se. And Bulgaria is not the land of milk and honey. It still has vestiges of its communist heritage. In other words, man is the true measure of himself. We cannot let extraneous forces define us.

If SME owners want to get in touch with the writer, he is accessible (gratis; and he is in Manila every January) via the blog. And he shares his postings with scores of journalists and opinion makers that would know how to reach him. But as the writer shared in an earlier posting, the onus of development is on us. And why the title of this posting is “taking responsibility.”

In the private sector (in the West) they say it more profoundly: all development is self-development. And in the public sector, between a donor-nation and a client-society or institution or enterprise, ‘absorptive capacity’ is paramount. It takes two to tango.

That was the banner the writer, representing an arm of US AID, brought along with him to Bulgaria to assist a couple of private enterprise clients and equip them to compete as their country was on their way to EU membership.

To reiterate, SMEs are most welcome to connect with the writer. [A good starting point is: What business are you in? Why?]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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