Sunday, January 10, 2016

Running around like a headless chicken

What we don’t know won’t hurt us? Or is it what we refuse to know won’t hurt us? Unfortunately, our reality is our generation is toast! In other words, it won’t be until the next generation that we can expect to see a new PH. But that assumes we start putting the requisite building blocks of a new economy in place today. Otherwise we consign the next generation to the same plight.

The evidence? Imagine how long it will take to make Metro Manila navigable by land. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – our infrastructure dilemma is much grimmer. “PH lags efficiency in SEA mass transport system,” Elinando B. Cinco, Manila Bulletin, 7th Jan 2016. “[T]he Philippines only provides its riding public a 16.9-km Metro Rail Transit with a maximum design capacity of 350,000 passengers.” The comparative figures are ugly and would perhaps explain why we’d rather be in denial mode?

Read the NEDA secretary’s more recent peep into the future and they read 2040 – and they’re loaded with caveats. But that is not new. The international institutions have long raised the point, that even at 7% growth it will take us a generation to approximate developed-nation status.

Indeed we have a problem – big time! And fundamental in problem-solving is the rigor demanded by problem-definition. In "Design Thinking" (an innovation and problem-solving model), which the blog has discussed, defining a problem presupposes “empathy” – but in our case it may mirror the “split-level” Christianity thesis of Fr. Bulatao?

For example, we've long defined our challenge as poverty which could very well be coming from our instincts of paternalism. But implicit in paternalism is hierarchy which at the highest levels is political patronage and oligarchy. The evidence? CCT is not the answer when PH suffers from structural underdevelopment, and why we’re looking – not years but – a generation.

How did our neighbors overcome poverty? Economic development – which to them, first and foremost, meant begging the West for money and technology! And that’s not new. Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad told us about it as they did Deng Xiaoping. The difference being Deng followed suit and we didn't. [But today China is faced with a new challenge – the ‘economic cycle’ – and they’re not shy to tap US expertise anew. And it’s a small world as PH taps into the AIIB. And we shouldn’t be shy to tap outside expertise, ever?]

Did we think that our neighbors were naïve? It takes a curious and an inquisitive mind – in other words the naiveté displayed by kids like Gates, Jobs and Zuckerberg – to discover and innovate! Precisely why this blog was inspired by a bunch of young and naïve ex-socialists who had no heritage nor the skillset demanded by a free-enterprise system. Are we too smart for our own good?

We can’t imagine that we must reinvent ourselves . . . because . . . we lord it over Juan de la Cruz? A little – even lots – of knowledge is dangerous?

In the beginning this writer’s Eastern European friends expected him to provide the rules – must be a carryover from their communist past – and were angry (their word) . . . until they realized that it is all about a sense of purpose and principles and values. And that they must come from the team in an egalitarian ethos.

But then again, that is how we Pinoys define naiveté?

Yet over a century ago Rizal would distinguish the palliative from the radical remedy – meaning, “pwede na ‘yan” will not cut it? That “palliatives are even harmful when the government is beset with ills that need radical remedy.” And that rings true to this day!

Where is our worldview coming from? “Pinoy kasi” or “family first”? In other words, our default problem-definition appears to be dictated by our “culture” – aka our ecosystem: parochialism, paternalism, hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy – and “family” – aka subordinating community and the common good? But when we indulge our inward-looking instincts we aren't truly problem-solving? For instance, should we or shouldn't we define our challenge as nation-building?

“I am just a dreamer who has been dreaming dreams for our country. But I am not the Man of La Mancha who dreams of impossible dreams. A number of people of this country whom I have known for some time – Doy Laurel and Ninoy Aquino – who loved listening to the song “The Impossible Dream,” died without realizing their dreams. Since I have never heard them defining their dreams in terms of a vision for the country, their defined programs to render reality their vision, consistent with the perception of others on them, I supposed that their dream was to become president.” [A national agenda for the national leader, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 1st Jan 2016]

Have we been running around like a headless chicken? We’ve gone from microfinance to “financial inclusion” to joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for example? But have we in fact rigorously defined our problem?

“PPP projects still anemic in 2015,” Chino Leyco, Manila Bulletin, 3rd Jan 2016. “Out of the 55 public-private partnership (PPP) projects under the Aquino administration, the government only awarded 10 projects since 2010, dragging down programs aimed at improving the country’s lacking infrastructure.

“Costings more than P1.14 trillion, the 55 PPP projects could have been a huge boost to the country’s slowing economy if all were fully awarded or implemented, as promised, by President Benigno S. Aquino III.”

Nation building is not finance per se be it microfinance or financial inclusion or the AIIB.

It is a vision; the attainment of which is driven by strategic leadership. And if we are to progress from an oligarchic economy to an industrialized economy, we need to rigorously define its elements and pursue them in an integrated fashion. That means attaining the higher order which presupposes an egalitarian ethos – not to be confused with “crab mentality”.

“Philippine government must be more aggressive in boosting the local agriculture and manufacturing sectors and in ramping up infrastructure spending, as increased focus on these sectors is key to sustaining the country’s robust economic growth story.” [Gov’t urged to step up efforts to boost agri, manufacturing, Amy R. RemoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 5th Jan 2016]

“Bodo Goerlich, president of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (GPCCI), said in an interview that proper infrastructure was one of the key factors that would attract German investors into doing business in the Philippines.

“Faster improvements in roads, harbors, airports and communication infrastructure will almost immediately yield benefits to the Philippine economy . . . According to Goerlich, the next administration must also pave the way for more foreign investments in the manufacturing industry given its huge potential.

“Separately, John D. Forbes, senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), cited the lack of investments in the local agricultural and mining sectors and noted the need for the government to roll out and complete infrastructure projects that would provide new and additional access roads, especially skyways, and railways in the National Capital Region.”

“No industrialization without steel industry,” Efren L. Danao, The Manila Times, 1st Jan 2016. “Ka Oca’s well-publicized laments took place more than 25 years ago but nothing has been done through all those years.”

“Rolly Narciso said that the Department of Trade and Industry under the incumbent administration has included it among the 30 sectoral roadmaps it has developed in the last three years. He added, however, that significant action on these roadmaps may have to await the arrival of the next president.”

30 sectoral roadmaps? And we were looking at 50 or so? And there was in fact a series of press releases to announce them to all and sundry?

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

The JFC provided us with a straw man with its 7 industry winners but how do we wrap our head around 7 as opposed to 30 or 50 industries? Pareto isn’t in our consciousness while “crab mentality” is; and, not surprisingly, strategic thinking and leadership escapes us?

“Filipino farmers need support to compete in Asean,” Anna Leah E. Gonzales, The Standard, 1st Jan 2016. “Filipino farmers need government support to prepare for the influx of duty-free commodities, as the Asean Economic Community came into force on Dec. 31, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Friday.”

That is a classic statement non-statement aka as platitudes? Was this the same person people were unhappy about notwithstanding the different agribusiness roadmaps the department sent out to the press? But in our culture of impunity, who cares?

“Alcala made the statement in the context of the Asean Economic Community, which was formally launched at the end of 2015 . . . Alcala said targeted interventions should be made in order to enhance the capacity of Filipino farmers to compete and to expand their engagement in agribusiness opportunities.”

We shall continue to run like a headless chicken until we undo many of our instincts. “Culture” and “family” can’t be our license to take the Philippines down the abyss. Nor is KKK!

“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 . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“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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