Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Where is our head?

Consider: “Graft and corruption permeate all levels of public life . . . Perhaps in no other country in South Asia is political dishonesty so widely recognized, accepted and talked about as a part of the political game . . .” [“‘The Philippines’ ‘buwaya problem,’“ Solita Collas-Monsod, Get Real, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5th Mar 2016]

If we are to have a chance – a prayer – to overcome a culture of impunity, must we first recognize that there is no free lunch? We must want to be upright. It is “mind over matter.”

Would the following initiative be the answer – assuming it is applied across the board in the public sector – to the graft and corruption that permeate all levels of public life? “Government corporations undergo 1st governance evaluation,” The Philippine Star, 4th Mar 2016.

“State corporations will undergo their first governance evaluation . . . under new rules aimed at strengthening their administration and adherence to transparency.

“The (scorecard) is a quantitatively-driven evaluation tool extracted from existing and globally accepted standards and practices . . . GOCCs will be assessed on three criteria namely stakeholder relationships, disclosure and transparency and responsibilities of the board members.”

And what about this? “Failed experiment at DA,” Marichu A. Villanueva, COMMONSENSE, The Philippine Star, 4th Mar 2016. “Ironically, the contribution to the country’s annual economic growth from the agriculture sector, however, has been declining even while budgetary support grew by unprecedented proportions.

“President Aquino . . . transferred to the Office of the President the following DA agencies to his newly created Cabinet post called Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM): the National Food Authority (NFA); the National Irrigation Administration (NIA); the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

“The creation of PAFSAM was supposed to help beef up the DA . . . Secretary Alcala had also been under fire from various stakeholders’ groups denouncing alleged shenanigans in rice importation, problems of delayed irrigation projects, the coco-lisap infestation, among other issues.

“Unfortunately, this political accommodation did not produce miraculous gains for the country’s agriculture sector.”

The writer asked friends in the Philippines why “daang matuwid” appears not to boost the candidacy of Roxas, for example. And they’re one in saying: “It raised expectations but didn’t deliver on the promise.”

We’re probably not lacking in good intentions.

“Our parents and teachers exert a big influence on which mindset we adopt—and that mindset, in turn, has a profound impact on how we learn and which paths we take in life.”  [What you believe affects what you achieve, Bill Gates, gatesnotes.com, 7th Dec 2015]

It is mind over matter. “‘Alone in Antarctica.’ At the end of November 2011, Felicity set off from the coast of Antarctica on the Rose Ice Shelf to cross the entire continent on skis by herself. Ahead of her was a 1744 km journey through the Transantarctic Mountains, across the Polar Plateau to the South Pole then on to the far coast of Antarctica. The physical challenges of the 59-day journey are astonishing but it is the mental hardships that Felicity describes that are the most memorable.” [Felicity Aston, lecture, aboard the Queen Elizabeth, 11th Mar 2016.]

“It is mind over matter,” is how Aston would sum up the experience. And she had already developed what she called “the bug” – and two years later would organize a team of three women to race in the Arctic against all-men teams (including from the military, trained and fit for combat) and finished 6th out of 16. But they had to work that butt off – like cutting on sleep. After the first checkpoint they were dead last. And at the second checkpoint they had moved up to 9th. And so they kept pushing.

It was actually the third time Aston did the impossible. The first time, in 2006, she organized a team of four women to cross the southern part of Greenland both ways, 16 days going west and 14 days coming back east. The first women to do so and bettered the record of 30 days in either direction – the best men could do.

On the return they had in fact decided to give up – and so Aston called the rescue team. They’ve had a slew of obstacles including one when a member fell into a patch of thin ice down to her neck – a miracle in itself because she could have vanished. But they chose to carry on. While on the phone with the rescue team, Aston heard what she thought were the magic words: “keep the faith.” And as the head of the expedition, Aston learned a great lesson in leadership.

Her three lessons: (a) it is mind over matter; (b) keep the faith and (c) it is about leadership.

What about reflecting on the following and asking ourselves: Where is our head on each of them? (a) Graft and corruption permeate all levels of public life; (b) State corporations will undergo their first governance evaluation this month under new rules aimed at strengthening their administration and adherence to transparency; and (c) President Aquino . . . transferred to the Office of the President [4 DA] agencies to his newly created Cabinet post called Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM). Unfortunately, this . . . did not produce miraculous gains for the country’s agriculture sector.

And would these three elements represent our collective mind as Filipinos? (a) Leadership; (b) Juan de la Cruz; and (c) Institutions.

We know, for example, that President Aquino like everyone else has his strengths and weaknesses. What about Poe, Binay, Roxas, Duterte and Santiago. Can these candidates be any different? And should Juan de la Cruz likewise ask himself where his mind is? And what about our institutions?

The writer remembers 13 years ago when he first arrived in Eastern Europe. Consider: (a) he had retired from an MNC where every year he executed a sworn statement (required by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) that he did not engage in any corrupt practices wherever he did business; and (b) he was representing USAID in Bulgaria.

“If you want me to come again (he had spent a month with them), you must commit that ‘transparency’ will be our guiding principle. There will be no ifs and buts.

“Bulgaria is infamous for corruption. That is why you no longer embrace the ex-king that returned from exile only to mess things up. You have had three oligarchic families that took advantage of the transition from communist-rule to free enterprise.

“And you say that if only Bulgarians would use their astute minds for the collective good not evil, you will have your rightful place in the community of nations. We cannot control the rest of the country. But we can be an exception and be the model for industry.

“Because that is what it would take for you to compete and win against the best companies from the West. The West may be assisting you in your accession efforts into the EU. But they are the friendly competition. You will be competing for the same consumers. You cannot think small, you must think big.”

As a nation we have our job cut out for us. We have a far, far greater challenge that one singular private entity. [Bulgaria despite its infamy ranks ahead of us in the various global rankings. Yet these people see themselves as awful.]

We have model entities – no doubt – yet despite 11 billionaires in the Forbes’ list we are not as competitive as our neighbors!

We have to search our hearts and our minds why this is so.

Ours is an oligarchic economy! In today’s highly competitive and globalized world, we are deluding ourselves if we believe we can cling to the past – and losers do. And it’s no secret that the world goes with the winners. 

We are not a true free enterprise – where (a) the leadership; (b) Juan de la Cruz; and (c) our institutions have a track record in progress and development. And are we juvenile, unprepared to exercise democracy and are yet to appreciate progress and development – that the world in fact has evolved and moved beyond aristocracy into democracy? And yet we still value oligarchies and political dynasties?

In an earlier posting the blog discussed the primacy of leadership over structure. And contemporary knowledge and techniques per se can’t undo the mind. Character- and institution-building is mind over matter. Consider: The way to heaven is straight and narrow. It’s the spirit behind “daang matuwid.” And if we believe it has done us some good, we better demand it of our leadership – today and tomorrow!

On the other hand, knowledge and modern techniques can represent false insurance – when there is no ultimate accountability. At the end of the day, Juan de la Cruz must be answerable; and as much if not more so is the leadership. And without that level of accountability we cannot build our institutions. And why “Graft and corruption permeate all levels of public life . . .”

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“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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