Thursday, April 21, 2016

Can we think big?

Parade of ineptitude,” Ben D. Kritz, The Manila Times, 13th Apr 2016. “TUESDAY’S Senate hearing on the RCBC money-laundering scandal, the fifth installment in what is proving to be one of the more memorable teleserye ever aired in the Philippines, was a fascinating display of the sheer ineptitude of at least some of this country’s most important institutions.

“In a way, what was divulged in the hearing could be taken as evidence that the Philippines really does enjoy God’s favor, because with these sorts of people minding the store, the only thing that could possibly be preventing even bigger financial scams from happening every day is divine intervention . . . Once again it appears that the Philippines has left itself with the unpalatable choice of whether it would prefer to give the rest of the world the impression that this is a very stupid country, or a very careless one . . .”

“Facts. In 2014, the government estimated that nearly 26 percent of Filipinos (25.8 percent to be exact) were poor. Today, that will be about 26 million out of 100 million Filipinos. Of the total poor, about 20 million are in the rural areas, or two out of five of the rural population. These are mostly farmers, fishers and landless workers.

“The Philippines failed miserably compared with Asean neighbors, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in poverty reduction. Poverty incidence in the Philippines is up two to three times.” [Memo to presidential aspirants on mass poverty, Rolando T. Dy,MAPping the FuturePhilippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Mar 2016]

With that as backdrop, how do we read this? “Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas has vowed to include two million more poor Filipino families under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), popularly known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, in the early years of his presidency if elected in the May 9, 2016 national elections.

“‘We will continue the 4Ps, we will expand the 4Ps and as initial steps, we will add two million more families as its beneficiaries,’ said Roxas. Currently, there are at least 4.5 million poor families who receive regular cash from the government from nearly 800,000 in 2010.” [Mar vows expanded CCT, Aaron B. Recuenco, Manila Bulletin, 17th Apr 2016]

We can’t really get out of that box, that thinking – parochial, hierarchical, paternalistic, political patronage and dynasties, cronyism and oligarchy? Garbage in, garbage out – aka “insanity”?

Roxas if he is president will disappoint? What about the private sector? “Zobel de Ayala: PH to level up whoever is next CEO of the land,”Doris, 15th Apr 2016. “We believe in the country and we believe that irrespective of who gets chosen into a leadership position, the country will continue to progress . . .”

“The reason why I believe that is that we’re interlinked globally now. From a standards point of view, from an economic point of view, the world looks at us and we cannot escape and be in isolation from the trends that are taking place. I think, generally, these trends have taken standards up – (such as in) governance and leadership. You will have some better leaders, some worse ones but we have shown as an economy under the current leadership we have evolved as a country tremendously and moved forward. I don’t see the clock going backwards on that.”

Not surprisingly, a reader commented, and to paraphrase, did Ayala not know about Binay and what did they do about it? Can we think big? What do CCT, OFW and BPO have in common? They are a stark reminder of our reactive nature – aka “pwede na ‘yan”? And we would even proudly call it “Pinoy abilidad”?

Are we problem-solving or romanticizing? Reform means altering a structure. And in the case of PH we can’t think big, unable to pursue reform and undo our cacique hierarchical system and structure? Has the debilitating effect of underdevelopment taken away the spirit of Juan de la Cruz? Give me some men who are stout-hearted men?

Should we extend CCT to cover all 26 million? Benchmark. Benchmark. Benchmark. “The Philippines failed miserably compared with Asean neighbors, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in poverty reduction. Poverty incidence in the Philippines is up two to three times.” [Dy, op. cit.]

“They make everyone poor,” Farida Lazareva [of Brooklyn] who hails from Moscow recalls waiting in line for 3 hours each morning to get a jug of milk as a little girl living under communism.

“Oh, I hate him [Bernie Sanders]. If you lived under socialists, you’d hate them too. If it will be Sanders, we will have the same here. Everyone will be hungry, everyone will be poor” [The New York Times, 9th Apr 2016; “Back in the old neighborhood to make his (Bernie Sanders) case”]

CCT, OFW, BPO . . . farms to market roads . . . comprehensive land reform? Are they our best shots?

“Causes and effects. Ragnar Nurske (1907-1959), an Estonian economist, concluded that in the vicious circle (cycle) of poverty, low investment arises from low income, which is due to low productivity. Low productivity is caused, or partly caused, by low investment.

“Nurske pioneered the balanced-growth theory. The theory espouses that a government of an underdeveloped country needs to make large investments in a number of industries simultaneously. This will make the market bigger, increase productivity, and encourage the private sector to invest.” [Dy, op. cit.]

The writer’s family was recently in the Philippines, and was told that Roxas still believes he will win given their calculus: CCT recipient voters plus BPO-connected votes plus possibly the INC votes (they’re working on it) plus the machinery of the administration. 

True or not, what we can expect is same old, same old? “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans. Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it” [Manuel L. Quezon.] Like presidents that needed to be booted out? 

Indeed Rizal proved prescient. It’s the 21st century and we’re the goat, the regional laggard, paying a high price for our underdevelopment – and running around like a headless chicken? “We are not speaking here with the benefit of hindsight. These events are foreseeable. It is taught in any course in diplomacy that we live in a lawless world. A country must have adequate arms to defend its territorial integrity. A defenseless country invites aggression. When the 12 senators voted to oust the US bases in 1992, they should have taken the compensatory step of increasing the defense budget. Given our limited means, this would undoubtedly have caused a decline in our living standards. But then, we have a model on this issue.

“When India started developing nuclear weapons, Pakistan said in response that it would do the same even if its people ended up eating grass. Pakistan got its nuclear arms, but at great privation to its people. But Pakistan’s officials who said this were true statesmen; they had the courage to tell their compatriots what it would take to preserve their national sovereignty.

“We cannot say the same of the 12 senators who voted to oust the US bases. They constituted a majority in the Senate; it was within their power to increase the defense budget, although this would have meant cutting the outlays for education, health and social services. That would have been an unpopular move and they could have been voted out of office. In this respect, the ‘Magnificent 12’ behaved as politicians: They were thinking of the coming elections, not the future of our country. Had they behaved as statesmen, they should have, like their Pakistani counterparts, increased the defense budget even if our people had to eat grass.

“The problem is that we still see this happening in our country now. We see a considerable number of our politicians still calling for the abolition of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement but without telling the public that this would require increasing the defense budget, which would in turn depress our living standards.

“It is difficult to see how the removal of the US bases in 1992 constituted a magnificent episode in our history. In fact, this early it is evidently a catastrophe. From here on, we have to live under the shadow of Chinese weapons, including nuclear arms in due course. There is also something wrong when a country overlooks a failure in public policy, in this case the closure of US bases, and pass it off as a success.” [What’s magnificent about withdrawal of US bases (?), Hermenegildo C., 11th Apr 2016; Hermenegildo C. Cruz served as Philippine ambassador to the United Nations in 1984-86.]

While there are two schools on the wisdom of US bases outside the country, in a world that is not free of despots, a hegemon is deemed the response otherwise wealthy nations like Germany would be in an altogether different reality? “[T]here are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US “base sites” in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places.” [The United States Probably Has More Foreign Military Bases Than Any Other People, Nation, or Empire in History, David Vine, The Nation, 14th Sept 2015]

We kicked out the US bases and then . . . what? Where are we? Did we believe we were thinking big – or was it a façade?

“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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