Monday, May 30, 2016

Philippines Inc. – it’s economics, not more politics

Economics as in a wealthy economy – i.e., a developed nation. To get there do we need a national strategy or deeper or more reforms? Or a neo-liberal ideology or a leftist ideology? Or a unitary or federal system? They are all means to an end. And which would guarantee and make us a wealthy economy?

When we talk means we fall into the trap of our respective beliefs or disciplines or expertise. Precisely a no-no in the pursuit of innovation and competitiveness that bring about progress and development. [The blog discussed "Design Thinking" before; and it builds on the conventional wisdom that a team thinking together can come out with a better idea than one solitary person. The converse being “crab mentality” makes for a failed nation.]

Add to that our value of hierarchy. For example, while we say we don’t like US influence, the reality is we value expertise that we associate with Uncle Sam, e.g., a US college or university undergraduate or graduate degree if not an Ivy League education. Even when, for example, the Aquino administration demonstrated that such supposed expertise doesn’t guarantee rapid infrastructure development. And we are hearing it again. Villar has got the credentials. Abaya and Roxas had it too?

Is the value of hierarchy an influence of the church? Yet Rizal and Francis both battled the dogmatism and the aristocracy of the church and the Vatican. Still, we value hierarchy. And another is compassion. Because Christ is the epitome of compassion? But that is where our split-level Christianity creates an internal conflict in us.

We judge others against dogmas we attribute to the church. And we square the circle by embracing paternalism. The higher we are in the hierarchy the bigger judge we are to dictate to those below us – for their own good. And so (absolutely!) we espoused land reform, for example, or the CCT.

We see everything from our comfort zones and the more of us share perspectives the more we risk “groupthink” – resulting in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. Why does Francis refuse to judge?

And, not surprisingly, aside from land reform and CCT we likewise shared the multiparty/party-list system – to discard the two-party system, a US influence? Yet more recently it appears we are leaning to federalism? But that is another US influence, point number one. Point number two, what is the desired outcome? Is it good governance or simply that we see our unitary system failing us?

Is it failing us at the national level alone or at the local government levels too? Is it because political patronage and dynasties rule governance in PH? Are we viewing and examining our predicament with rigor and critical thinking or do we simply want to embrace another ideology because it will magically wipe away the shortcomings of our system? Is there a perfect system?

The bottom line: we put ourselves in a corner, in a box and argue against any and all that don’t join us in our lofty, exalted places? And why “crab mentality” has defined Juan de la Cruz? Put another way, “absoluteness” or “perfection” is not of this world. Still, there are time-tested principles that help man develop hypotheses as he deals with the here and now as well as the challenges of the future.

“We are clearly not in control. This is not a negative discovery, but a thrilling discovery of divine providence; being led, used, and guided; having an inner purpose and a sense of personal vocation; and owning one's destiny as a gift from God. Learning that you are not in control situates you correctly in the universe. You know you are being guided, and your reliance on that guidance is precisely what allows your journey to happen. What freedom and peace this can bring!

“You must get through that most difficult first step of admitting that you are powerless before you can find your true power.” [Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, You Are Not in Control, 26th May 2016]

This blog has used the word hypothesis because for those of us that have been around the block, chances are we have seen how dogmas and ideologies, including those we had held, turned errant?

Back to the Philippines. Do the elements of our culture lend themselves to church and political influences? Consider: Parochial. Hierarchical. Paternalistic. Political patronage and dynasties. Crony capitalism and oligarchy. And they would explain our instincts of absoluteness and perfection? Sadly, also a fixed mindset not a growth mindset?

And have we subordinated principles, analytics and critical thinking, and hypotheses among others to absoluteness and perfection? And also to our beliefs or disciplines or expertise? Why isn’t Juan de la Cruz synonymous to . . . creative . . . innovative . . . competitive? But to . . . poverty . . . and OFWs? Thanks to the BPO industry, we have a saving grace – but not for long if we don't move up the value chain!

Over decades we saw how our neighbors became economic miracles but have yet to demonstrate honest-to-goodness inquisitiveness in figuring out what principles, what analytics or what hypotheses informed their journeys to progress and development? Because we were absolutely certain that perfection was not on their side but on ours?

We are well-informed people. We know, for instance, that Japan Inc. was behind the rapid progress and development of Japan. Lee, Mahathir and Deng understood that seeking Western money and technology was how they could replicate the Japan Inc. model. And Lee and Mahathir shared the perspective with us.

There are no rules (or dogmas) only principles – and through analytics and critical thinking, hypotheses could be developed?

If we are to be a wealthy and developed economy – i.e., Philippines Inc. – there are certain principles that we have to keep in mind. For example, it is not politics but economics. But we have been so politicized that politics is the national pastime? It would have been ideal if it meant the pursuit of community and the common good. Instead it feeds on a culture of impunity . . . and good governance be damned!

As one losing senatorial candidate lamented, vote-buying is now the norm. In other words, instead of maturing in the democratic process we are regressing. And to turn around and then say we want to democratize Juan de la Cruz via land reform, the party-list system and federalism confirms the paternalism that is inherent in a cacique hierarchical system and structure. We keep reinforcing a culture that is simply that, cacique and hierarchical . . . and yet we say that ours is not inclusive? Who are we talking to?

And so while we talk about PH's GDP growth rate non-stop, politics is still at the core of the life of Juan de la Cruz. Which is why we think by and large of political interventions and not economics. 

It is beyond the means or the activity, i.e., the desired outcome. Management by Objectives, for example, which was initially perceived as what modern management is about fell by the wayside because it was held hostage by its own prescribed activity. And why Pareto’s “vital few” as opposed to the “trivial many” is an important principle to be able to prioritize – navigate and make people understand and appreciate first things first. Not crab mentality.

What we need goes beyond the activity of crafting a national strategy or deeper or more reforms. Consider: we haven’t faced anything that would be more difficult than what Japan or Singapore or Malaysia or China had faced? Or even Vietnam? Yet they all left us behind, with Vietnam poised as well.

What gives? In the past when we crafted a national strategy and deeper or more reforms, we kept looking backward instead of forward. We kept looking inward instead of outward. Because parochialism, hierarchy, political patronage and dynasties, crony capitalism and oligarchy ruled.

And while we debate non-stop how to respond based on our long held beliefs, we are nowhere near finding common grounds? Absoluteness and perfection render us unable to develop the sense of community and the common good?

And so an administration that promised change is showing its true colors from the get-go? Of course it has its own priorities. That is not untoward per se. But what is the North Star? It was bold of the Aquino administration to seek and in fact won the prosecution of errant public servants. And even the international community applauded and that won us respect and brownie points. And attracted foreign investments. But opponents saw it as selective and good governance remained suspect.

The new administration will continue to cleanse government and that is well and good. But if the heart of governance will again be suspect, efforts to move forward can only suffer? For example, if discredited key players from past errant administrations are resurrected, credibility and governance are undermined. 

Transparency and coherence and clarity in establishing and pursuing the North Start are critical for a leadership to get a people to rally behind its mission. The sense of community and the common good is what we have yet to muster as a nation.

It’s economics, not more politics. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; a Philippines Inc. would be a very familiar North Star. Juan de la Cruz knows Japan Inc. and Singapore Inc. That is where we need to benchmark and do our homework. And why the JFC’s “Arangkada Philippines” is a good starting point.

For the new administration to simply say we want 7% GDP growth on its first year and to start the process of debating federalism risk being held hostage by a prescribed activity if clarity, coherence and transparency are taken for granted. It is beyond the means, i.e., it is the desired outcome that can rally the people.

“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]

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A rolling stone gathers no moss: Problem-solving 101

This blog has outlived the Aquino administration. It had high hopes when the then new administration took office especially with the JFCs “Arangkada Philippines” all there for the taking. A journalist-friend from Cebu even asked if this writer was pro-Aquino. “He is a cacique,” the friend would add.

Economists today would see import-substitution and “Filipino First” as the beginning of our economic isolation. Unlike our neighbors, we’re not competitive because we haven’t gained as much experience working with the outside world – e.g., in attracting investment and technology.

And sadly in agriculture we’re in a worse predicament. Industry and agriculture may not be alike yet there are underlying elements that are common beyond investment and technology, economies of scale being one of them. And the other is the primacy of competitive products that can find overseas markets.

Investment. Technology. Economies of scale. Competitive products. Overseas markets. They are the critical elements of competitive trade be it industry or agriculture. To underperform in these metrics means for PH to make do with our biggest trade: OFWs and the BPO industry. And that is the root of our failed economic development efforts and, by definition, our failure in nation building?

We can’t be a rolling stone that gathers no moss? And must learn from these stark experiences? For instance, our default thinking process could be linear (not surprising since it presupposes logic) as opposed to lateral thinking (which feeds creativity.) And we could be activity-oriented instead of outcome-oriented. They are critical to problem solving. And can help us develop visionary and strategic thinking. Plus, beyond reactive become proactive.

For example, despite our inability to be competitive in agriculture, land reform continues to be the battle cry of certain sectors. Because thinking-mode or orientation-mode is not foremost in our minds – but compassion is? Did we not say that land reform was the be-all and end-all to lift our farmers from the bondage of poverty?

Should we wonder why we continue to be confronted with problems after problems? In the vernacular, “sapin-sapin” will describe our myriad challenges? Power. Infrastructure. Airports. Industry. Agri-business. The list is endless.

On the other hand, we celebrate oligarchy, political dynasties, rank and its privileges. And we seem not to have any notion of urgency? We’ve been in this same boat for over a hundred years? What are we waiting for?

What about the multiparty system? It was also to be the be-all and end-all after Marcos – together with the parliamentary and the federal systems? We now know the multiparty system in fact raised the costs of legislation with or without the pork barrel and/or its misuse and abuse? Because we ignored the imperative of establishing the outcome that must be the object of problem-solving? And fortified crab mentality to boot and, by definition, poor governance?

Problem-solving is not intuitive despite how we Pinoys like to give credit to our native intelligence. Worse if we stubbornly keep to our inward-looking bias. The world has . . . long . . . left us behind. Now we will even have rebels in the cabinet? It sounds cute. At the very least we risk being geared to sub-optimization, a characteristic not of winners but of losers, no different from crab mentality. Our challenge is to develop the sense of community and the common good. Can these rebels agree and embrace that North Star? Sadly, time and again, major initiatives we had fancied would do otherwise. If we truly believe that to be parochial and insular within our narrow interests is what we are and shall be, not only Vietnam will leave us behind. Cambodia and Myanmar will follow suit. 

Given our oligarchic economy, even our tycoons didn’t have to develop the competitive instincts demanded by the 21st century. The evidence? They do seek market overseas but who is their target? OFWs! In fairness, Oishi is the exception. They invest and compete outside our shores, they’re not confined to targeting Pinoys overseas.

As far as the public sector is concerned, ours is a culture of impunity? Need we say more?

Back to the federal system – which we will debate for some time given the agenda of the incoming Duterte administration. For example, we want to democratize Juan de la Cruz especially outside Metro Manila? Wasn’t that the object of the party-list system? And of land reform? And in both cases the void created had to be appropriated by vested interests? And why we’re more fragmented?

We have yet to appreciate that linear thinking is not the be-all and end-all? Problem-solving demands lateral thinking – and connecting the dots. Even more, it demands defining the desired outcome not simply jumping the gun on the obvious activity. Land reform is the activity; the desired outcome is competitive agriculture otherwise the land input goes to waste – and worse, poverty hasn’t gone away. The missing links and why we can't seem to connect the dots? Investment. Technology. Economies of scale. Competitive products. Overseas markets.

It is not about understanding federalism. That is important, but federalism is the activity. The desired outcome is good governance, an imperative if we are to create the building blocks of a wealthy and a competitive economy. Systems are inanimate, people make them come alive. It is like big data and analytics. People drive analytics and problem-solving. And in fact we have this big data related to our current centralized system and we must go through the analytics instead of prescribing federalism as the cure all.

Our current system is undermined by poor governance or simply endemic corruption. And it’s not confined to the three branches. Political dynasties rule both national and local governments. Ergo: either system is no magic wand to eliminate the cancer of poor governance and endemic corruption. To simply democratize Juan de la Cruz failed with land reform and the multiparty system. 

If we are to be a wealthy economy and nation, we have to work on getting to that desired outcome. It starts with good governance that must then pursue investment, technology, economies of scale, competitive products and overseas markets. But that will not happen if we value oligarchy, political dynasties, rank and its privileges. Ergo: Villar, Marcos, Binay must be a no-no. South Korea had to neutralize oligarchy before it was able to accelerate industrialization. That is why freedom and democracy demands the right leadership and the maturity of the people. Again, people not systems.

If we do something as basic as benchmarking against our neighbors, federalism is not what made them economic miracles. Nor was it land reform per se. But we want to benchmark against the US, Canada or Germany? If we don’t have the temperament of Asians and keep ignoring their successes instead of learning from them, what more of well-developed Western nations? Don’t we always say that Western-style democracy doesn’t suit our temperament to justify our inability to progress and develop? Like ours is a culture of impunity not the rule of law?

Given the Duterte agenda, it appears we shall be debating federalism – e.g., defining the powers to allocate amongst national, state and local governments, etc., etc. – as well as the issue of FDIs. The key is for us to rigorously benchmark against our neighbors. They have done what we seem unable to do.

And we can pursue the question in different ways. Will we solve the power crisis by a federal system? What about infrastructure? We call it Imperial Manila yet its infrastructure makes it the gates of hell? And what about industry, will federalism move us beyond OFW remittances and the BPO industry?

And will we be able to move to competitive agriculture? Competitive agriculture demands a massive agribusiness undertaking like our neighbors have done, i.e., economies of scale. We can't sweep them under the carpet and assume federalism will wipe them away.

And let’s take another example: coconut. It’s our biggest agribusiness yet our farmers remain poor. We need to pull the entire enterprise together to make it truly world-class instead of fragmenting it. And with economies of scale we will be in a better position to attract investment and technology as well as develop a portfolio of products and move up the value chain and thus win an even bigger overseas market. It is not federalism that will get us there. It is Philippines Inc., no different from Japan Inc. or Singapore Inc. Not politics but economics. Remember Deng?

Another example has been kicked around. And that is, creating an industrial zone from Calabarzon to Tarlac. It will be a model mega region way beyond current regional boundaries (the template we are looking at in a federal system?) that can be planned to leverage economies of scale. To get there we need good governance at the national level, not fragmentation.

The bottom line: let’s problem-solve and not sentimentalize democratizing Juan de la Cruz. Land reform didn’t get us there. The multiparty system didn’t either. Nor will federalism be the cure all. 

And we can even start driving the economy faster if we follow through with the JFC’s “Arangkada Philippines” and get the 7 industry winners cranking the sooner the better. In other words, let’s get down to business, roll up our selves and do something productive, not run around in circles. Even as we debate federalism.

And we must look beyond the annual GDP growth rate to solve our pressing poverty problem. It feeds the human need for good news . . . and worse, shortsightedness. Juan de la Cruz is no longer in high school Economics class. GDP growth will take us a generation. We need to add to OFW remittances and the BPO industry fast, pronto! That is what we must problem-solve not how to democratize Juan de la Cruz. We have to toss crab mentality not fortify it.

“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]

Monday, May 23, 2016

We’ve been in this boat for over a century

But from now it will be different? Yet it’s the singer not the song? Can Juan de la Cruz change his stripes whether he’s a leader or a common tao? We must dig deep into our soul if we are to attain good governance; and be capable of self-government. Is it where our problem lies? 

If a private enterprise is committed to continued growth and profitability – in order to be a contributing member of society – the public sector must be committed to good governance – in order to be of service to the people and the community.

Profitability is not a bad word. It starts with a product or service that responds to a human need such that people become loyal to the product or service – and thus attain a virtuous cycle. Simply, the product or service is self-sustaining. Public service on the other hand must likewise be self-sustaining. And contrary to what people assume, while taxes are visible as the source of public service, the size of government revenues is dependent on the economy. And an economy is simply the aggregate of the goods or products and services it produces.

Let’s say we have a federal system. It is not enough to assume that our favorite regions will get their fair share of government revenues. We are a third-world nation because our economic output is paltry. For decades and until recently we relied on OFW remittances. Thanks to the BPO industry, we are in better financial shape today.

But that is not for the Aquino administration to crow about. Neither was of their making. Better fiscal management is no longer as challenging as during the days of the Binondo Central Bank precisely because of these two income streams.

But they still won’t catapult us to the ranks of developed or wealthy nations. Full stop. But is that in the consciousness of Juan de Cruz?

We have two fundamental problems: (1) Public service is extensively corrupt and not committed to good governance. [We should have more of them in jail.] And (2) our economic output has been restricted by our closed economy – with a little help from all of us because of our parochial-paternalistic-hierarchical-subservient instincts that nurtured political patronage and dynasties, crony capitalism and oligarchy. [In a recent posting the blog discussed the primacy of the JFC’s Arangkada Philippines.]

Every other problem would just be a manifestation of these two follies. In other words, a wealthy economy can afford education reform, world-class health services, social services, etc., etc. and even self-defense.

But what are we talking about? We want to be a wealthy nation.

We need more than a mayor. We don’t necessarily need a federal system. Federalism for PHL is too complicated to even think about. Even in the private sector restructuring is a massive exercise. But more to the point, it has no direct bearing on our two fundamental problems. [While federalism is not secession, it connotes the ability to stand alone in certain respects. For example, the Scots realized they’re not the optimum size to be truly standalone. Or the Quebecois or the Catalans. The writer opted to be a Connecticut resident at the time state taxes were favorable, which is no longer true today. And since it is home, he has to bite the bullet. Perfection is not of this world.]

We don’t need more empowerment of citizens. We need good governance in the three branches. We moved away from the two-party system and entrenched Pinoy crab mentality. Grab mentality is a social cancer. It undermines synergy and the common good. Not surprisingly, the sense of community is alien to us?

And no system of government can solve immaturity. And why there is such a thing as civil wars. And in our case, government especially at the local levels is already in the hands of political dynasties. A federal system will make them bigger monsters!

“Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts,” The New York Times, 30th Nov 2015. If we think the US is a good example of federalism, we better learn about Albany, NY or New Jersey. And Chicago or Connecticut, etc., etc.

A system to work – federal or otherwise – must uphold the rule of law. But ours is a culture of impunity? And why we’re poor. It’s not the system. It’s not the song, but the singer!

How should we approach our challenges? Or how does the mind work? And here is where the state-of-the-art is.

“From grade school up to college and beyond, we have constantly been fed the same platitude that our first instinct is probably the right answer. We’re told to listen to our gut and believe our intuition, and when in doubt, our subconscious will deliver. But that’s only sometimes how it works.

“Our minds and the way we think actually work in an intricate interplay between two systems of thought. As the research of Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman indicates in his bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow, the gut instinct (or System 1) is not always to be trusted. While it’s helpful in choosing a latte at Starbucks or indicating that we should move out of the way of oncoming traffic, our gut instinct is at best a snap decision made on incomplete information filtered from our surroundings.

“When we first encounter a problem, System 1 goes to work. System 1 is the immediate responder, the flash of instinct or intuition that provides a fast answer. While System 1 does an excellent job of keeping us alive and out of danger, it works to actually reduce the amount of information that goes into a decision. Standing on a crowded street corner? System 1 filters out the sounds and scents of the noisy city to focus you on an oncoming taxi, telling you not to step into the street. However – if faced with an important business decision in the boardroom – System 1 may lead you astray.

“So how does this apply to the workplace? The problem is, we don’t know the limits of our own knowledge, and where our subconscious is substituting stereotypes or previous biases for real information. What becomes dangerous is a problem our subconscious thinks it can solve, but lacks the necessary information to do so. In these cases, System 1 may substitute superstition, bias and stereotype for actual information in arriving at an answer. In many cases, System 1 substitutes an easier question for the question being asked, and thus arrives at the wrong conclusion.

“System 2, our slow, reasoned thinking, is required to kick in and solve [a vexing] problem by performing a mathematical equation, [for example]. However, many avoid the effort involved in solving a problem correctly by remaining with System 1’s lazy, unreasoned answer.

“System 2 takes more energy and effort, yes, but it is necessary in the workplace to avoid lazy thinking and arrive at a reasoned answer based on logic and hard data. To arrive at process efficiency and world-class operations, the right questions must be asked, and answered. When faced with an analysis of the current state of business, process owners can either choose to ask the lazy question: ‘Are we meeting our KPI’s [key performance indicators]?’ or the considered question: ‘Are our processes improving over time?’ when faced with an efficiency question: ‘Is the staff hardworking?’ or: ‘Is the staff hard at work fixing the wrong problems?’. Substituting an easy question for a hard one can lead to the dangers of backwardness and stagnation.

“To avoid complacency, group-think, and filtered information, we need to overcome the biases of System 1 and utilize System 2 to make decisions.

“Business optimization, [for example], is a process, not a product, and we need to overcome our brain’s automatic, lazy thinking to arrive at the right business decisions. By harnessing our brain’s true power to utilize System 1 and System 2 in harmony, we can overcome our gut reactions and outsmart our own human nature.” [Julia Biedry;]

Should Juan de la Cruz learn to overcome group-think or lazy thinking? We don't want to be in this same boat for another hundred years? It's the singer not the song?

Do we rely heavily on our instincts because we value them – like compassion? And so we forget economies of scale, for instance, because we pity the small farmer or fisherman? We don’t have such basic things as power because we’ve always had compassion for Juan de la Cruz – that electricity would cost him more if we would undo the status quo? 

Aren't we paying a heavy price yet for shortsightedness and poor governance manifested in underdevelopment – the first casualty being Juan de la Cruz, mired in poverty? 

“That a mix of seasoned and young executives would be given the opportunity to serve in the Duterte Cabinet is a good idea—but it presupposes that even the young officials would have sufficient achievements of their own outside of the shadow of their prominent parents. We have too often been let down by this kind of association.

“The Villars, who were supportive of the Duterte campaign, this week joined the so-called coalition of change—a diplomatic way of characterizing an obviously flawed party system ruled by personal interest instead of ideology.

“It appears, however, that ‘change’ will be a word made trite in the next six years, much like ‘the straight path’ was in the previous six years. As before, we need to keep our expectations low.” [An early gaffe, Editorial, The Standard, 19th May 2016]

“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]

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Don't count chickens

That is, before they're hatched? Whether it’s an enterprise or an economy the leadership must pay particular attention to its income streams. It must be concerned with the products and services that it produces. In the case of PH, they must go beyond OFW remittances and the BPO industry. Granted they made us financially stable. But there is more beyond “pwede na ‘yan” – like moving beyond underdeveloped.

When the Aquino administration came into the picture, it had the benefit of the JFC’s “Arangkada Philippines” – the 7 industry winners. It was an opportunity to attract investments, create jobs and expand our portfolio and income streams – all in a major way. But non-business types can’t appreciate it like this writer's late mother? For instance, agriculture productivity comes from economies of scale which newcomer Vietnam can teach us. Not populism or “retail politics” which is what PH land reform was.

Arangkada is the outcome of a rigorous process that involved a cross-section of society. It is a hypothesis that should have been tested by the administration. Did the euphoria of a political victory or the influence of vested interests or the leadership’s own set of priorities undermine the primacy of Arangkada?

Meanwhile the budget allocated for the countless needs in running government and PHL no matter how large it appears in absolute terms won’t suffice given our meager average or per capita income. Granted that our economic managers would be focused on their wares – i.e., fiscal and monetary policies – who would raise the consciousness of Juan de la Cruz that our economic output is deficient? That the pie is too small for 100 million Pinoys – even when it’s large enough for vultures to feast on?

If the new administration would focus on the 7 industry winners, we will send the right signal to investors – that we truly are open for business. The DTI appears to be doing its homework, but they can’t deliver the desired outcome if the leadership and the bureaucracy aren’t behind them.

The infrastructure roadmap seems to be in place. We need a Dirty Harry to get it moving beyond a snail’s pace. While to shift to a federal system can’t happen overnight. As important, given our culture where political dynasties rule local communities, we better be careful what we wish for. How many of the recent local elections were sham elections?

Even a Dirty Harry can’t control an Ampatuan? It is synergy [remember Habit 6 from Stephen Covey?] that we must pursue if we are to have a chance at nation building. Abandoning the two-party system, for example, supposedly to democratize PH instead enshrined crab mentality and plurality- as opposed to majority-rule. We like to tweak the system proud of Pinoy abilidad forgetting that freedom and democracy must come with maturity and accountability – the sense of community and the common good.

Pushing one ideology for another is not problem-solving – i.e., the latter demands “academic rigor” if you will. But is Juan de la Cruz “sabog” – being neither here nor there? And everything goes downhill from there? We espouse parochialism in the name of nationalism and can’t internalize the imperative of FDIs?

China is what it is today because they took practically everything foreigners (including this writer's old MNC-company) had to offer. Beyond investment and technology they learned problem-solving. Which as proud Pinoys we believe we know but our track record says otherwise? Power? Infrastructure? Industrialization? Underdeveloped? Poor? It was the shutting out of the rest of the world while living under socialism that made them poor. Ditto for Eastern Europe. But that's not a secret! Every other nation knows it – and they’ve all left us behind. 

The “ideology of federalism” had also threatened the private sector. MNCs had to evolve. In the old days subsidiaries could be ruled by “emperors”. And given this history, when the writer moved to their headquarters, he worked on a new budget process that was outcome or purpose-driven [e.g., strategic intent; brand(s) vision; etc.] not simply finance-driven – and founded on a set of shared values. 

And where is PHL today? “[A] recent paper . . . indicates the Philippine economy is due for a period of slower growth, and may have already been decelerating along with much of the rest of the world.

“Christopher Mills analyzed the performance of seven of the country’s largest conglomerates and compared them to the overall economy. The data he used were publicly audited financial statements of Aboitiz Group, Alliance Global Group, Ayala Corp., DMCI Holdings, JG Summit Holdings, San Miguel Corp. and SM Investments.

“[T]he averaged revenues of the seven conglomerates are very highly correlated to the overall Philippine economy. In mathematical terms, they had a correlation coefficient above 0.95 (where 1 is perfect correlation). This makes complete sense, since the nation is dominated by these organizations, and their success is critical to the economic success of the Filipino nation and vice versa.

“When the researcher next analyzed growth rates over the past few years, he found a striking divergence. While the general economy showed a trend of increasing growth rates, the audited statements of its seven large conglomerates showed decreasing trend lines. Clearly, the two cannot diverge for long based on mathematical analysis and common sense.

“Mills also studied profitability measures for the seven conglomerates, and found similarly disturbing trends. Both return-on-assets and return-on-equity have been in clear decline over the same period.” [The Philippine economy may have overshot its largest companies, Richard Mills, Asia CEO Forum Chairman, Business Mirror, 13th May 2016]

In other words, since we’re not an industrialized economy driven by investments geared for global competition, our income sources that drive consumption and power the economy are limited. And why we’re an underdeveloped poor nation notwithstanding the celebrity-like status of the above seven enterprises.

We have a new administration that will lead PHL. But where is our head? Still with a fixed mindset as in “Pinoy kasi” if not driven by ideologies? How do we expect to develop a growth mindset – and adapt to a world that is not standing still – and not be a fish out of water if not go extinct?

Consider: “Keeping the CCT seems a mere consolation prize, as the Duterte team is silent on change in priorities in budget-making. No commitments in raising budgets for health, education, and housing? Just give the people CCT.

“Raising budgets for these expenditures is a long-running demand of citizens. Because it means more hospitals, free college, and less “squatters” in the country – basics in poverty alleviation.

“The tax plan is to basically to keep the rates, and merely adjust the brackets and tables . . . It is sad that Duterte’s team are not creative on the issue of taxes and could only give the middle class and entrepreneurs some vague, unsure reform. Duterte misses the opportunity to democratize wealth, weaken dynasties, and raise millions of poor people. Why? His plan is silent on land reform. It is a plan only hacienderos could be excited about.

“All in all, the plan offers nothing new. The most diehard Duterte supporters may not find these as coming close to the change they expected and which Duterte promised . . . The workers, farmers, professionals, entrepreneurs, OFWs, and others who thought change is coming should brace for disappointment. Duterte’s economic plan should be denounced pronto.” [Duterte’s not-so-new economic plan, Tonyo Cruz, Manila Bulletin, 13th May 2016]

Is there a bigger picture from the standpoint of the new administration? “PDP-Laban has a well-defined ideology based on these principles: freedom, solidarity, justice, self-reliance, enlightened nationalism, and the federal system of government. 

“With the continuing expression of support from various sectors – MalacaƱang, presidential contenders Secretary Roxas and Senator Poe who conceded defeat, the United States, the European Union, China (which has expressed interest in strengthening bilateral relations) among the first countries, the Makati Business Club, the Church, among several others, President-elect Duterte and his team can now move on. There has been a positive response from the market — stock and foreign exchange, and even with a bit of uncertainty, foreign investment.

“This is perhaps a good time to reflect on our current economic thrusts by focusing on how we can further strengthen our domestic market by increasing local demand for goods and services which can happen only with increased consumer purchasing power. Again, this concern shared by many goes back to what has plagued the country for decades now — low productivity, lack of access to land, capital, and skills — the critical resources that could reduce the current income inequality.” [A federal system of government (?), Florangel Rosario Braid, 13th May 2016]

It’s too early to tell how the new administration will run the country. But are vested interests waiting in the wings if they haven’t flexed their muscles yet. And vested interests are not only the fat cats that funded the recent elections, but ideologues too. And why we can’t toss “crab mentality”?

The challenge is for Duterte to indeed exercise leadership, not the Marcos-way but the right way. Meaning to prioritize while edifying Juan de la Cruz on the hypothesis he is testing for nation-building’s sake. So that they would rally behind him. [Note we’re talking hypotheses not absolutes. We’re earthlings!]

But it demands transparency. And that means letting the sun shine inside MalacaƱang. And if he is to be the Dirty Harry, to get the bureaucracy including the legislative and the judicial branches to toe the line. The rule of law must triumph over our culture of impunity.

And the media ought to dedicate space that will be the “Transparency Watch.” We Pinoys need adult supervision – and oversight. We haven’t grown up despite the lapse of a hundred years?

“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]