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]

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