Monday, May 2, 2016

“The operation was successful but the patient died”

It’s like one is an alternative universe – a separate universe or world that coexists with our known universe but is very different from it []?

What is our known universe? “There is an urgent need for infrastructure. We feel the need every day as we go to EDSA and take the MRT. People describe it as an infrastructure gap and it’s pretty much close to infrastructure crisis. We have done a lot but there is still much more to be done. And if we don’t do more and don’t do these things quickly, the infrastructure gap may quickly slide into an infrastructure crisis,” [PPP Center executive director Andre] Palacios said in an interview.

“At its current state, the Philippines has the poorest quality of public infrastructure among the ASEAN-5 member states.” [Immediate action needed to prevent infra crisis – PPP Center, Richmond Mercurio, The Philippine Star, 20th Apr 2016]

Beyond poor infrastructure we have other challenges. “WHEN A presidential candidate promised to double salaries of the police and military as a concrete step to stop criminality, skeptics immediately rushed to point out that the law standardizing government salaries would not make that straightforward.

“There’s a familiar saying that goes, ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,’ suggesting that good-quality employees would come with good compensation.” [Paying more than peanuts, Cielito F. HabitoNo Free LunchPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Apr 2016]

Looking into the future, it appears we are figuring out how Juan de la Cruz would define his aspirations through a Neda initiative. It will hopefully clarify our expectations as a people and by definition the yardstick that will measure our nation-building efforts.

“The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), in its ‘AmBisyon Natin 2040’ project, has determined that most Filipinos dream, simply put, ‘to live comfortably.’ From the highlights of the national survey on the aspirations of the Filipino people, Neda observed that the average Filipino envisions him/herself in 2040 ‘to enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that we have enough for our daily needs and unexpected expenses, that we can plan and prepare for our own and our children’s futures. Our families live together in a place of our own, yet we have the freedom to go where we desire, protected and enabled by a clean, efficient and fair government.’

“In a country rife with people living in poverty and insecurity in their access to food, housing and livelihoods, it’s no wonder that our people aspire for stability. The typical parents’ dream for their children, especially among the poor, is for them to land a good job, which invariably means getting a good salary. Indeed, the Filipino diaspora overseas is all about workers seeking a stable source of remunerative pay.

“Against this backdrop, it should not be surprising that numerous government positions remain unfilled. For the longest time, government salaries have not been competitive with those in the private sector.” [Habito, op. cit.]

And beyond government? “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.” [Memo to presidential aspirants on mass poverty, Rolando T. DyMAPping the FuturePhilippine Daily Inquirer, 14th Mar 2016]

And so what are we doing about it? “In the case of the Philippines, transparency became valuable when it was used to generate insights, design policy actions, and open feedback loops for the public to participate in our reform programs. Our leadership philosophy is this: we must be the first to point out our areas of weakness so we can work at strengthening these with the people we serve.

“The results of this open public value chain are clearly positive for our people. A regression analysis shows that the government’s capital outlays during the more transparent budget regime of the past six years was more highly correlated with GDP growth (with a coefficient of 0.88), than that of the previous ten years spanning July 2000 to June 2010 (with a coefficient of 0.72).

“Transparency has not just yielded growth; it has also yielded better competition and wider fiscal space. Because of procurement transparency and competitive bidding, in 2015 alone, our public works department saved P6 billion (USD 130 million) in costs of building roads and bridges. Requiring agencies to post bids at our Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (or PhilGEPS) website save us least P58 million (USD 1.3 million) in advertising costs every year.

“Our General Appropriations Act-as-Release Document reform facilitated the release of funds without the need to issue individual allotments. For appropriation items that really need individual clearance for release, we set clear conditions and guidelines and removed a significant degree of discretion to avoid opportunities for corruption.” [‘Building an open public value chain,’ Cesar Purisima (Secretary of Finance), Manila Bulletin, 18th Apr 2016; Opening Remarks for the Government Initiative for Fiscal Transparency before the Open Society Foundation, Washington, DC, April 15, 2016]

To 26 million Filipinos that would be the alternative universe? So what is our known universe? “
We have done a lot but there is still much more to be done. And if we don’t do more and don’t do these things quickly, the . . . gap may quickly slide into [a] . . . crisis.” [Mercurio, op. cit.]

The Finance Department may sincerely believe government is doing a great job. Sadly, there is always the big picture.

And the big picture says that for an underdeveloped nation like the Philippines, GDP growth per se – or the focus on monetary and fiscal policies – won’t suffice. Development is much broader. And like all major endeavors, leadership is key. “Our leadership philosophy is this: we must be the first to point out our areas of weakness so we can work at strengthening these with the people we serve.” [Purisima, op. Cit.]

“Based on the testimonies so far, lawmakers and the public are far from getting the real score behind the biggest cyber-heist ever pulled in the Philippines.” [Senate quiz on $81M scandal laundered (?), Federico D. Pascual Jr., POSTSCRIPT, The Philippine Star, 24th Apr 2016]

Can we learn from our neighbors like Korea, for example? “In 1965, South Korea was a poorer country than the Philippines. Its per capita GDP (gross domestic product) was $106; ours was $189. Up until 1970, according to one account, 80 percent of Korean rural communities had thatched roofs, and 80 percent of rural households were lit with oil lamps, having no access to electricity. With the economy still largely based on agriculture, frequent floods and drought had nationwide consequences, marked by food shortages and widespread hunger. In 1969, torrential rains caused massive floods that led to wide destruction, and many communities found themselves repairing roofs and roads on their own, with no help from the government. The self-reliance that Koreans demonstrated then was said to have inspired President Park Chung-hee to launch in April 1970 Saemaul Undong, a national movement focused on self-help and empowerment of communities.” [Habito, op. cit.]

“The difference between the Marcos and the Park experiences, however, is that while the latter was a huge economic success, the first collapsed into an orgy of rent seeking and looting of the state. Why the difference?

“This takes us back to the history and in particular the history of the construction of the state . . . [T]he state in the Philippines was built from the bottom up in a way which facilitated its capture by the oligarchy. This captured state was highly patrimonial, largely lacking meritocratic recruitment and promotion of the bureaucracy for example. Appointments were made on the basis of political criteria, for example, ability to help win elections.

“The history of the state in South Korea was very different . . . [T]he Korean state developed by Park was able to tap into a rich history of meritocracy dating back to an examination system which the pre-colonial Korean state had adopted from imperial China. Both Park and Marcos tried to build the state, but they worked in the context of very different historical legacies and contemporary politics. In Korea, land reform had obliterated much of the traditional elites.” [“Marcos versus Park,” Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson; When nations fail, The Blog, 2nd Jan 2013]

In other words, until we internalize reform – not just mouth it – we won’t be able to break the back of our cacique hierarchical system and structure. And what about parochialism? Social scientists would tell us that until we develop a high self-worth, we won’t internalize interdependence. Perhaps a carryover of our colonial past, we take it as a given that outsiders are bound to abuse us? And it explains our ambivalence with FDIs? And while the DTI trumpets the trade agreements we're pursuing if not yet signed, PH remains the least able to take advantage of them? And what about the US military presence?

And so Juan de la Cruz – is there a chip on his shoulder? – forgets that it takes an adult to be treated like an adult? And constantly risks kicking up a perfect storm given the elements of our way of life – if not culture? Parochial. Hierarchical. Paternalistic. Political patronage and dynasties. Cronyism and oligarchy. In one word, unadaptable – ignores reality and nature, i.e., survival of the fittest aka evolution? And it explains why PH is a laggard?

“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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