Thursday, June 30, 2016

What will Francis do

“No pressing need for DTI reforms, says incoming chief,” Richmond Mercurio, The Philippine Star, 20th Jun 2016. The details of the news consistent with this pronouncement of the incoming DTI chief got this writer thinking about Peter’s Pence and the reforms at the Vatican Bank . . . And the question that chances are we’d heard before: are we more Catholic than the pope?

“Peter’s Pence’ is the most characteristic expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s charitable initiatives in favor of the universal Church . . . The Church can never be exempted from practicing charity . . . because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love.” [www.vatican.va/roman_curia]

What about the Vatican Bank? “Francis’ response, Bloomberg Businessweek wrote, was to call on six high-profile lay Catholics from the financial world to help devise a plan to increase financial transparency in the Vatican . . . including oversight of the bank . . . The pope has also brought in the consulting firms . . . to focus on modernizing and reforming the bank itself.” [The Pope’s Overlooked Legacy: Reforming The Vatican Bank, Ben Walsh, The Huffington Post, 28th Sep 2015]

“Change is coming with the Duterte administration but that may not be necessary to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said incoming secretary Ramon Lopez who sees no need to initiate drastic reforms in the agency.

‘No change because I am all for fair trade and liberalization. Calibrated liberalization is the way to go, we cannot backtrack. We are part of the global system and if we backtrack, we will be out of that global system,’ Lopez said.

“According to Lopez, incoming president Rodrigo Duterte has only two primary mandates for him as head of the country’s trade and investment promotions agency – uplift the quality of life of Filipinos through entrepreneurship and no corruption.” [Mercurio, op. cit.]

But what is missing in the article is the impact of SMEs on the economy. SMEs account for more than 99% of all registered businesses and over 2/3 of the workforce yet contribute less than a third of economic output.

“What the Philippines needs is not more jobs but better jobs … The quality of jobs being created was not meeting aspirations of young people entering labor market,’ said Jan Rutkowski, lead economist at the World Bank.

“The scarcity of ‘good jobs’ reflects the structure of the Philippine economy, where low value-added activities predominate. This is partly due to constraints in the investment climate and the high cost of doing business in the formal sector.” [WB cautions vs scrapping contractual work practice, Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2016]

In other words, the state of SMEs in the Philippines is a reflection of the Philippine economy. More to the point, to assume we can uplift the quality of life of Filipinos through entrepreneurship while keeping the same “hopper” – that is, the reality and dynamics of the Philippine economy – is garbage-in, garbage-out.

Which brings Bill Gates to mind. “In experiment after experiment, [Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol] Dweck has shown that the fixed mindset is a huge psychological roadblock—regardless of whether you feel you were blessed with talent or not… To protect your self-identity as someone who’s super smart or gifted, you often steer clear of tough challenges that might jeopardize that identity.” [What You Believe Affects What You Achieve, Bill Gates, 7th Dec 2015, gatesnotes.com]

In the case of the Vatican Bank, Pope Francis recognized the challenge, i.e., reform. And what about PH?

An underdeveloped economy needs investment – and technology. And we can’t attract them if we are not a truly open economy. And that is the real dilemma – and why we created the perfect storm that has been with us for decades. Simply, a parochial and insular mindset shuts FDIs out while nurturing political patronage and dynasties and cronyism and oligarchy.

And the world will not wait for us to wake up or shape up, ever. For instance, India just announced “sweeping changes to throw open its economy to foreign investment.”

But there is good news from the Duterte administration, expressed by the incoming Finance chief Carlos G. Dominguez: “We cannot transform government without transforming the community. We cannot evolve a rules-based economy without a rules-based ethos for the whole community. We cannot have good governance in the public sector without good governance in the private sector.

“It is to change the way we do things as a nation. It is a patriotic call to start building a truly 21st century society where citizens trust their institutions and consumers trust producers. It is a society of Shared Value where each one benefits from the excellence of the other.

“It is not enough to say the economy is growing . . . the government has to develop measures that will show how that economic growth converts into a more livable life for ordinary people.

“We need to radically transform the way we do things so that economic growth does not translate into further entrenching the oligarchy.

“For all Filipinos to truly benefit from the country’s nascent economic gains . . . the government and the private sector would have to jettison their traditional mindsets and radically change the ways they do business and deal with or serve our people.” [Progress for all vowed, Chino Leyco, Manila Bulletin, 21st Jun 2016]

“[T]he Duterte administration is ‘listening to the people’ . . . They want poverty rates to go down. They want their standard of living to go up. They don’t really care whether the growth rate is 5 percent or 4 percent or 7 percent because what they want is their personal lives are much better.’

“Incoming Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia . . . also cited the need to shift from a consumption-driven economy to an investment and export-driven one to achieve poverty reducing growth. At present, consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy.

“The agriculture and manufacturing sectors should also be supported to create more jobs even for the less skilled members of the labor force . . . while the share of services to the economic output may have to be reduced even as it is now a huge contributor to economic growth.

“We will try to generate more jobs here so the desire to go abroad will be lessened . . .” [Poverty incidence reduced to 16% by 2022—incoming DOF chief, Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 20th Jun 2016]

In the meantime, the Aquino administration feels compelled to defend its records. If there is something they appear not to internalize, it is the distinction between enablers and drivers of the economy. And that is not surprising given where we are in nation-building. And it explains our inability to prioritize. Of course we need social safety nets. And education is an imperative. And raising the budget for infrastructure is a must.

But to figure out what our priorities must be, we must have a good handle on the drivers of the economy. Fundamental in economics and business is the scarcity of resources. And why we must not take Pareto for granted. As this writer's Eastern European friends explained, given their communist background, they still struggle to distinguish drivers from enablers and embrace Pareto. Yet the outstanding ones are able to compare and contrast their best practices and success stories from their own past mediocre performance.

In our case, do we have a bigger hurdle? That we in the chattering class see our paradigm as supreme? How could a Vietnam, for example, be more geared for a highly globalized and competitive 21st century than PH? Because of our insular worldview, we see the negatives of our neighbors but not their best practices and success stories? 

Yet Juan de la Cruz can’t escape responsibility. Between our populist bias and crab mentality, community and the common good has escaped us? “The incoming social welfare secretary says she is not inclined to institutionalize the government’s conditional cash transfer program . . . Why would you institutionalize a stop-gap measure?” [A contradiction in terms, Editorial, Manila Standard Today, 26th Jun 2016]

And back to the DTI chief. It appears the administration has two tracks to manage: (a) to gear up SMEs to be competitive – while the administration delivers on (b); and (b) is the imperative to pursue an aggressive agro-industrial development, as articulated by Messrs. Dominguez and Pernia, i.e., to shift from a consumption-driven economy to an investment and export-driven one to achieve poverty-reducing growth.

Given our track record in this arena isn’t sterling, the call is timely – for “the government and the private sector . . . to jettison their traditional mindsets and radically change the ways they do business and deal with or serve our people” – and a real challenge to Juan de la Cruz.

It is not about catering to our instincts of populism but rather a call for accountability – and character.

“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, June 27, 2016

“Only in New York”

Whenever something out of the ordinary happens, New Yorkers would be quick to quip, “only in New York.” “Only in New York do we produce a Donald Trump.” But we Pinoys have our own version, “only in the Philippines” – where there is a need for “emergency powers” to fix a traffic mess?  “Emergency powers for traffic mess gain broad support,” Richmond Mercurio, The Philippine Star, 22nd Jun 2016.

We probably need to go in this direction given the human and economic knock-on effect of the traffic mess in our metro areas. But we can’t sweep away its inherent challenge and wash our hands – of responsibility. Freedom and democracy is not free. No one is entitled to its fruits and no one is sheltered from its demands. Developed and developing and emerging economies can all relate to this reality.

And so we would not want to again conclude that the president will need emergency powers to address energy, for example. Or to deal with our concerns in infrastructure in general, in agriculture or industry. And even good governance itself.

“Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno gave this assurance yesterday in reaction to criticism from incoming president Rodrigo Duterte that judges were selling temporary restraining orders (TROs).

“Sereno stressed that while the high court is aware of corruption in the judiciary, it has been ‘unrelenting’ in cracking its whip on erring judges, court employees and lawyers.” [‘SC doing its job to cleanse ranks,’ Edu Punay, The Philippine Star, 11th Jun 2016]

“Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte told officials on Wednesday to shun offers of money from vested interests, recalling that at one time he hid from Lucio Tan, one of the country’s wealthiest, who had chased him with cash.” [Duterte tells officials: Avoid vested interests,Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23rd Jun 2016]

Where are we in human development? There are many models of human development and they would prescribe varying stages. And here is one example:

“Order: We begin with almost entirely tribal thinking, mirroring the individual journey, which starts with an egocentric need for ‘order’ and ‘self.’ 

“Disorder: This is where we need wisdom teachers to guide us through our ‘disorder.’

“Reorder: This is also what some call enlightenment.” [Order, Disorder, Reorder, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Feb 2016]

Enlightenment is probably asking too much. But what about figuring out how to equip ourselves for self-government? Instead of simply dispensing emergency powers to the leadership?

Half a world away we see the once powerful nations of the West going through their own state of disorder that people would trace back to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. “Andrew Lo [Professor of Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management; Director, MIT Laboratory of Financial Engineering] believed that the crisis was about more than economic forces. In his mind, a human element was at play, most notably the emotions of greed and fear of the unknown. As Lo stated in his House Oversight Committee testimony:

“During extended periods of prosperity, market participants become complacent about the risk of loss—either through a systematic underestimation of those risks because of recent history, or a decline in their risk aversion due to increasing wealth, or both. 

“In other words, ‘we’ became greedy. As Lo put it, this greed was spurred on by ‘the profit motive, the intoxicating and anesthetic effects of success.’

“When everything began to collapse, our greed then turned into fear. What we feared, Lo argued, was the unknown—in this case, who and what we owed, what our assets were worth, and how bad things really were.” [The Global Financial Crisis of 2008: The Role of Greed, Fear, and Oligarchs, Cate Reavis, MIT Sloan Management, 16th Mar 2012]

And with globalization, the West finds itself in its post-industrialization age with technology – which demands not factory-types but knowledge workers – driving the economy. And it is best exemplified by the demise of Detroit, once the center of industrialization, if not the universe, and brought about the rise of America's middle-class. With the exception of Germany which seems to demonstrate longevity as an industrialized economy, Europe is in a worse predicament than America unable to shake the curse of unemployment. And this has made once wealthy nations turn inward as in Brexit. Question: Will the West find the path out of its own disorder? And how soon?

But back to the Philippines. Remember September 21, 1972? Martial rule is an example of emergency powers. But comparing a traffic mess to martial rule is like comparing apples and oranges? Yet, why does nation-building elude us?

Emergency powers connote disorder, chaos if not anarchy. It was chaos and/or anarchy that Marcos invoked to justify the imposition of martial rule. It is chaos and/or anarchy that would justify emergency powers for the traffic mess we’re talking about?

Indeed, human undertakings need leadership. And in our case we need a leadership that will show us the way to community and the common good. A visionary and strategic leadership.

And it explains why we’re the regional laggard – an underdeveloped economy unable to pursue nation-building? Could there be a human element at play in our case?

Consider our instincts, that is, given our impulse of populism and crab mentality – and the poverty in our midst – could the demands of progress and development figure prominently in our consciousness?

And do they spring from our sheltered upbringing, parochial bias, insular worldview and value of hierarchy – and come hand in glove with paternalism? Should we then be surprised that political patronage and dynasties and cronyism and oligarchy are very much a part of who we are?

We may not want to connect the dots, but what about the bottom line? In a democracy, we get the leadership that we deserve. That is, chaos and/or anarchy equals emergency powers and dictatorship . . .

“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]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

“Think less, think better”

That’s a quote. “Think Less, Think Better,” Moshe Bar, Gray Matter, The New York Times, 17th Jun 2016. [Moshe Bar, a neuroscientist, is the director of the Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University and a professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.]

In PH, how are we thinking? Sadly, given our countless challenges we’re thinking more not less. It will not be the first time the blog will say it, even the Creator had to think one day at a time. Yet His final creation, man, had to be driven out of Eden.

Was it an irony? Or was it to demonstrate what separates man from the rest of creation? Because man is both human and divine, in the image and likeness of the Creator. [From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation]. A great lesson in character-building? Despite to err is human?

The moral of the story. Think less, think better. But think character.

Given our culture of impunity, should we dig deep into who we are – our character? “Soce extension abets impunity,” Artemio V. PanganibanWith Due RespectPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Jun 2016.

Impunity has become commonplace in our daily life – including extra-judicial execution – we don’t even flinch at all?

“A largely corrupt political system, volatile criminal justice processes, the overpowering presence of the ruling class and an impoverished people. All these combined with a simple word – impunity – create the fabric of the ‘culture,’ which permeates the South-East-Asian nation of the Philippines with far reaching consequences.” [The Philippines: A Culture of Impunity, Corazon Miller; Reprinted from The Common Good, No 56, Lent 2011, www.catholicworker.org.nz]

But back to “Think Less, Think Better.” Here are a few bullet points from the article that we may want to consider:

Keep it Simple. “Mental load” obstructs capacity for original thinking and creativity; dulls thinking and the ability to experience pleasure. Innovative thinking comes when the mind is clear. An occupied mind looks for the most familiar, least interesting solutions. A clear mind’s tendency is to explore and favor novelty. Allowing the brain to explore gives it a wide perspective, curiosity and desire to learn. 

“It is particularly telling that our incoming President actually accepts how difficult is the path to federation for all Filipinos. In his words, this endeavor will entail ‘long, very contentious discussions’ before coming to fruition. Such a cathartic process is only natural when the task at hand is redefining the internal mechanics of government itself.” [“Federalism: a deeper look,” Michael Henry Ll. YusingcoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2016]

In any case, beyond agriculture, which the blog discussed in an earlier posting, here is another ray of hope. “The economic team of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will flesh out before businessmen details of their 10-point socioeconomic agenda in the next six years, the topmost of which was a commitment to keep the sound fiscal, monetary and trade policies put in place by previous administrations.

“[T]he transition team of incoming Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez announced that Duterte’s economic development team will meet with more than 300 business leaders in Davao City on June 20 to 21 at a consultative workshop called ‘Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran.’

“At the two-day consultative meeting, Dominguez will present the proposed 10-point economic agenda aimed at addressing the challenges to inclusive growth; while incoming Socioeconomic Planning Secretary as well as National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia will talk about the country’s current economic health.

“Duterte himself is expected to grace the dialogue, as he was scheduled to give a response on the recommendations to be generated from the consultation.” [Duterte economic team to present 10-point agenda before bizmen, Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 15th Jun 2016]

We should all wish the team success especially as they flesh out the following: “Launched in March, AmBisyon Natin 2040 was aimed at tripling Filipinos’ per capita income to about $11,000 in 25 years’ time such that the country would become a high-income country in 2040 by implementing ‘right’ policies as well as efficiency and productivity improvements.” [de Vera, op. cit.]

For example, there will be a lot of heavy lifting needed to generate tangible outcomes beyond these enabling mechanisms: “Increasing competitiveness and the ease of doing business, drawing upon successful models used to attract business to local cities such as Davao, as well as pursuing the relaxation of the Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, except with regards land ownership, in order to attract foreign direct investments; Accelerating annual infrastructure spending to account for 5 percent of the gross domestic product, with public-private partnerships playing a key role; Promoting rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism; Ensuring security of land tenure to encourage investments and address bottlenecks in land management and titling agencies . . .”

Enabling mechanisms are not the be-all and end-all as we saw with PPP or EPIRA, to name just two. This writer listened to the rosy predictions about the economy given the efforts of the administration two years ago and precisely raised the point on the weakness of industry despite the uptick in manufacturing output. In other words, there is analyst-speak that is not to be confused with leadership-speak. And where the buck stops. There is a mantra in the private sector that goes “Planning and Execution” are two sides of the same coin. One can’t go without the other. And that is where “Think Less, Think Better” comes in.

But we are incurable optimists, and see the glass as half-full? Like it has been half-full since the overthrow of Marcos? Still, “planning and execution” is something we must not take for granted.

And benchmarking too. Because if we are to attract FDIs – and technology – like China did, we have to give up freedom? That is a fallacy as many nations can attest, including America – the country that attracts the largest FDIs by far. Benchmarking is picking and choosing best practices – it is selective, not the first time the point has been made by the blog. On the other hand, after kicking out the US bases we want to bet on China because we doubt the commitment of the Americans? Then again, as the blog has raised before, do we want to bet on a nation where transparency is not a given like one under communist rule? We can’t have it both ways! Think less, think better.

“What the Philippines needs is not more jobs but better jobs … The quality of jobs being created was not meeting aspirations of young people entering labor market,’ said Jan Rutkowski, lead economist at the World Bank’s Social Protection and Labor Global Practice and author of the report.

“Rutkowski said in-work poverty was pervasive in the Philippines partly due to scarcity of productive jobs.

‘Low-earning capacity of the poor reflects their low education and skills, limited access to formal jobs, and low bargaining power of informal workers. The scarcity of ‘good jobs’ reflects the structure of the Philippine economy, where low value-added activities predominate. This is partly due to constraints in the investment climate and the high cost of doing business in the formal sector,’ he said.

“According to the report, ‘pervasive poverty among those who have jobs is primarily due to low earning capacity of the poor and their limited access to regular and productive jobs.’

“The poor are usually locked in ‘informal, temporary or casual and low-paid’ jobs, the World Bank said.” [WB cautions vs scrapping contractual work practice, Ben O. de VeraPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2016]

“This is partly due to constraints in the investment climate and the high cost of doing business in the formal sector.”

The World Bank is echoing the perspective of the Duterte team. Still, we can’t let the gap between planning – including the acknowledgement of constraints in the investment climate and the high cost of doing business – and execution be left to enabling mechanisms. Especially given a bureaucracy that is governance-challenged.

The acid test: Where will the quantum leap in economic output come from if indeed we are to become a high-income country? And what is the priority and focus? With due respect to the team – and the writer has a soft spot in his heart for Davao having lived and worked there in the early 70s – the yardstick is global competitiveness. Nothing less.

For example, there is a time and a season for everything. And this is the best time as any to neutralize the business sectors dominated by the biggest barriers to PH progress and development: political patronage and dynasties and cronyism and oligarchy?

We can’t let the culture of impunity endure. It is disingenuous of those who claim to be the engine of the economy to turn a blind eye on how we stand versus our neighbors. It is not rocket science, we can’t match them in investment and technology. Yet the hubris is displayed in spades. Confirming our oligarchic economy. And why poverty persists. And we want to blame everyone and his uncle?

Think less . . . think better . . . think character.

“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]

Friday, June 17, 2016

Challenges in agriculture, government bureaucracy and FDIs . . . and beyond

These challenges were discussed in recent articles in our local papers. We may or may not appreciate it but our “worldview” impacts how we approach and proceed to address them and our many challenges.

It is no different from the 1987 Constitution. Our worldview then was ABM – “anything but Marcos.” Decades later we would realize that it has its flaws. What if when we wrote the Constitution our worldview was “to be a developed nation,” how would we have approached and proceeded to write it?

Imagining the future meant for man’s wellbeing is not about fitting it to a preconceived idea or system but to enable the attainment of a desired outcome. It is fundamental in the pursuit of innovation – or “out-of-the-box” thinking. It is not putting the cart before the horse, fundamental in problem-solving.

And to this day the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” stands out and is held as an ideal even by the Brits, the once colonizers of the New World. Yet it is acknowledged as a hypothesis – not cast in stone – and efforts since its framing are considered experiments. 

Decades after the 1987 Constitution, did we expect a minority to turn into a supermajority in Congress – when precisely we wrote a constitution to be the opposite of what Marcos represented?

We want and need leadership, one that that will show us the way to community and the common good – but not a rubberstamp Congress?

If the future we imagine is to foster the wellbeing of Juan de la Cruz, should we then aspire to be a developed economy? And as part of the hypothesis, we need to establish which economies are to be our benchmarks?

And what characteristics do they manifest and share? For instance, they would be predominantly middle class. What are the building blocks of such economies? And they would most likely be founded on the rule of law. How did they progress from underdeveloped to developed? Chances are they developed the three legs of agriculture, industry and services, unless they’re small like Singapore.

In developed economies, agriculture would be characterized as modern, efficient, driven by economies of scale, yields marketable and competitive products and most likely represents a virtuous cycle.

And if we factor rice, which of these countries in fact embraced the mantra of self-sufficiency? Most likely those involved in rice were committed to and proactively pursued a virtuous cycle.

In PH, are we witnessing a ray of hope, a new dawn in agriculture? That today we’re thinking big not small like the shortsightedness of land reform? Still, such thinking demands lots of leadership and doing. “The broad outlines of what are in store for agriculture and fisheries under the Duterte administration are becoming clear . . . The ambition recently pronounced by [incoming Agriculture Secretary-designate Manny] PiƱol for the Philippines to regain the status as the world’s largest coconut products exporter, even if it means planting 600,000 additional hectares in the next six years is most welcome by coconut farmers.

“The 600,000 hectares of new coconut plantings need not be additional physical hectares but include the senile and unproductive plantations out of the existing 3.2 million hectares which need to be replanted as soon as possible.” [Marching orders for coconut, Dr. Emil Javier, Manila Bulletin, 12th Jun 2016]

As Dr. Javier points out, these are still broad outlines. But this is the kind of major initiatives that must stay on our radar screen. And media ought not to drop the ball like we saw in Arangkada Philippines?

What is the North Star? A quantum leap in economic output. And major revenue-generating initiatives like driving coconut, our biggest agribusiness, and Arangkada Philippines are what we must celebrate – not the impunity that comes with political patronage and dynasties . . . and cronyism and oligarchy.

How did Einstein define insanity? We know very well that our economic output is driven by OFW remittances and the BPO industry to the tune approaching 20%. And with very little costs input, the impact on the economy is quite impressive and thus our consumption economy. And why we’re no longer the sick man of Asia.

But if we care to benchmark against our neighbors, we don’t have to go very far and will realize why we’re still the regional laggard. Consistent with “pwede na ‘yan,” we are celebrating the windfall called OFW remittances while taking for granted the socials ills that come with it. And worse, we keep barking at the wrong tree, poverty.

What about the challenges posed by government bureaucracy and the shortfalls in PH’s FDIs? Again, which nations must be our benchmarks? These countries, chances are, would demonstrate world-class civil service, approximating the private sector in administration and management – e.g., structure, systems, practices, tools and techniques, etc. 

And more likely than not, more developed nations have neutralized crony capitalism and oligarchy. And South Korea is a good example. And not surprisingly, they’re like magnets in attracting FDIs. How can something that appears straightforward to our neighbors be so excruciatingly difficult for us?

In other words, we can’t hedge between our favorite crony or oligarchy and FDIs. “Cronyism worse in Philippines today – study,” Jarius Bondoc, GOTCHA, 13th Jun 2016. There is no economic miracle that was built on oligarchy – and we must not mistake parochialism for patriotism? It is the laws of physics. Water seeks its own level.

When the Asian Tigers opened their arms to FDIs, beyond money they sought technology. And Deng expressed it pretty directly, “we need Western money and technology if we are to lift our people from poverty.”

Should we wonder why China became an economic miracle and drastically reduced poverty? Compare that to us borrowing money to address poverty? And the flavor of the month is federalism? To spread out the national budget more equitably and address poverty?

Should we wonder why China advanced rapidly in innovation and competitiveness? And we’re still talking about Ease of Doing Business akin to warming up before a big game when the game is already on – a highly globalized and competitive 21st century world.

Of course China is not perfect. That is why benchmarking is about picking and choosing best practices. Because perfection is not of this world.

How should we approach and proceed to address what we see as flaws in the Constitution as well as challenges like those of agriculture, government bureaucracy and FDIs?

In our heart of hearts, we must value freedom and democracy and the free enterprise system? Indeed, economics is at the heart of it. And an oligarchic economy is a stark example of tyranny which, sadly, we’ve long embraced? How can freedom and democracy reign when tyranny rules?

That’s what the UN is telling us but we want our sovereignty not the interference of outsiders? How backward do we want to be? Is regional laggard not backward enough? And how can we handle unsolicited advice when we don’t like self-criticism in the first place? As Lea Salonga learned?

Lea thought we have sinned as a people but we don’t take that. We don’t take self-criticism. Full stop. No wonder we don't truly look outward and benchmark. 

“So to Salonga’s list of national afflictions, she can add small-minded thinking—a dangerous condition that goads people to declare that they wouldn’t mind curtailments on the freedoms they currently enjoy . . . ‘Our liberty will not be secured at the sword’s point,’ Rizal wrote. ‘We must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it.’

“People who refuse to engage with the hard questions and prefer instead to stay on the cheery surface of things; who suppress dissent, forget history and dismiss appeals to the rule of law as weakness; who are so cavalier, in other words, about their freedoms as to want to give these up just like that… Such people are unworthy of that great gift of liberty.” [Being worthy of liberty, EditorialPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 12th Jun 2016]

Is the idiocy of a cacique hierarchical system and structure holding our worldview hostage to even be primed for change? Of course it goes deeper: parochial, hierarchical, paternalistic, political patronage and dynasties, cronyism and oligarchy!

“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]