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,]

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]

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