Saturday, July 30, 2016

How do we connect the dots?

Consider the following articles about: (a) Pope Francis; (b) a Vision for the future; (c) Philippine agriculture; and (d) All-out support to MSMEs. How do we connect the dots?

“Not by might, nor by power. . .” [Zechariah 4:6]. “Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation,” 22nd Jul 2016. “Perfectionism discourages honest self-knowledge and basic humility . . . We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. God doesn't love you because you are good. God loves you because God is good!”

Perfection is not of this world. In other words, a hierarchical system and structure – given its inherent pretensions – is egregious. Not surprisingly, “The Vatican is striking back at conservative critics of Pope Francis’s landmark document on family life, ratcheting up its defense of the pope with new vigor . . .” [Vatican defends pope’s family document, Associated Press, Business Mirror, 23rd Jul 2016]

If we are to connect the dots, we must turn things on their heads – and “begin with the end in mind”? It is encouraging that “The Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, the original and oldest chamber, tracing its roots to 1886, has adopted the “History Builds the Future: 2030: Five Pillars.” PILLAR I: The Filipino and Education; PILLAR II: Philippine Government; PILLAR III: Infrastructure and Environment; PILLAR IV: Philippine Business; PILLAR V: The Economy.

“As the Duterte administration copes to alleviate the daily struggle of the Filipino, it needs to inspire our countrymen to overcome by visualizing what their future could be.” [Vision for the future: 2030, Melito Salazar Jr., Manila Bulletin, 17th Jul 2016]

How do we flesh up these pillars? For example: “Rural poverty and lack of productivity in Philippine agriculture trace their roots to many causes but the most serious shortcomings are: 1) the problems associated with small, fragmented farm holdings, 2) insufficient linkages of primary producers to markets, 3) lack of product diversification and value adding (processing) especially at the village level, and 4) failure to fully exploit the potential of our vast fisheries and aquatic resources.

“If we were to modernize our agriculture, to make it more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable, these four major limitations must be addressed.” [Strategic directions for Philippine agriculture (Part I), Dr. Emil Javier, 23rd Jul 2016]

What about the broader industry, can it be more productive, competitive, equitable and sustainable? “The government is bent to give all-out support to micro enterprises in the country with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) seeking to at least double its 2017 budget, half of which will go to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) while at the same time tapping the big private companies to embrace their small brothers become part their overall value chain.

“If we want to do more, double employment, we have to get close to double our budget to R6 billion,” [DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez] said.” [DTI pledges all-out support to MSMEs, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 23rd Jul 2016]

What is the premise of the initiative? “To do more.” Logical yet classic incremental thinking? What if we begin with the end in mind? And seek to attain a virtuous circle while challenging our mindset?

To do more – or even double employment – sounds good, yet “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]

We need a new paradigm – not more of the same? But what? “Indeed government must bridge the gap to address the needs of the poor, but it would take the combined effort of other sectors in society for economic gains to dramatically impact the bottom of the pyramid.

“It is also important to note that the Philippines’ economic growth has been largely consumer-driven. Tech luminary Dado Banatao . . . alluded to the need to shift from a consumer-driven to a creator economy. He pointed out that innovation and entrepreneurship are the new foundations for economic development and the means to open up opportunities for a wider cross-section of society.

[As an aside, we keep forgetting that OFW remittances, the source of our consumption-driven economy, grew by over 7% the last several years – and would explain why we were approximating China’s growth. And so it stands to reason why the Duterte administration vetoed the new office building plans for the Finance Department and NEDA?]

“Banatao added that growth rests primarily on the private sector’s ability to innovate and invest, as well as to create a generation of entrepreneurs who can respond to both local and global needs. Attaining the dream of inclusive growth means that the private sector cannot simply function on a ‘business as usual’ mode.

“A new mindset. A country such as the Philippines should be able to have the mindset of building ecosystems around sectors that can deliver on inclusive growth. Building ecosystems naturally start by taking a serious look at the challenges faced by SMEs (small and medium enterprises) today, such as resilience, equal opportunities for women, access to finance, and capacity-building.

“Furthermore, beyond addressing immediate challenges, a long-term view must be taken in building such ecosystems.” [Change via innovation and entrepreneurship, Jikyeong Kang, inquirerdotnet, 25th Jul 2016; Dr. Jikyeong Kang is president and dean of the Asian Institute of Management]

We take it as a given that Juan de la Cruz is about populism and compassion and inclusion? But developments in neuroscience have revealed that such consciousness without the benefit of empirical evidence is a fallacy. And what is the evidence? We’ve remained underdeveloped and the regional laggard despite: (a) the windfall from OFW remittances; and (b) our focus on poverty, e.g., CCT?

We may be proud of our consciousness – of compassion and inclusion – yet it hasn’t satisfied the needs of Juan de la Cruz? Nor will it deliver his future? And because we take our assumptions as valid, we succumb to “crab mentality” time and time again – paying a heavy price?

For instance, we still don’t have a good handle on: (a) power; (b) infrastructure; and (c) industry. And they are the building blocks of an economy. But we don’t think “building blocks” – and “think less, think better”? We like to be “holistic” yet calling something “holistic” without connecting the dots into an ecosystem doesn’t make it so.

There are 100 to 300 billion (if not 500 billion) galaxies in the universe yet we appreciate the ecosystem of our solar system depicted by the sun and the 8 planets – that simplified something truly complex for the layperson, including children. But as far as nation-building is concerned, we are “sabog,” neither here nor there? And have yet to figure out that the 7 industry winners from the JFC would be a good starting point to get industrialization going?  

Pareto’s 80-20 rule is an econometric model derived through academic rigor. And more to the point, once we’ve delivered on these building blocks we can move up to the next level. There is no perfect plan. Yet it pays to be crystal clear about “where we want to be” – e.g., to be a developed nation? And to be focused like a laser? It is the magic behind big data and analytics or the separation of the wheat from the chaff.  

Because a developed nation is a wealthy nation – and can afford a more robust safety net. Safety nets don’t deliver wealth. But wealth delivers not only safety nets but prosperity as well. The evidence? The Asian Tigers. Sadly, being in underdeveloped and reactive mode for decades, to be forward-looking and proactive is yet to become instinctive to us?

The writer’s Eastern European friends would articulate the point more profoundly given the dark ages they lived through under socialism – and communist rule. Consider: there was no homelessness nor joblessness. Jobs were assigned by the commissars who had unbridled power. There were no pay levels. Consumer products in local stores were uniformly priced at the equivalent of 50 euro cents. Yet there was no sense of accomplishment and motivation.

It was the reverse. For their self-respect, they would not put in a fair day's work and beat the system. In a town of 80,000 (the wife and the writer's introduction to Eastern Europe) they would be self-sufficient. It was the same size town as their suburban New York town. But there was the strong sense that they were frozen in time.  

There was such ugliness and eeriness when they would describe a communist apartment building, for example. Or how badly and poorly made were the trucks coming out of the local factory. Self-sufficient yet underdeveloped. [It was a mirage and unreal that the system collapsed under its own weight.] There was even a local brewery. Yet when the Danish Tuborg beer acquired the business, the difference in the quality of the facility and the products would be night and day. The underlying factor? Tuborg is a world-class and a globally competitive product. 

In the case of PH, would our hierarchical system structure get in the way of progress and development – as before – given rank and its privileges, including omnipotence?

“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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