Thursday, October 27, 2016

“Entitlement”

That is borrowed from the column of [and thank you!] Fr. Jerry M. Orbos, SVD [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23rd Oct 2016.] “The Pharisee in our parable had an entitlement problem, feeling that he deserved better treatment because of his righteousness.”

It’s the human condition and dates back to Adam and Eve: they thought they were entitled to the “Tree of Knowledge.” And we would all have our own examples: Western bankers thought they were entitled to fat bonuses – with the rest of world paying the price for the Great Recession (of 2008); the Bush-Cheney team felt entitled (aka American exceptionalism, if not hegemony or imperialism) to upend tyranny and deliver democracy to the Iraqi people; Putin pines for the Soviet Empire and wants to undo its collapse. And not surprisingly, Georgia and Ukraine had to come under fire.

What about Juan de la Cruz? Do we feel entitled – and deserve better treatment from Uncle Sam? Trump won’t acknowledge the outcome of the upcoming US election unless he is the winner – being the poster boy of narcissism? While Duterte and his administration claims the US failed us. So why not pivot from the Americans and into the arms of China and Russia?

There is reality and there is reality. Take China or Vietnam. We seem to be looking up to China today and could only feel worse off compared to Vietnam? Yes, it is the Vietnam that was bombed back into the Stone Age by the Americans.

China and Vietnam would confirm how the Asian tigers pursued rapid economic development. On the other hand, Russia represents despotism and oligarchy. Having lived and worked in Central and Eastern Europe for most of the last 13 years, the writer has found his ears full from firsthand recollections of friends. And to put things in perspective, they find doing business in Iraq more conducive today than Russia. Ditto for Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, for example. 

In the meantime, the Philippines still carries the label “regional laggard.” No longer the basket case of Asia to be sure – thanks to the over 10 million OFWs and more recently the BPO industry – but still unable to break away from underdevelopment.

And as the blog has argued, we can’t seem to see through beyond our myopia? That’s harsh but harsher still would be the reality of millions of hungry and destitute Filipinos?

Let’s go back to China and Vietnam and our neighbors that the rest of the world looked up to as model economies or Asian tigers. As some would know, the writer had a regional role with an MNC during the period these countries demonstrated their hunger in the pursuit of development and embraced Western money and technology. Even India followed suit. 

The writer traveled to China every month over an 8-month period while negotiating a joint-venture deal. The Chinese were tough negotiators but displayed pragmatism to the surprise of the writer, who became friends with the general manager of the state-owned enterprise. [Who was unceremoniously banished; the whys explained to him in a courtesy call by the successor.]

They must have realized that the foreigners had a much grander vision that in the end they agreed to take a lesser equity. “Our resources are limited. We cannot match your investments even if we wanted a greater share. But our country needs your technology. And you opened our eyes beyond what we could see today and would rather be a party to a bigger undertaking despite a reduced equity.” And the experience paved the way for the next joint-venture agreement; the Chinese expressing profusely that the partnership was indeed working from their standpoint.

What about Vietnam? “We will walk away from the deal if you cannot produce the proper accounting books. There is a third-party that will walk you through the valuation of your enterprise. We want to be honest-to-goodness partners where transparency rules. This is not the first experience we have working with foreign partners. We operate in over 200 countries and our reputation is something we don’t hide.”

The Vietnamese opened up and explained that they simply wanted to make certain that they were getting the best deal. And they admitted learning a great lesson in transparency.

India manifested their new openness to FDI that the writer’s old MNC company made a couple of major investments that included a technology center. While Thailand and Malaysia clearly had better infrastructure than the Philippines; and no different from the Chinese or the Indians, they opened their arms to foreign investment.

And what about us? Sadly, the dots connect and complete the vicious circle back to poverty: parochialism . . . insularity . . . hierarchy . . . paternalism . . . political patronage and dynasties . . . oligarchy . . . poverty.

And back to Eastern Europe. “We are poor Bulgarians. We don’t see how better products would sell in our country. Or even in former Soviet satellite countries.” And to this day the writer would remind them: “In a globalized and highly competitive world, we cannot survive and thrive if we can’t see beyond the horizon. It takes investment and technology to learn the ropes of innovation – which is defining the 21st century. We must be able to convince the market that we are for real.”

What is the object of the writer’s spiel? That we are pivoting to China because they are an economic and a military power? They were not until very recently. While we chose to celebrate OFW remittances and value political patronage and oligarchy, China begged for Western money and technology.

And so did Vietnam – and Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and India as well.

China and Russia seem to be our newfound friends. But even China embraced something new, that is, capitalism. While Russia remains frozen in time. The common denominator they share though is the value of transparency or the lack if not the absence of it.

And . . . surprise, surprise . . . President Duterte likewise puts no value in transparency? And it explains the barbarism that characterized his first 100 days? Consider: man is made in the image and likeness of his Creator, i.e., human and divine. “Who am I to judge,” so says Francis. And President Duterte wonders why he is getting flak?

Transparency is what’s behind good governance – and freedom and democracy. And growth and development – and the liberation of people. Are we too backward a nation to brush human rights aside?

It is not enough to say that we shall eradicate poverty. Poverty in an underdeveloped country is a function of development or the lack of it, not of the promise of politicians. Nor is it about entitlement!

The blog has consistently discussed that our inability to benchmark makes us unable to appreciate what and why we’re missing out. For example, our BOI has aggressively advertised our openness to grant incentives. But none of the examples discussed above was driven by such incentives.

What about American imperialism and global structural injustice? “The United States Probably Has More Foreign Military Bases Than Any Other People, Nation, or Empire in History: And it’s doing us more harm than good,” David Vine, The Nation 14th Sep 2015. “[T]here are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US “base sites” in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.

“Although the United States has had bases in foreign lands since shortly after it gained its independence, nothing like today’s massive global deployment of military force was imaginable until World War II. In 1940, with the flash of a pen, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a “destroyers-for-bases” deal with Great Britain that instantly gave the United States 99-year leases to installations in British colonies worldwide. Base acquisition and construction accelerated rapidly once the country entered the war. By 1945, the US military wasbuilding base facilities at a rate of 112 a month. By war’s end, the global total topped 2,000 sites. In only five years, the United States had developed history’s first truly global network of bases, vastly overshadowing that of the British Empire upon which “the sun never set.”

That would probably confirm the notion of American imperialism. But notwithstanding, how do we explain the success of our neighbors? Try interdependence.

MANKIND’S UPLIFTMENT AND SURVIVAL TOTALLY DEPEND ON OUR INTERDEPENDENCE IN FIGHTING . . . UNIVERSAL THREATS . . .

“OF THE 195 MEMBER-NATIONS OF THE U.N., AT LEAST 73 COUNTRIES MAINTAIN SPECIAL FORCES UNITS, THE PHILIPPINES INCLUDED. THE SPECIAL FORCES . . . ARE PRODUCTS OF THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF TODAY’S GLOBALIZED 21ST CENTURY WORLD.”

“DEEPER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION, CLOSER SECURITY COOPERATION AND WIDER PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE LINKAGES – NOT ISOLATION – ARE THE KEYS TO THE ATTAINMENT . . . OF THE U.N.’S 17 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, AND ARE . . . ESSENTIAL IN AN INTERDEPENDENT . . . PLANET EARTH.” [“Global special forces and our interdependent world,” Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, Manila Bulletin, 17th Sept 2016]

“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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