Thursday, November 24, 2016

“Moving backward, not forward”

That’s lifted from The Economist, “Hail to the thief: The Philippine government offers a hero’s burial for a murderous kleptocrat,” 12th Nov 2016. But it’s the Western press, manipulating our psyche for the umpteenth time?

So let’s pick a local paper. “PH shares skid to 9-mth lows as foreign funds flee,” Kristyn Nika M. Lazo, TMT, The Manila Times, 23rd Nov 2016. “Fears of US protectionism under a Donald Trump presidency kept foreign funds streaming out of the Philippine Stock Exchange, sending share prices plummeting to nine months. The Philippine market was the only decliner among Asian markets.

“The sell-offs from yesterday continued as foreign funds flocked to the US market, which closed in record territory, as oil prices surged 4 percent, the greenback’s rally paused and withered, and the bond market selling relented . . . Strong US economic activity improved during October . . .

“Investors were disturbed by a slowly deepening chasm between the US-Philippine relations that could hit remittances from the US and revenue from business process outsourcing which are major drivers of the Philippine output . . . Also, interest rates are forecasted to be hiked soon . . .

“The market has lost around 16 percent from the year’s high of 8,100 on the PSEi in July . . . A bearish situation may come about once the PSEi drops another 4 percent to the 6,480 level . . .”

But let’s get back to The Economist. “Rodrigo Duterte, the erratic strongman now running the Philippines, believes the dead dictator deserves better: he has approved the Marcos family’s long-standing request to bury their patriarch in Manila’s National Heroes’ Cemetery, with full military honors—an idea all Marcos’s other successors rejected.

“Opponents tried to get the supreme court to block the burial, arguing that the law reserves the cemetery for those ‘worthy of admiration’. This week, however, the court approved the burial and urged the country to ‘move on’. But to many, as one strongman buries another, the Philippines appears to be moving backward, not forward.

“Mr. Duterte may spy a political opportunity. He comes from the southern island of Mindanao, and is the first president who is not part of the elite of Manila. His victory owes as much to voters’ disenchantment with the dozen or so families that dominate Philippine politics as it does to his tough-talking image. But winning as an outsider is a lot easier than governing as one, and the Marcos family remains powerful . . . Bongbong, is a swaggering senator who came within a few thousand votes of the vice-presidency. Appeasing the family gives Mr. Duterte a political boost in Ilocos and a favor to call in when he needs it.”

Are we indeed moving backward, not forward? Do we in fact equate the war on drugs to nation building – i.e., the common good? If in tourism there is an infrastructure chain that we sorely lack aka ecosystem, economic development and nation building likewise has its requisite ecosystem. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Our neighbors are the models – if we’d care to look outward, not inward!

But we held hopes to be the next Asian tiger? Yet are we (a) doing the right homework; (b) building the wherewithal and the confidence to find our place in the sun; (c) tossing parochialism and insularity and (d) subservience and paternalism; or (e) all of the above? And would our shortcomings explain why tyranny has defined us? And why we can’t reconcile ourselves with Francis’s “who am I to judge”? And brought Marcos and Duterte upon us?

Say again, what country has won the war on drugs? Not the Americans. Try Portugal – but they did not make war, they decriminalized all drugs. []

For decades we’ve considered ourselves perpetual optimists even when we and the world could see that our neighbors were leaving us in the dust? God helps those who help themselves?

Are we re-thinking CCT? We’ve been borrowing tons of money to keep it going yet stark poverty remains with us. Is it the economy, stupid? Whether in a developing or a developed economy, there are local practices that undermine economic performance? Take Italy as an example.

“A recession that lasted seven years wiped out nearly a quarter of Italian industry. The unemployment rate sits above 11 percent. The population is aging, and too few women are working, limiting spending power. Too many Italian businesses are small operations that are especially vulnerable to globalization . . . Negative interest rates maintained by the European Central Bank to encourage lending have cut into bank profit margins.

“This is a bank-centric country, and there was a huge crisis . . . When the tide goes out, you don’t see everything nice in the sea.”

“Italy’s banking pain is a symptom of an Italian business style that has traditionally favored relationships and community ties over a dispassionate analysis of the bottom line — a perception the nation is eager to alter. To visit senior Italian officials in their offices decked out like personal versions of the Sistine Chapel is to hear a recitation of complaints that reforms have gone underappreciated. They betray resentment that Italy continues to be caricatured as the reckless debacle at the center of European economic decline.” [Italy’s Banks Are in a Slow-Motion Crisis. And Europe May Pay; Peter S. Goodman, The New York Times, 19th Nov 2016]

Can the Italians outdo us, Pinoys? Consider: “But trust the politicians to grandstand on every popular issue – even if populist gimmickry is inherently shortsighted. They want to legislate wage increases, for instance, even if a regional wage board exists for that purpose.

“From a pure market standpoint, government has no business interfering in matters that should be in the exclusive domain of the private sector. The wage level should be the outcome of free transaction between employer and worker. Otherwise wages will be politicized and the entire domestic market skewed.

“Fortunately, we do not have the Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) anymore. That was a mechanism that, in the guise of protecting consumers from oil price shocks, effectively politicized fuel prices. The public decided to pay the price it wants. In the end, government subsidized the difference between the politically acceptable price level and prices in the real world.

“The OPSF, while it was there, inflicted huge budget deficits that forced government to borrow. That, and the subsidies on power, account for much of the foreign borrowing that brought about the debt crisis of the eighties. Consumers benefitted from subsidized fuel and power, the rich particularly since they consumed more of both on a per capita basis. But all of us, the poor especially, bore the costs of the debt crisis.

“The lesson here is that untargeted subsidies are never progressive. They always end up harming the poor more . . . We have so much populist legislation in the books. Collectively they explain why rates of extreme poverty have become so high.” [Overreach, Alex Magno, FIRST PERSON, The Philippine Star, 22nd Nov 2016]

Beyond harming the poor via populist legislation which we have accepted as normal in the Philippines is – of course – our turning a blind eye to EJKs? Because we made the judgment that criminals must die and thus Du30 has license to kill? See above re Francis.

Why don’t we make the judgment instead “Like installing for once, a truly democratic, pro-freedom, and honest, competent and inclusive government?” [“Low-ambition culture,” Tony Lopez, Virtual Reality, Manila Standard, 23rd Nov 2016]

Did Marcos set the standards for Du30? “[A]n estimated 34,000 trade unionists, student leaders, writers and politicians were tortured with electric shocks, heated irons and rape; 3,240 men and women were dumped dead in public places; 398 others simply disappeared.” [The $10bn question: what happened to the Marcos millions (?), Nick Davies, The Guardian, 7th May 2016]

And, indeed, what happened to the Marcos millions? “Bongbong, 58, started his political career before his family was exiled, becoming vice-governor of Ilocos Norte province in 1981, aged 23. Six years after exile, he returned to become a congressman. He recently denied any involvement in the legal moves that have blocked so much of the PCGG’s work. In February, Richard Amurao [head of the PCGG, a conspicuously decent lawyer, aged 41] issued a tough response, saying his claim was ‘belied by court records which show his involvement’. He listed cases in which Bongbong and his mother are still laying claim to what the PCGG says is ill-gotten wealth.

“The work is not finished . . . There is no statute of limitation on seeking justice. But the passing of time makes it more and more difficult to find new leads. Time is an ally for those who want us to forget.” [Davies, op. cit.]
How could we ever move forward?

“Can we not aspire then for higher, nobler goals? Like removing from our political milieu the four or five families that have ruled this country in the last half century? Like removing from our economy the 100 families that have ruled our economy and business in the last 100 years? Like installing for once, a truly democratic, pro-freedom, and honest, competent and inclusive government?” [Lopez, op. cit.]

Where to Philippines?

“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, November 21, 2016

Of carpetbaggers, the economy, poverty, tyranny and worldviews

“The market’s response to the announcement we achieved 7.1 percent GDP growth in the third quarter was described as ‘muted.’ Although our economy has apparently risen to a higher growth plane, there was no dancing in the streets.

“Remittances from Filipinos abroad kept our head above water the past several years as our exports lost competitiveness, as our industrial base shrunk and as our tourism fell way behind our neighbors.

“The new administration appears bent on using public spending to fuel economic expansion. Budget Secretary Ben Diokno, staunch critic of the previous administration’s underspending, advocates relaxing budget deficit targets and speeding up the infrastructure modernization program.

Our economic managers envision sustained growth of at least seven percent over the next generation. That is the only way to bring down poverty and raise our GDP per capital to high-income levels.

“The pace of growth we have achieved can only be achieved if we are able to industrialize. In the present global economy, no nation achieves industrialization without support from government. That support can only happen if there is a clear plan . . . Carpetbaggers could make a load of money in the short run but doom our industrialization eventually.” [7.1%, Alex Magno, FIRST PERSON, The Philippine Star, 19th Nov 2016. Professor Alex Magno, is a political scientist and academician in the Philippines.]

That’s from a political scientist. Let’s hear from our economists. “Even granting that it may take time for the President to change his style, I enjoin creditors and investors to focus on the predictables about the Philippine economy. They will realize that what we can posit for certain about the economy will make the uncertainties perceived by the likes of Standard and Poor’s pale into insignificance.

“First, the Philippine economy will be enjoying for many more years the close to $30 billion in annual remittances from overseas Filipino workers.

“Second, whatever happens to political leadership at the national level, our young, growing and English-speaking population will continue to make the Philippines a preferred site for the global business process outsourcing (BPO) and knowledge process outsourcing industries.

“The incomes generated by these two engines of growth will feed into the consumption sector and will generate large investments in retailing; the hospitality business . . . and the expansion of manufacturing of food, fashion goods, and furniture and fixtures. Construction and real estate will continue to benefit from the demand for more middle-priced condominium and residential units and for office spaces to cater to the BPO-information technology sector, with more of the expansion in second-tier cities . . .

“We can also count as highly predictable the maintenance of a stable financial sector by a very competent central bank that has admirably institutionalized inflation-targeting tools . . . and moderating the depreciation of the peso. We can also consider as certain the ability of the finance and budget departments to continue maintaining fiscal discipline, which began during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” [Predictables about PH economy, Bernardo M. VillegasPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016]

“We have earlier used the findings of AmBisyon in our previous columns on the kind of issues the new government needs to immediately address.

“One of the main results of AmBisyon is that an overwhelming majority, or about 79.2 percent, of the respondents aspire for a simple and comfortable life. A question raised by the moderator, Tony Lambino, suggested that this seems to say the aspirations of the majority are too low and, therefore, easy to achieve. However, as the AmBisyon web site itself explains—a simple and comfortable life is actually a middle-class lifestyle. It consists of “having a car of their own, a house of their own, and enough money and savings to send their children to school and to afford leisure, like travel.”

“Considering the latest poverty statistics as of 2015, this simple and comfortable life aspiration is not easy to achieve immediately.

“This would mean a lot of factors have to change for the country. Our planners and stakeholders have to work together for this. What may be critical is to understand that this cannot be done immediately. Prioritization may be done by phases focusing first on those who are in poverty. Phase 1 must be to ensure that people are getting out of poverty faster. Phase 2 is to ensure that those who have gotten out of poverty must be protected from falling back. Interventions per-income level may be necessary. Those that have gotten out of poverty are usually wanting to reach middle-class status immediately. Data from a World Bank financial behavior study reveal that only about 10 percent of the population have bank accounts. Our own research in rural hometowns reveals that families receiving remittances and those that do not have behave in the same way in regard to savings. Our data show that those who have savings actually keep them at home and most would put them into land and houses rather than in financial assets.

“A big challenge, but not necessarily unachievable. We need to work together with the government and other stakeholders to reach this dream. Behavior change and education can help facilitate the process and for the government to make the overall environment conducive for dreamers to achieve.” [A simple ‘ambisyon,’ Dr. Alvin P. Ang, Eagle Watch, Business Mirror, 17th Nov 2016]

And what does Juan de la Cruz have to say? “A place where there are no slaves and tyrants,” CARLOS D. ISLES,, Letters to the editor, Opinion, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016.

“As a senior citizen dribbling down the last years of my life, my fondest hope is to pass from this valley of tears to the next where ‘there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen, where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.’ (Dr. Jose Rizal’s, “Last Farewell”)

“It would indeed be quite a radical change from a country ruled by a tyrant, where politicians are corrupt, where the media have turned their back on their activist role, where the Supreme Court brazenly defies the letters and the spirit of the Constitution, where extrajudicial killings  of suspected users of illegal drugs are routinely done by policemen and vigilantes, where the brains of young people are addled by low quality education and noontime shows, where the Church fails to denounce abuses of power by elected officials, where those at the ‘laylayan ng lipunan’ are victims of government promises and band-aid development programs, where a former dictator is accorded a place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, where the President of the country speaks with a forked tongue thus, confusing the people as to his real intentions, where women are fair targets of misogynistic and sexist comments and innuendos, where the leader of the nation routinely hurls insults and dirty words against heads of state and international organizations, where the President claims that God talks to him, which is a sign of schizophrenia, where the President believes that drug addicts are less human therefore they do not deserve to live, where the Cabinet secretaries are nothing but lap-dogs and apologists of the President, where people lie supinely on their backs doing nothing to halt the gradual death of democracy in the country, and finally, where evil will continue to prosper if we, Filipinos, do nothing.”

And here is what our neighbors are saying. “Regional economic integration can be made to work better and its benefits more obvious, said Juan Raffo in a statement. Raffo is the Abac chair for 2016. If governments adopt policies which enhance the capacity of economies, their communities and people will be better able to take advantage of more open and competitive markets . . .

“In the face of growing public disquiet about the impact of freer trade and investment, business leaders are concerned that many governments are looking to impose new tariff and non-tariff barriers . . . But ‘protectionist actions make it harder for business to play its part in creating employment and raising living standards across the region,’ he added, in remarks that appeared to be in response to Trump’s vaunted economic policies focusing on shoring up the US economy.

“Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) and recent election results in both developed and developing economies seem to have served as a referendum on the merits of economic integration . . . Raffo said such developments have created an ‘unprecedented uncertainty about the direction of the global economy.’ They appear to call into question the successful model of economic integration that has been responsible for rapid growth and the spread of prosperity around the world . . .

“We accept the need to do more to help convince our citizens that economic integration is directly linked to expanding prosperity and that open markets—enhanced by new technologies and ways of doing business—have lifted millions out of poverty.” [Apec warned: Trump-inspired policy to kill growth, DJ Yap, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016]

“In many countries, liberal democracy is no longer considered the best political system for selecting national leaders. It is not the only way forward. The China model has never been a more attractive alternative in those countries, including Indonesia, still grappling with nation building.

“America can help restore faith in liberal democracy by carrying out the necessary electoral reforms. It needs to show once again that democracy is the best political system for selecting leaders because it is based on the principles of respecting freedoms and basic human rights.” [US electoral democracy: signs of failure or fatigue (?), Endy Bayni, Asian Editors Circle, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016; Endy Bayuni is editor in chief of The Jakarta Post.]

Do we recognize if the worldviews of our neighbors differ from ours? Because we’re the regional laggard? And we will be until we stand up – enough is enough?

“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, November 14, 2016

The Buffett Rules – a winning worldview

With the Western world becoming unhinged, what would be the winning worldview for Juan de la Cruz? From the Global Recession of 2008 to the Brexit vote to the trauma of the Trump election, how would the Buffett Rules apply? Buy low, sell high. When everyone is greedy, be scared. When everyone is scared, be greedy.

Buffett is known as the great investor, not as a behavioral economist. But what his rules say is he doesn’t behave against his self-interest. But most everyone does. Including us Pinoys – we have been behaving against our self-interest for decades. For over a century, according to Rizal. “He who submits to tyranny loves it.”

Because there is something very fundamental that we Pinoys have yet to recognize given we take it as a positive element of our culture – i.e., our value of hierarchy. Because we put people and nations in a rank order, we cannot see beyond the horizon?

“You entered the business but uncertain of the way forward? You obviously know that you must win against the Western competition that you admire but fear. It will demand a lot from you. First, you must believe in yourself. That you are not inferior to anyone – not to anyone whether from the East or the West. You can find your place in the sun as much as they do.”

The blog has often said that it was inspired by the writer’s Eastern European friends. When he first arrived, he was amazed by their courage to go up against a Western behemoth. “Now, think Steve Jobs and Apple going up against IBM.” And so Apple became their benchmark and model and inspiration.

Fearful as they were, they asked: What are the rules of the game? And the writer will not tire repeating that it is not about the rules but the principles. And to discover its import, they had to understand what the GPS is about: Where are we? Where do we want to be? How do we get there?

And the most important thing they embraced is: “To be the best in the business” – to come out of their part of the world and put them in good stead against the rest of the world.

And while they look to the writer as their “teacher,” they must discard “hierarchy” from their psyche and transform themselves into a “high-commitment team.” To imagine the organization structure as a wheel: the hub being the leadership that carries the banner of their shared purpose – to be the best in the business – with the rest of the management team making up the spokes, reinforcing the organization as the rubber hits the road.

That at the end of the day they are not a dysfunctional bureaucracy but a wheel that can run as fast as they want – and faster than the competition. And that they must develop the requisite skills to make it happen: from doing the business plans to execution to establishing the reward system to innovation and product development to demonstrating to external partners and constituencies (public and private and the end consumer) what their principles are and how they are translated into their values down to the day-to-day business practices visible to and shared by the outside world – under the banner “to be the best in the business.”

Indeed, there is the bigger community and the common good that as a good corporate citizen they must respect. Business is business is so yesterday because it cannot be the key to innovation that has defined the 21st century. Innovation is relevant so long as they respond to human needs and aspirations. And why even supposedly famous brands would prove unworthy and fall by the wayside. 

But as we would say it in the vernacular, “Hindi ma-gets ni Juan de la Cruz” because of a “triple whammy” [to borrow from Solita Collas-Monsod, Get Real, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12th Nov 2016]. But for purposes of this posting they differ from those of Ms. Monsod and are as follows: (1) Inferiority complex owing to our hierarchical or simply “bossing” culture; (2) Paternalism which we expect from one in authority – like Uncle Sam or the West in general being richer and more developed than PHL; (3) “Transparency quotient” that is underdeveloped, again, owing to our value of hierarchy.

And they explain why we love tyranny? And why ours is a culture of impunity? That is reflected in Du30’s pursuit of the war on drugs and the pivot away from the US and the West and into the arms of China/Russia?

And here’s another example that Juan de la Cruz can relate to: When one of us does something extraordinary at home or abroad, while it makes us proud and rejoice, we take it as an exception.

In other words, to us a level playing field is a notion – not a reality? And it explains our inability to have our finger on the pulse of, say, competition or even development? Because to us there is always something or someone bigger that outranks us? Rank has its privileges. And feeds a culture of impunity – ruled by political patronage and dynasties and oligarchy?

If indeed that is our psyche, how do we thrive in the 21st century that is global and highly competitive? [Brexit and the Trump Wall notwithstanding. As history tells us, empires may fall and others would rise.] And where the age of artificial intelligence appears to be rearing an ugly head?

Will unemployment become an even bigger problem? If indeed we want to stand on our own two feet, how do we get started? And would we be equipped to face the challenges of the post-industrialization era? When we have yet to figure out what industrialization means? For example, how would we develop and harness robotics if we have no industry experience and heritage?

We’re too underdeveloped that we are still debating whether we’re coming or going? That we bought into the idea that the war on drugs is priority no. 1, the rule of law be damned? How long have we been wailing about poverty, about Metro Manila traffic, about the energy crisis, etc., etc.?

Yet we couldn’t come to terms with how we blew it as our neighbors, the Asia tigers, left us in the dust. They demonstrated how it is done – from pulling together the building blocks of an economy to becoming industrialized to being competitive – yet we want to reinvent the wheel?

The one caveat for empires that applies to economic tigers as well is to strive for dynamism – e.g., neither Brexit nor the Trump Wall can undo Darwin? In the same manner that the Tea Party – that brought infamy for shutting down the US government – failed to deliver, these two more recent Western developments likewise go against the grain? Extremism whether from the left or the right has history to open their eyes? On the other hand, why did Einstein believe in a Higher Being? Ergo: creation and evolution are realities of the universe?

How about us, how do we grow up? Giving solutions to a problem we have yet to acknowledge is why we’re in a race to the bottom? We’ve blamed everyone and his uncle except Juan de la Cruz?

“Fr. Edward Dowling, SJ, a friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercisesinfluenced the 12 Steps of AA (which guide many other 12-step programs). Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or theExercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. To this Fr. Dowling said, ‘If it were twenty weeks, you could suspect improvisation. Twenty minutes sounds reasonable under the theory of divine help.’

“I recently ran across an article Fr. Dowling wrote showing the parallels between the Exercises and the 12 Steps. A sample:

“St. Ignatius starts with a presumption that our power of faculties is bound by sinful tendencies and addictions to the wrong things. The Spiritual Exercises, therefore, work on the soul in both a negative and positive way. The first section, the consideration of my sins and of their effects in hell, is the negative part. It aims by self-denial to release our wills from our binding addictions, to enable the will to desire and to choose rationally.

“The second part of the Spiritual Exercises, start in with a consideration of the Incarnation and going through the Passion and Resurrection, is an effort to see how Christ would handle various situations.

“A priest alcoholic, who has written with discernment on the Spiritual Exercises, first pointed out to me the similarity between them and the twelve steps of A.A. Bill, the founder of A.A. recognized that those twelve steps are pretty much the releasing of myself from the things that prevent my will’s choosing God as I understand Him.” []

In other words, the cure for addiction is not EJK and the trampling of the rule of law. Yet we are submitting to tyranny instead of acknowledging who and what we are? And why we behave against our self-interest?

“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, November 7, 2016

“America had lost its way”

“I heard it often, traveling around Europe as a journalist . . . ‘What is going on in the United States?’ The rest of the world already seemed to be going off the rails. It couldn’t afford to have America follow.

“I didn’t really know how to respond. I hadn’t lived in the United States since 2003, when The New York Times moved me to Beijing as a foreign correspondent, along with my wife and two kids.

“We weren’t completely cut off. Most summers, we visited family and friends in the States; the kids streamed the American shows; my wife listened to ‘Morning Edition.’

“Yet as the years passed, I realized that I had lost touch, that the country I left was no longer the same . . . I witnessed from the other side the global forces that would bring profound changes to America.

“I visited industrial regions of southern China where the ground seemed to vibrate under the weight and bustle of all the countless new factories. Once iPhones had been invented, it was Chinese workers who assembled them. I watched Bangladeshi seamstresses stitch clothes sold at Walmart. American consumers benefited from the cheaper goods, but American manufacturers did not. Between January 2000 and December 2014, the United States lost roughly five million manufacturing jobs.

“Then I moved to Rome and watched the European Union grow ineffective and paralyzed, as the dream of a vibrant, unified Europe seemed to wither. Democracy was losing ground in Hungary and the Philippines; it had all but surrendered in Russia. Syria became a slaughterhouse. The Islamic State dispatched terrorists around the world. China’s politics became more oppressive, as President Xi Jinping cracked down on dissent and nurtured a Maoist-style cult of personality. Economic globalization was supposed to accelerate political liberalization around the world, but instead authoritarianism appeared to be on the rise. The West, it seemed, had failed to anticipate the possibility that globalization could contribute to the destabilization of — or pose a threat to — democracy, even in the United States.

“Globalization may have ravaged blue-collar America, but artificial intelligence could cut through the white-collar professions in much the same way.

“Reid Hoffman [who founded LinkedIn] said the reactions to artificial intelligence range from utopian to dystopian. The utopians predict huge productivity gains and rapid advances in medicine, genetic sequencing, fighting climate change and other areas. The dystopians predict a ‘Robocalypse’ in which machines supplant people and, possibly, threaten humanity itself. ‘My point of view,’ he said, ‘is that it is a massive transformation and does really impact the future of humanity, but that we can steer it more toward utopia rather than dystopia with intelligence and diligence.’

“Either way, another major economic shift is coming, perhaps sooner than people realize. Hoffman said that many of the jobs in today’s economy will change fundamentally during the next 20 years.” [An American in a Strange Land, Jim Yardley, The New York Times, 4th Nov 2016]

As some would know, the writer (who keeps a home in the Philippines) can very well relate to the reflections of Mr. Yardley. A Filipino expatriate over the last three decades who calls the New York metro area home yet lived and worked in Eastern Europe for most of the last 13 years, and being in the eye of the storm of “globalization” – where there is a sense of calmness.

And being intimately involved with the “hows and whys” of globalization. Which would remind him of Darwin; and a conversation with Maryknoll sisters, committed to “saving the planet,” that at the end of the day, a person’s lifetime is a mere speck against the backdrop of the universe and creation and evolution.

The writer is into his senior years. And he thought he was meant to enjoy a life of leisure post-career when the call for volunteerism (post 9/11) in the US came. Had he not heeded the call, he would probably be ruing globalization today. 

Long story short, while he was called in as an “expert” to assist a group of Eastern Europeans navigate their path into the free market, even his supposed expertise would today be outmoded if he had in fact chosen a life of leisure. Education cannot cease.

Yet, experience is still the best teacher as his Eastern European friends would recognize. Says Steve Jobs: “You can’t connect the dots looking ahead, but you can when you’ve been there and done that.”

It is when man is frozen in time that the march of time – and progress – would run him over. Not surprisingly, Bill Gates espouses a “growth mindset” as distinguished from a “fixed mindset.”

Globalization is the march of time and progress; and why Darwin remains contemporaneous.

And so the writer continues to work with his Eastern European friends to sharpen their innovation and competitiveness instincts. And his greatest thrill is seeing these young people become experts in their own right. And that includes beating Western competition. 

How do these things relate to the Philippines? Have we been frozen in time? Many Americans have been frozen in time – “America had lost its way,” so says Jim Yardley.

Now some of us want socialism or communism? We know that the Communist system collapsed in Eastern Europe? Is Federalism the equivalent of Communism 2.0 and it will succeed in the Philippines – because we have an ex-priest that is socialist-leaning if not a member of the CPP that will lead the drive to federalism? The writer has many ex-socialist friends. Ex, if we know what it means – and why?

Have we spelled out the hypothesis of federalism and the requisite protocol of an experiment that will confirm the hypothesis? For example, the writer and his Eastern European friends had to spell out the hypothesis to compete and win against the world’s biggest brand in the industry and the requisite protocol of the experiment. Because their biggest risk was being gobbled up and going extinct.

And in our case, to do a “con-ass” and a referendum is not the acid test. See how confused the Brits are following the Brexit vote.

Meanwhile, how do we solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila or address PHL's energy challenge/crisis? Yet we believe we must pursue a new system of government that is alien to us? That it is the answer to our underdevelopment – and poverty?

Is that the common denominator if we benchmarked against the Asian tigers? Is this state of denial (that is, where we stand from FDI to infrastructure to a competitive industry base to good governance – the building blocks of an economy) pushing us all over the map confused as ever? Confused? FDI? What would Jesus do – with due respect to some of our religious? Recall the Good Samaritan, a foreigner, not a Jew: “Give me a drink.” Deng like Lee and Mahathir asked for it too? What planet are we from?

We know that the US chose to federalize in order to pursue the common good being once separate states? “Seeking independence from England and the British Crown, thirteen American colonies declared themselves sovereign and independent states.” [World Atlas.]

And we are going against the grain? Do we value community and the common good – more or less than “crab mentality”? Is the response to Imperial Manila more of crab mentality?

An operating principle for practitioners of “change management” says it all. Start with the familiar. Let’s solve one major problem first before we bite more than we can chew? We can’t bank on “Pinoy abilidad” because it hasn’t worked for us – being myopic at best? That we’re the regional laggard is the evidence?

Even in the private sector major structural initiatives aren't guaranteed success. Think Yahoo and how much it has unraveled! Or do we really, truly love tyranny? “He who submits to tyranny loves it,” says Rizal. That is the root of our problems! And tyranny Philippine-style like its politics is both local and national. And tyranny at either level is not the way to community and the common good! 

With due respect to our chattering classes, when will we learn to look beyond the horizon – that embracing foreign investment, for example, is not unpatriotic? We detest oligarchy yet we protect them? He who submits to tyranny loves it! In other words, tyranny is us! [Who has read about the cabinet member who asked for 150 free tickets to a musical and two pairs of designer shoes? Good governance, anyone?]

Beyond investment is technology – and know-how and forward-thinking. On the other hand, tyranny and insularity feed on each other – in a race to the bottom. If some of us are having second thoughts about Du30, is it a reminder that in a democracy we get the leadership that we deserve?

What is the endpoint of the war on drugs? That is a leadership question. Where do we want to be? How do we get there? Leadership cannot wash its hands of EJK and its criminality. Leadership is accountability! 

It is not myopic but seeks the virtuous circle. It goes beyond “inclusive” as we define it – which is akin to paternalism and populism and entitlement.

It is about growth and development. And finding our place in the sun.

But we see Du30 as the Second Coming? We’re proud to be “the only Christian nation in Asia” but are we forgetting what the First Coming is about? Summarized succinctly by Francis, “who am I to judge”?

If America had lost its way, how about Juan de la Cruz?

“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]