Saturday, November 5, 2016

Looking beyond the horizon and owning up

As we grapple with the Duterte enigma, are we witnessing two characteristics that are defining Juan de la Cruz? (1) Do we look beyond the horizon? (2) Do we own our growth and development?

Think Darwin: grow and develop or go extinct?

Let’s start with power or energy. Senate flags DOE’s ‘weak, sketchy energy plan,’ Myrna Velasco, Manila Bulletin, 17th Oct 2016. Haven't we had this challenge/crisis since God knows when? How can we imagine a nation unable to address something so basic? Did we fear that investing in energy will mean a higher electricity bill for Juan de la Cruz? So inaction is the way to go? And just let oligarchy laugh their way to the bank? Which is our definition of nationalism and patriotism? How can we ever square that?

Not looking beyond the horizon. Will that explain why infrastructure development has lagged in PHL, a pretty glaring exception when we look around the region? And because we lag in infrastructure, we can’t imagine making the JFC’s 7 industry winners a reality? And so tourism, especially gambling, is “pwede na ‘yan”?

But there are the new investment pledges from China? Does it sound like an old song? How many such pledges have we had and why are we still the regional laggard? And that is why the title of this posting is “Looking beyond the horizon and owning up.”

The blog has argued that “Pinoy abilidad” won’t cut it; it is reactive not proactive? Is proactive or forward-looking not in our psyche? [It brings to mind the writer’s Eastern European friends; see below.] And our reliance on OFW remittances and more recently the BPO industry clearly illustrates the point.

From “daang matuwid” we moved to the “war on drugs” – and if the two share something in common, they are reflective of our myopia? That is to say, “ecosystem” is never front and center of the national agenda? It takes a vision to pull together and create an ecosystem that equates to a virtuous circle. And which would characterize a developed economy and nation.

And we can start with the building blocks of: (a) infrastructure and (b) a handful of industries like the JFC’s 7 industry winners.

Of course our woes go beyond them. For instance, “daang matuwid” and the “war on drugs” both claim to address corruption that is endemic in PHL. But let’s dissect that.

If we imagine the characteristics of more developed nations, good governance is a given. And where does good governance come from? For instance, South Korea has indicated that they are monitoring the Duterte war on drugs – because 300,000 Koreans call the Philippines home. Because in South Korea corruption in the bureaucracy being at the root of the drug problem is unthinkable. And the rule of law is supreme.

How can good governance be a given? Try character or the honor system. In other words, how can Juan de la Cruz become synonymous to integrity, uprightness, rectitude, for example. That means doing away with the “paki system” or the sense of entitlement? That community and the common good is paramount!

We Pinoys are not home-bound. We travel and travel a lot, and over 10 million of us are OFWs. We must know that the label “regional laggard” is well-deserved?

Sadly, we can’t seem to own up? And when push comes to shove we look up to heaven – our version of “inshallah”? Yet as a priest-columnist articulated, “God helps those who help themselves.”

It’s a cop-out to blame everyone and his uncle. We love our parents and as we grow and develop, chances are, we would gain the maturity to recognize that parents aren’t perfect. This parent is absolutely not perfect.

The writer and wife over the weekend decided to take a tour of Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, the capital. And for the umpteenth time we heard another version of its history. It is a very old country yet still smarting from underdevelopment. Who should they blame?

From Wikipedia: “The earliest evidence of human occupation discovered on what is today Bulgaria date from at least 1.4 million years ago.

“After reaching its apogee in the 1230s, Bulgaria started to decline due to a number of factors, most notably its geographic position which rendered it vulnerable to simultaneous attacks and invasions from many sides.

“By 1396, they were subjugated by the Ottoman Empire. Following the elimination of the Bulgarian nobility and clergy by the Turks, Bulgaria entered an age of oppression, intellectual stagnation and misgovernment that would leave its culture shattered and isolated from Europe for the next 500 years.

“After World War II, Bulgaria became a Communist state . . . for a period of 35 years. Bulgaria's economic advancement during the era came to an end in the 1980s, and the collapse of the Communist system in Eastern Europe marked a turning point for the country's development. A series of crises in the 1990s left much of Bulgaria's industry and agriculture in shambles, although a period of relative stabilization began . . . in 2001. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.”

And from the US State Department website: “2013 Investment Climate Statement - Bulgaria has a favorable foreign investment regime, including low, flat corporate and income taxes. Promising sectors for foreign investors include: information technology, telecommunications, environmental technology (including water and waste water infrastructure), biomass, agriculture (including beverage/processed foods industry), and other sectors related to infrastructure development. European Union integration has opened new markets for Bulgarian-produced goods and services.

“Bulgaria’s workforce is generally well-educated and the cost of labor is the lowest in the EU. The judicial system suffers from high caseloads and frequent delays. There are no general limits on foreign ownership, or control of firms, nor means of screening or restricting foreign investment in Bulgaria. Foreign firms are not denied national treatment and there are no significant reports of discrimination against foreign investors. There are no requirements that nationals own shares of foreign investment and no laws authorizing firms to limit foreign investment.

“The country’s geographic position places it at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. A stable U.S. ally, Bulgaria is a member of NATO, the EU, and the WTO. Although the government has demonstrated political will to root out corruption and organized crime, Bulgaria’s corruption record remains problematic according to Transparency International (TI). TI’s Corruption Perception Index for 2012 ranked Bulgaria 75th out of 176 countries surveyed, up 11 places compared to 2011, but still putting Bulgaria only ahead of Greece among EU members for perceived corruption.

“In 2012, the state-owned electricity company continued to struggle to pay its arrears to power producers, including those owned by foreign investors. The state threatened to renegotiate long-term power purchase agreements that were signed several years ago. For the third consecutive year, Bulgaria revised policies for bringing renewable energy power producers online and compensating them, causing many foreign investors’ concern about an unpredictable regulatory environment.”

But the Bulgarians won’t take corruption and government ineptness sitting down anymore. In July 2014 they forced the resignation of the Oresharski government (a coalition between Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms) via daily protests described as being among the most massive in Bulgaria’s recent history. [Wikipedia]

And given they know the reality of gulags firsthand, what could they have told the writer about Du30?

As a latecomer to the free world, they opted for a “favorable foreign investment regime.” And not surprisingly, Bulgaria’s accumulated FDI is just a shade behind the Philippines – even when its population is a mere fraction, less than 7%.

Still, like us, they have their own problems with the US visa requirement.

From Sofia News Agency: “Bulgaria has formally fulfilled the last requirement for the removal of US visas for Bulgarian citizens.

“The draft intergovernmental agreement between Bulgaria and US on exchanging information on targeted terrorism surveillance, approved by Bulgaria's government on Wednesday, creates a legal framework for bilateral exchange of information with a view to preventing terrorism.

“The agreement is part of the preparations for Bulgaria's inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

“The formal completion of the requirements, however, does not mean that the US visa requirement for Bulgarian citizens will be removed soon. According to publications in Bulgarian-language media, there is another obstacle – the share of visa refusals must go below 3% for the preceding fiscal year. Currently it is 19%.

In other words, just like us, Bulgarians indulge in “TNT.”

Clearly we are better in some respects compared to Bulgaria but is it about time we do an “examination of conscience” lest we find ourselves uncompetitive and in decline versus the rest of the world?

Recall “the world is flat,” so man claimed – because he had yet to look beyond the horizon?

“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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