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]

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