Friday, December 8, 2017

Common good. Good governance. Forward-looking

“If democracy again dies in the Philippines, critics will likely blame the ignorant masses for failing either to elect leaders of proven competence and unquestioned integrity or to hold them accountable when they betray public trust. But the leadership elite—in politics and the professions, in the church and civil society, in the bureaucracy and business—will bear the heavier burden for its death.” [Development, democracy, dictatorship and RevGov, Edilberto C. de Jesus, BUSINESS MATTERS, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2nd Dec 2017; de Jesus is professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management]

The writer couldn’t say it better than that. Surprisingly, we appear to be in good company. “The world looks on in fear and astonishment, with the overpowering sense that America has become a danger to itself and the world, shortsighted, deeply divided and unwilling to consider the common good.

“The analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Tax Committee and almost all independent experts come to the same conclusion. The tax cuts will have large effects on the budget deficit and negative effects for low-income Americans. The CBO has found that healthcare measures in the bill would reduce health coverage by 13 million Americans in 2027. The Joint Tax Committee has found that the growth effects are tiny and perhaps negative in the long term, once various short-term tax incentives are phased out and the public debt increases over time.

“I am writing from Beijing, China, where forward-looking policies in infrastructure, technology and diplomacy have fueled rapid economic growth and even more remarkable technological advancement. By the mid-2020s, China will most likely lead the world in key technologies for low-carbon energy, robotics and advanced transportation, among other areas targeted in China's long-term development strategy.

“In this context, the vacuity of US economic policy is especially poignant. President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders are rushing to spend a trillion dollars or more on unaffordable tax cuts for the richest Americans in a stunning monument to brainlessness.” [The GOP's rush to tax cuts was brainless, Jeffrey Sachs, CNN, 3rd Dec 2017; Sachs is a professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University]

Being a Fil-Am, the writer can’t complain that he isn’t learning – in spades – about the common good, and about good governance and what it means to be forward-thinking and forward-looking. And especially since he covered China – and Asia and witnessed the Asian Tigers – including experiencing firsthand how the Chinese translated Deng’s mantra, “I don’t care if the cat is black of white, so long as it catches mice,” undoing Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

“The great pragmatist” is how The Guardian called Deng back in December 2008. “Though he stood at about 5ft (152cm), Deng Xiaoping was a towering figure who ended China's isolation and built an economic powerhouse.
“He opened the country to the outside world, building diplomatic ties and backing economic reforms – from the break-up of communes to the creation of special economic zones – which often seized on local initiatives.

“In 1992, Deng launched what was to be his last major initiative, embarking on his ‘southern tour’ of China to promote economic reform and entrepreneurship … He died five years later, aged 92, with the country set firmly on its capitalist course.”

The Philippines can’t change because it is proud of its culture? If China, one of the oldest civilizations can shift courses, what are we to do? Christianity and the common good and good governance shouldn’t be incompatible? Nor is to be forward-looking anathema to our faith given we believe in the afterlife?

Culture and faith have defined us. And that is why the blog does not shy away from dissecting them. And development is the law of nature. Did we not stand up against RH claiming that it goes against the law of nature? How could we rationalize the underdevelopment of Juan de la Cruz?

What gives? Sadly, we have no track record in development that we can only intellectualize what it’s about. Consider: we are playing catch up big time.

Yet … “When the senators realized that their pet insertions had reduced the expected revenues of the tax reform, they scrambled to add more revenue-raising provisions. And so you had a doubling of the documentary stamps tax, a doubling of the minerals excise tax, a tax on coal 10 to 30 times its present rate. Is that good? No. No one bothered to check what the overall impact would be. As a colleague described it: all whimsical or arbitrary, all without the benefit of complete staff work.” [‘Papa Bear,’ ‘Mama Bear,’ ‘Ice Queen,’ Solita Collas-Monsod, Get Real, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2nd Dec 2017]

See above re we're in good company. America is a danger to itself and the world, is shortsighted, deeply divided and unwilling to consider the common good.

On the other hand, given our instincts … We remain parochial and insular. We defer to hierarchy and expect paternalism in return. We very much value and rely on political patronage and dynasties, and oligarchy. More to the point, our instincts go against development, against the law of nature.

At the end of the day, we don’t want to personify Darwin’s treatise – i.e., organisms that fail to adapt go extinct. We’re the regional laggard, if no longer the sick man of Asia. And that is no comfort.

For example, can we be like China, shift courses and embrace economic reform and entrepreneurship? Not if we hold our instincts sacred? It explains why “economic reform” to Juan de la Cruz is but a broken record.

But what about entrepreneurship? Why do the Chinoys control the economy? Think deference to hierarchy and expectation of paternalism. Think value and reliance on political patronage and dynasties, and oligarchy.

Of course, over 95% of PH registered enterprises are MSMEs. But they are more livelihood undertakings that they don’t make a dent on total national income. The writer just completed his critique of the planning and budget process of his Eastern European friends.

Over the 14 years he has guided them, they have developed 9 multimillion-dollar brands and have a dozen more that are in the pipeline. Not all will be homeruns but they’re likely to have a handful of hundred-million-dollar brands on top of the multimillion-dollar ones. Their market is not local but regional, if not global. Talk about innovation and competitiveness. The latest manufacturing facility is being automated as in robotics. Yet because of constant product development and expanding global market, they have more facilities and more employees today.

They are more like our Chinoys with their entrepreneurial mindset. What is an entrepreneur anyway? “Someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced … An entrepreneur supplies risk capital as a risk taker, and monitors and controls the business activities.

“The economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) discovered that entrepreneurs: (1) greatly value self-reliance; (2) strive for distinction through excellence; (3) are highly optimistic (otherwise nothing would be undertaken) and (4) always favor challenges of medium risk (neither too easy, nor ruinous).” [Business Dictionary]
Think of our MSMEs and our oligarchy too. The latter thrives on rent-seeking and the former are inward-looking. Do we realize why the Chinoys control PH economy?

Think the common good … good governance … forward-thinking and forward-looking.

But think building-blocks first and not conflate the problems of the world with our inability to accelerate infrastructure development. Focus on infrastructure development not EJKs. Learn from Portugal.

On industrialization, don’t reinvent the wheel, build on the JFC’s efforts. For example, given agribusiness is critical, with the coconut industry affecting the greatest number and contributes roughly half of agriculture exports, we must make it world-class – and overcome its dark past, served political patronage not the farmers and the nation.

On innovation and competitiveness, get a handful of industries, like the top exports, turned into models ... not bite more than we can chew.

Unwittingly, our definition of “inclusive” perpetuates “crab mentality.” Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. The “vital few” over the “trivial many.” Or simply, Pareto!

“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]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“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]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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]

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reinventing the wheel (II)

Is it aka as “Pinoy abilidad”? Let’s start with OFW remittances. For decades, we were ecstatic that we were generating so much income – and in foreign currency to boot – while remaining underdeveloped. And we were equally proud of the land reform program to address rural poverty. And today we want federalism to enhance direct democracy and counter Imperial Manila.

Wittingly or not, we have been reinventing the wheel. Instead of moving along the development continuum – from agriculture to agribusiness to industrialization to services – like the Asian Tigers did, we rationalized and leapfrogged to a service economy as though we’re London or New York? While taking good governance for granted, even proud of the Marcos dictatorship, and today Du30?

More to the point, instead of celebrating OFW remittances as an income stream we could have embarked on industrialization. Instead of land reform and subsistence farming we could have embarked on large-scale cooperative agribusiness – with a portfolio of products that will win in the global market, i.e., think of our neighbors that left us behind in agribusiness. Instead of jeepney modernization we could have embarked on infrastructure development, if we had the foresight. And instead of federalism, we could have dismantled political patronage and dynasties, and oligarchy.

Has any of the Asian Tigers attributed their success to federalism? Yet we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater? And precisely because we took the wrong turn at the fork, we are today the regional laggard.

How different is our mindset today from what it was 30, 40, 50 years or even 100 years ago? As the blog has discussed, we personify the “fixed mindset” when progress, growth and development comes from a “growth mindset.”

But we want to reinvent the wheel for the umpteenth time? “There are two important reasons converting unitary Philippines into a federal country is insensible. One is the current poor state of the country’s political development. The Philippines is beset by widespread corruption, not only at the national level, but more so at the local level. The governing class is oligarchic; the country continues to be governed by 100 or so families.

“There is widespread inefficiency, as evidenced by long-unsolved traffic problems; long delayed infrastructure project execution; poor-performing bureaucracies, including the police; poor public education system; long-delayed justice system; prevailing selfishness of members of Congress; and many more. All these are strong impediments to sustainable economic growth.

“If the present national government cannot deal effectively with these poor conditions, how is it possible for the governments of the designated inexperienced federal states to deal with them in a better way?

“Would splitting the country into federal states turn government personnel into becoming more skillful and efficient? Would government systems and processes at federal and state levels become more efficient and effective? Would corruption be substantially reduced? Would oligarchy disappear? Would legislators be less selfish? These developments are highly unlikely.

“The other important reason is the widely uneven economic development of the various Philippine regions. NCR, Region III, and Region IVA generate about 63% of the country’s GDP, while having only 39% of the population.

“The fundamental premise of the proposed federalism is for each designated state to drive its own development with the expectation that the poorer regions will achieve accelerated economic growth and be at par with other regions. How can that be achieved under the current widely uneven economic development of the various regions?

“Without substantial money transfers, the economic gap between the rich states and poor states will become much wider and, thus, will drive a massive population shift. On the other hand, if substantial money transfers are made, then the fundamental underlying principle of federalism will become irrelevant. Moreover, such money transfers will only make it clear to the rich states the magnitude of the amount of wealth they are forgoing and may try to hold them back and, thus, create serious disputes.” [Federalism revisited, Benjamin R. Punongbayan, BusinessWorld, 30th Nov 2017]

As the blog has argued, it is about community and the common good which is undermined from the get-go by our instincts: of parochialism and insularity; deferring to hierarchy and expecting paternalism in return; valuing and relying on political patronage and dynasties, and oligarchy.

In other words, we must abandon “crab mentality” and instead create the ecosystem of development via its building blocks – from infrastructure development to industrialization to innovation and competitiveness. [Where are our architects and engineers? As kids if we played tinker toys – before today’s LEGO – we knew how to build a structure from the ground up!]

If we cannot, we can kiss progress, growth and development good bye not only for this generation but for succeeding ones too. Let’s not bury our head in the sand!

“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]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“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]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

After 41 years, we must step up to the plate

Given the history between our hosting the IMF meeting decades ago and the Asean meeting this year, should we take stock of where we are? We must not continue to mess things up, be in a race to the bottom?

Forty-one years is over a generation. And because we are today the regional laggard, the least we can do is commit not to replay this forgettable period? We know the words. Reform. Change. Paradigm shift.

Yet to refashion Juan de la Cruz seems too remote. Even Rizal expressed doubts. “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 like to talk about TRAIN. The 3rd telecom. The war on drugs. Du30 even boasted that he will resign if he can’t win the war on drugs. To change paradigm, we must toss the idea of a silver bullet. Remember OFW remittances? Land reform? Or is Bongbong the next silver bullet?

The idea behind the blog came in 2008 in response to friends who asked the writer to share his worldview and how he saw PH against the rest of the world. Looking from the outside in by a Pinoy could offer an altogether different perspective. Says Enzo Ferrari, “You cannot describe passion, you can only live it.”

Some have asked how the writer could know Juan de la Cruz when he has lived overseas for 30 years. Beyond his annual visits following his retirement, he is Juan de la Cruz personified. He talks about himself when he beats up on Juan de la Cruz.

He is parochial and insular. He defers to hierarchy and expects paternalism in return. He values and relies on political patronage and dynasties and oligarchy. He even worked for a subsidiary owned by an oligarchy for 8 years.

He was even Juan Tamad. He was voted least likely to succeed by his high school classmates. He was a lazy student.

Still, people develop. Companies develop. And countries develop too. And why the post quotes Ferrari. The writer lived through all three. His old MNC company had to change paradigm when it became a takeover target. It had to sell over 100 businesses, cut revenues by 50% and then rebuilt them up twice as much … and again twice as much during his stint.

At the top 10 subsidiaries, they hired “change agents.” And the Philippines being one of them, the writer was brought in to challenge the status quo. And when he moved to headquarters he changed the budgeting process of a 200-year old company – from finance-driven to goal alignment.

Yet it wasn’t a slam dunk. He first introduced it to the Asia region and as it gained momentum, it would not escape the notice of the President who then asked the CEO to have the writer present the model to the senior-most team of the company.

And as the group signaled its buy-in, turning it into a key company process was a matter of course. And it meant getting it into the company’s core education and training curriculum mandated for all managers to undergo.

He was also part of the taskforce that created the education and training curriculum to support the company’s people development and succession planning initiatives. It’s current CEO and those under consideration to become the next one came out of the exercise.

But then again, every time change occurred, it was from collaborative efforts that came together behind a desired, shared outcome than the singular work of one individual.

And the same applies in the case of his Eastern European friends and how they grew from a small, losing proposition to today, a giant killer and one of the best enterprises in the EU. And the writer covered the Asia region when the Asian Tigers were demonstrating to the world the journey from poverty to prosperity.

In other words, we Pinoys must live out development, not just talk about it. To those of us that have only access to the power of the pen, let’s bird-dog key players in both the public and private sectors. Let’s not be part of the problem. Challenge the status quo, not protect, preserve and defend the very ways that have caused us infamy. Recall my loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to the country begins.

As they say in the West, everything must be on the table. Problem-solving cannot be ideologically driven. Even socialism has failed. There is no perfect system – so let’s not debate ideology. Ideology can never be the posture. Even the draw of holier-than-thou must not entice and rule us. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God which are God’s.

Not even expertise. Recall how Nobel prize winners brought shame to their discipline. At the end of the day, it is about community and the common good. And the financial crisis cum Great Recession of 2008 – that the world is yet to fully overcome as evidenced by the political absolutism it is witnessing from the Brexit to Trump to Germany’s struggle to form a coalition government – comes to mind.

To quote from an earlier posting, “It is about the ecosystem. As the new UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) have articulated, it is imperative that: (a) we are unequivocal in accelerating infrastructure development; (b) be laser-like in our focus on industrialization, not be at the mercy of political patronage and oligarchy; and (c) dogged in the pursuit of innovation and competitiveness.”

Instead of the war on drugs, we must pursue the war on accelerating infrastructure development. If Du30 does his homework, no war on drugs was ever a success. The only one that can approximate success is the Portugal experience that decriminalized drugs and championed rehabilitation.

Instead of messing up with the form of government, we must have some committed group that will work with government to accelerate infrastructure development. But even that group must pledge to a change in paradigm. “Pinoy abilidad” cannot be the model.

For example, it must do its homework to develop a “growth mindset” and overcome a “fixed mindset.” It must develop several hypotheses and test each one. The first hypothesis must be derived from an outside model like the Asian Tigers so that we don’t keep reinventing the wheel. Which explains why we’re the regional laggard.

And instead of responding to populism, the group must demonstrate foresight and learn to employ Pareto’s principle. We cannot be everything to everybody. Which is what “crab mentality” is about.

A similar exercise must be done in the pursuit of industrialization. And its north star must simply be: not to be at the mercy of political patronage and oligarchy. Whatever happened to the JFC’s initiative, or the seven big industry winners?

And then do another one to drive innovation and competitiveness. First, we must toss leader-dependency. And innovation and competitiveness goes beyond attacking the yardsticks of competitiveness. We can start with the top exports and their support industries. Where there is momentum and mass and weight there is energy and power. And the effort must be to develop products and/or services that will find a wide international market.

We’ve heard it before: keep moving up the value chain not for pricing per se but to respond to the hierarchy of human needs, raise man’s well-being and attain a sustainable enterprise. For example, in today’s fast-paced world, convenience is central because people want to have a life. Again, looking outward will give us a better worldview instead of reinventing the wheel.

The common thread of the above exercises is to define where we want to be. It is not about the universal 7%-GDP growth. That is too narrow. It is about development. We must talk building blocks not a silver bullet. The latter has been misunderstood as equating to the imperative of focus. Yet when it comes to the industry road maps, we want to bite more than we can chew? Model thinking can clarify the power of purpose and distinguish it from building blocks and sets and subsets, or the vital few from the trivial many. 

After 41 years, we must figure out how we don’t instinctively replicate the last 41 years.

“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]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“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]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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 20, 2017

“We owe it to ourselves”

That’s a quote from Boo Chanco: “Competitiveness,” DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 16th Nov 2017. “Our ASEAN hosting showed we are capable of delivering better. I have no doubt we have competitiveness in the ASEAN region, if we put our best minds to it. Tourism, infrastructure, peace and order… we can and should do better. We owe it to ourselves.”

Does it bring back memories of the 1976 IMF meeting in Manila when we supposedly established the Philippines as a world-class convention center? Forty-one years later we’re still about can and should?

“[I]n an industry like tourism where we should have natural competitive advantage, we trail our neighbors in ASEAN. Vietnam has overtaken us. Vietnam has a tourism promotions budget of $5.3 million vs our $50 million, yet produces eight million visitors to our 5.4 million.” [Chanco, op. cit.]

Recall the blog has repeatedly talked about an ecosystem. There is no shortcut in development nor is there a silver bullet. We must, if we are to borrow from education reform, develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight.

But first and foremost, we must toss “crab mentality” and learn about community and the common good. Sadly, Juan de la Cruz isn’t predisposed to internalize the power of purpose. And in our case, it is about development. The sense of purpose is not on our radar screen, not in our psyche.

It is even embarrassing that we appropriate advertising as a core competency: it doesn’t mean spending $50 million in promotion per se and why Vietnam attracts more visitors. Boo discussed the building blocks of tourism and we are wanting in all respects other than our God-given natural beauty.

Indeed, we owe it to ourselves. And that means we must pull our respective weights and demand that enough is enough. And it must start with every one of us. And that’s the first challenge and why the blog constantly raises who and what we are. If we don’t know Juan de la Cruz, how are we to face the world?

We are parochial and insular … we defer to hierarchy and expect paternalism in return … we value and rely on political patronage and dynasties … and oligarchy. The bottom line: we have yet to develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight.

As the blog has stressed, democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet because of our instincts of leader-dependency, we cede absolute power to our leaders as if we haven’t learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We create and deserve the leadership that we get.

And do we want the Chinese and the Russians to do as we do? And the Americans too? How could we – compared to the rest of the world – overrate leaders that take the rule of law for granted? Does it explain our culture of impunity? Because we like to look around to pin the blame on another?

The writer has pointed to the church as a great influence on Juan de la Cruz and referenced Padre Damaso to make the point – of subservience. Yet, speaking to a young person that went to an Opus Dei school in Manila, it was refreshing to know that millennials indeed have a mind of their own. Opus “dehins” is how they acknowledge their education.

And more to the point, Francis himself doesn’t reflect the conservative wing of the Curia. People can and do change, as the writer himself has witnessed with his Eastern European friends. But then again, Jesus Christ was a progressive – “Crucify him ... Crucify him” – and embraced sinners and the lowly peasants and fishermen. He who is first is last, and he who is last is first.

But that’s anathema to the Philippine elite – where our leaders come from. Political dynasties given the power they wield – aka patronage – and oligarchy are two sides of the same coin. And we all fall in line behind one or the other if not both. Indeed, we owe it to ourselves.

Sadly, if we don’t have a good handle on development, chances are we can’t develop the 6th sense demanded by innovation and competitiveness. And leader-dependency in fact undermines innovation from the get-go. But we still need to wrap our head around that.

As some would know, the writer introduced his Eastern European friends to the challenge of innovation and competitiveness 14 years ago, a carryover from his MNC days – and competed globally for decades.

And for us Pinoys, there is another piece that brings about a double whammy: Logic, as the blog has discussed – which in Western higher education is likewise a dilemma – is overrated when it connotes linear and incremental thinking.

Think IBM and GE, even P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser. These once blue-chip enterprises – e.g., IBM holds the most patents in the world – today no longer carry the aura that earned them Wall Street’s absolute respect.

Yet we Pinoys in our heart of hearts believe that we are smarter than our neighbors? Do we wonder why we’re the regional laggard? It is not about smarts but to be outward-looking so that we learn from others and don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

As he writes, the writer and wife and family friends from the Philippines are in Italy on holiday. Talk about tourism. The group’s preference is to stay in B&B’s (Bed & Breakfast.) They are warmer than typical hotels, more homey, relaxing and pleasant.

And there appears a common thread among European B&Bs. Obviously, they attract lots and lots of visitors being developed countries – on top of their storied histories. And – surprise, surprise – infrastructure sets these B&Bs for success whether in Italy, France, Switzerland or Spain.

It is not atypical for a B&B to be owned and operated by a husband and wife team. And it is not a walk in the park. They need a great location, acquired at the right price and then turned into an ideal B&B – which makes for competitive advantage but a price, a 24/7 grind (including baking bread and pastries for breakfast) at least 7 months of the year, or what they call high season.

In one case, a retired couple fixed the inherited parents’ home. They were not wealthy, the woman worked in a garment factory. And to augment their retirement pensions, the income from the B&B was a necessity.

It is about the ecosystem. As the new UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) have articulated, it is imperative that: (a) we are unequivocal in accelerating infrastructure development; (b) be laser-like in our focus on industrialization, not be at the mercy of political patronage and oligarchy; and (c) dogged in the pursuit of innovation and competitiveness.

It is about development. It is not about the war on poverty or the war on drugs. It is not even about dictatorship which we tried before. Remember Marcos? We lag our neighbors as the last 50 years have demonstrated and have yet to come to terms with reality. Remember the times that try men's soul?

There is no shortcut in development. There is no silver bullet. But we cannot develop an ecosystem if we don’t develop a growth mindset and hone our foresight. We shall remain shortsighted otherwise. And be ruled by “crab mentality” – that empowers dictatorship – instead of community and the common good.

“Why independence, if the slaves of today's 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]

Now I know why Paul dared to speak of ‘the curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.” [Faith and Science, Open to Change, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 23rd Oct 2017]

“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]

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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]