Sunday, April 30, 2017

Nation building and the rule of law

Rule of law is the rock that the wise man builds upon. While the foolish man builds upon the sand. [Mathew 7:26-27] In other words, the war on drugs is foolish not wise; if we still haven’t figured it out? Because it undermines the rule of law. It is tyrannical.

“The history of growth should be all about recessions,” The Economist, 8th Apr 2017. ‘THROUGHOUT history, poverty is the normal condition of man,’ wrote Robert Heinlein, a science-fiction writer.

“Until the 18th century, global GDP per person was stuck, around the same income level as the World Bank’s current poverty line of $1.90 a day. But global income levels per person have since accelerated, from around $1,100 in 1800 to $3,600 in 1950, and over $10,000 today.

“Economists have long tried to explain this sudden surge in output. Most theories have focused on the factors driving long-term economic growth such as the quantity and productivity of labor and capital . . . But a new paper [Growing, Shrinking and Long Run Economic Performance: Historical Perspectives on Economic Development, by Stephen Broadberry of Oxford University and John Wallis of the University of Maryland] takes a different tack: faster growth is not due to bigger booms, but to less shrinking in recessions.

“To their surprise, they found that growth during years of economic expansion has fallen in the recent era . . . even though average growth across all years in those two periods increased . . . [S]horter and shallower slumps led to rising long-term growth. Output fell in a third of years between 1820 and 1870 but in only 12% of those since 1950. The rate of decline per recession year has fallen too . . . In another paper the same authors find that conventional explanations—such as demographic change or a sectoral shift from volatile agriculture to the more stable services sector—do not fully explain the shift.

“More important is the rise of the rule of law, enabling disputes to be settled by impartial courts. Before the modern era, elites would fight between themselves for the spoils of growth and send the economy back to square one through wars, corruption and the like. Respect for courts to resolve disputes prevents this from happening.”

But we have a model in Davao. That speaks volumes, a confirmation of our insularity. We must raise our aspirations and imagine and visualize a true model. And we don’t have to go far. The Asian Tigers are a model to the world, but not to Juan de la Cruz? As some would know, Davao is near and dear to the heart of the writer. He still takes the family for visits when they are in the Philippines. And tells stories from the 18 months he lived and worked in Davao, including logging camps and where he learned what colleagues in the industry called “jungle management.” It was handy for his stint in the “jungle” of New York. 

What about Dutertenomics? The war on drugs undermines Dutertenomics. It is premised on a judgment call – of evil – while the latter is premised on good. And why Francis very profoundly asks, who am I to judge. On the other hand, our ambivalence or reluctance to call out the war on drugs for what it is reveals our hierarchical and paternalistic instincts.

More to the point, EJK is meant to instill fear, not the imperative of community and the common good. Community and the common good is the predicate of the rule of law that we Pinoys have yet to internalize. And to borrow from Franciscan theology, EJK is dualism and binary. Meaning, that the creator is a judgmental God, not a God of love. We don’t see it because tyranny is us as Rizal puts it.

Would we Pinoys be surprised that the US Chief Justice is indeed fine-grained? “U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts took issue on Wednesday with the Trump administration’s stance in an immigration case, saying it could make it too easy for the government to strip people of citizenship for lying about minor infractions.” [U.S. chief justice alarmed at Trump administration immigration case stance, Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 27th Apr 2017]

In other words, security doesn’t mean “building a wall” if America hasn’t taken down the Statue of Liberty yet. The world hasn’t totally recovered from the 2008 Great Recession, and America must not forget the role of greed, fear and oligarchs that brought it about. It undermined American exceptionalism that it cannot then flirt with the beginning of its end by turning its back on its ideals. Not surprisingly, there is an effort to impeach Trump. And weren’t we Pinoys among those that blamed the West for their greed?

But let's get back to the Philippines. Recall that from as far back as 1952 – and it’s now the 21st century – we have been fixated by subsistence farming while our neighbors (the latest being Vietnam despite suffering from the Vietnam War) continued to progress, to scale and specialization. It is one of the imperatives in the journey from poverty to prosperity postulated by the course of the same title at Oxford University. 

Again, it speaks volumes: after decades, we remain underdeveloped and poverty makes us confuse paternalism for compassion. Not surprisingly, we endure building upon the sand. 

Recall The ACCFA Financing Program. In recognition of the strategic position occupied by our farmers in the social structure and economic development of the country, the Congress of the Philippines in 1952 enacted Republic Act 821. This law established a system of liberal credit which is specially designed to meet the needs of the small farmer.

And there’s more to it. “The goal of rice self-sufficiency has been the hallmark of all presidents since the creation of the NFA, from Ferdinand E. Marcos to Benigno S. Aquino III. Oddly, while growth in the agricultural sector declined, a 97-percent self-sufficiency in rice was achieved.

“In effect, this attention-getting but short-sighted policy only permanently jacked up domestic prices above the world levels . . . The gradually increasing food prices, especially rice, can explain the higher inflation rate this year. This price increase affects the poor household consumers particularly, since a substantial proportion of their incomes is spent on food, especially rice. 

“Because of the high cost of production, most of the rice farmers purchase some of their daily rice needs in the markets, and so, they too are adversely affected by this policy . . . The role of the DA is, therefore, to determine the products that are highly demanded in other countries that we can produce here at a lower cost. We may have the advantage in producing certain tropical fruits and vegetables and fish, which are in high demand in other countries.

“Like all industrialized countries, export earnings from agriculture and fishery, as well as earnings from industry and services, can provide us the means to import food for our daily needs.” [Self-sufficiency in rice policy leads to economic slowdown and poverty,Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr., Eagle Watch, Business Mirror, 27th Apr 2017]

But Dutertenomics is build, build, build. We know about the Greece bankruptcy. Build, build, build does not get to the root of our structural problems. Which Greece likewise took for granted. The Greeks awed the world with their 21st century infrastructure system that greeted the athletes to the 2004 Olympics. To be sure, Greece has had structural problems that were magnified by the enormity of their Olympic debt. Awed the writer was when he explored Athens via their Metro. How liberating compared to the New York subway system!

PH has its own structural problems if we go by the metrics that the world applauds in the Asian Tigers. For example, we take pride in our demographics – that PH is in a sweet spot – given the size of our millennials compared to our seniors. And that we have an ATM machine in our backyard represented by over 10 million OFWs.

Yet we are missing what fueled the Asian Tigers, i.e., exports and rapid industrialization. And that they shared common characteristics that include: (a) a focus on exports, (b) an educated populace and (c) high savings rates. More to the point, while we rely on oligarchy and the over 10 million OFWs, the collective wealth of our billionaires won’t approximate the FDIs our neighbors have amassed and the exports they generate.

Build. Build. Build. Yes, we must. But upon the rock not the sand. And why the rule of law. Ignore it at our peril.
Now we want to pursue security via arms and soldiers and the stockpiling of food? Think of the USSR or North Korea or Iraq or Libya. InDnipropetrovsk (Ukraine) the USSR had a space center, imagine NASA's Houston but underground, that housed a force of 10,000 and so designed to protect it from aerial attack. But people know more about the Chernobyl disaster if not the bread crisis and the rioting that killed countless. And today, Ukraine remains underdeveloped.

With our GDP per capita at such an underdeveloped level, we believe we’re the wiser to think security but not the rule of law? It’s called banana republic.

“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]

“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, April 25, 2017

Tyranny is us

Are our public servants seriously promoting competition and innovation? What about the ones undermining the PPP to ensure their LGUs – and then some – get a piece of the action? Are our instincts at work again? The brain compartmentalizes when it isn’t predisposed to step up to the plate.

Consider how the mind plays tricks. The writer saw the poverty in India during the decade he covered it, yet it took a New York visitor to make him recognize our own poverty. He wanted the beauty of Taal to be the conversation piece, where he brought the friend; but it was the pervasive poverty that he saw – from the moment his plane was to land at MIA – that struck a chord.

Now recall how we promoted OFW-related efforts only to realize they weren’t the answer to poverty! Nor was land reform and, by extension, neither was subsistence farming. We need to go back to the foolish man that built upon the sand if we’re missing the perspective. [Matthew 7:26-27]

The writer grew up with Namarco, where the prices of rice and groceries were lower, and Accfa, where he visited an uncle. “The ACCFA Financing Program. In recognition of the strategic position occupied by our farmers in the social structure and economic development of the country, the Congress of the Philippines in 1952 enacted Republic Act 821. This law established a system of liberal credit which is specially designed to meet the needs of the small farmer.” [That’s how the Government website explains Accfa.]

Note that’s decades ago. It is not for lack of trying but are we any better today? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And has our mindset changed? But Duterte is getting lots of investment pledges; and we’re on to something. Media must do its homework. For example, Singapore has over a trillion dollars in FDI and Vietnam despite a late entrant to the world community has more with $115-B against our $63-B. There is reality and there is reality.

Today we have the NFA and it equates to food security. But consider the Singapore model: Singapore grows only 7 percent of its food, having decided long ago that its land has more profitable uses. In the 1980s, it began dispatching its pig farms to outlying Indonesian islands . . . which still supplies Singapore with pork. The government has invested $380 million in agricultural projects in Australia, and it is renting land in China to build itself a farm double the area of Singapore itself. [How Singapore Is Creating More Land for Itself, Samanth Subramanian, The New York Times Magazine, 20th Apr 2017]

Security is about economics – as the USSR (where the bread crisis began its fall) learned rather belatedly – even if security has a nice ring to it . . . and is compelling and will catch the attention of Juan de la Cruz.

Not surprisingly, both Lee and Mahathir told Deng to beg for Western money and technology, if China were to lift its people from poverty; and it doesn’t mean embracing the West. Why is that so hard for us Pinoys to figure out? Because we cannot imagine and visualize prosperity. “Pinoy abilidad” is incremental thinking. Would Steve Jobs have invented the iPhone if he thought likewise? Or think Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

The blog constantly speaks to “benchmarking.” Benchmarking is about learning from others. Ditto for growth and development. The fact that we allowed ourselves to become the regional laggard instead of demonstrating an honest-to-goodness effort to benchmark against our neighbors speaks volumes: Tyranny shall always rule PH because insularity paves the way for political patronage and oligarchy to make a puppet of the levers of institution- and nation-building. Is that a shame or what?

To paraphrase The Economist (8th Apr 2017), the history of growth is not fully explained by demographic change or the shift from agriculture to services. Contradicting the PH sweet-spot notion and reliance on OFWs. More important is the rise of the rule of law. Before the modern era, elites would fight for the spoils of growth and send the economy back to square one.

If our legislators and bureaucracy truly want a culture of innovation and competition, we must ask if in fact it demands the instincts of community and the common good. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. How would that square with our reality where seeking and bestowing political patronage is a matter of course?

Let’s not jump the gun on the mechanics or the how-to when our worldview or philosophy reflects a stubborn static state. Do we need an epiphany, of Juan de la Cruz waking up one morning and finding himself a dynamic being?

Think of the Creator or Francis and the Franciscan theology: The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries –  like conservative or progressive, for example – and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. Evolution and development is not evil but God-given and inherent in creation.

But let’s get back to innovation: “Proposed Innovation Act for third reading approval when Senate returns from break,” Lucia Edna P. de Guzman, BusinessWorld, 20th Apr 2017.

“The Philippine Innovation Act will be the driving force behind a Philippine innovation renaissance over the next few decades. It is a smart investment we need to make today in order to secure the bright high-income future of the Philippines.

“The main objective of the measure is to generate action from the stages of education and training to development, in order to promote innovation and internationalization activities of micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which it identified as a driver of sustainable and inclusive growth.”

Ever heard of the Philippine Competition Commission? Here is what their website says: “The Philippine Competition Commission aims to be a world-class authority in promoting fair market competition to help achieve a vibrant and inclusive economy and advance consumer welfare.

“The Philippine Competition Commission shall prohibit anti-competitive agreements, abuses of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions. Sound and efficient market regulation by the PCC will result in markets that foster innovation, global competitiveness, and enhanced consumer choice, thereby improving public welfare.

“PCC institutes a regulatory environment for competition in the marketplace to: Protect consumers by giving them more choice over goods and services at lower prices in the market, and; Promote competitive businesses, large or small, that will in turn encourage economic efficiency and innovation in the country.

“A stable fair playing field is expected to result in greater interest among foreign investors, which in turn would lead to an expansion of the market, and opening global opportunities for Filipino companies, big or small.”

But then, consider this Press Release from the PCC dated April 19, 2017: “PCC asks SC to lift CA injunction blocking review of P69.1-B telco deal.

“The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) filed a petition before the Supreme Court . . . to annul the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals 12th Division restraining PCC’s review of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Globe Telecom, Inc.’s P69.1-billion joint acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets in May last year. 

“PCC lamented the CA’s disregard of the public interest involved in the review of the competition concerns arising from the telco deal.

“In its petition, PCC said ‘[a]ny court, acting by its best lights, would have easily determined from the outset that the public interest promoted by PCC’s review of the Acquisition should never be subordinated to any supposed urgency and necessity to grant injunctive relief against speculative business losses and transient commercial inconveniences.’ 

‘How [the CA] ended up according paramount importance to protecting dominant industry players from these alleged losses and inconveniences over the State’s duty of ensuring the consumer welfare of millions of Filipinos remains a mystery,’ the petition added.

“[T]here has been widespread clamor from various stakeholders for the agency to exercise its mandate to review the transaction. Consumer interest groups and business organizations such as the Joint Foreign Chambers Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry have expressed their concerns over the potentially pernicious effects of the deal.”

The bottom line: We want to claim we believe in competition . . . and innovation . . . and want to rewrite the Constitution . . . but are we the first ones to insist on our way of life a.k.a. “Pinoy kasi”? Remember Einstein? He calls it insanity! Especially us, the chattering classes, well-perched in the exclusiveness of our world – that we submit to tyranny too. Tyranny is us.

“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]

“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]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Culture of impunity will sink us deeper

The writer’s flight from Warsaw was on its approach to Sofia when this article caught his attention. “Why has Serbia returned to its old belligerent habits? In addition to its collaboration with Russia, it has never dealt properly with its genocidal past. Serbia remains unwilling to deal with the war crimes of the Milosevic regime, with which many of Serbia’s current nationalist leaders were associated. Their denials of responsibility for war crimes in Kosovo only entrench a culture of impunity, which in turn encourages Serbia to increase its military power, defy any European integration path and fulfill its role as Russia’s advance guard.” [Kosovo Feels Russia’s Heavy Hand, via Serbia, Enver Hoxhaj, The New York Times, 13th Apr 2017]

As some would know, the writer has lived and worked both in America and the region that was once known as the Eastern Bloc – comprised of Soviet-satellite states – and can relate to both systems and cultures that represented the opposing sides of the cold war. And currently doing business in both, assisting his Eastern European friends.

And while from a Pinoy perspective the above story sounds foreign, CJ Panganiban would remind us of one of our own. “Supreme Court on Marcos,” Artemio V. Panganiban, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16th Apr 2017. “On Feb. 26, I discussed the case of Estate of Marcos vs Republic (Jan. 18, 2017), which labelled as ill-gotten and forfeited in favor of the State the ‘pieces of jewelry known as the MalacaƱang Collection.’

“Plundering regime. I also pointed to two other cases: 1) Republic vs Sandiganbayan, (July 15, 2003) which forfeited $658,175,373.60 in Swiss banks, and 2) Marcos Jr. vs Republic (April 25, 2012) which forfeited $3,369,975 ‘as of 1983.’

“Readers (notably, some history teachers) asked: Apart from these, were there other decisions showing how Ferdinand Marcos accumulated ill-gotten wealth?

“In PCGG v. Pena, this Court, describing the rule of Marcos as a well-entrenched plundering regime of twenty years, noted the magnitude of the past regime’s organized pillage and the ingenuity of the plunderers and pillagers with the assistance of the experts and best legal minds…”

“In other cases, the Court described the Marcos years as ‘a dark chapter in our history’ (Licaros vs Sandiganbayan, Oct. 18, 2004) and a regime of ‘national trauma’ (Republic vs Tuvera, Feb. 16, 2007). Worse, in Galman vs Sandiganbayan (Sept 12, 1986), the Court charged Marcos with stage-managing court proceedings: Mockery of judicial process.”

And to demonstrate our mockery of the rule of law, we will sooner than later elect a Marcos referenced above? And add Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo, and now Duterte, don’t we recognize a culture of impunity when we see one?

And how many senators were thrown in jail? But we let one out? Because we can’t distinguish compassion from paternalism or overprotection. And it’s no different that we see ourselves as static and not dynamic – and PH underdeveloped. And it all comes with the territory, that the blog constantly replays, and is best described as our “culture” and defined as: parochial and insular; hierarchical and paternalistic; political patronage and dynasties; and oligarchic; that what comes out of the hopper is a culture of impunity.

And consequently, we got our religion and economics upside down! Yet we had a Rizal who saw through it over a century ago. How could we not figure it out? “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]

Let’s test that against our economy, our billionaires, and assume that they will outdo Buffett and Gates and give away all their wealth, say, to PH. How much windfall will we get? “The aggregate wealth of the 14 Filipino dollar-billionaires is $45.8 billion. Their average net worth is $3.27 billion.” [Record number of Filipinos among 'richest people on the planet,' [Rappler.com, 21st Mar 2017]

Recall we shut our borders and left the playing field for oligarchy to own. And how much do we have to show in FDI (in billion dollars, but trillion for Singapore) compared to our neighbors? PH=62.8; Singapore=1.041; Thailand=190.6; Malaysia=154.7; Indonesia=292.8; Vietnam=114.7.

And set them against the levels of exports (2016; in billion dollars) which explain why we’re the regional laggard: PH=38.2; Singapore=353.3; Thailand=190; Malaysia=167.3; Indonesia=136.7; Vietnam=169.2.

And what is the latest story from the Department of Finance? Aside from the reality that local lords a.k.a. elected public servants are undermining PPP and want a piece of the action – that we cannot fund the ambitious infrastructure program of the administration because we cannot get the tax reform bill passed.

Still, neither our billionaires collectively nor a tax reform will approximate, ever, the impact of the massive FDIs our neighbors have generated especially those that came with technology . . . that we can use!

And what are we left with? We are consumed by the war on poverty and the war on drugs; forgetting that we got both our (a) economics and (b) religion twisted. And yet we wonder why we can’t right the PH ship?

[Disclosure: If it isn’t obvious yet, the writer is a practitioner of “analytics” long before “Big Data and analytics” became buzzwords; and it started with his discovery of the power behind the Pareto Principle. And his claim to fame in his old MNC company is transforming the budget process into a goal-alignment exercise, beyond problem-solving and restructuring initiatives. And more recently, he developed his former Bulgarian assistant cum translator and driver to be the company’s Information Management and Analytics Manager; he has an engineering and two master’s degrees that he all earned as a working student. Hierarchy must never be a barrier! And to those keen on the subject, here is a short article that is not tech-laden: “We all thought having more data was better. We were wrong,” Bob O’Donnell, Recode, 12th Apr 2017; https://www.recode.net/2017/4/12/15275160/big-data-analytics-enterprise-technology-internet-of-things-iot.]

We must go back to Rizal and ask why he created Padre Damaso. Because we must not be in a race to the bottom!

And our economic managers recognize that the metric of 7% GDP growth will take at least one generation before we see the light at the end of the tunnel. And why the generation of the writer is indeed toast. But worse is it is inside-the-box thinking.

Think General Motors versus Tesla. GM once defined America. “What is good for GM is good for America.” If we read the recent valuation of Tesla, it is now more valuable than GM. And why is Apple and Google and Facebook now more coveted than General Electric? The old paradigm no longer holds. It is about evolution and in the 21st century, technology is defining what it means and demands development-wise.

How does that translate to driving the PH economy?

(A) If we cannot think synergy amongst energy, infrastructure development and industrialization, we are but mired in the 20th-century paradigm. We know the top ten exports of PH. What we must focus on is how to make the products and/or services that make them up truly globally competitive while expanding the portfolio.

(B) And that includes figuring out where or in which regions these industries must be housed and where we must create “the clusters” – consisting of the primary industry and the requisite auxiliary and support industries – as well as the fundamental imperatives of energy and infrastructure to attain synergy or gestalt, if you will. That is how we will generate employment, not by populist rhetoric a la Trump.

At the end of the day, they are the real driver of the economy . . . that will flesh out GDP as the growth metric.

[Disclosure: If we notice the effort to connect the dots, that is by design, consistent with the Steve Jobs’ simple definition of creativity; and which the blog illustrates every now and again. It takes practice and experience to make it second nature as the writer’s Eastern European friends would confess despite 14 years of making a go of it.]

The bottom line: We must undo tyranny . . . in all its forms. Juan de la Cruz is not a moron.

If we must – and indeed we must – get the best thinking in the world to address our energy dilemma, we must likewise get the best thinking to help us figure out the product architecture – that lays out the value chain/human need – for these top exports and the technology and research and development that will give us competitive advantage.

As we can learn from the GM or GE experience, “Pinoy abilidad” is not of this century – the age of technology, innovation and global competition.

“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]

“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]

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PH poverty: A self-fulfilling prophecy

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The intention to engage in good acts often fails. It points up the principle that there is no merit in good intentions unless they are acted on. The expression is often attributed to the Cistercian abbot Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153).” [http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-road-to-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions.html]

With that as premise, let’s fast-forward and get to the gist of a USA Today article (2nd Apr 2017) re an Indonesian mother’s pronouncement to her high school daughter: “We are an underdeveloped country. It is our job to develop it.”

Think about it against our war on poverty. And discriminate compassion and sympathy from paternalism and overprotection, for example, a.k.a. moral hazard. Because we don’t want development to loom as an imposing peak to climb – that we won't have the courage and wherewithal to scale it.

Development is to grow, develop, mature, progress, advance, change, ripen, improve or cultivate. [Thanks to Google.]

What about our value system, how do we reconcile it with the mantra of development? We have earned the reputation, and rightly so, of a nice people. But does it point to our inhibited and subdued instincts? Not confident nor at home with growth – i.e., reserved, self-conscious, repressed, withdrawn, shy, introverted and reticent? [Google, op. cit.]

And we conveyed them by shutting our borders, keeping FDI away and leaving the playing field for oligarchy to own – and their friends in high places as in political patronage. Because we see ourselves as static not dynamic, has Juan de la Cruz stunted his own growth and development?

Think – not once or twice – of Singapore attracting over a trillion US dollars in FDI. Have the Singaporeans [or any of our neighbors] lost out to foreign competition or to MNCs? They created MNCs and invested in PH! Creating a truly competitive environment elevated the character – and rectitude, integrity, reputation – and caliber of the Singaporeans. Can we figure that out and internalize it? But we are a people of faith!

Let’s try this one for size: “Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, describes the positive foundation we have in the cosmic Christ: Franciscan theology on the whole . . . emphasized the incarnation as the love of God made visible in the world. [St. Bonaventure, a medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher] did not consider the incarnation foremost as a remedy for sin but the primacy of love and the completion of creation. He recapitulated an idea present in the Greek fathers of the church, namely, Christ is the redeeming and fulfilling center of the universe. Christ does not save us from creation; rather, Christ is the reason for creation. . .. Christ is first in God’s intention to love; love is the reason for creation.

“Lacking an understanding of the Good News of the universal Christ, few have the vision to perceive any coherence between the Source and the Goal. The Christian message has had less and less significance for thinking people, for scientists, philosophers, social workers, and those trying to find a purpose for the universe. Christianity became merely another moralistic religion (which loved to ‘win’ over other religions and countries), overwhelmingly aligned with a limited period of history (empire building) and a small piece of the planet (Europe and eventually the Americas through colonization), rather than representing the whole of creation and a glorious destiny (Romans 8:18-21).

“Without the cosmic notion of Christ, Christians can’t understand that God is inherent in life itself, that God is the life force of everything who grows things from the inside. The Indwelling Spirit was our way of saying that God creates things that create themselves from within! In humans and animals this is experienced as sexuality, in plants as photosynthesis. Elements participate in the creative process through electromagnetic fields, fusion, and bonding. Even celestial bodies experience death and birth. There is only and always growth. Death is simply a transformative stage.

“Not surprisingly, many Christians ended up tragically fighting evolution along with most human-rights struggles [from slavery to climate change.] We had no evolutionary notion of Christ who is forever ‘groaning in one great act of giving birth’ (Romans 8:22). Yet we should have been on the front line of these issues, so our bold proclamation of love and justice could have pulled humanity forward.

“The Christian religion was made-to-order to grease the wheels of human consciousness toward love, nonviolence, earth care, and justice. Mature spirituality serves as a conveyor belt for the evolution of human consciousness. Immature religion stalls us at low levels of well-disguised egocentricity by fooling us into thinking we are more moral or holy than we are.

“Indeed God is not far from any one of us. For ‘In God we live and move and have our very being’ (Acts 17:27-28). If this is true, then it must be true everywhere and all the time. Small truth is not big enough to save a very large universe.” [Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation,Christ in Evolution, 4th Apr 2017]

And here’s the writer’s interpretation: It is screaming to be heard . . . There is only and always growth; death is simply a formative stage . . . And so, growth is central in our faith. Yet we have no evolutionary notion of Christ. Nor do we recognize the evolution of human consciousness. “Materiales fuertes,” which is an expression of our culture, nailed us down for good, to the past. 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. To reprise an earlier post:  It comes with the territory, best described as our “culture” and defined as: parochial and insular; hierarchical and paternalistic; political patronage and dynasties; and oligarchic; that what comes out of the hopper is a culture of impunity.

And the consequences are dire. Paternalism makes us embrace “crab mentality” and shun the laws of physics. It is the converse of a functioning bureaucracy – the inability to distinguish the “vital few” from the “trivial many.” It reminds the writer of his late mother talking to her children, “share and share alike.”

How do we figure out and exploit PH’s potentials in tourism, for example, if we eschew instead of imagine and visualize the 80-20 rule? Two globally respected enterprises, Unilever and P&G, did it and were hammered by Wall Street. How do we move from input orientation, e.g., land and implements and then some and geared for subsistence farming, to an agribusiness industry that is outcome oriented, i.e., globally competitive in scale and specialization – like the Vietnamese demonstrated?

We’re stuck in a populist mantra – like the war on poverty plus the war on drugs to boot – instead of development.

PH poverty is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must turn from shortsightedness and look beyond the horizon – from the small mind to the big mind and from an oligarchic economy to a globally competitive economy. If we want to be wealthier than the average American.

The Singaporeans did it. It is doable! Let’s stop looking at America as the Big Brother – we don’t have to be cowed and feel inferior.

Disclosure: As a “development worker” in Eastern Europe, it is the exact same thing the writer says to his friends. Not surprisingly, when they introduced him to the then Bulgarian president who visited their New York office, they described him as an economist. An economist to them is one that figures out how to bring wealth to a nation. But the writer corrected it and stressed “development worker” – their partner in their pursuit of self-improvement, growth and advancement . . . as they go toe-to-toe against the West, including America.

It explains the import of the letter from the White House conspicuous in the writer’s study, signed by George W. Bush, which reads in part, “Congratulations on receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. Through service to others, you demonstrate the outstanding character of America and help strengthen our country.”

And it builds on an earlier post where the blog spoke to what America is that Trump is yet to manifest; that it is an idea, an expansive idea. America is not cast in stone. It is not relativism but evolution, in a world that is dynamic and not static. And despite his honed scientific mind, Einstein recognized the existence of a Higher Being; while Francis articulated that creation is not incompatible with evolution. There is only and always growth.

Adam and Eve learned what it meant after being banished from Eden. There’s no free rent nor free lunch, for starters. But no one said they had to live in caves. And then man had to overcome the industrial revolution, not to forget two World Wars and a sprinkling of despots. Today his challenge is to overcome the technology revolution, including artificial intelligence (AI.) Man isn’t about small-mindedness. He is made in the image and likeness of his Creator.

On the other hand, we Pinoys like the “feel good” and the “happy talk” as though ignorance is bliss – that for decades we took Singapore for granted. It is much smaller than Metro Manila. Who couldn’t turn it into a wealthy city-state – wealthier than America per capita? It has nothing to do with literal size. It has to do with a big or a small mind. 

What if we start learning from others and learning from our mistakes? And connecting the dots until we encounter the simplicity and beauty of creativity? The intellect is overrated; we want more imagination.

The family joins the writer in wishing one and all Happy Easter!

“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]

“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]