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 Malacañang 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,' [, 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;]

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]

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