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]

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