Sunday, May 21, 2017

Failed institutions equal failed nation

“Yet at a time when the political opposition is divided and self-serving, few expect the church to fill the breach. Not even its own leaders think it has the moral authority it had in 1986, during the People Power Revolution, when Cardinal Jaime Sin was able to call upon Filipinos to take to the streets to protect the leaders of the army, who had broken with Marcos.

“Catholic Filipinos still worship in droves. But the church is not their first stop for political or moral guidance. It is often at odds with ordinary folk, such as in its dogged opposition in 2012 to a law which guaranteed universal access to contraception and sex education. And when Cardinal Tagle spoke out against vigilante killings, he took pains to say abortion was equally repugnant. As for Mr. Duterte, he says the church is ‘full of shit’, accusing priests of womanizing and leading indulgent lives. ‘He knows’, Father Picardal admits, ‘how to hit us below the belt.’” [“Church v state in the Philippines’ war on drugsThe state is winning,” The Economist, 11th May 2017]

We take pride and wear our faith on our sleeves. But is the church a failing institution too?

“‘I encourage you to persevere in your search for truth,’ the pope said. ‘For we ought never to fear truth, nor become trapped in our own preconceived ideas, but welcome new scientific discoveries with an attitude of humility.’

“Brother Guy Consolmagno, the MIT-educated, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said Monday that faith and science are not opposed to each other. ‘God is not a scientific explanation,’ Consolmagno told RNS. ‘If you are using God instead of science to explain what happens in the world you are talking about the gods of the Romans and Greeks.” [Pope urges scientists ‘never to fear truth’ despite theological clashes, Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service, USA Today, 12th May 2017]

What about education?

“[We] have fared -- badly -- in the TIMSS (The International Mathematics and Science) tests throughout the years, a graph presented by the WB-AusAid team underscored that position. We were near bottom of the list with practically all our ASEAN neighbors doing from slightly to very much better than us, notably Singapore which was among the top. Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia were in the middle of the pack.

“Let us go ‘Fast Forward’ to employment... ‘Forget the often poor English or even the hybridized Tagalog... It’s the ability to compose thoughts beyond the stated facts to open-ended questions; the ability to analyze a complex situation and then put a new set of thoughts together to productively respond to the situation. They don’t think very well, nor deeply. Major additional work is needed to get them to speed.

“[They] point to several skills and capabilities we seem to have lost from the time we were the Asian model for education to our near bottom position today: (1) A knowledge of how life generally works and how most artifacts function given their ages; (2) A keen sense of observation of their environment and a feel for people, again within the context of their age; (3) The ability to ask the right questions; (4) Critical-analytical thinking; (5) The ability to synthesize seemingly divergent though and ideas at their level of experience; and, (6) The ability to communicate their thoughts well in oral and written communications. [Changing content and methods, Mario Antonio G. Lopez, To Take A Stand, BusinessWorld, 16th May 2017]

The church and the school are two critically important institutions in the Philippines. What Juan de la Cruz is today, in more ways than one, can be attributed – outside the family – to these two institutions.

And the test of the pudding is in the eating. For example, “Everyone will welcome a golden age of infrastructure in the Philippines. But we all know what the problems are, even with plans drawn up and objectives set. Instead of thinking about how a particular project can best benefit the masses, the prime consideration in project implementation in this country is personal profit.

“The focus on kickbacks is one of the biggest reasons for the poor quality of our public infrastructure. Because a hefty chunk of project cost goes to lining crooked officials’ pockets, contractors cut corners and sacrifice quality . . . The World Bank sees a link between the quality of the road network and the level of corruption in a country.

“In the days of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways often sighed that lawmakers earmarking projects for funding with their PDAF or pork barrel routinely disregarded procurement laws and qualifications set by the DPWH for contractors.

“In keeping with the SC ruling, lawmakers supposedly can no longer pick projects after the annual budget has been enacted, and there are no more lump sum appropriations. But Sen. Panfilo Lacson insists there is ‘pork’ in the 2017 budget, with Mindanao lawmakers supposedly hogging the bulk of the funds.

“Even if budget officials deny this, a number of lawmakers can still influence the selection of contractors by government agencies. Naturally, being a favored contractor does not come free.

“Corruption is the reason for the disaster that is the Metro Rail Transit 3, and why we have such crummy airports. Corruption is the reason why a single railway project in Luzon has been derailed for over a decade now.

“The desire for fat commissions goes all the way down to local government units (LGUs) and even barangay offices. If President Duterte wants to get his infrastructure program moving, he must confront this problem squarely.

“Recently, Duterte asked the nation for three years to deliver results. This has been met with as much skepticism as his promise to eradicate the drug menace in six months.

“Unless he deals decisively with corruption, the President’s P3.6-trillion TRIP or three-year rolling infrastructure program could trip and fall on its face.” [Trip, Ana Marie Pamintuan, SKETCHES, The Philippine Star, 15th May 2017]

“Why does corruption survive?”, Henry J. Schumacher, BusinessMirror, 20th Mar 2017. We (European Chamber of Commerce and Makati Business Club) formed the Integrity Initiative in 2010. Looking back, we are happy that progress has been made in our mission against corruption, both in government and in the private sector. But have we created the ‘Integrity Nation’ in the six years we have been in operation? I hate to say that we have a long way to go, both in our change advocacy with the national and local governments, and our target to get 10,000 companies to sign the Integrity Pledge and live up to the commitments contained in the pledge.”

How should we then read this article? “Inclusive growth may be on the horizon,” Editorial, The Manila Times, 15th May 2017. 

“Two significant developments are occurring, seemingly in tandem, but in reality totally separate, within which the Philippines is totally of import and relevant. First, the country now holds the alternating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Second, China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is about to take off, with Beijing recognizing Asean as a strategic partner in the revival and redevelopment of the ancient Silk Road trading route linking Asian markets to European economies and vice versa.”

Indeed, these are significant developments. Yet it would be wise to recognize how to best leverage our role in these endeavors given they are not entirely under our control. 

Let’s borrow from a previous posting in the blog. “Commitment, challenge and control. They are the characteristics (or the 3 Cs) of a hardy mindset from the work of Robert Brooks of Harvard University, faculty of Harvard Medical School.

“Commitment. To be involved with others and to experience a sense of purpose and meaning; how ordinary people can do extraordinary things . . . Challenge. To appreciate that change rather than stability is the norm; new or difficult situations are perceived as opportunities for learning; the importance of thinking outside the box . . . Control. Focus on situations where we have influence over not where we have little if any control; you have control only over yourself, you must be the one to change. Develop a problem-solving attitude; why are you unable to succeed in your efforts?”

Focus on situations where we have influence over not where we have little if any control; you have control only over yourself, you must be the one to change. Failed institutions equal a failed nation. It starts with each one of us. We cannot point to destiny or extraneous forces to right the Philippine ship. We must take personal responsibility in the pursuit of community and the common good, and lift Juan de la Cruz from ignominy.

“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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