Thursday, March 29, 2018

How foresight eludes a people

Foresight is what makes man the superior creature. That it has eluded us explains why PH is the regional laggard – poor and underdeveloped. On the other hand, “pwede na ‘yan” makes us able to rationalize why the world has left us behind? Or is there something else?

Consider: “[S]ociety is structured by elites to preserve their privilege. Beliefs and culture are part of the structure elites use to preserve that inequality. This led … to the assumption that your beliefs are determined by your group’s privilege or lack of privilege, by where your group is within the power structure.” [“Speaking as a white male, David Brooks, The New York Times, 22nd Mar 2018]

Does it explain why ours is a perfect storm? “The reality is that this country is controlled and run by oligarchs in cahoots with political dynasts … It is an archipelago of 7,107 islands, and an oligarchipelago of 100 ruling families. Business oligarchs and political dynasties have combined to turn the opportunity of becoming a democracy into creating a full- blown plutocracy.

“By conflating the word ‘oligarchy’ and the word ‘archipelago’ … gives us a neologism to help us comprehend quickly the true situation of our people and our country today.” [Has the Philippines become an oligarchipelago(?), Yen Makabenta, The Manila Times, 6th Aug 2016]

Question: Why is there no hard-nosed effort to drive industrialization instead of aspiring to be the gambling mecca, for example? Think Arangkada. In the meantime, we are proud of PH tourism. Yet …

“There is a very telling photo of Boracay that captures its problem. It shows Boracay from the air, looking like any neighborhood in Kyusi or Pasay or Mandaluyong. No one would have guessed it is the most beautiful island in the world.” [Carrying capacity, Boo Chanco, The Philippine Star, 23rd Mar 2018]

“Government allowed anyone who wanted to exploit the island to just take what they can for as long as they could. The day of reckoning has come.

“Bhutan does not officially limit the number of tourists they allow into the country, but they have instituted policies that go for quality than quantity... high value, but low impact. Their annual number of visitors is just about 100,000 … The slow increase of tourism has allowed infrastructure to grow accordingly, without destroying the environment…”

When it rains, it pours. Consider: “Baguio will soon be dead, Mary Ann Ll. Reyes,” HIDDEN AGENDA, The Philippine Star, 25th Mar 2018.

“But why stop at sea-based tourism hotspots? Baguio, the foremost land-based tourist destination in the Philippines, is another example of how the absence of an environmentally sound masterplan can lead to urban decay.

“Baguio, the Philippines’ summer capital, has a capacity of 20,000 inhabitants but due to influx of migrants and tourists, it now has a daytime population of about 400,000, which can balloon to more than 1.5 million during the Panagbenga Flower Festival.

“Traffic, which is already bad, worsens so that a typical 15-minute ride could stretch to more than an hour … We haven’t even discussed the problem of lack of adequate water supply, garbage, pollution, wanton and illegal cutting of trees …, a seemingly never-ending levelling of mountain slopes to build hotels and condominiums …, air and noise pollution, overpopulation, among others. The list goes on and on.”

And when we go down south the picture isn’t any different. “THIS year’s first full council meeting of the Regional Development Council of Central Visayas (Region 7) had its moment of drama when Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar walked out in protest over the fate of his proposed infrastructure projects.

“Three underpass projects—worth a total of P16 billion—that the veteran congressman wanted undertaken in his district, were not endorsed by the RDC. Instead, the council recommended that the projects be subjected to further feasibility studies.” [Fixing Metro Cebu’s traffic, Marit Stinus-Cabugon, The Manila Times, 26th Mar 2018]

And here’s a view of our perfect storm: Over 22.5 million Filipinos represent our 21.6% poverty rate. To appreciate how staggering the number is, they outnumber the total population of three of these nations: Australia = 23,232,413; Chile = 17,789,267; Netherlands = 17,084,719; Romania = 21,529,967.

What to do? “How then must we proceed in the next five decades? Two basic guidelines to follow, and these are: Instead of simply complaining about our dynastic, semi-feudal politics, with a perennial tendency towards rule by strong personalities and unified control by populist politicians, we can roll up our sleeves so that in every public sector institution — whether it is a national government agency or local government unit — we get leaders with a commitment to the public welfare; who insist on participatory involvement of stakeholders; and who abide by the demands of accountability and transparency. Moreover, such leaders must aim for transformative changes through the enterprises they lead and serve.

“Instead of constantly sniping against the immense control of a few personalities over increasing swaths of the economy, we work towards ensuring that entry into business sectors and industries remains open; that competitive rules of the game are strictly enforced; and we keep virtually all sectors of the economy open to competitive economic agents, whether local or foreign, who wish to take reasonable risks in our economy.

“These two basic guidelines sound like pie in the sky. They really are. But the good news is that these pies have been brought down from the sky in many instances, and they have been made to work in more instances that we care to admit.” [From weak internal systems, Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao, Manila Bulletin, 23rd Mar 2018]

What does it say about the war on drugs and the debate re government system? Recall the world drastically reduced poverty despite contradictory government systems when nations opened their economies. Are we barking at the wrong tree? Consider: “Bill Gates tells Nigerian leaders to ‘face facts’ so they can make progress,” David McKenzie and Brent Swails, CNN, 26th Mar 2018. “Nigeria is routinely rated as one of the most corrupt nations on the globe.”

Foresight allows us to imagine and visualize and be ahead of the curve. And it informs our ability to describe our concept of the future. And Bhutan appears to demonstrate what foresight is as well as the notion of their future in tourism. Foresight and perception are critical if there is to be coherence in our own efforts to move forward as a nation. And the challenge is magnified in this age of disruption – aka the 21st century.

To quote from an earlier post, “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet it is not anarchy but community and the common good. It is a dynamic tension that passiveness and subservience on the part of Juan de la Cruz is unpatriotic – if that is the language that resonates to us.

“On the other hand, leadership demands foresight and the commitment to take Juan de la Cruz where he has never been before. In the case of the Asian Tigers, their leaderships were forward-looking – they had visions of being first-world nations – and figured out how to traverse the journey from poverty to prosperity.

“The dynamic of a successful enterprise calls for: (a) a forward-looking leadership with a strong sense of foresight; and (b) a people that is committed to the responsibility and accountability inherent in freedom and democracy, including active involvement in institution-building.”

In America people in rural communities – where Trump won the presidency via the Electoral College – feel left behind. And so, “A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they’re so pissed off,” Sean Illing, vox.com, 13th Mar 2018.

“They recognize themselves as being left behind because, in fact, they are the ones in their family and in their social networks who did stay where they were. Most of the people … grew up in the small town they currently live in, or some other small town nearby. Often their children have already left …

“In that sense, they believe, quite correctly, that they’re the ones who stayed in these small towns while young people — and really the country as a whole — moved on … [M]any of the people [express] nostalgia for a bygone world or a world that probably never really existed in the first place.

“Yes, the world has changed; it’s always changing. And the sense of loss some people feel … is understandable … but at some point, we have to acknowledge that culture evolves and stop trying to unwind the historical clock.”

We Pinoys must likewise recognize that time marches on. And PH will be characterized by incoherence, unable to demonstrate foresight and define our concept of the PH future if “pwede na ‘yan” is our default-setting. Winners radiate dynamism. Its absence explains much of our poverty.

“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]

Friday, March 23, 2018

Do we know what our needs, ideals and aspirations are?

In case we have forgotten, Executive Order No. 10, creating a Consultative Committee to review the 1987 Constitution, speaks to “the sovereign will, ideals and aspirations of [our] people.”

Here’s a simple test of our perception and foresight: How long did it take us to realize that OFW remittances aren’t the answer to PH poverty? They directly benefited over 10 million Filipinos. Beyond jobs, they created a middle class equal to at least 10% of our population. As important, they have become one of the two legs of our economy, the other being the BPO industry.

To quote from an earlier post, “Consider how we chose our options: OFW remittances instead of industrialization. BPO industry instead of innovation and global competitiveness. Price-focused yet inadequate – and nowhere near competitively priced – power supply instead of rapid infrastructure development. Land reform and subsistence farming instead of a globally competitive agribusiness designed for scale and productivity and profitability. Focus on rural poverty instead of rapid economic development.”

With that as backdrop, let’s take a closer look at our needs, ideals and aspirations. Specifically, how do we ascertain these (a) needs, (b) ideals and (c) aspirations?

Is a parliamentary system among them? What about a federal system? What are our needs really? Aren’t we the regional laggard – poor and underdeveloped?

Isn’t our poverty rate worse than that of our neighbors including latecomer Vietnam? Where is our poverty coming from? Consider: The world has drastically reduced poverty, including in China, India and Vietnam. The common denominator? An open economy not government system.

Where do we lag our neighbors? Their Income or GDP per person (purchasing power parity) are much higher than ours, except for Vietnam. And what do they have in common, including Vietnam?

They begged for Western money and technology. They have successfully pursued rapid industrialization and export development while going full speed ahead with infrastructure development.

Where does either system, federal or parliamentary, come from? We are assuming and prescribing a solution – based on our perception and historical lack of foresight? (A) We never learn or (B) We are static not dynamic?

Why? Because imperial Manila has neglected Mindanao. Think of New York City vs Albany, New York, the seat of the government of the State of New York. Or drive in upstate New York. We’re not talking Kentucky.

There are certain factors that draw economic activity. Not every square kilometer is created equal. Think Pareto’s 80-20 rule. Not every Fortune 500 company is guaranteed longevity. Think of where General Electric is today. Edison must be turning in his grave.

And why the writer’s Eastern European friends are constantly challenging themselves to manage three sets of dynamic: the product idea that must be the heart of the marketing mix that is focused on the dynamism of human needs (i.e., the here and now and beyond); the drivers of product development, production and supply chain; and the requisite leadership, organization and execution skills.

Now that we have a president from Mindanao, we must codify a system that will end the bias for Manila. But will a federal system ensure that resources (e.g., tax revenues) are allocated accordingly, i.e., to enhance economic development especially in the rural areas? Recall the poverty in rural Kentucky.

Still, we believe that a parliamentary system will have a mechanism that can cut short the term of the president when it is warranted. Yet during the transition, there are fears Du30 will in fact extend his original term.

On the state of the economy, the conversation is focused on lifting the restrictions imposed by the current, the 1987 Constitution, while nationalists are up in arms.

But let’s get back to the needs, ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people. The blog often discusses our way of life – our instincts or culture, if you will. Do we disagree that we are (a) parochial and insular; (b) defer to hierarchy in return for paternalism; (c) value and rely on patronage and political dynasties and oligarchy? More to the point, where does our culture of impunity come from?

Ours is a perfect storm. And should we not ask ourselves why it is so before we assume and prescribe a cure? In other words, it is beyond logical, linear and incremental thinking. Think lateral thinking (Google Edward de Bono.) And to the academics, it is akin to model thinking (Google Design Thinking.)

Consider: If we have a parliamentary system does it follow that impunity will go away? If it doesn’t we will keep dissolving the government? Beyond Marcos, we already chased out of the palace Estrada and Arroyo. And wanted Aquino convicted for a couple of supposed crimes. And from the SC we impeached Corona and have started the process to impeach Sereno.

And why is our Constitution biased against foreign direct investment? We know but take it for granted that Singapore, Malaysia and China begged for Western money and technology. Will a change in the Constitution make us beg for Western money and technology, and replicate how the Asian Tigers traversed the journey from poverty to prosperity?

More to the point, with Western money and technology, they rapidly drove industrialization and export development. Will a parliamentary and federal system make us drive industrialization and export development? Recall what Sen Manny Villar said, that we can’t ease the restrictions on foreign direct investment because of the influence of oligarchy. 

And oligarchy in a federal system need not be national. Impunity thrives when crime pays and a more limited geography makes local lords easier to breed especially when the people defer to them in return for paternalism. Which nourishes parochialism and insularity and “crab mentality.”

What about rapid infrastructure development? Will a parliamentary system and federal system accelerate PH infrastructure development?

Our instincts nail us down to a static posture that we can’t embrace dynamism. In the meantime, we are debating dynasties. Most of the people we elect into the legislature are from dynasties – because we value and rely on their patronage.

We have a saying, “sa hinaba-haba ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din pala ang tuloy.” We are squarely back to square-one!

Why do we think the Chinoys control PH economy? A people that is static and not dynamic cannot be like the Chinoys. Nor can we be like Silicon Valley. Or even an Asian Tiger.

But we will have a better chance at rural development with a federal system? Development presupposes investment. We can’t seem to distinguish between cause and effect. And why in a recent posting the blog highlighted the poverty in rural America, especially Kentucky, the most federally dependent state in the wealthiest nation in the world. And investment is generated by dynamism as opposed to patronage. Worse is to defer to hierarchy in return for patronage.

Why are venture capitalists in bed with Silicon Valley? Because they are always in search of the next idea that can be monetized. On the other hand, every argument to push MSMEs and regional competitiveness without fail speaks to financing and government intervention – but no emphasis on self-reliance. Yes, self-reliance. If that is our blind spot, think of Tatang Sy, the wealthiest Filipino.

Monetizing a new idea recalls Edison and Jobs and individuals like them. That is the heart of innovation and global competitiveness. Which to us Pinoys connotes big brother as in government and patronage and oligarchy. In other words, we are fixated by hierarchy and destiny.

And it brings us back to our instincts and culture. And why the blog keeps sharing the dynamism of the writer’s Eastern European friends. They are from the poorest country in Europe. But they never cease to imagine competing and winning against Western behemoths.

We have gone ahead of ourselves – talking about the mechanics – of a parliamentary system and a federal system without the rigor that problem-solving calls for.

Recall the case of the Asian Tigers and how the world drastically reduced poverty. Government system was not the common denominator. Let’s look in the mirror not elsewhere. It’s called owning up – or growing up.

“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]

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Poverty in rural Philippines vs rural America

“Zamboanga del Norte has a poverty incidence of 51.6%.” That’s from “The tale of two Mindanao regions,” Rolando T. Dy, M. A. P. Insights, BusinessWorld, 12th Mar 2018.

And here is a picture from rural America: “The 2010 US Census listed Owsley County [in Booneville, Kentucky] as having the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, with 41.5 percent of residents living below the poverty line.” [A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they’re so pissed off, Sean Illing, vox.com, 13th Mar 2018]

Recall this comparison of GDP or income per person (purchasing power parity) in US dollars: Philippines = 8,200; Singapore = 90,500; United States = 59,600.

In other words, the US on a per person basis has humongous capacity to provide a social safety net, if you will, compared to PH. And since it is a federal system, beyond the ability of each state to tax its people, the federal government also supports poor states. On the other hand, richer states contribute to the federal coffers.

And New Yorkers aren’t shy ever to express their perspective: “New York State pays big in federal taxes, but doesn’t get as much in return, says Controller Thomas DiNapoli,” Kenneth Lovett, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 27th Oct 2015.

“New Yorkers are givers, not takers. The state gets only 91 cents in federal funding for every dollar it sends to Washington — one of just 11 states that give more than they get.”

While poorer states are more federally dependent. “2017’s Most & Least Federally Dependent States,” John S Kiernan, wallethub.com, 21st Mar 2017. Of the most dependent states, No. 1 is Kentucky, No. 2 Mississippi and No. 3 New Mexico.

How should we then address our own challenge? Here’s a point of view: “[D]uring a hearing by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes … [the] League of Provinces of the Philippines executive director Sandra Tablan-Paredes … read their resolution declaring their full support for the shift to federalism as a way to accelerate local development and spread economic gains throughout the Philippines.

“[S]he stressed the need to increase the Internal Revenue Allotment, which currently amounts to 16% of public spending.” [Expert warns: Charter change a classic strategy of autocrats, Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon, BusinessWorld, 13th Mar 2018]

But then again, see above re the US GDP or income per person vs. PH and the 41.5 percent poverty rate in Owsley County, Booneville, Kentucky; and the number one most federally dependent state.

In other words, poverty cannot be eradicated by taxation and safety nets even in a federal system in the wealthiest nation in the world. [Let’s hold our horses: are we a perception-challenged people? Recall what nations can learn from the innovation phenomenon of Silicon Valley, i.e., there are no sacred cows.]

On the other hand, why is Singapore wealthier per person than the US and more competitive? Precisely why the blog has argued, the Asian Tigers have a sense of foresight and the leadership that figured out how to traverse the journey from poverty to prosperity. That is, they begged for Western money and technology and pursued industrialization and export development rapidly and likewise went full speed ahead with infrastructure development. 

While we Pinoys are so fixated that America is the big brother, “materiales fuertes.” Such that we feel inferior and didn’t want them looking over our shoulder nor be in our backyard that we kicked out the US military.

Very much like an adolescent, we’re neither here nor there – creating a vacuum that invites tyrannical rule if not foreign intrusion. What we thought we eliminated is back with a vengeance, i.e., beholden to one country if not another.

The blog often talks about the instincts of Juan de la Cruz and our static tendencies. And unsurprisingly, we take our culture as a given, cast stone: We are parochial and insular; we defer to hierarchy in return for paternalism; we value and rely on patronage, and political dynasties and oligarchy.

And why Rizal says we love tyranny – which can translate to a dictatorship if we continue to play with fire.

Many postings ago, the writer related an interaction he and friends had with a Singaporean. Instead of sitting on their laurels, this Singaporean and her peers worry about the next generation. That they may not have the fire in their bellies given the prosperity they were born into.

Consider how we Pinoys take pride in our “resilience” which is a euphemism for “pwede na ‘yan”? How often do we complain about Metro Manila traffic when we’re 50 years behind in infrastructure development? To us action is nibbling around the edges – i.e., we’re so focused on the symptoms but not the cause. We can’t seem to walk and chew gum at the same time.

And does corruption rear its ugly head and thus a barrier to Build, Build, Build? A recent editorial asks if the rule of law has a direct bearing on development. If in fact it means a culture of impunity then it does?

On another but related subject, the writer skipped a beat when he read the article “Why do consumers buy(?),” Jose Luis C. Legaspi, The View From Taft, BusinessWorld, 7th Mar 2018.

“The Rolling Stones probably contributed to making Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs popular … A lot of marketing research has been devoted to answering the million-dollar question: ‘Why do consumers buy what they buy?’

“The topmost level in the hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. In my opinion, no product falls under this category. No good is enough to forever satisfy a consumer.”

With due respect to Prof Legaspi, his expressed opinion misses the basic premise of the hierarchy of human needs. It is a continuum, it is not static but dynamic.

And in the article the professor acknowledges that: “I read somewhere that the birth of a baby is self-actualizing for a husband and a wife because they become parents. My beautiful wife Jen is four months pregnant with our first child. Our baby’s birth will be the start of a different rock ’n’ roll. I should know by late August if the occasion will indeed satisfy my need for self-actualization.”

How do we educate ourselves to be dynamic not static? That poverty is not destiny. Every nation started out poor. And in a democracy, we cannot be simply leader-dependent. Eradicating poverty is not the war on poverty but the pursuit of rapid development and nation building. And that is beyond the sole responsibility of leadership.

To quote from an earlier post, “The … enterprise calls for: (a) a forward-looking leadership with a strong sense of foresight; and (b) a people that is committed to the responsibility and accountability inherent in freedom and democracy, including active involvement in institution-building.

The writer is sorry to reference the professor. Consider: He has assisted his Eastern European friends over the last 15 years in their pursuit of innovation and global competitiveness – because they’ve demonstrated dynamism despite being subject to Soviet rule for decades. And Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs to them is Innovation 101, precisely because it is a continuum – that it is dynamic not static.

Another element of self-actualization that is misunderstood is it is confined to self. Yet humans can choose to be good as in being upright and values-driven.

Sadly, Padre Damaso saw the Indios as dumb that must be made passive and subservient. And Marcos and today Du30 lifted a page from his book that critics instead are the ones they take as dumb.

The outcome? Juan de la Cruz is yet to learn community and the common good.

One can be self-actualized and embrace the responsibility and accountability inherent in freedom and democracy and not be inward-looking – and ruled by crab mentality. And the latter in more ways than one explains our static tendencies.

On the other hand, if wealthy and highly competitive Singapore worries about the next generation, the rest of the world can only contend with a nation that is truly dynamic. Because they don’t want to leave something behind that is worse off. Where does that leave Juan de la Cruz? Sadly, the world has left us behind.

“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, March 13, 2018

The enterprise of nation building

It is the dynamic of a grown-up Juan de la Cruz and a leadership equipped to take him from poverty to plenty. And to understand Juan de la Cruz and the leadership he needs, we must examine our instincts as they relate to: (a) family and (b) the church.

How much do they shape our parochial and insular bias? As well as our deference to hierarchy in return for paternalism? And our value of and reliance on patronage, and political dynasties and oligarchy? And do they explain why: (a) Juan de la Cruz is passive and subservient, while (b) ours is a culture of impunity? Recall Fr. Bulatao and what he calls our split-level Christianity.

And this poses a challenge to our education system – i.e., how do we build institutions – and clearly the public and private sectors and not to forget, the church and family.

Note that papal infallibility is confined to matters of faith but to us Du30 – like Marcos before him – is a demigod. If we don’t appreciate why innovation and global competitiveness is alien to us, it is the direct consequence of blind obedience. RHIP – rank has its privileges.

At the end of the day, we can’t reap the fruit of freedom and democracy if we don’t embrace the responsibility and accountability that comes with it. Where will check-and-balance come from if both leadership and Juan de la Cruz aren’t upright?

Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet it is not anarchy but community and the common good. It is a dynamic tension that passiveness and subservience on the part of Juan de la Cruz is unpatriotic – if that is the language that resonates to us.

On the other hand, leadership demands foresight and the commitment to take Juan de la Cruz where he has never been before. In the case of the Asian Tigers, their leaderships were forward-looking – they had visions of being first-world nations – and figured out how to traverse the journey from poverty to prosperity.

The dynamic of a successful enterprise calls for: (a) a forward-looking leadership with a strong sense of foresight; and (b) a people that is committed to the responsibility and accountability inherent in freedom and democracy, including active involvement in institution-building.

And more to the point, Juan de la Cruz must not expect paternalism especially when it undermines our institutions. Recall how the pork barrel supposedly meant to raise the well-being of Juan de la Cruz and the community at large lined the pockets of even senior legislators.

Nation building is not a cakewalk. And even when institutions are strong, there comes the next challenge: how to win in the bigger world, regionally if not globally. For example, how can Vietnam and Thailand be competitive in the rice industry while we still can’t figure out where we are?

Consider Silicon Valley’s innovation phenomenon. What can nations learn from them? The model is best captured by Design Thinking, where: (a) cross-functional thinking and (b) consumers are brought together to brainstorm, define and address a human need, beyond a perceived need. And the caveat? Many bright ideas fall by the wayside because people carry a perception bias – and bark at the wrong tree.

Note that in Design Thinking deference to hierarchy or a discipline is not a given – i.e., there are no sacred cows. It is tapping and exploring a cross-section of knowledge and experience to raise the probability of delivering on the commitment.

The medical profession is a good example. “Rock Star” physicians work with a peer group coming from different specialized fields and even different locations and countries to keep challenging their respective knowledge and expertise. And the writer witnessed this firsthand when his wife’s surgeon asked her consent to make hers a case study for his group before scheduling the surgery on her spine.

The writer’s old MNC company pulled different expertise from four countries to develop a new product and brought the brand global dominance.

“Out-of-the-box” thinking is the one challenge that a fixed mindset – or culture – like ours struggle to satisfy. Because people take culture as a given. And until we grow up, community and the common good won’t be our North Star. Sadly, the more underdeveloped a nation like PH is, the greater the poverty and the focus on the symptoms not the cause.

Underdevelopment robs us of the foresight to see far out into the future; and the ability to overcome man’s tribal instincts. Yet, man has demonstrated his genius by advancing civilization. Unsurprisingly, the community of nations sees Du30’s war on drugs as uncivilized.

And we have yet to come to grips with the root of the Mindanao problem, that is, tribal instincts – e.g., Catholics vs. Muslims. [And it’s a universal phenomenon, demonstrated by Trump’s core supporters vs. the coastal elites, among others. Read “Political Tribes: Group Instincts and the Fate of Nations” by Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua, bestselling author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”]

Unfortunately, we will replicate such tribal-like cliques assuming we adopt federalism. It goes without saying that it will reinforce and nurture “crab mentality” and turn us even more parochial and insular.

Think of the myriad problems we have. From the Manila airport to the bluster cum tyranny displayed by cabinet members to our inability to solve the decades-old problem of energy to tax evasion by supposed pillars of industry to the resurrection of once political pariahs that today can flex their muscles. 

In the end, we can’t solve our pressing problems because community and the common good is not our collective instincts. And why the rule of law continues to confound us. Or is our judicial system itself a reflection of our failure in institution building? 

The blog often talks about Silicon Valley’s innovation phenomenon because it demands a totally different perspective and mindset, i.e., an egalitarian ethos that is growth oriented not fixed. And it parallels product development in that benchmarking and concept development are integral to the process. In other words, it is not about one bright idea after another (no different from short-lived brands) as we see in the different unsolicited airport projects. Or in energy. Or whatever.

Yet at home with copywriting – that is, especially journalism, to craft the headline of the day – why can’t we in our problem-solving come out with an overarching concept? Whether it is about the airport or energy or a 21st century transportation system.

We are 50 years behind in infrastructure development but what do we read every day despite being well into the 21st century? The absence of coherence – still ruled by “crab mentality” – and why we are set up for tyrannical rule.

Or think of how we celebrate every time we embrace a “make-do” effort – aka “pwede na ‘yan” – in development. Does it come from maƱana? Or is it a manifestation of our lack of foresight?

Consider how we chose our options: OFW remittances instead of industrialization. BPO industry instead of innovation and global competitiveness. Price-focused yet inadequate – and nowhere near competitively priced – power supply instead of rapid infrastructure development. Land reform and subsistence farming instead of a globally competitive agribusiness designed for scale and productivity and profitability. Focus on rural poverty instead of rapid economic development.

They equate to our sins of omission – and why we’re not generating the per person income of a Malaysia or a Thailand; and why our poverty is worse even when compared with latecomer Vietnam. It’s not rocket science: our OFWs know what inadequate income is – they can’t make both ends meet – and why they had to work overseas.

But we as a nation seem oblivious to reality when what our persistent poverty says is PH can’t make both ends meet. Before innovation and the demands of global competition, it was assumed deficit-spending was the be-all and end-all.

And so, we would shut our eyes in denial to our sins of omission and throw in federalism as the answer? God bless us! We continue to embrace “make-do” efforts in development without the benefit of coherence. Conversely, they equate to our sins of commission – and why we can’t solve our pressing problems.

Not surprising given we’re perception-challenged. That we can’t figure out what we must deal with, if we aren’t more ignorant that our more developed neighbors; with no sense of foresight, if we aren’t in fact clueless.

“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]