Monday, October 15, 2018

Si Juan de la Cruz … nagigising na ba?

If you would clip articles we read from local media and put them together like a narrative, how do you think the narrative will read? Try the following for size:

"THE WORLD BANK has downgraded its 2018 economic growth forecast for the Philippines - making it the third multilateral lender to do so since last week due to heightened external uncertainties and surging inflation locally ... the slower-than-expected six-percent growth in the second quarter that compared to 6.6% in the same period last year and last January-March [is] due to weak exports and weak farm performance. "[WB flags growth slowdown, Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan, BusinessWorld, 5th Oct 2018]

Yet this is not new ...

"The Philippines failed to reach that 10 percent, one of the very few countries in Asia to fail to solve its poverty. Poverty stalks the land, bedeviling 21 percent of the Filipino population. Why did the Philippines fail to solve its poverty? "  [ Rice, poverty, insurgency: It's a vicious cycle, Tony Lopez, Virtual Reality,  manilastandard.net , 5th Oct 2018]

And poverty can only aggravate and explain a declining IQ level?

"I am afraid that hurtful as it sounds, our IQ level as a people may indeed be declining. That's because poverty continues to plague a good number of our people. Our high birth rate, especially among those who remain dirt poor, aggravates the problem. "[Low IQ (?),  Boo Chanco , DEMAND AND SUPPLY , The Philippine Star, 5th Oct 2018]

Yet our efforts in education are likewise heartbreaking!

"The quality of our education is lagging behind many of our ASEAN neighbors. In the 2018 Times Higher Education - Reuters ranking of the top 1,250 universities in the world, only two Philippine universities were included - University of the Philippines and De La Salle University. In comparison, Thailand had 12 universities, Malaysia had 11, and Indonesia had four universities in the world rankings. Singapore also had two but one was No. 21 and the other one was in the top 100. "[Thank you to great teachers,  Elfren S. Cruz , BREAKTHROUGH, The Philippine Star, 7th Oct 2018]

And when all is said and done, we are regressing into a failed state if we're not there yet?

"It should be evident by now that [the Duterte regime] is at the very least underperforming - or at the worst, rapidly bringing the entire country to ruin.

"What this suggests is far from flattering to Filipino political culture. The country's heroes - Dr. Jose Rizal, the lawyer of Apolinario Mabini, the law student Emilio Jacinto, the worker of Andres Bonifacio - were all children of the Enlightenment, and passionate in their commitment to liberty, equality, human rights and the rule of reason.

"But most of those who pay lip service to these exemplars' contributions to the Filipino nation eagerly approve of such false, simplistic solutions to complex problems as the execution, without due process and the presumption of innocence, of alleged wrongdoers." [Trapped in the 17th century, Luis V. Teodoro, Vantage Point, BusinessWorld, 4th Oct 2018]

We can try PR efforts but the rest of the world is smarter than that?

"The BBC documentary aired last weekend, 'Philippines: Democracy in Danger?' has a subliminal message for us Filipinos: 'Do not miss the forest for the trees,' meaning let's not miss the big picture by focusing too much on individual details.

"Harry, no matter how many times you use 'clear' or 'cleared' in your BBC interview, there is nothing in the Alston report that clears your principal. This seems to be proof positive that you can brazenly lie with a calm face. "[Here's what the Alston Report says, Harry;  Solita Collas-Monsod , GET REAL, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6th Oct 2018]

Still, we have friends that want us to succeed ...

"USAID is a close partner of the Philippine government in investing in human capital development and employing science, technology, and innovation to bolster growth ...

"The ... project was launched in 2013 in partnership with RTI International to provide research and technology transfer between industries and universities. It also provides grants for collaborative industry-university research projects and scholarships in American universities. "[USAID commits funding to extend innovation program, Camille A. Aguinaldo, BusinessWorld, 4th Oct 2018]

But what to do ... really?

"[B] efore we even unpack corporate income tax reform and fiscal incentives rationalization, there must be some consensus on what the country's growth strategy should be. How can we create more jobs without killing the ones present today? What industries should we incentivize? What should we do today so that we boost our competitiveness now, while preparing for growth opportunities tomorrow?

"Answering these would greatly provide some context and rationale to the ongoing discussions on the Work bill. More important, it would provide the basic ingredients for a solid plan-a unifying economic vision even-around which all stakeholders can rally and coordinate their own efforts. "[The bigger questions, Sonny M. Angara, BETTER DAYS, BusinessMirror, 5th Oct 2018]  

The narrative will now take a bow ...

What would be your reaction? Am I in living in the here and now? Are not we in the 21st century? Is this the Philippines that I was brought up in?

The problem is we all take for granted that we are immune from mediocrity. And that is because we in the elite class - successful as we are in our respective endeavors - are superior to the rest of the region if not the world. We matter-of-factly all prescribe cures for what ails Juan de la Cruz. Yet Cambodia, Ethiopia, Laos, Myanmar, among others, have left us in the dust.

And that is over a 20-year span. Imagine how much momentum that translates to that can only bring greater keenness in the perceptive judgment and capacity of these nations to build on their experiences and truly make us the regional laggard if not a basket case. As the blog has discussed, perceptive judgment is a function of experience, not education, not hierarchy. More to the point, we're yet to emerge from our dark ages while they're well on the way to enlightenment.

But the writer felt a ray of light upon reading: "Answering these would greatly provide some context and rationale to the ongoing discussions on the Work bill. More important, it would provide the basic ingredients for a solid plan-a unifying economic vision even-around which all stakeholders can rally and coordinate their own efforts. "

And so he copied Sen Sonny Angara this recent posting, "PH is in our hands - The elite class." Because he hopes the senator will think through the following points: "What are we missing? We have to move beyond linear thinking and into lateral thinking to appreciate the imperative of creating an ecosystem and make major undertakings sustainable. But it needs forward-thinking and foresight; and for us to be outward- not inward-looking. 

"To be outward-looking means we would: (a) have leveraged the expertise of the IRRI, for example, to lift us up from the abyss; and / or (b) shamelessly stolen the best practice models of our neighbors, eg, consolidated as opposed to fragmented farms.

"It is - surprise, surprise - a manifestation of our parochial and insular instincts. As in: ownership (aka land reform that we crow as as a demonstration of our Christian faith) is the be-all and end-all that we can not wrap our head around economies of scale as in cooperatives, for example.

"More to the point, to be forward-thinking and to demonstrate foresight means we would establish a north star [as in: 'Begin with the end in mind,' from the 7 habits of highly effective people] to guide us in our pursuit of major undertakings like: (a) the Regional Investment and Infrastructure Coordinating Hub (RICH) of Central Luzon; or (b) defining where we must be in energy beyond "Energy Outlook: Supplying Rising Demand at Lower Cost;" or (c) beyond the empowerment of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)

"If we have established a north star, the question we would be answering will instead be: (a) Given Central Luzon - from Hacienda Luisita down to Calabarzon - accounts for two-thirds of the PH economy, what ecosystem must we create to sustain growth and development in the region and beyond? An ecosystem equates to a virtuous circle which in the 21st century is founded on innovation and global competitiveness.

"And if we drill down to what it entails, it means an infrastructure development plan that will support specific sectors of the seven industry winners (defined by the JFC) and make PH competitive within the region and beyond; and (b) a critical piece to that is an energy development plan; and (c) a network of MSMEs that will feed into the requisite demands of innovation and global competitiveness. "

That clearly is a "helicopter view" but hopefully will challenge our legislators and economic managers and both the public and private sectors, ie, how can we frame a "unifying economic vision" in the words of Sen Angara?

The above is a strawman that can be fleshed out.

But then again, how prepared are we in the elite class to shift our paradigm. And speaking of paradigms, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, the creator of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," comes to mind: "Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world ... If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm. "

In other words, "USAID funding to extend innovation program" is bound to fail if our paradigm can only commit to small but not big changes. There is no free lunch. And aid is not a magic wand. [As some would know, the writer's presence in Eastern Europe was arranged through a similar USAID program and he opted - as a personal and private accommodation - to extend his project, going 15 years and counting, with one client but not the other because of their respective paradigms.]

And the biggest challenge comes from our instincts - starting with "pwede na 'yan" and "missing the forest for the trees" - and why the blog's constant reminder:  " We are parochial and insular. We value hierarchy and the paternalism it brings. And we rely on political patronage and oligarchy given the spoils they bestow. That when all is said and done, we bite the bullet - aka a culture of impunity. "

With due respect - "DoF chief to seek growth outlook of IMF, WB," blurts a news report - while the writer can commiserate with our economic managers, we can not be in denial and celebrate our strengths and assets yet ignore our weaknesses and liabilities. Economic managers can distill our net worth and educate Juan de la Cruz accordingly.

More to the point, while the rating agencies were behind our credit rating upticks and the resulting positive FDI trends, Fitch in particular called attention to our weaknesses: (a) lower per capita income and (b) weaker governance and (c) business environment indicators ... compared to our peers ... to explain why we still lag our neighbors. What to do?

Gising bayan!

"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, September 29, 2018

“I don’t know a Filipino who gets angry”

That's from the Canadian boat driver - from the ferry service in Vancouver - when the wife and a friend hopped on one to get to Grandville Island * and engaged in small talk. Left unsaid is: "We Canadians are known to be polite people, but we do get angry." Which is probably something Trump learned negotiating a new NAFTA. The writer knows it too having covered Canada while in his old MNC-company.

[* Here's Wikipedia re Granville Island:  "The peninsula was once an industrial manufacturing area, but today it is a hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment. The area has received much acclaim in recent years for its buildings and shopping experience. [It] is home to 275 businesses and facilities that employ more than 2,500 people and generates more than $ 215-million in economic activity each year. "]

The boat driver came to mind as the writer was reading the "Report - McKinsey Global Institute - September 2018."  

"Some emerging economies have managed to achieve strong and consistent growth over a long period. These are the outperformers ... Eighteen of 71 countries outperformed their peers and global benchmarks.

The [next] 11 are Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Laos, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. "

Is Juan de la Cruz angry yet? Why not? Que sera, sera? Or is it subservience? He who submits to tyranny loves it, says Rizal. Gising bayan!

As some would know, this is the genesis of the blog: "I started writing to engage columnists and newspaper editors at the end of a trip to the Philippines over Holy Week in 2008 - to echo the frustrations expressed by friends and relations that were much louder and more intense than prior trips.

"My first thought was: with so much talents and skills how could the country be the basket case of Asia? Are we simply too nice as a people? "

Consider: "Fitch downplays corporate tax cut's lure," Melissa Luz T. Lopez, BusinessWorld, 21st Sep 2018. "LOWER CORPORATE INCOME TAX RATES are unlikely to provide a big boost to inbound investments, Fitch Solutions said, noting that a weak business environment hounded by red tape still deters investors from making big bets in the Philippines.

"Fitch Solutions, the research unit of Fitch Ratings, said the second tax reform package now awaiting legislative approval will not be a source of additional state revenues and is unlikely to lead to a deluge of foreign direct investments (FDIs)."

Yet this is not new. The agency highlighted our "lower income per capita and weaker governance and business environment indicators compared to ... rating category peers," even when "Philippines retains investment grade rating from Fitch" [ Lawrence Agcaoili , The Philippine Star, 19th Jul 2018.]

Those are three negatives that we have to continue to take for granted: (a) Lower per capita income and (b) weaker governance and (c) business environment indicators ... compared to our peers. They go to the heart of who we are ... as an enterprise, economy or nation.

But what does our media talk and write about? Consider: "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]

In other words, our media must demonstrate greater relevance. Take weak governance. The Marcos unexplained wealth should make Juan de la Cruz very angry - especially given the "values" the regime etched are today manifested by our "trapos." Consider: The crux of the matter remains, even from a legal standpoint - ie, the Marcos unexplained wealth is unexplained.

What about the weak business environment indicators? We are ruled by oligarchy. Yet we keep hyping them because they mean well and can raise the wellbeing of Juan de la Cruz? But why can not we eliminate the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution? Hint: Oligarchy and political patronage are bedfellows.

And the low per capita income? Because ours is a consumption economy driven by OFW remittances and the BPO industry. As the blog reminds us: "Our being the regional laggard is beyond poverty. It is about development. It is beyond jobs and a consumption economy. It is about an industrial economy that has attained a virtuous circle as in an ecosystem which wealthy nations like Denmark and Sweden have demonstrated. And PH underperformance is now magnified by countries like Cambodia, Ethiopia, Laos, Myanmar, and others. These once poor nations - like the Asian Tigers - are poised to leave us in the dust too. "

Did we not use to joke about these poor nations, that we're the superior race? What we are is an elite class - and the writer counts himself and family in - where rank has its privileges yet we're not owning up.

We do not need another people power. What we need is for the elite class to step up to the plate. If that is a tall order, what if we learn from AA?

Consider: "The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: (1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable; (2.) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity; (3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him; (4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves; (5) Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs; (6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character; (7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings; (8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all; (9) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others; (10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it; (11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out; (12) Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

"The relative success of the AA program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for 'reaching' and helping an uncontrolled drinker ... In the simplest form, the AA program operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own drinking problem, describes the sobriety he or she has found in AA, and invites the newcomer to join the informal Fellowship.

"The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society. Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so.

"They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read AA literature describing and interpreting the AA program.

"AA members will usually emphasize to newcomers that only problem drinkers themselves, individually, can determine whether or not they are in fact alcoholics ... At the same time, it will be pointed out that all available medical testimony indicates that alcoholism is a progressive illness, that it can not be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form. "[ https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/about-aa/the- 12-steps-of-aa ]

In other words, tyranny like alcoholism is a progressive illness; it can not be cured in the ordinary sense of the term. 

We are deep down the abyss. We are at least 50 years behind in infrastructure development. Our income per capita shouts third-world. Good governance is alien to us. Our business and industry is oligarchic. Bongbong Marcos has no clue what this all means. Nor does Macapagal-Arroyo or Sara Duterte. Because they are "trapos."
We need: (a) visionary leadership and (b) Juan de la Cruz to recognize that shortsightedness explains why we nurture political patronage and a culture of impunity - aka tyranny. In other words, good governance is a two-way street.

We need more than a JICA report, we need a commitment to pursue an infrastructure development plan that will bridge the 50-odd years of our deficiencies. And we need to make Arangkada concrete so that investors especially FDIs will find PH attractive.

Still, execution remains daunting given our poor track record. It reflects our lack of foresight, manifested in our inability to establish a north star and prioritize. Why? Think "crab mentality." And does it come from our instincts of parochialism and insularity? Recall that in Denmark cooperatives are a way of life and have a special place in their culture.

Gising bayan!

"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]