Social Drains on Economic Gains

Why does the Philippine economy persist in failing to generate enough wealth to cut into the nation’s deep poverty? It is not a monetary issue, this persistently laggard struggle. It has little to do with numbers.  It is social. It is the people infrastructure that relentlessly sucks the life from wealth-building.
“Hey, Joe! Whatchu drivin’ at?”
Well, corruption is a social drain. It is one of the more tangible. But it is not so damaging. Consider when a government contract is let for an amount greater than the true value of the project. The excess covers kickbacks, padding, and “expenses” like travel first class in luxury resorts. The illegal money that stays in the Philippines works to support the Philippine economy. It is not lost. What is lost are the projects that don’t get done because the budget is eaten away by the bloated, overbid projects. So the infrastructure that could be built is only partially built. Year after year, lagging, lagging, lagging . . .
Small corruption, the P100 under the table to the LTO lady to get on the top of her stack of paper, is generally spent in the Philippines. It is not lost. It is just “value creation” that is not taxed.
Everyone understands that corruption is bad. But it is not the main reason for the weak Philippine  economy. Indeed, fighting corruption represents a distraction. Leaders get complacent and happy with their showboat achievements on corruption and don’t do anything about the more fundamental problems.
Here are the three barriers to wealth-generation that are bigger than corruption:
  • Weak employment practices. Gigantic damage.  Much bigger than corruption. It’s just that you can’t see the tangible shortfall so clearly. Hiring favorites, friends and family instead of hiring for competence. Blocking top performers by giving someone’s uncle a job. Not nurturing productivity. No performance reviews. No promotions. No merit increases. No innovation. No fast-tracking of top producers. These good disciplines don’t happen enough here. Managers are autocratic straw bosses, not motivators. This simply sucks the good thinking and productive work out of the drive for profit, for wealth. The Philippines flat out lacks the dynamic drive for productivity and success that you can see in the United States. And everyone just shrugs . . . “it’s the way we do it, Joe . . .”
Yes it is.
  • Catholic values keep the nation forever poor as the over-birthing masses eat away the jobs the economy is trying to generate. This is easy to fix, but no one has the nerve to go against the Great Protector of dark age Philippine morality. Its is not about abortion; that is a flame-thrower the Church uses to blast away well-intended opponents. It is about telling the people it is important that they have small families, for the good of the nation. So simple to fix. So impossible to do, given what appears to be a lack of commitment in the Executive Office to get the birth rate down.
  • Education that does not inspire kids to look forward (plan, organize and make good decisions), look outward (ingenuity), or look inward (healthy self esteem). Kids are subjects for authoritarians to rule over. Memorize this. Upchuck that. Sit down, shut up. That capitalistic fire in the belly, the competitive zeal and commitment to achieve, is dead out. Snuffed, grades 1-12. Filipinos create little, invent little, innovate few new processes that are productive. They don’t learn how.
“It’s the way we do it, Joe.”
Yep. You do.
Those are the big three. The big dawgs of economic impotence.
Oh, there are other social flaws as well, but they are not as pronounced in dragging the economy down.
Women are held in check by a warped puritanical morality that says education about birth control is bad because it may encourage sex outside of marriage. As if coat hanger abortions were irrelevant, or as if it were okay that 12 women die daily because of unhealthy pregnancies. Women are held in check by marriage contracts that have no termination clause. So husbands can beat them, have relationships with other women, abandon the wife and kids, and any woman who wants out will found herself attacked in the courts like she is some fiendish criminal. What a waste of judicial resources, what a misguided morality.
Backward is as backward is. Sorry, ladies.
But that’s the way it is . . .
The courts are horrible at handing out quick, precise justice. So the wrongs that damage society are never corrected, fostering a slow bleeding of vibrancy from the economy. Case law is so tainted by favoritism that it has the legal weight of a stack of comic books.
Too bad the bar is stocked with drinks instead of attorneys with a fine sense of right and wrong and the honorableness to pursue right with a vengeance.
Some day we will have a Rizal kind of president. A guy with depth of vision who can see what is really going on around here. Not a continuation of the line of presidents who are locked into the very culture that holds the Philippines back. Who are blind to the ways their culture is assured of being mediocre, or even backward.
A president who can see that the Philippines would flourish with employment practices that energize  productivity, with social values that free Filipinos instead of hold them in dark age limbo, and with education that brings fresh, bright thinking to the nation.
Some day . . . it won’t be the way it is . . .
11 Responses to “Social Drains on Economic Gains”
  1. Anonymous says:

    and yet, this generation just dumps everything on our generation, hoping they can change it. do as i say, not as i did. unfortunately, the horrid example will most likely be followed by our next line of leaders, and the vicious cycle continues. but you're right though, joe. one of these days, just probably not even in my lifetime. Andy (Ybañez- Anderson)

  2. I think social media are already starting to change values. So I'm more optimistic than perhaps you are. I wish I would hear a legislator talk about how we need to energize productivity in the country through stronger management. Japan recognized they had such a need after WWII and brought notable American management people in to help them organize. The problem here is that people don't ever realize there is a problem.

  3. brianitus says:

    Here's a good example of hiring practices that you hate in action:The Tupas family is an enemy of the former administration, as far as I can tell. There's one congressman who participated in the recent impeachment. What else is his family doing?1. The dad, a former governor, had cases with the Ombudsman before, gets Executive Director position in the PNOC. 2. One or two siblings get USec rank positions in gov't agencies.While #1 and #2 happened before the impeachment, wasn't Rep.Tupas already an attack dog then? Imho, if gov't can do it, why can't us lowly private business owners do the same? We love trading favors. We live by it. We will die by it. It is what it is. Real change is at the end of a barrel of a gun. Line them up and shoot them, repeat cycle. Just don't ask me to pull the trigger. Kidding, except for the first part of this comment all the way to point #2.I appreciate it that people still bother to bring some ideals into the light. It's a dead practice among the majority.

  4. The favored are never held to account, are they? They can conduct treasonous acts and get elected (e.g., sponsor coups). I suppose it is because the win/lose mentality gathers supporters, even if you are a loser. But it's okay. The US is heading that direction, too. Liars and manipulators are held in high esteem. The principle of public good is set aside as the governance goes to the brink of fiscal irresponsibility time and time again. I figure the planet will be dead in about 200 years, or a horrid pit of hellish behavior and violence.Other than that, be sure to have a happy day!!

  5. brianitus says:

    Well, losers have to lick each other's wounds too. I will have a nice day. Cheers, Joe!

  6. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: the cricket)1. Wonderful description of the "status quo"…but Ihave hope that enough boy-girl scouts will come up to meet the needs of "we" if not today…then after the next island "plague"/diaster, 9.0 earthshaker,tidal wave…or all of the above!2. I am caught flat footed….speachless…what everhappened to "protect and serve" the public as a swornofficer vs. the "PH factor" (protect and serve your-self, the rich, powerful and fat-cats)…!3. Note that the island media seems to love to blowsmoke, pander to the richcats, neglect their collectiveresponsibility to do honest investigative reporting!chirp…chirp…!

  7. PH factor indeed. I mainly read the opinion columns in the newspapers. Good diversity of views there. The sensationalist slant on news is rather underwhelming. There are very few thinking pieces, for sure.

  8. Anonymous says:

    "Well, corruption is a social drain. It is one of the more tangible. But it is not so damaging…"Do I sense a change in perspective?The slogan "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap!" is precisely selling the very idea that everything that is wrong about the Philippines IS corruption. You stop corruption, you make Philippines rich. Our poverty is the fault of every embezzling government sonovabitch. Do you ever wonder why a few million peso scandal could easily become a political soap opera that drains the energy and passion of the public? Because in that whole scheme, it is a morality play. Talk about wrong policies that are causing gazillion worth of lost opportunities which could have easily created thousands of jobs and robust revenues for the government, see if you do not find blank stares. But this government says, it's really just about corruption. -ricelandr

  9. Anonymous says:

    When it comes to social issues, you hit good spots, Joe.Hiring practices such as reward for loyalty, or because of familial ties, what is called utang na loob in the vernacular is such a strong binder. Normally, this indebtedness should not have such an adverse effect on interpersonal relationships, but Pinoys are just too damn exploitative and abusive. They've even become desensitized to abuse of power, and the like.If the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines were more concerned about giving Pinoys spiritual comfort instead of shoving their phallic symbols down everyone's throats, then our society would be better off. What they're afraid of I think is becoming irrelevant, which they are. Unless critical thinking is emphasized in the educational system here, then we don't expect educated Pinoys to come out of school as anything more than worker drones. There's obviously something wrong with a system that emphasizes obedience and compliance instead of breeding creativity.Lastly, the "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap" is a myth. The reverse actually makes more sense; "kung walang mahirap, walang corrupt." People who are poor often feel that they are oppressed or being taken advantage of. People become corrupt because they feel that they are being oppressed. that they are being taken advantage of. Even if you take away all corruption, there will still be poor people. Taking away all corruption by itself is an impossibility; you can only hope to minimize it. The more realistic challenge is to take away poverty. THAT is a hard sell.Amir Al Bahr

  10. Good point. Maybe that is the fourth drain. Poor decision-making. Like all the court cases that are resolved, not with an eye to the law, but an eye to who paid what. Or the non-decisions on global warming and over-fishing. Or failure to get rid of the snarls of wires that appear to hold sections of Manila together. Or lousy drainage and lousy zoning regulations and enforcement. Customs processes that defeat trade, not enhance it. And on and on. My own take on corruption has shifted, indeed, for I don't see it as the big gorrilla affecting the economy anymore. It is damaging because it represents acceptance of poor values more than having a cash impact.

  11. "exploitative and abusive"Good strong way to put it, the damage done."People become corrupt because they feel that they are being oppressed. that they are being taken advantage of."Brilliant, positively. Thanks for that insight. That makes lots of things fall into line. People do what they have to do to eat, and "right or wrong" become less important than food. There is corruption of need, and corruption of greed. The nation needs to address both.

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