Setting Goals: National Purpose #4


Ummmm, not THAT kind of goal!

“What is a nation for?”

We have a hierarchy: Family. Clan. City. Province. Region. Nation.

If you think about it, a nation is nothing more than a very large family, usually living within a defined compound with walls called a boundary which are defended by armies instead of dogs.

These are all communities that work well together or don’t.

When they work well they seem to offer:

  1. Protection against predators. It’s the animal in us, safer together.
  2. Understanding and comfort. We speak the same language, generally agree to the same ideals, and have a certain camaraderie born of cultural homogeneity.
  3. Live by commonly accepted rules, the laws we agree to, and the punishments we set for breaking them. “Free” does not mean anything goes. It means responsibility, too. Responsibility to others.
  4. Better our lives. This generally means increasing our wealth so that the poorest become less poor, and we all have opportunities for fulfillment and enrichment. Enrichment can be from money or material goods, but does not have to be.

Well, our corrupt legislators have a horrendously bad sense of nationhood. They put themselves above the nation. Above fellow citizens who are destitute and just got blown away by two typhoons.

They may not be traitors by law, but they are traitors to the idea of community.

So if those four purposes make sense for us, what goals do we expect our government to set and work to achieve? Here I think in corporate terms where a goal needs metrics attached. Benchmarks we can set and track progress toward. For example:

  1. Safety might be measured by deaths per thousand, or lifespan.
  2. Comfort might be measured by some kind of satisfaction index.
  3. The effectiveness of rule-making and punishments can be measured by crime rates.
  4. Betterment of our lives can be measured by percentage of families under the poverty threshold, or GDP per person.

This is all background to what I want to discuss, and that is economics, or “National Purpose #4”. I was drawn to this topic by an article I read that said the Philippines is doing well not simply because of President Aquino’s anti-corruption agenda, but because the Central Bank has focused on keeping inflation down. Success in this arena has ironed out swings in the economy and inspired a lot of investment because loan rates are low. Investors love stability as much as they love low loan rates.

“Wow,” I thought. We may be paying BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. a ton of money, but he is worth every centavo. He is doing more than the entire Cabinet put together to stabilize the Philippines and lay a foundation for fast growth.

That led me to wonder, we know the Philippines is a star performer in Asia. But the economy is still thin, and it is easy to increase percentage-wise from a small base. What national target might we set if we looked at our Asian neighbors? We are working on National Purpose #4. Ways to motivate enrichment.

Here is the 2012 CIA ranking of East and Southeast Asian nations by GDP:

Southeast and East Asia



 1. China (PRC)


 2. Japan


 3. South Korea


 4. Indonesia


 5. Rep. of China (Taiwan)


 6. Thailand


 7. Malaysia


 8. Hong Kong SAR


 9. Philippines


 10. Vietnam


 11. Burma


 12. North Korea


 13.  Brunei


 14. Papua New Guinea


 15. Cambodia


 16. Mongolia


 17. Laos


 18. East Timor




We have to grow faster than other nations to surpass them. Let’s say we outpace other nations by roughly 3% per year. We can do this because:

  • We have OFW’s goosing the economy.
  • We speak English and are well educated.
  • We have everyone’s attention, are cleaning up our act, and people know they can make money here.
  • We are located in the focal point of the Asian semi-circle, a convenient distance from more nations than anyone else.

My calculator says 3% of $250 billion is $7.5 billion. Our immediate goal is to surpass Hong Kong and Malaysia to get to the number 7 slot. We may be zipping past Hong Kong next year. Malaysia is moving fast, too, so maybe that is a 5 to 7-year time-frame. Thailand, perhaps 10 or 12. Taiwan, 20 to 25 years.

The Philippine economy would have more than twice the depth and production power it now has. Can you imagine?

If you think roads are jammed now, just wait.

Or better yet, work harder at laying down a forward-looking infrastructure. Like open up the Clark-Subic corridor to intense commercial development with incentives and government corporations, and get Mindanao cranking as the agribusiness and manufacturing heart of the nation.  Rather than throw money at agencies for political reasons, think about the return on investment. Think about GDP.

Which will get us past Malaysia faster? Investment in used American warships, with the cash shipped overseas, or manufacturing ships at home? Foreign mining companies that strip the Philippines bare and haul off the profits, or private Filipino mines like the Kingking project that will employ 3,000 at the mine and 45,000 jobs up and down the value chain. (This will be the subject of a blog in a few days.)

Wild-eyed dreaming?

Or a way to sharpen our focus?

Let’s get out the return on investment calculator and stop tossing money into the non-productive winds. The foundation is here. Advantages are real. Crooks are being swept out of the way. Let’s jail them and stop thinking about them. Leave them behind.

Let’s focus our attention on building a national dynamo of honest productivity.

And when we get to fifth, let’s aim at fourth.

12 Responses to “Setting Goals: National Purpose #4”
  1. Joseph-Ivo says:

    I love your American optimism, I don’t like Americans trying to frame the world only economically.

    Napoles might be triggering a major change in Philippine society. The more verbal and assertive OFW’s influencing families and communities, the growing aspirant middle class, the easier communication via internet and the new social media…, all of these new powers can blossom in the fresh air brought in by the current president and his surroundings. It might be too many fronts to overpower simultaneously for the Enrile’s of this world and their crumbling support groups.

    Today dreaming about accountability and justice, about improved education, improved infrastructure, about inclusive growth…, in short dreaming about a more mature society might be more than a delusory hope. Thinking about what’s next is justified.

    But let’s open this discussion to many fronts:

    What’s next economically? Do we follow the fast American model where the straightforward economical man thrives in a free marked, with a minimal state and an almighty (Almighty?) invisible hand as guidance? Only money talks. Or the slower European multi-dimensional and inclusive model with high state influence to regulate and distribute?

    What’s next philosophically? The American consequentialism, where only the outcome counts or the European anti-consequentialism, where only the intention counts. Only the facts, one truth, one best way or does it all depend on the situation, the viewpoint, the intention. Bigger is better or more with less. The Philippines through its history is so in between, so confused, so layered.

    What’s next culturally, environmental, ethical, political, scientific, sports…??? How are we ranking in on all these other spheres of live, where do we want to be?

    I appreciate this blog, pushing the thinking process in an always positive way.

    • Joe America says:

      If I write optimistically, it is because I believe the Philippines is about to have its decade or two or 10 in the sun.

      As for America, I’m not really troubled by her commercial reach, as that is shared among large Japanese, Korean, and German companies, among others. And the European Union does a good job of sitting on Microsoft or other commercial monopolists. But I do worry about the American military/spy global presence and will write to that point on Wednesday.

      I believe Napoles and other Aquino jailings are indeed sweeping a kind of respect for fair dealing into office. I hope it is catching. A lot will be determined in 2016. And, indeed, Enrile is undermined by social media. That is a fresh dynamic. More effective than military coups.

      I think the Philippines economically will follow its own model of oligarchic dominance, but with more depth as the middle class evolves both in business and in citizen demographics. Philosophically, I hope what happens is the layers, or the diversity, get recognized as being “who we are”, and a kind of pride evolves from that. It will take a lot to get to consequentialism because the Philippines is so reactive. We’ll know there is progress in that direction when, somewhere along the line, people start to put their guns in the cabinet for defense rather than use them to hunt.

      The other aspects you cite? ahaha, that’s about 10 blogs I think.

      I appreciate your thoughtful reactions to the blogs. You extend the thinking a long way forward.

  2. Attila says:

    Speaking of economic growth.
    There is a chismiss going on in the Filipino community here in New York. Some Filipinos believe that the US stole some huge amount of gold from the Philippines during the Marcos regime. They also believe that this is the cause of why the Philippines is still a poor country. I could not find any info about it. Some Filipinos believe that the gold is locked down in Foth Knox. What is this conviction is based on?

  3. The Mouse says:

    I think a better indicator would be a GDP per capita

    On the other hand, I wonder how the Philippines would rank in GDP per capita and HDI should say, ARMM be excluded. It seems that ARMM figures are extremely low,, sometimes lower than poor countries in Africa. Northern Luzon, to me, seems to have an impressive track especially in Human Development especially given that it is still quite “isolated” from the capital and the more industrial Mega-Manila area (okay, Southern Tagalog region..hehe). Makes me think that regional culture does play a role. Cordilleras and Ilocanos are known to be among the biggest savers(as well as spenders…hehe) according to NEDA.

    Which now makes me think…the national government should put more responsibility on the local governments. Some are doing their jobs, some are don’t (and just basically waiting for the national government to give them their “rations”..hehe)

    But you are right. I think the recent impressive economic performance has a lot to do with the BSP than the porkies in the legislative. (Come on, can’t they think of anyway to help rebuild Zamboanga rather than coming up with “conspiracy theories”?). At least the executive is doing their job, but I hardly heard of someone from the legislative strongly condemning the terrorist acts in Zamboanga. Heck, given the resurgence of the activities of MNLF-Misuari and BIFF and the incoming threat from China, they are even questioning AFP modernization. The AFP needs a push in modernization, not be held back. Even Kenyan troops seem to be better equipped the the AFP.

    Some Filipinos suggest that what the Philippines need are technocrat leaders. If the Philippines has executives and legislators like Tetangco; maybe the Philippines will become a “super tiger” or tiger on steroids. hehe

    and Singapore’ s LKYknows the problem of the Philippines:

    Though I don’t think it’s actually the forgiving and forgetting nature is the way to describe it. I doubt that GMA really pardoned Erap and Misuari because she was forgiving and forgetting. Has more to do with political tactic.

    Income inequality is also interesting, if I may add. Taking a look at these ( and, it seems to me that some countries that have higher income that the Philippines has higher GINI and Income inequality…(Mexico is high income country while the Philippines is in the low income category). Some Filipinos who traveled abroad says that other countries are just a lot better in hiding their slums than the Philippines. But we can only speculate.

    The biggest problem in the Philippines that I see is that, there isn’t a way to deal with crooks unlike in other countries. There are laws and agencies but they seem to be helpless. I say, scrap the presidential pardon. Bring it to the legislative or public. It should not be the sole decision of the president.

    • Joe America says:

      What great perspectives on this. I agree GDP/Capita is an excellent metric. I originally had it in my table and it shows the Philippines at something like $3,000 per person, which is on the very, very low end of the scale. I basically see that as one of the interim competitive advantages that should help promote the sustained rapid growth I suggest ought to the the goal. Your idea to peel off ARMM is really very good, to look at a core measure, and to extend that thinking to measure EVERY region or province by certain metrics. Like GDP/capital, or savings rate. And call out the under-performers.

      I think you would see places like Palawan rising dramatically (tourism), but most places simply treading water. And I think you’d find Manila GDP/Capital approaching international norms. The tragedy of the corruption is that Palawan’s wealth got ripped off to the tune of 900 million pesos, what I refer to as the “Ampalaya fund”. Another Napoles project. The progression of Palawan could be into the elite range of tourism destinations with that money properly spent there on roads and docks and keeping the place spotlessly clean.

      Your last paragraph is a zinger. Plus the notion that the Arroyo pardons was political. A Christian heart had nothing to do with it.

      I think the Philippines will do a lot better when its people broadly and deeply feel shame at the way their officials treat their land, and at WHOM they put into office. The two are connected. If Binay is elected President, I think the government should issue pistols to every citizen so we can just shoot ourselves in the head and spare ourselves the pain of enduring stupidity.

  4. anonymous says:

    Yes, Running a nation is like a FAMILY, and if the head of family doesnt control its household properly, that house is going down.

    Our nation is topheavy with corrupt legislators. My familty in real term was headed by successful businessman buying and selling dried goods in our town. So successful my father was elected to the city council and eventually to a vice mayor post. He has big family too and failed to control his money vault where the kids found a way to steal the money as much as what Napoles and his conspirator legislators had done.

    My family went down with a bang while this nation will continue to fail to provide us
    a better life and eventually will break apart if and when that corrupt legislators are not contained.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, that is for sure true. The discipline of the nation/family is very poor indeed, when the courts don’t work right and the weight of bad behavior is so tremendous that the good guys don’t have a shot at being successful.

  5. anonymous says:

    Yes sir, amazingly countries with economic and social success do have courts that work., I would say that the solution in the Philippines is to fix the crooked justices and its systems.

  6. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    JoeAm is concerned about Philippines than Filipinos are concerned about our country. Let me rephrase it, those who have access to newspapers and internet are concerned about Philippines while those who do not do not care at all: What Filipinos do not know do not hurt.

    Vietnam has half the GDP of the Philippines which has neck-on-neck in baby manufacturing at 90,000,000, yet, in 2012 Happy Planet Index Vietnam is the 2nd happiest place on earth next to Disneyland. Philippines is in respectable 24th place. In fact the top ten 2012 Happy Planet Index are … ta … da … 3rdworld religious roman catholic countries. Ain’t ignorance wonderful with Roman catholicism thrown in? Vietnam has experienced well-being index higher than Philippines and ecological footprint is higher than the Philippines. Meaning, we Filipinos are concerned about ecology and environment while Vietnam, due to their ignorance, do not care if they are sniffing carbon dioxide from the soot of their motorcycles.

    While we educated 24/7 addiction to internet are not happy at all because We see the problem. Those who cannot afford newspapers and internet do not and cannot see any problem. Before I experience the U.S. my life was simpler. Just this morning on my way out to work I saw a huge 55-inch Samsung LED Smart TV on my porch in its original packaging. I checked! It is addressed to me! I did not order this! I do not watch television. That is sooooo 80s. Just then, my cell got a text message from my wife: “Honey, did you receive the 55-inch LED TV? If so, please send it thru Atlas Cargo to the Philippines. Thanks!”

    My wife in the Philippines ordered on-line the Television from the comfort of her office in the Philippines have it delivered to my U.S. address and have it shipped to the Philippines. I called her. She did research. Samsung Smart TV is 200,000.00 pesos at SM, $4,600.00 American, whereas, in the U.S. it cost $1,250.00 plus shipping of $500.00 she saves more than half !!!

    OMG !!! And who gets to pay for it? Of course, who else? Am I happy? I am amused but not totally happy. Our neighbor would surely get jealous. And I think the whole Idea of her buying a jumbotron is not to watch TV but to show-off her high-tech decoration that is wi-fi enabled that connects wirelessly to her laptop.

    We have A/Cs in the living room, happy room and bedroom but seldom use it because we live in windy up on the hill and sparsely populated. A/C is one of our expensive decoration, too. We have it we do not use it. Nggeeeeek !!!

    Another thing that complicated my life is children swarming at Jollibee dumpster hoping to get a morsel of Jollibee Spicy chicken. Before I went abroad, I did not care at all, Now, it just breaks my heart.

    I may have things that others do not have but deep inside me is a persistent murmur of sadness.

    Are Filipinos ready to reach Goal Number #4 and loose a notch of happiness?

    United States in 2009 was unhappy at 150. In 2012 the Americans are still not happy. But Filipinos are.

    Is God playing a joke on us?

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