High on the Philippines
Today, rankings are up, investment is building, infrastructure investment is huge, resulting in upgrading of airports and roads and trains and ports. The national highway has been expanded in many stretches from two lanes to four, significantly cutting travel time and improving safety. Prices for land and property are going up, not because of inflation but because urban properties are more valuable as it becomes a sellers market. People are making money hand over fist. Regular people. Egg farmers and hollowblock makers and grocery store owners and restaurateurs. Malls and first tier franchises and hotels are pushing out across the nation, reaching into larger provincial cities. Schools have 100,000 more classrooms.
No signs are attached to the many construction projects going on across the land.
The corrupt are running scared.
Yet, I think the notion for many abroad is that the nation is still stuck in 2010.
It isn’t. It has a whole new set of problems, most of them how to deal with robust growth when governmental agencies are staffed by people who historically have not been hired for skill at managing productive systems, or when laws and courts can’t keep pace with demand by resolving contract disputes quickly or making clear who owns what.
People in Manila complain about the travel time. You can try to explain that the BPO industry has exploded beyond anyone’s imagination, not enough investment in transport systems had been made, and it takes years to build an expressway or train track . . . but people don’t want to hear that. They want to point fingers. Lay blame. Always lay blame.
So what people overseas hear is the complaints. And deduce that it is the same o same o ineffectual Philippines.
When it is not.
It is a hard-working Philippines.
With some lingering problems.
Take the Senate. The Senate is not up to speed. The Senate is a blame machine, its investigative hearings representing a huge lead weight on progress and confidence. Being fundamentally misdirected, the Senate does not pass those very profound laws that would change the character of the nation. The Senate exhibits a Third World mindset as it lacks ethical fiber (fondly welcoming a plundering senator with warm handshakes and back-pats), refuses to pass laws that might impose burdens on the entitled (anti-dynasty), refuses to pass laws that would bring order to land use and zoning, refuses to pass a peace initiative for Mindanao, refuses to tear down bank secrecy laws that stand as a barrier to good law enforcement, and refuses to advance the Philippines to modern standards of human decency (divorce law).
Did I say that the Philippine Senate is a lead weight on progress?
As I see it, the Philippines needs to do only one thing to become a successful nation.
Stop laying blame and start accepting accountability.
The Senate (and bickering partner, the House) needs to limit its showboating investigations and accept accountability for its failure to perform. It needs to move the nation forward.
The Judiciary needs to accept accountability for its laughable timelines, politicized decisions and corruption. (Executive and the House share accountability for failing to fund a first class court system.)
Executive needs to accept accountability for failure to clean up Customs, failure to assure ample, steady electricity, and failure to assure ample user internet bandwidth and speeds. These are not matters that can be finger-pointed anywhere else. Those are the three big failings of Executive. Abaya is just passing through. He is not the issue. There are other problems, but there will always be problems in National Government that has so many demands and is burdened with agencies filled with people who got their jobs on some basis other than skill.
Executive has earned . . . but will never receive in this notoriously crabby nation . . . credit for doing so much while working against the complaints of the crooks, leftists, malcontents and others who seem to want failure for the Philippines, not uplift. The Administration kept its eye on the ball and worked. Executing a superb defense policy and alliance building. Handling crises well (Hong Kong, Zamboanga, Sultan, Taiwanese fisherman), and one not so well. Getting storm readiness and recovery upgraded. Improving policing. Running internationally acclaimed social programs (CCT). Investing in classrooms and K-12 to raise the competitive standing of the nation’s educational output to international norms. Stabilizing the financial foundation of the nation and producing sound, steady growth. The dominant part of Executive is earnest, honest and productive.
Three prominent churches need to accept accountability for being more trouble than they are worth on way too many days:
Iglesia ni Cristo for operating like a mob organization disrespectful of democratic norms and government’s job to enforce the law,
The Muslim leadership for not holding their own people responsible for deadly violence, but instead using the threat of additional violence to extort benefits from the National Government. How about going proactive? How about crafting a plan for economic development and gain National’s backing? Stop complaining and start solving. Leadership can be claimed. You don’t really need no stinkin’ BBL if you just identify the problems and solve them. National is more than receptive.
The Catholic Church for fighting advances in human rights knowledge and sensitivity, engaging in corrupt and abusive practices, and failing to instill a sense of moral accountability in its flock. Noted members attend services on Sunday, arrive in the office on Monday to steal taxpayer money, then line up at some event to kiss the Pope’s ring as if nothing were wrong. The bishops preen pompously and righteously and relentlessly fail to see the sorry results of their moral leadership.
These are the institutions that are holding the Philippines back. These are the institutions that are way too busy pointing outward with blames rather than look inward for solutions.
The oligarchs aren’t on the list. They are a huge PLUS for the nation. They provide the investments that make the nation grow. They operate the engines of wealth generation. They generate profit for shareholders who risk their money in the corporation. And they operate on a playing field under a rulebook produced by the National Government.
The Legislature and Judiciary establish the rules of impunity that favor the fat cats.
The culprits of entitlement are the rulemakers, not the oligarchs.
Philippine media are also in business to make a profit. They only provide what people want to watch or read. They can’t afford to pay professional reporters of the old style. Theirs is a quick-moving business with barely enough time to breathe. I’d argue that government leaders and agency heads need to do a better job of managing their press relations by providing information that helps the media succeed.
The media are neither the nation’s moral guardians represented as the fourth estate nor are they the irresponsible tabloids portrayed often by JoeAm. They are functionaries making money by giving people what they want.
The culprits of tabloid sensationalism are the viewers and readers who demand gore, gossip, titillation and conflict while shunning information.
Social media are thriving. It’s a bit of wild west, a swarm of faceless aliens infesting every activity on the planet, real time. It is a huge living organism, a lot like the biggest organism on earth, the Honey Fungus living beneath the ground in the Blue Mountains of Northern Oregon. It has no shape and cannot be seen, but it is profound.
We, the hypocrites
What have we done here? We have blamed and pointed fingers.
As do all who blame, we can claim it is constructive criticism.
Well, we can do that if we balance out the complaint with credit granted where earned. Or provide some takeaways, some lessons.
So it is only fitting to circle back around to where we started this writing. To acknowledge that the Philippines in 2016 is very different than the Philippines was in 2010. We owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands of workers who put in their days on the job working hard and productively and are never recognized for their contributions. The judges who work their dockets honestly, forthrightly and fairly. The legislators who do good works (thanks especially to Senator Aquino for his achievements in 2015). The police who protect us, the Pope, the APEC delegates, and the INC rabblerousers as they protest the government. The troops who slog through the dangerous jungles or sit on rusty boats to keep us safe. The agency workers who warn us of storms and plug our electricity back in afterward, who build homes for those who can’t afford to build them, who engineer and build our roads and airports and docks and classrooms.
Thanks for building a nation!
Hey, I look about and I get high on the Philippines.
Gorgeous place, beautiful people, with just the right mix of passion, productivity and happy indolence. Food fun and frustration. Wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s rich, like life itself . . .
This place is on the move!
Think I’ll stick around for the rest of my lifetime . . .