To understand the fundamental flaw in the idea of the Philippines’ relying on a strategy of counting on “foreign investment” to rescue its people from their own self-created wretchedness, it is important to understand the equally fundamental definition of poverty. Quite simply:
Poverty is a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently unable to honour.
Whenever we talk about — no, harp about — needing a lot more of this precious “foreign investment” to give Filipinos a chance to get their act together and onto the road to some sort of imagined future prosperity, we simply raise the really hard question:
How did we end up with such a pathetic need for this precious foreign juice to begin with?
When, we decided to grow our population from 16 million in 1946 to an astoundingly enormous 100 million today, what were we thinking? Did we have a good plan around how the manner with which the economy would pan out over the decades succeeding 1946 would be able to support this incredible exponential growth in numbers? In hindsight, what happened to the Philippines between 1946 and 2013 fits a very common textbook loser storyline.
In essence, Filipinos thought they’d buy a Mercedes Benz by taking out a 60-year loan without having a plan as to how to service said loan over that period. Then finding itself stuck with a 60-year-old clunker of a car in 2013 and a 60-year-loan hardly paid for, Filipinos decide to call their global sugar daddies to ask for more money.
Loser nga naman talaga.
The Mercedes Benz in that story is not too different to the money pit of a population the Philippines is stuck with today. Like the 60-year-old Mercedes that once looked nice and shiny back in 1946, we have a rusting clunker nobody wants to buy even at rock-bottom prices today in the year 2013. The car, in effect, was a depreciating asset. It did not get better with age. It progressively increased its owner’s liability with time. In the same way, in economic terms, every Filipino born from 1946 to 2013 posted a net negative contribution to the Philippines’ national economic equity. Rather than developing assets, we were spawning liabilities to the tune of the 100 million we see today.
You look through that more than 60-year period between 1946 and 2013 and you get a scalable model of Filipino added-value that can be applied over its entire 500-year written history. Not much to boast — which is why Filipinos also rely on the achievements of its expatriate community for validation.
More disturbing is the reality that there seems to be no evidence that any real change will be happening to change this degenerate “development” trajectory any time soon.
Despite the Philippines being host to abundant natural resources, and now, an enormous supply of people, the society as a whole lacks a collective ability to apply this enormous number of people to the task of turning these resources into any sort of valuable economic output of consequence. Instead, natural resources are harvested raw and sold raw — mineral ore, logs, overseas foreign workers. Overseas, these then get turned into iPhones, karaoke machines, those shirts with the Philippine islands embroidered onto their left breasts, Honda Civics, Havaianas, and Starbucks tumblers after which they are shipped back to the Philippines to be purchased using OFW cash.
The Philippines, in short, is a perfect self-perpetuating poverty equation.
Anemia, a physiological condition marked by an impoverishment of the substance of one’s blood, does not necessarily mean a deficit in essential minerals needed for production of key blood components. It could be a symptom of a body’s inability to process said minerals even when these minerals are present in abundance within said body. It’s like being desperately thirsty while stuck in a little boat in the middle of the sea. You’re toast because your system is unable to metabolise sea water.
Indeed, the Philippines, a resource-rich island nation, suffers from that famous curse of the naturally-endowed. The lush forests and abundant minerals that had for so long hung low enough to be picked by any Filipino schmoe sitting squat on a banig have proven toxic to the Filipino system just as sea water eventually kills a marooned shipwreck survivor.
So now we want more foreign investment.
A quaint beseeching, considering the Philippines, in essence, is really just one big SQUANDERED foreign investment. Much of the aspects of our culture we promote overseas, the infrastructure we frolic upon, the traditions we cherish; indeed, the very name and identity of our country, were ALL the outcomes of equity infusions from foreign governments over the last 500 years.
Not even counting the Spanish period that preceded it, the Philippine Commonwealth period alone under the United States saw an awesome infusion of capital into the Philippine islands. America presided over Philippine history’s biggest and most intensive orgy of foreign investment, one that lasted over most of the first half of the 20th Century. Over that period, the “free” world’s favourite system of government was established, as was a world-class public education system, deep water ports, the country’s “summer capital,” a vast naval and military air base, a long-distance train line, and a new national language that was well on its way to becoming the lingua franca of science and technology. Manila had a plan that stretched all the way out to the mosquito-infested swamps that were still to become “Metro Manila.” The city also had a really nice electric car system for public transport. It was, at the time, the jewel of the Pacific.
What America left the Philippines in 1946 is, collectively, the mother of all foreign investments.
And yet we now want more.
What do we plan to do with any more foreign investment that we feel we are entitled to on top of what we have already received and squandered? Do we have any semblance of a plan around how we might run with any new capital tossed our way? Have we so far proven to be a society that is fertile ground for long-term returns?
The hard questions are, indeed, difficult to face. So we instead sidestep these questions by coming up with supposedly “forward-thinking” half-brained “initiatives” that involve more of the same.
As I recall, the National Hero once quipped: Those who have not learned to regard the road so far travelled will never reach their destination.
Happy “Independence” Day.
[Photo courtesy Guavas Cows and Crocodiles.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.