Three ingredients essential for the Philippines to progress that ‘thought leaders’ fail to address

The trouble with the Philippines’ political discourse today is that it is hopelessly partisan. As a result, there is no energy channeled into mapping a way forward for the Philippines. Instead, much of the talk is around discrediting one other. Whilst there is a small niche within the social media chatter that appreciates and rewards the soundness of arguments (and even the wit with which these are presented), much of the rest mainly revolves around nitpicking on little faux pas made on a day-to-day basis by a who’s-who of influentials.

The problem with this sort of chatter is that nothing gets resolved (because both sides are adamant in the arbitrary righteousness of their positions) and no way forward is proposed. No surprise there as much of the quality of the chatter today simply mirrors that of the past several decades.

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At some point one just needs to step out of the fray and regard all the noise from an outsider’s perspective. When one does that, one is able to boil the Philippines’ problems down to just a handful of things that its society and decision makers need to focus on. It really just all comes down to three fundamental challenges that Filipinos have consistently failed to step up towards creating capability to achieve…

(1) Create and raise capital indigenously.

(2) Abide by the law.

(3) Think critically.

When we consider our elegantly simple and original definition of poverty, it suddenly all makes sense:

Poverty is a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently incapable of honouring.

In short, the Philippines remains wretchedly impoverished because it is held to commitments (e.g. growing population, mounting consumerism, debt-funded investments in infrastructure, etc.) that require a capability to raise capital indigenously, abide by the law, and think critically to honour in the long-term. Having failed to develop these capabilities since “independence” in 1946, the results are not surprising. The commitments are maturing and coming due, but the capability is not up to scratch to pay up.

The idea, for example, of funding infrastructure with debt is based on the assumption that said infrastructure will pave the way for economic development that then generates the funds to service said debt. When a debt-funded asset is not productively utilised, the result is a no-brainer: poverty. Simple, right?

As such, debt is not necessarily bad. It is only bad when the thing that we acquire with it is not turned into an asset. Indeed, “vice president” Leni Robredo famously expressed her fear of debt with regard to a proposal to build a rail service linking her home province in Bicol to Metro Manila that would require loans to finance its more than Php170 billion price tag…

“First of all, it’s debt. Very huge, P171 billion. That’s very huge,” said Robredo, who is a native of Naga. “Our fear is we might get stuck in a debt trap like the one experienced by Sri Lanka,” she said.

In essence, Robredo is expressing a lack of confidence that Filipinos will successfully harvest at least 170 billion pesos in economic value from such a rail link over the term of the loan — which means, as she rightly pointed out, it is practically certain that we’d be stuck with that debt with nothing to show for. That’s a fair enough assessment of Filipinos’ capability to make good on a commitment not just to pay that debt but to make that debt a whorthwhile commitment. Examples of how debt-funded projects have impoverished Filipinos abound, after all.

So, yes, for a society to develop into a modern and prosperous one requires that these fundamental capabilities be in place in order to mitigate the risk inherent in putting capital to work. Indeed, if we examine the histories of the economic development of the world’s great nations, the above three would be the common denominators at work. Closer to home, the late Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew focused on just these three things for the most part of his half-century effort to leading his country to greatness.

From what we have seen so far, the Philippine National “Debate” has also failed to come up with a roadmap along these lines simply because the quality of the discourse has never elevated to a level that tackles these fundamental challenges. Perhaps it is because, in a society of small minds, the topic of choice is always people rather than ideas. Small wonder that the Philippines remains doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

7 Replies to “Three ingredients essential for the Philippines to progress that ‘thought leaders’ fail to address”

  1. Those are huge numbers, indeed. But what does Leni Robredo know about the real plans of the gov’t? She and supposed “Duterte allies” are probably out of the loop as to the real estimates of what the nation can commit to. Then again, her faction in politics are there to obstruct for reasons beyond what’s obvious.

  2. So, instead of improving the railways infrastructures of the country, we should just settle with what we have now, buses who are immune to traffic laws, frustrated race car drivers as bus drivers, old and dilapidated forms of transport which seem to loose their brakes every instant of an accident?

    You see Ms. Robredo, did you even check how much the bus transportation industry makes in a day, with the kind of glaringly substandard service I stated above? Do you even realize that with a railway to compete with the buses, how much percentage share can it take from these bus companies? Or are you just making this reckless statements just for the purpose of having something to say?

    Sad to say, Leni reflects the pinoys’ lack of sense to venture out of their comfort zone to advance the quality of their lives.

    1. Problem is, joeld, benign0’s assessment of Robredo’s remark is correct: Pinoys are completely incapable of getting return-on-investment from a rail link. They won’t maintain it properly, they won’t run the financials properly, and in general they’ll just screw it up. Just like they do anything else. The Philippines runs on shitty old buses and jeepneys because – as you said – Filipinos refuse move out of their comfort zone and learn how to use anything else.

      In fact there are many simple technologies that the country could use instead of a rail link, which would be cheaper to run and easier to maintain. I think Pinoys would STILL find a way to stuff it up. If shooting yourself in the foot were an Olympic sport, Pinoys would go home with gold every time.

  3. We must make our choice between economy and liberty or confusion and servitude…If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labor and in our amusements…if we can prevent the government from wasting the labor of the people, under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.

  4. The last two (2) Abide by the law , (3) Think critically, the Filipinos will have a hard time to fulfill them. Most Filipinos are lawbreakers. Look at our leaders, who steal anything that is not nailed down. Think critically – with President like Pnoy Aquino; people like , Mar Roxas, Leni Robredo, etc…all shades of , YellowTards, WhiteTards, AquinoTards, Dutertards, etc…most Filipinos cannot think critically.

    Debt can be an incentive to growth, if used wisely. The trouble is: when the proceeds of the nation’s debt , goes directly to the “Black Hole” pockets of corrupt politician, like the late , Jesse Robredo. The proceeds of the debt goes to the corrupt politician’s bank accounts ( local and offshore), like Andres Bautista and Trillanes and others.

    Surely, we cannot service our debt in any way.

    If we avail of any debt. There must be a comprehensive plan to invest the debt. There must be a comprehensive plan to service and repay the debt. The Fear of Leni Robredo, only showed her ignorance about the importance of debt in financing projects. How can this woman be a potentially good President . She does not know , what she is talking about. No wonder she is a Bar Flunker !

  5. The 3 I’s:
    1. Innovation
    2. Integrity
    3. Intelligence
    make up the secret sauce of those with the Midas touch.

    When you see Filipinos marching in rallies with words like the above on their placards instead of “Never again”, “Stop the killings”, or “Uphold human rights”, that’s the time we can say the Philippines has truly been liberated.

  6. My impression of government projects is that some contractors actually love to just get the contract and run off with the money. I knew someone who kept on wanting to get such a thing, and was a frequent swindler, actually. All for easy money.

    Zaxx, instead, the three i’s of Filipinos is Idiocy, I want it you give it and I don’t care about you. Nasty, isn’t it?

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