Philippine poverty is really a very simple problem. It really is.

Why are Filipinos poor? Simple. Because they entered into too many commitments they, as a people, are inherently incapable of honouring. That’s essentially the definition of poverty in my book. As such, poverty in the Philippines is not the enormous problem it is made out to be. At its core, it is a simple problem that was created by a nation of simple people who lacked foresight.

To understand the simple reason why Filipinos are poor and understand the simple and obvious solution this reason begs, we first need to see clearly what creates wealth which is the opposite of poverty. History will show that much of what accounts for the unprecedented economic growth in societies over the last 500 years is technological development that resulted in increases in productivity (i.e. being able to generate more output per unit input).

Technology enabled productivity gain through:

(1) Increasing humanity’s ability to capture, store, and transmit larger and larger amounts of energy per capita.

Most animals can only rely on food to fuel themselves and their community. Some animals such as ants, squirrels, and some birds evolved capability to store food for future consumption. But it is only humans who harness and store other forms of fuel as input into conversion processes (fire, for example) that are external to their bodies to do work.

(2) Increasing the efficiency and variety of work that could be performed through this energy conversion.

Machines that could turn energy into mechanical and computational work are behind the huge improvements in the ability of human communities to control their environment, collaborate on complex endeavours, and organise in vast scales.

Societies that have demonstrated a consistent and sustained collective ability to advance technologically are those that have also delivered the biggest gains in personal wealth to its people.

In that respect, chronic poverty at national levels is consistently observed in societies that lack a tradition of scientific achievement and, as a consequence, technological advancement. Unfortunately, the Philippines is one such society. This is evident in the Philippines’ continued reliance on foreign technologies, processes, and expertise to develop its infrastructure, run its modern industries, and support much of its social and organisational capital. The Philippines may look like a modern society at the surface with its superficial veneer of democratic governance, liberal outlook, and urbane elite classes but underneath that is a core that subsists on foreign input.

In short, Philippine society’s indigenous technological capability cannot, by itself, sustain its people’s aspirational standard of living. Something as basic as committing to sustaining the enormous population Filipinos find themselves stuck with cannot be honoured to the standard most Westerners and northeast Asians enjoy. This leads one to the question of why Filipinos committed to such an enormous population to begin with. Said population had become a liability rather than an asset in this regard if seen from the context of Western standards of living.

As technologically-advanced societies grow economically, so too does the cost of the technology they export increase relative to the purchasing power of Third World countries that are dependent on it for their aspirational goals. As the income disparity between the First and Third World widens, so too does access to this technology. This is very different from the way the First World developed back in the olden days. Whereas societies that, for example, built their own rail infrastructure using indigenous technology when these were, themselves, developing economies, today’s developing societies merely buy the expertise and technology to build this infrastructure from the First World. Worse, even as this technology gets transferred from First World to Third, certain societies, such as that of the Philippines’, have exhibited a limited ability to absorb these technologies, sustain their advancement, and embed them deeply into domestic capability.

This weak absorption ability can be seen in, for example among many other examples, the Philippines’ spotty record (at best) of building and running public rail networks. Indeed, much of the public infrastructure that exists in the Philippines still remain largely accounted for by infrastructure that had been put in place by former colonial powers as Filipinos had, for the last several decades since being granted independence in 1946, exhibited very weak wherewithal to build upon these.

Yet Filipinos collectively continue to make commitments to supporting what eventually turn out to be liabilities. On average, every new Filipino that joins the workforce has a high probability of becoming an overseas foreign worker (OFW). Every new Filipino baby born has a high probability of becoming a street urchin. Every new voter, a potential non-thinking contributor to her country’s dysfunctional politics.

Most important of all, Filipinos have committed to that big piece of foreign governance technology — democracy. As is evident in the din of shrill “activism” we are subject to everyday, Filipinos are “committed” to “democracy”. But that commitment does not extend to honouring the responsibility that comes with being a “democratic” people which is apply modern thinking to the participation in said democracy. Filipinos seem to inherently lack that capability as well. As such, Filinos’ democracy too suffers from abject intellectual impoverishment.

So, indeed, the solutions to Philippine poverty are simple and, frankly, quite obvious. Filipinos should stop listening to “activists” who pander to their victim mentality and tell them their poverty is somebody else’s fault. They merely contribute to the impoverished thinking that keeps Filipinos poor and comfy with their poverty.

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29 Comments on “Philippine poverty is really a very simple problem. It really is.”

  1. Excellent! Great article that enlightens and elevates thinking process!

    Mr. benign0 does not even pretend to be a ‘Citizen Jake’ with this article. Thought-provoking and heavy, with provided solutions, spells the difference versus the pomposity of being loud and proud with the obvious absence of substance.

    This is what separates Enlightened Elites from Arrogant Elites in GRP which begs the question- shouldn’t the best in GRP be enough? I digress…

    Considering many filipinos contribute to our impoverished thinking, on one end, the poor, obviously being uneducated, the delusions of many jealous upper class of our society, on the other end being western-educated, them, becoming western-worshippers and lacking patriotism, further added to the hindrance of our nation’s growth and advancement.

    The next question is what’s another key element towards achieving that?

    If TECHNOLOGY is a key solution to our alleviation shouldn’t a FILIPINO IDEOLOGY start playing an important role in uniting a collective FILIPINO MINDSET?

    https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1464251507l/22608235.jpg

    1. Science and technology are, indeed, key. We can easily see in what Filipinos prioritise that this is not a promising society beyond the temporary fixes it keeps parting itself on the back for. The imagined “ingenuity” of the Filipino and the so-called “heroism” of their OFWs. All short-sighted perspectives. All ultimately pale by Western standards and, as such, inconsistent with the lofty aspirations for national greatness that Filipinos can merely wax poetic about.

    2. Whereas Chairman Mao, with his little red book, was able to unite a much bigger China, an Ideology for Filipinos can indeed be something instrumental for the same objectives for those of us who will agree with what it stands for.

      Presumably, from an outsider’s perspective of James Fallows’ “A Damaged Culture”, is where GRP originally got its idea and took inspiration from in its identifying the Filipino culture as a national dysfunction.

      Fallows’ brilliant article is taken to heart so dead-serioulsy, literaly owning the concept, it’s considered a bible to most RAH! RAH! Boys of GRP. It’s where the bloggers take their cue from re their position in various issues which helps explain the underlying theme with most writer’s submissions.

      But unlike Mr. Fallows, who presented analysis, comparisons, explanations and solutions, still, as an outsider, he won’t pretend to be an authority with his recognized limitation of first-hand experiences in assesing a foreign country, refraining even from judging with finality, some Boys of GRP, as we read them, I am afraid authoritatively took only half a part of it and inadvertently promoted their CULTURE of INDIFFERENCE quietly ignoring the author’s observation:

      “If the problem in the Philippines does not lie in the people themselves or, it would seem, in their choice between capitalism and socialism, what is the problem? I think it is cultural, and that it should be thought of as a FAILURE of NATIONALISM.”

      Fallows’ article offers this dark view of a nation not only WITHOUT NATIONALISM but also WITHOUT much NATIONAL PRIDE.

      “This is a country where the NATIONAL AMBITION is to CHANGE your NATIONALITY.”

      It makes one think! What’s can be so cultural and nationalistic with the repeated ‘disturbing’ of every aspect of filipino life only as a dead-end proposition while taking a shortcut of self-identification with the progressive West as an excuse and/or justifcation to extricate onself as being part of the dysfunction?

      Indeed, as Fallows pointed out:

      “When a country with extreme geographic, tribal, and social-class differences, like the Philippines, has only a WEAK offsetting SENSE of national UNITY, its public life does become the war of every man against every man.”

      Mr. Fallows, as a foreign observer in the Philippines of six-weeks, at a time during the heydays of the Yellowtards, may have a wide and open glimpse of what is the Philippines through his perspective, but, it cannot be denied either that Mr. Marcos, being a Citizen and a Head of State of this country in its most turbulent times, also already knew then what he’s talking about:

      ” … the Philippines is DICTATED by many FACTORS, one of which is the fact that the Philippines has been IDENTIFIED before the war as a COLONY of the United States. It passed through a COMMONWEALTH period. And having gone through 400 years of Spanish SUBJUGATION and CONQUEST and another 50 years of American OCCUPATION, the Philippines had somehow LOST its ORIGINAL and INDIGENOUS CULTURE. It became NECESSARY for the Philippines, therefore, in order to REESTABLISH its IDENTITY and for the Filipinos–especially the Filipino who was EDUCATED IN WESTERN WAYS–to RETRACE his ROOTS, and retracing his roots, of course, he DISCOVERED that he was ASIAN. More than anything else, the ALLUVIUM of WESTERN CULTURE was there, and so the Philippines became some kind of a melting pot of many cultures and many races. These varied inflowss of not only cultures but also influences established the BASIS for much of what the Philippines is doing NOW.”

      1. What can be said about the culture of people in a society which regards illiteracy as ignorance and/or stupidity rather than educational deprivation?

        There must be something amiss about the western-acquired wisdom of their pseudo-intelligence!

        Indeed, many have become mere agents of a reverse filipino pride that does not come from genuine self-knowledge but something more like petty braggadocio.

  2. Poverty is a choice. You can choose to remain mired in poverty. Or, you can choose to improve yourself and your life, and get out of poverty.

    Science and Technology are not emphasized in the mindsets of most Filipinos. Our heroes, are our corrupt and incompetent politicians, who most of them, rob us blind. Unless, we treat these “scumbag politicians”, as they are: scumbags. We will never progress as a nation. It is also the proper mindsets of people, that can solve poverty. Lousy mindsets, give lousy results.

    The advancement of Science and Technology, surely will give the capability , to advance our country. But, most of our talented, skilled and educated people, are OFWs. It is Brain Drain, ever since, and it is still Brain Drain.

    So, what are left in our country are the “clueless crumbs of humanity”. Easily manipulated by self serving politicians, to elect them to power. This is what they want, and we accept them.

    1. Poverty is not a choice. We have few choices in our lives as genetics determine most of what we are and will become. This is why you can bet that the child two tambays are raising will also not go far in life. Meanwhile a person genetically programmed to work hard and smart will do well anywhere.
      Filipinas need to choose guys who have a future, not just because they are pogi or tell them sweet things. Mate selection needs to be less romantic and more pragmatic.

  3. I dug up the article where you got part of your inspiration from, Benigz. Teddy Benigno’s The Real Culprit, where he said the Philippines is a mendicant culture. It’s a simple problem indeed, because the source of the problem is simple: mendicancy. Solve that, and a lot of problems in the country will be solved.

  4. Yes. The comments above raise a good point. We need to re-orient our economic ideology as appropriate to our own culture (in terms of solving poverty). We need to re-establish a set of values that aligns with who we are. We have committed to certain standards that we may not even understand where they lead to. It’s unnatural for a population to exceed its creative output. Unless they were meant for bondage. There has to be a way out soon.

  5. “Every new voter, a potential non-thinking contributor to her country’s dysfunctional politics. ”

    Non-thinking — that word sticks out for me. Logic is not a strength of the Filipino people; they are highly emotional and decision making is based more on feelings.

    “As such, Filinos’ democracy too suffers from abject intellectual impoverishment.”
    With freedom comes responsibility. Perhaps, Filipinos are not ready for democracy, for it takes knowledge, foresight and maturity to choose wisely about leaders and policies and to be able to filter out emotional appeal and manipulation from facts.

  6. “Intellectual impoverishment”? It’s a biological problem. Low IQ people having low IQ children and it’s going on for a long time enough to dilute the average IQ of Filipinos. IQ is inherited so unless that changes you can have all the theories abut what’s wrong and how to fix it nothing will change. Filipinos who are more intelligent should have more children then them but they are vastly outnumbered.

    1. Attila,
      what is the biggest group in your country? The elite, the upper class, the middle class or the lower class?
      I dont want to fight (with you) over the definition of all the above mentioned classes. I am sure the Philippines still uses its own definition of all the 4 classes and therefore you can still answer the question.

      In my neck of the woods, I will never compete with lower classes and make more kids. It is even ridiculous to do for many reasons. One of those reasons is that having kids cost money, time and effort. And when both parents both work 40 hours (or more) per week, (spare/free) time is a luxury. Being in a higher class already provides a lot more benefits than being in a lower class.

      For me there is a huge difference between being financially poor and being knowledge-wise poor.

      1. Knowledge-rich people are rarely poor and never poor in the long run. If a family has been desperately poor for generations then that means it’s not the fault of the system, country or region but themselves.

        1. pogiKuripot,
          – then why do poor people have – more – kids (on average). It is NOT rocket science how kids are made (penis, vagina, egg cell, sperm cell, ovulation).

  7. Jordan Peterson’s PragerU video, “Fix Yourself”, captures many of your points. Blaming others for your problem is, indeed, a complete waste of time. Yes, external factors have their fair share of contribution on making things difficult but you have no control over that. I’ve learned to look at such things for a brief millisecond and look the other way. Focus on things you can do. I chose not to procreate and it’s saved me a lot of trouble. Women? Sure, the door is always open for dating but having children you can’t afford to offer a healthy and financially stable lifestyle? Not happening. Ever.

    It baffles me that many of us still point to corruption as if it’s only source of our nation’s ills when, in fact, we all had a hand by bringing in more mouths to feed by our already limited resources.

    1. “we all had a hand by bringing in more mouths to feed by our already limited resources.”

      Then how – in your opinion – it is possible, that – in general – most poor people have more kids?
      Is it religion (bahala na)? Or is it lack of knowledge about the biological laws of the human body? Or is it the ‘law’ of the (sub-)culture?
      In case if it is knowledge (or lack thereof), we can blame their parents and the school/educational system. If it is religion, we can blame the individual for following something stupid blindly. Although everyone is born with ‘tabula rasa’, one is only fed religiously by the parents (baptised and forcifully dragging to church). I guess its hard to fight that in a closed-knit collective culture.
      I am sure it is very difficult and hard for someone raised in a poor culture, to say “stop, I had enough. Enough is enough”.

      1. Hi Robert. It’s the artificial economy that props it all up/ “supports” the population to grow but not actually advance. When the average person or family barely makes it, what does that indicate for the long term?

        1. Hi Klara,
          Pls allow me to tell you something about my pinay GF. And pls dont be shy to bash/ridicule her (even here online).
          My pinay GF insists on having a kid while I am very reluctant. I really do think that (sub-)culture forces are here at work. And probably also religion. I am trying to persuade her to think about the possible future of that kid FIRST. And not thinking about pleasing some god or even pleasing her parents (and or pleasing her friends/peers).
          I think, I will lose that battle.

          I really realize that it is very hard and difficult to let go off something that a person has been ingrained (I prefer to use the words indoctrinated and brainwashed) to and with for 40 years. It is basically telling someone – who is right handed – to do everything with her left hand from today onwards.
          Only my focus is totally on the future of the child and how it will be successful. Not about being a ‘good’ person (that wont pay the bills) but rather being – at least – a good lawyer or even the best lawyer/attorney.

      2. Believe it or not, many Filipinos–regardless of their socioeconomic background–look at me like I’m some kind of weirdo because of my lifestyle choice. Some even get to the point where they detest me as if I’ve done something to offend them in any way. What’s the matter? Are people nowadays offended by someone who chose to pursue a lifestyle because it works? It’s as if it’s a crime to be alone in this world.

  8. Pinch me please. Am I really reading this. There are actually Pinoys who challenge their fellow countrymen to take an introspective look at themselves and societal norms?? There just might be some hope for this country someday.

    1. As long as there are Filipinos able to determine their own condition for themselves and as a collective, and then decide to act based on that necessity, the odds of turning things around inherently go up.

  9. Points 1 and 2 respectively correspond to the battery and motor/gearbox technology embedded in Elon’s Tesla electric car, which is why Americans will always be light-years beyond Pinoys unless we move in the right direction (innovate rather than lazily import).

    The jeepney modernization program could be a good opportunity for PH to catch up and manufacture our own home-grown modern self-driving world-class public utility vehicles.

    If only we had just one visionary Elon Musk in PH. We have an enormous wealth of talent – it’s just that there’s no one with enough guts and vision to lead the PH technological revolution. So on we go exporting engineers and importing finished products, while Henry Sy is blissfully enjoying the growth of his enormous OFW-cash-sucking vacuum cleaners.

    1. Self-driving cars might have more to do with convenience than technological efficiency. Personally, I would rather retain and hone my navigating skills than yield control to a self-limiting device.

      1. Klara, you miss the point of self-driving cars. Driving is a waste of “brain time” – only driving 2-3 hours is extremely tiring for a person and they will be less productive for the rest of the day. I’m not even talking about people required to drive 6-7 hours, how much work can be done within that period.
        Never mind that self-driving vehicles will save millions of peoples lives in the future.

  10. You can sense from the Bright Boys of GRP their great admiration and envy of the West in the field of science and technology advancement, and obviously, for good reasons.

    In the First World, in the US, there’s this particular spot, in a small area of California, that has become the center of the tech world, the heart of the technology industry, the Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is an almost $3 trillion neighborhood thanks to companies like Apple, Google, and Tesla. It’s a community that offers unparalleled access to high-quality engineers, a risk-taking culture, venture capitalists and superb universities. It’s a source for much of the innovations that come up making them champion in advancing the technologies we use today.

    It’s been said that Silicon Valley’s success is partly due to Americans being brokenhearted when the Russians beat them in the space race with the launch of Sputnik 1. In an effort to compete, the US government continued with their vigorous funding for whatever crazy research in various institutions. Past government funding included Stanford University whose first batch of graduates then included students William Hewlett and Dave Packard, co-founders of the Hewlett-Packard Company in 1939, the valley’s first major start-up company.

    While some bloggers repeatedly centers on the people as their own problems, here, you really cannot downplay the role of the State in nation-building:

    “We cannot expect the present generation of techno-philanthropists to replace the agencies of the state. Scale matters. For 25 years, from 1953 to 1978, federal funding accounted for more than half of all R&D in the United States or about 1% of GDP. An equivalent amount would be more than $150bn today. Even the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health is “only” $35bn.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/25/silicon-valley-innovation-state-vital-role

    https://techcrunch.com/2014/07/04/the-government-once-built-silicon-valley/

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/timeline-technology-silicon-valley-government-subsidies/

    Back here at home, in contrast, filipino inventors are not only met with skepticisms but are universally ignored. Even some of these same ‘bright boys’ make them subjects of myth-busting as an achievement. Western envy, however, does not guarantee to always produce results… more often than not, there’s only arrogance and entitlements!

    Take a look at what happened to the interesting but disappointingly unfortunate story of the late Daniel Dingel and his ‘Water Car’. And how filipino politics, corruption, indifference and foreign imposition and subjugation played a role in what Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., then Senate Minority Leader, deplored as “the lackadaisical attitude of government bureaucrats towards scientific made by Filipino inventors which has deprived the country of tremendous benefits from their pioneering works.”

    “What riles me up is the fact that the two inventions that I mention in were in the hands of Filipino inventors waiting for the government authorities to get them off the drawing board into the government testing field, hopefully into the national market and eventually into the world market.”

    According to Mr. Dingel:

    “So I started with that and then I… what I did is I went to see the President… former President Marcos and then explained my invention that could help our economy. The president welcomed the idea but the problem is there was a coup d’etat so everything failed.

    And then comes another president…(can’t discern exactly what he said at this point!) Cory Aquino and then as a matter of fact he ride the car with me and he was with me in the car testing the car and he said that “This is the miracle I had been waiting for”. But sad to say that after two weeks I was able to know that the Government is not in the position to help because as under the agreement between the IMF and the World Bank, our country is under obligations by the IMF and the World Bank not to produce anything that will compete their product and there’s the 40% oil tax, there will be no more revenue for the government.”

    http://dinglefoundation.com/daniel-dingle-video.php

    There’s this claim that he also went and spoke with then President Erap but their talks was also overtaken by events.

    The fact was, more than anything else, it was confronted with an issue that has become more political than a matter of scientific problem, which reminded me, in a way, of the parallelism with what Fallows has written about- how American rule seemed only to intensify the Filipino sense of dependence.

    “It rammed through a number of laws insisting on free “competition” between American and Philippine industries, at a time when Philippine industries were in no position to compete with anyone. The countries that have most successfully rebuilt their economies, including Japan and Korea, went through extremely protectionist infant-industry phases, with America’s blessing; the United States never permitted the Philippines such a period.”

    Some bloggers here though are still insisting of the abolition(!) of the ’60-40 rule’ which baffles Roberto Tiglao whenever he writes/talks about foreign control of our Philippine Telcos and other important corporations concerning public utilities.

    Anyway, back to Dingel, in spite of his technical lost in a court case battle with John Ding Young of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), has there been any organization, institution or anyone exactly to have successfully debunked his invention?

    The sad thing is in what Manila Times columnist Rolly G. Reyes revealed in an article:

    “The kicker is last year, Genepax, a Japanese company, launched its water car that practically runs on the same process of electrolysis as Dingel’s car. The car, which has an estimated factory cost of $5,000, is going to be mass produced soon. In parallel, Daewoo of Korea has entered into a partnership with Swiss Ethos for the production of water cars that are expected to hit the international market in the coming months. What a disappointment to the 80 plus year-old Filipino Daniel Dingel who came up with his first prototype as early as 1969.”

  11. Consider yourselves luckier you are neither a Tangalized non-Tangalog ethnic, nor born an ethnic Tangalog.

  12. There are many reasons why vulnerable young people join militant groups, but among them are poverty and ignorance.

  13. What we have is an elite culture. Our society is divided into two world, the world of the elite and the world of the ordinary people. In the world of the elite, the way of life is all about extravagances, excesses, grandeur, vices and pleasures, while in the world of the ordinary people, there are three genaral principles 1) Be not a burden! 2) Be independent! 3) Be practical, these are principles they apply among each other, so everyone are almost in equal stature to each other. But if the world of the elite gets mixed up with the world of the ordinary people, something catastrophic happen, poverty.
    People’s natural trait is emulation(gaya-gaya), since the world of the elite dominates the world of the ordinary people the influence of the elite is much stronger and therefore dominates the mind of the people and by way of envy makes people think that an elite life is a “good” life and therefore starts emulating them, and the result is of course something that bedeviled the Pilipinos all their life, corruption. In order to become part of the elite, a parents will try to send their children to some exclusive school but the salary will not be enough so they get the other income by illegal means, others will join elite parties of which the elite are just happy to share their vices like drugs.
    One of the most damaging influence of the elite to the ordinary people is the propagation of the idea of hero-martyr-saint in connivance with religious leaders. People are made to believe that these are the ideal being that should be emulated upon but the reality prove that it is not practical for the ordinary people, but since the elite have the ability to show-off wealth, a little show of charity donations here and there makes them look that they are the “good”people, as the pillars of society, and people starts looking up to them, and rely to them like mendicants.
    Emulating the elite will make the Pilipino more poorer and stay wallowing in poverty, and an ideal being like hero, martyr, saint are not good model to emulate for reason that “how can you emulate a being that don’t exist?”. But is there a real being that people can emulate upon? Yes there is, the ordinary people who live by the five basic rules 1) Be not a burden! 2) Be independent! 3) Be practical 4) Be more equal (or fair) 5) Be more educated (learn and improve). The reason why we needed to uphold these principles is because they will give us something that is the most important in our life as being human, Dignity.

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