Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Philippines must chart its own economic course

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

It is unfortunate that it seems the only time the nation starts looking at its place in the global scheme of things is during a Pacquiao boxing match or when an overseas worker is about to be executed for a crime.

Yesterday’s BusinessMirror editorial on the fight and the “West vs. East,” “White vs. Brown,” “First World vs. Third World” mentality was unusual. It was out of the ordinary because there is a strong tendency in the Philippines to ignore the “second-class citizen” status given by the more developed countries.

When the country or Filipinos are insulted by a Hong Kong journalist or on American television, the nation goes on “red alert” with politicians and pundits throwing tantrums and stomping their feet like little schoolgirls. Once the apology is made (or time passes without an apology), there is a sense of victory. Yet it is a hollow and false victory. Just because the “No dogs or Filipinos” sign has been removed from the window does not mean the attitude toward nations like the Philippines has changed.

Bob Marley, the reggae music legend, wrote in “Redemption Song”: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.” These words were taken from Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey, who attempted to instill in former slaves and their descendants a realization that slavery was as much a state of mind as it was a physical condition. Here, we often call it “colonial mentality.”

The Filipino, perhaps because of his incredible ability to embrace other cultures and a strong, natural sense of personal dignity and respect for others, tends to ignore the basic contempt at the worst, and dislike at the best, the West holds for nations and cultures like the Philippines.

To read our local pundits nearly groveling and certainly bowing to President Obama because his father was a black Kenyan is pathetic. Obama understands and appreciates the Filipino as much as any white tourist who comes to a country like the Philippines to drink the cheap local beer and visit the cheap local brothels. Obama, too, is a product of and subject to the same mentality like that of US Sen. Orville Platt, who said, “Upon us rested the duty of extending Christian civilization” to the Philippines.

It was British author Rudyard Kipling who wrote the poem “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899, as an appeal to the USA to assume the task of developing the Philippines. Kipling described the Filipino with these words: “Your new-caught, sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child.” Do you honestly think this attitude has changed much in 100 years?

Countries like the Philippines have been told and, more important, bought into the belief that their financial policies were “half-devil” wrong or “half-child” needing Western “wisdom.”

It would certainly be easier for everyone, collectively and individually, to sit back and wait for the West to set the agenda and execute the plan. Sort of like the 35-year-old man still living at home waiting for Daddy and Mommy to make the decisions.

Consider how well that idea has worked for the Philippines over the last 40 years. There is not a single thinking economist that does not agree that the Philippine government borrowing under the “guidance” of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been a major contributor to Filipino underdevelopment and poverty.

The problem of the immature thinking of the 35-year-old-still-living-at-home is not only what they do but also what they do not do. Too many countries like the Philippines blindly follow the bad advice. These countries also make immature and bad decisions in a failed and foolish attempt to prove their independence. The “live-at-home” won’t try a new career without parental approval, but “proves” his independence through heavy drinking and partying.

The country is still struggling with the false nationalism of questioning the use of English as a medium of education. Meanwhile, the foreigners respect Filipino-English more than Filipinos do. A billion-dollar US client seeking to outsource to the Philippines has discussions with several billion-dollar foreign call-center providers. At the end of the negotiations, it comes down to this. One call-center company eventually says to the client: “Choose us, because our Filipinos are better than their Filipinos.” That is pragmatic Filipino nationalism.

The country is struggling with the idea of foreign ownership of property. The argument is that foreign ownership will raise property prices too high for the average Filipino. Guess what? Property prices are already too high for the average Filipino. As with the English language, this should only be an economic discussion and focusing on how to make it work for the betterment of the country. The Philippines has done wonders in attracting foreign capital with its special economic zones. Something similar could be done with “foreign-owned” retirement villages or the like.

Make no mistake. The US economy is headed for a black hole of government debt-based dollar devaluation, inflation and a greater pace of a shrinking economy. The Philippines must plan and execute its own truly independent economic course, or we, too, will fall into the same deep pit. It has been 63 years since final Philippine independence. Now it is time to take properly that independence and start using it. Or the Philippines can sink with the West by following its advice and policies.

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

1 comment:

  1. Bravo again! When did mainstream journalism become this no-holds-barred good?

    For this week and the next, it is gratifying to internalize the symbolism of Manny Pacquiao's defeat of the west, and the west's joining the bandwagon of praising Pacman.

    Perhaps 10 Pacquiao's can reverse the second class citizen image of Filipinos as it may also assist Filipinos to assimilate true nationalistic pride. Yet, this is even technically passe due to globalization. Manny Pacquiao, for example, now belongs to America and the world's best as he belongs to the Philippines, too.

    I can surmise, however, that though analysts would say this is a remote association, Pacman is also good for Philippine tourism and business image.

    It seems GenSan politics is too small for him already.