WILSON LEE FLORES: WHY THE RP ECONOMY SHOULD NOT ONLY GROW, BUT WIN
MANILA, NOVEMBER 3, 2006 (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores (No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown. – William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania)
(Although there may be tragedy in your life, there’s always a possibility to triumph. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always. – Oprah Winfrey)
(There is no substitute for victory. – Gen. Douglas MacArthur)
Why is it that our leaders, led by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, often enjoy hogging news headlines and photo-ops, to exult only in international beauty pageant winners, billiards or boxing victories of the Philippines? Most of them have failed or forgotten to drum up global competitiveness in the more crucial battlefields of exports, foreign investments, tourist arrivals, poverty alleviation and overall economic growth, which the Philippines, with its abundance of natural and human resources, can win? Why are so many of our politicians whiners, not winners who can inspire our economy towards greatness?
No Reason We Can’t Win Over Vietnam
The October 26 issue of The New York Times had a prominent article by Keith Bradsher entitled "Vietnam’s roaring economy is set for world stage," which should slap our leaders out of lethargy and wake the rest of us. With roaring economic growth, booming tourism, rising foreign investments and moderate population growth due to the state policy of only two kids per couple, Vietnam is now Asia’s newest economic miracle. They are following the historical paths blazed by Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and now China.
Our political and business leaders must draw up a battle plan for our economy to win, not only against Vietnam, but to challenge neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, and even someday catch up with South Korea and our former conqueror Japan. By the way, it is deplorable that Japan has included dumping their toxic wastes in the Philippines as part of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement, which our Senators must reject because it violates the 1989 Basel Convention against the illegal dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes. We hope Japan can rectify this abominable error.
I was amazed when Malaysian Plantations & Commodities minister Peter Chin Fah Kui said on Bloomberg TV Oct. 26 that his country is running out of land for palm plantations for lucrative palm oil exports! Wow, that is one problem I can’t imagine the Philippines ever having for many, many years, because we have so much more vast arable land than Malaysia or other ASEAN neighbors.
Have you agonized at the sight of seemingly endless fertile lands without farms or commercial crops? I’m furious at our many craven politicos who don’t encourage urban squatters to resettle and farm in the provinces, because they seek to manipulate and buy their election votes. New Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and agriculture visionaries like San Miguel Corp. boss Danding Cojuangco, why don’t we in the Philippines aggressively compete head-on versus our neighbors in agricultural or food exports?
Economic Reforms & Political Will For Global Success
Yes, the Philippine stock market is at an all-time high; yes, there are pockets of growth in real estate and call centers and other sectors; yes, the Philippine peso has stopped losing its value in the meantime; yes, overseas Filipino workers are pouring in US dollars; and yes, the Philippine economy has had steady growth. But we should not be lulled into a false sense of complacency. Modest economic growth alone is not acceptable for the Philippines when we are situated near economic dynamos like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
The New York Times report raved: "It (Vietnam) has Asia’s second-fastest-growing economy, with 8.4 percent growth last year, trailing only China’s, and the pace of exports to the United States is rising faster than even China’s. American companies like Intel and Nike, and investors across the region, are pouring billions of dollars into the country."
It’s unforgivable that we in the Philippines are not the fastest-growing exporter to the US and that we cannot woo the most number of US investors, considering our special history as former US colony and staunch ideological ally in Asia.
The New York Times further gushed: "Vietnam has reduced the percentage of its people living in abject poverty – less than $1 a day – to 8 percent from 51 percent in 1990, a greater advance than either China or India… The country’s trade surplus with the United States has soared – it exported $5.56 billion worth of goods to the American market in the first eight months of this year while importing $625.9 million."
To me, all the economic statistics on trade surpluses or gross national product (GNP) growth are not as impressive as Vietnam’s having decisively won their war against mass poverty. Here in our republic, not only is Philippine economic growth not fast enough, what is tragic is that the fruits of our modest economic growth are not equitably distributed to the vast majority of the people due to lack of imagination, social conscience, political will and bold vision of our so-called leaders for generations.
We should liberate our minds from our many myopic and dishonest politicians’ mendicant and defeatist mentality that it’s impossible for the Philippines to be globally competitive beyond call centers or exporting labor and bananas. We can and should aim to win against our Asian neighbors in exports of processed goods, agriculture, services, information technology (we are still more proficient in English than the Thais, Vietnamese and the Japanese) and tourism.
Our leaders should not only inspire confidence, common sense and hope, they should also reform and rally our whole economy towards becoming globally competitive winners. The next time The New York Times raves about the next "economic miracle" from Asia, it shouldn’t be Cambodia, Laos or Bangladesh, but the Philippines!
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