News and Events

Stepping up trade and competitiveness

Posted: 2011-04-14
Category: In the News

April 14, 2011


“ATIC (Asean Trade and Investment Center) set up to enhance trade, competitiveness,” reports the Business Mirror, Apr 10th . . . “The ATIC should be able to provide the platform that will enable local SMEs to take advantage of the Asean market of an estimated 600 million-strong consumers with a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion,” said Teresita Sy-Coson, one of the newly designated Philippine representatives to the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) . . . She said they will seek the help of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in establishing the ATIC, where SMEs can undertake export and import activities and expand their market and presence in the region.”

It appears we are indeed stepping up trade and competitiveness, building on the Aquino administration’s investment-led economic growth agenda. And with President Aquino expressing our goal to be a developed economy, it is delightful that we are moving to crystallize a simple, clear-cut objective to which as a people we could relate to? (But he ought not to be in denial about poverty – it is real and must ask Juan de la Cruz to dig into the human spirit?)

It is critical that Juan de la Cruz is able to relate to our objective as a nation – because “changes will be difficult not least because corrupt segments of the oligarchy have a stake in the status quo. But broader forces and processes are challenging too”. [Political and Social Foundations for Reform: Anti-Corruption Strategies for the Philippines, Michael Johnston, Sept, 2010, pp. 12-14. This book-project was originally conceived by Roderick M. Hills, founder of the Hills Program on Governance (HPG). It was made into reality by the support of HPG with the active cooperation of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), et al.]

Indeed we are seeing the coupling together of the pieces that would elevate our consciousness . . . of the imperatives of investing in technology and innovation, and in developing talents, products and markets – if we are to truly step up trade and competitiveness. The Aquino administration appears to be following on the ‘Arangkada Philippines 2010: A Business Perspective’ from the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) – “[It] contains measures on how to realize the projected $75-billion foreign direct investments and 10 million jobs in the next 10 years from seven priority industries”.

Focus and priority are the hallmarks of successful major undertakings, and it is heartening that the Philexport “has unveiled core strategies to sustain remarkable export performance . . . and hit the $120-billion mark in export sales by 2016.” This is the quantum leap that we need to markedly raise our economic output – and address poverty. Proudly we’re pursuing invaluable anti-poverty efforts, but as a group of Fil-Am doctors confided, they’ve realized that their medical mission to the country is “Band-Aid treatment” – not the answer to our woes. [When the writer introduced Pareto’s Principle to his Eastern European friends, he narrated the story of the Pharisees and scribes – that before Pareto there was Jesus Christ. The principle is both scientific and biblical. He stopped there and didn’t want the confusion between “faith” (i.e., personal) and “ideology” (e.g., ‘holier than thou’ – not consistent with pluralism and ecumenism)? For example, Deng Xiaoping was able to distinguish and leverage market economy, not constrained by ideology?]

The road ahead is not paved with gold. In our country, “Influence has tended to run from top-down, accountability to flow upward, and political support to be bartered for short-term benefits. Indeed, the dominant impression, to one outside observer at least, is of a state and society that may be extensively intermingled in terms of personal connections, yet all too often disconnected in terms of official duties and accountability. On a day-to-day level, particularly during election campaigns, interactions between citizens, politicians, and officials can be intense yet shaped by short-term, what-can-you-do-for-me expectations. At that level it is difficult to say exactly where “the state” ends and private domains begin—and thus, to say what standards of behavior and performance should apply—since personal connections and dealings are so dominant. With respect to the formal public processes of development and governance the country finds itself in an “expectations trap” in which governing elites demand relatively little of citizens, and citizens expect little from government. Such dynamics not only hinder nation-building; they sustain corrupt dealings too, as officials who accomplish little are not only tolerated but effectively left free to pursue their own schemes.” [ibid] The writer could not say it better.




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