To All Filipino Intellectuals

You and I both want Pinas to progress. We may not agree on the exact destination, but I think we can both agree that the current state of the country is deplorable. I have visited Malaysia and Indonesia, and have lived in both Japan and the U.S. We are way behind in terms of modernization, and by that I mean the same kind of modernization that Mahbubani in his book “The New Asian Hemisphere” meant: abundant jobs, sanitary toilet bowls, clean and peaceful cities, a government that does its job, etc.
 
For me, the question to ask is “what is the way to progress?” Not “what should we change in the Filipino people (so they can march towards progress)?” The first question does not imply that the Filipino people needs to change first before progress happens, the second certainly does. There is nothing wrong with the Filipino people: nothing wrong with our desires, nothing fundamentally wrong with our habits, nothing wrong with our will to change either. My proof to you is all the Filipinos who live and work outside of Pinas. Most of the millions of us who live and work outside are working hard to improve the lives of our families back home. We do not depend on dole-outs, we do not depend on anybody else to sustain us, we depend on ourselves to earn our living. Why is it that we have to go outside of Pinas in order to progress (in some cases, in order to survive)?
 
What is there in other countries that we lack in Pinas that we have to get out and get? The answer is simply: jobs. We do not have enough jobs in Pinas. Why is this? Why is there not enough jobs in Pinas? Is it because we are overpopulated? The answer is not as simple as that, and in fact, my position on population is that we are in no way overpopulated. We are smaller than Japan in terms of population per hectare of arable land.
 
Jobs do not come from governments, although in Pinas a government job is certainly desirable for its stability. Only a very tiny proportion of jobs are government jobs, and to increase it by more than its proper share would not be good for the economy (because a government job is not a job that produces, by definition). Jobs come from the private sector. And this is where I think a large part of our problem lies: our private sector is weak. Our laws mostly discourage business and the emergence of new business. We do not have enough capitalization, which can mostly only come from the outside.

Let’s compare ourselves to our neighbor China. China started changing its ways in the 1980’s. We were ahead of them in the 1980’s, and look where we are now compared to them. They instituted free market principles then, while we enacted a socialist constitution in 1987. Our 1987 constitution has constrained our progress, while China’s reforms have catapulted them from a languishing giant to the second biggest economy in the world.
 
Now China can change its course so easily because they are a dictatorship. I agree with you that it won’t be so easy for us, not because my ideas are lofty, but because we are a democracy. Now I am not saying that democracy is bad. In fact, democracy is one thing that China does not have that they now need badly. It won’t be easy for China to be truly democratic, and I’m sure that it would be easier for us to institute free market principles than for them to turn democratic overnight. In our case, all we need to do is change our ideas of progress. In their case, they have a mountain of a job to dismantle the stranglehold of the communist party in their government. It may require a bloody revolution in their case; in our case, all it requires is years of planting seeds in intellectuals like you.

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About ctapang

I am a Software Design Engineer. I have just abandoned the huge army organized to make .Net programming the one dominant programming system. I now program in Typescript which (surprise) is also from Microsoft. Aside from my day job as a programmer, I am also involved in a movement (http://correctphilippines.org) to correct the Philippine constitution. It's an ambitious undertaking in itself, and there's no guarantee that improving our constitution will improve things. However, one thing is certain: if we don't establish a rational constitution, we will continue on our path of self-destruction. What kind of government is best? For me the best government is that which governs the least. We need the government not because it can provide for us but because it keeps us from running into each other. The proper function of government is that of a traffic light: it prevents us from bumping each other, but it does not tell us where to go.
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6 Responses to To All Filipino Intellectuals

  1. ash e says:

    I agree. The thing is the intellectuals have left the country. What’s left is the old thinking that “I need to get something out of this” in every opportunity or business deal – the corrupt and selfish thinking. That thinking does not exist when Filipinos are out of the country. They behave, because they know its a different playing field. Bribes and corruption exist in every government department you transact with, bribes here and there, from bottom up. It took my Japanese friend 2 years just to get 13 government permits to get a business started. I admire him for not giving up. No wonder there are no jobs back home.

  2. Nonoy Oplas says:

    Good points, Carlos. Free market principles plus the rule of law will prod the country to economic dynamism. There will be more inequality that will result though, but it is inevitable and not necessarily wrong. Some governments attempted to create an equal society, they did succeed in making people equal, equally poor.

  3. julius says:

    Hi,

    Maybe we can work together someday on a writing project.

    Julius

  4. As someone pointed out, comparing a country to China, is like comparing an NBA player to Michael Jordan. Or comparing a football player to David Beckham.

    Good point nonetheless.

    I would say compared us to Thailand and Malaysia. Both have corruption, but not as much as the Philippines. There may be something to be said about a parliamentary system that encourages the most competent to the top.

    Competence and corruption can be tolerated, but incompetence and corruption will destroy a country.

  5. Hp says:

    It is truly sad that when we Filipinos are out of the country we follow all the laws, rules and regulations of the country where we are; yet, when we come back to the Philippines we go back to our old ways. It is without thinking that it is these very laws, rules and regulations that make these countries succeed.
    Our laws, rules and regulations pertaining to doing business has truly hampered our growth to succeed to. Imagine we are now ranked at 134 most difficult country to do business in the whole world and worst in Asia, in a survey conducted by the World Bank. How can we then encourage investors to invest in our country.
    Back in the early 1980s & 1970s we had most of the investors coming in and we were in the plans of big semiconductor industries but now maybe we are not even on their list of places to put a business at.
    True it is not fair to compare us to China but at the end of the day as the author said China and the other 2 countries were behind us during the 1980s and now we have been left behind.
    It is really frustrating and I hope we can find a way together to change our fate and the fate of the future generations.

    • ctapang says:

      I agree with you, Hp. There maybe a cure for your frustration. I have joined a movement to change the 1987 Constitution. We have a website here:
      http://correctphilippines.org

      The purpose of this website is to draft a proposed new constitution and submit it to the people for ratification. Everyone can participate. If you are really frustrated, participating can alleviate that, I’m sure.

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