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.