• Arangkada and the Filipino dream

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    A WEEK ago, the Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine business organizations met to celebrate the 4th anniversary of Arangkada. Unfortunately, BSA3 was a no show at this high roller event. Worst, his speech was read, without much passion and nary an eye contact with the audience, by the literal cabinet secretary, Rene Almendras.

    Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on the other hand was a refreshing sight to watch with her candor on the shortfall of DOLE and elation by the assessment of Arangkada for this 4th year. There is merit to the suggestion that in key portfolio positions in the Cabinet, we should instead have individuals from the ranks appointed. These individuals have institutional memories which give stability and predictability in the sector.

    Arangkada Philippines is a “2010 comprehensive advocacy paper by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines (JFC) intended to share recommendations leading to the creation of $75 billion in new foreign investment, 10 million jobs and over one trillion pesos in revenue for the Philippine economy within this decade. JFC likewise recommended that the country should focus on more rapid development of “seven big winner sectors: agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, mining, manufacturing, tourism-retirement-medical travel, infrastructure.”

    There are two important ingredients for PH sustained growth: stable and cheaper power (supply and pricing) and modern infrastructure. Cheap and stable power allows investors and local businesses to expand in inclusive areas of growth: agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism and mining.

    For the Philippines to sustain its growth at an average of 7%, the next three administrations would have to prioritize infrastructure spending to at least 5% of GDP. The Philippines is an archipelago which needs to be connected by roads, bridges, airports and seaports. These public works enhance mobility of people, services and goods from various points of the country, develop other growth potentials and intervene in arresting poverty in at least seven poorest regions of the country.

    Secondary industries with multiplier effects can be located near modern ports with cold storage facilities. Warehousing and logistic hubs can be connected to these areas so all nearby barangays and municipalities can have their local industries linked, not for just raw materials but processed products for exports. Building economic corridors will therefore break imperial Manila to let loose the Filipino resilient spirit to nurture local economies.

    The JFC believes that “specific targets have to be realized to support inclusive growth. These include: 1) GDP growth accelerating to 8%; 2) overall investments increasing from 19% to 30% of GDP; 3) foreign direct investment surging from US$6 billion to US $10 billion; 4) public sector infrastructure spending reaching to at least 5% of GDP and 5) reorienting policy focus to agricultural, creative industries no mining sectors to accelerate growth in rural areas; 6) ensuring peace and order in Mindanao; 7) increasing gainful employment opportunities to bring down unemployment rate below 5% and reducing poverty to 18% by 2016 consistent with the MDG goals.”

    JFC further stressed the need to “institute free, open and competitive business environment that promotes level playing field for all investors.” To make growth more inclusive, JFC recommends “successive presidential administrations should undertake reforms that sustain and increase GDP growth. This will require continued good governance, political will to undertake more structural! reforms, better infrastructure, a fair regulatory regime, and better business costs, among others.”

    These are all from the lens of foreign business people whose driving spirit is the corporate bottoms. These are shared by the oligarchs of the country. They have become richer in the Aquino administration. Indeed, it has been too good for them. Theirs is conscious effort to move up the ladder in Forbes’ Billionaire List.

    But what about the other side of the coin? What about the Filipino dream? That of Juan dela Cruz? What comprises that dream? It has changed with our history and the global economic order. From the years of wanting “a government run like hell by Filipinos” to working abroad and finding his/her dream which has resulted to 10 million Filipinos carrying the burden of another country’s economy and practically giving buoyancy to their home country despite bad leaders. The Filipino diaspora has obliterated the middle class. It has become the rich becoming richer and the poor, poorer.

    The Filipino dream is often about struggle. The narrative of making both ends meet. The narrative of surviving on a daily basis. It’s a story of wanting to be financially stable so one can have a house they can call home; 3 square meals of nutritious food and not 3 packs of noodles and one egg in a gallon of water; healthy kids and ability to send the kids to school so theirs is a much better chance for a good future. Simple things and yet the country can’t even respond to their needs.

    A long time ago, we were taught that government should take care of the population that has the least wherewithal because the rest can take care of themselves. But it has always been the case that government slinks away from that responsibility and that is why we have Filipinos taking their future on their own hands and deciding enough is enough and leave the country. Theirs is a statement of rejection to the government that was supposed to provide them with the capabilities to compete. Theirs was a conscious effort to solve their problems the best way they can and so in every corner of the world we have Filipinos with good fortunes and tearful stories of not stopping to work because the third generation just have to be carried and they retire old and lonely in some foreign and distant shores. While back home, we are welcoming a new generation of dysfunctional youth because they never had a solid family to nurture them.

    The Filipino dream is simple. We do not crave to be in Forbes. We merely wish a future for our kids and their kids would be better than what we had to contend with. The Filipino is a happy lot and their dreams are simple: a decent house; a job that pays for food, education and health; opportunities that reward meritocracy; a financial future that allows one to enjoy the fruits of decent labor in one’s retirement years.

    The dreams of the oligarchs of this country and that of Juan dela Cruz are not the same. But it is critical for the oligarchs to believe that without the dreams of Juan dela Cruz being fulfilled, theirs is but a mirage that can easily be taken away when dreams explode. The oligarchs cannot just exclude Juan dela Cruz and no leader wins without Juan dela Cruz.

    A sage once said, “all men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” The oligarchs have been warned.

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