• Importing lemons and has-beens for our trivial pursuits

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    On what does rest the strength of nations?

    The answer: Importing the best and the brightest regardless of background, ethnicity, citizenship.

    On what does rest the sustained failure of weak nations? The answer:  Getting all the foreign has-beens and throwaways, those that can’t shine in their own land or cannot recapture their lost luster. Prime example is us, the sad sack of a nation called PH.

    The two questions have been asked because a very interesting development has taken place in the US, where the Federal Reserve Board, or the Bangko Sentral of the US, is now considered the most important state institution. And the Fed Chair, this time Janet Yellen, the first female Fed chair in the Fed’s history, is now considered the most powerful figure in the US given the gridlocked nature of  policy-making and the rigid ideological divide  at the Supreme Court.

    The Fed now wants to “import” Stanley   Fisher, formerly head of the Israel’s Central Bank, as vice chair to Ms. Yellen. And political leaders, in a time of heightened gridlock and partisan divide, are not about to debate on the issue. Because of the singular brilliance and competence of Mr. Fisher .

    Fisher, the former head of the  Bank of Israel and  a holder of dual citizenship,  as vice chair of the Fed?  Are not too many Americans with just one citizenship  available for the post?  Is not the economic Nobel under the virtual grip of American economists with expertise in monetary policy?   Despite all these, not many are raising questions on why Fisher, who is 70, should get that job . Too good to be true. But true.

    The  possible recruitment of  Stan Fisher, a professor at MIT when the MIT economics program was the best in the world (turning out Ben Bernanke , Mario Draghi  and the likes)  is not without precedent. On July 1 2013 a Canadian central banker , Mark Joseph Carney, was named governor of the Bank of England , England’s Bangko Sentral.

    Yes, a Canadian is governor of England’s Central Bank. A Canadian who used  to head the Bank of Canada, or Canada’s central bank.

    As in the case of Mr. Fisher, Carney was chosen without quibble , without cries of importing Canadians, because of his pivotal role in helping Canada  hurdle  the worst financial crisis in contemporary history relatively unscathed.

    Let us then turn our attention to the recent winners of Nobel prizes in chemistry, medicine etc.  There is one common bind. Most of them were former citizens of other countries who obtained US citizenship. Born elsewhere but welcomed – and given room to thrive –  by the US as citizens .

    What we import
    Ok, let us go back to our own dear PH. What do we import?

    The most prodigious importer of supposed outside talent is not the monetary system. It has been pro basketball.  Here is the question. What is the quality of 99 per cent of our basketball imports that we have adopted or have tempted with offers of citizenship?

    Basketball fanatics may take issue with this but this is a fact. Billy Ray Bates, the sharecropper’s son and undisciplined talent who merited a lengthy mention in David Halberstam’s book “  The Breaks  of the Game”  as a member of the Portland Trailblazers team in the  1979-80 season, was the best talent to every play in the local pro  ball league.  No one ever came close to the sheet talent and athleticism of Bates.

    Bates came to the PBA long past his NBA skills. He was dropped by Portland, the then Washington Bullets (now Wizards) and the Lakers. No team would sign him. He had nowhere to go.  But as soon as he displayed his fading basketball smarts  in the local hard court , he was named all the superlatives that the sportswriters can find , including the ridiculous and unbelievable “Black Superman.”  At the NBA, Bates was not even considered fit to tie the shoelaces of the legitimate stars. Here, during his playing days, he was called “ superman.”


    Let us go to the recruit who eventually stayed for good, Norman Black. Did Black get a short, tenure-neutral contract like the one Jeremy Lin got with the Knicks before Linsanity ? I can’t answer this but Black was definitely not NBA material. Here, he got lionized and he still gets lionized. There, he can’t sit on the NBA bench. Essentially, from the reckoning of the NBA, the lionized Black was underwhelming in his basketball skills.

    Let us go to athletics. We had a prime import named David Bune….?  He was supposed to banner the renaissance in athletics. The last news about this supposed  great hope in athletics was a hurried flight to the airport to escape to the US with his starlet-wife. He was accused of duping people of their investment in a classy health club.

    Well, he duped an entire athletics community. Or an entire nation perhaps.

    Why can’t we get the likes of Carney and  Fisher? Why are we audacious dupes in selecting the people we import?

    The answer, the straightforward one? We are still, sadly, a nation of trivial pursuits.


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    1. I am an Australian my wife was Filipina and my two children half filipina , I work with many filipinos and my asawa worked in a money remittance business so I have observed the australian expat filipino community at close range for many years.
      I love the Philippines deeply and it saddens me when i see countries like Thailand succeeding while the Philippines wallows along.
      I think it is true at times you let nationalism as a nation stop you from importing some talented people, and I think when I read of the pork barreling some foreigners without vested interests and nepotism could help clean up certain areas, this is not the Philippines greatest issue.
      Its not who you import but the loss of all those talented people overseas which hurts your economy, I know the remittances from the Overseas Foreign Workers are essential. But if those people had stayed in the Philippines and used their talents and skills and spent that money locally it would be more beneficial.
      It is not only the loss of those workers but a mentality that it is better and I can be more successful overseas which as a nation lessons your creativity and entreprenuarial spirit. It is not better overseas and many OFWs and migrants struggle and their lives would have been better back home. The whole mentality of its better and I can work there and send money back does not affect Thailand in the same way so it keeps its citizens and develops its industry.
      A whole industry revolves around sending your citizens overseas , for me it would be better to create industry at home and employ them there and not split families.
      The Philippines is a fantastic and beautiful country and has such potential , it saddens me that it is not realised. I for one hope to retire there in a few years and start a small business and employ some locals. Im not that talented or special but have a deep love para gustong gusto sa pilipinas.
      I have travelled the world and the Filipinos are the nicest people you can ever hope to meet anywhere in the world
      May God Bless the Philippines always

    2. Taxproinomaha, you remind of me Mr. Jared Diamond’s book, Guns Steel and Germs. Yali asked him “Why you, whites have a lots of cargo?” Very true, countries with four seasons are far more progressive than without.

    3. The likes of Stanley Fisher or something remotely like him can never be given an appointment here unless permitted by the United States and the Makati Business Club. Of course that appointment will never happen as it will break the 60 years economic status quo approved by all Sitting Presidents. Please note that the 98% ordinary people are not included in the choosing coz they don’t know what these monetary and economic policymen are doing to their lives. The 98% doesn’t know that these 2 entities decides how they will pay their taxes, meralco, water utilities and all products controlled by Monopolies/Cartels. If they only understand that their anger will match that of their on Anger on the Napoles caper or even more.

    4. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn. In the case of the philippines i think it is never as you seem to only praise what the pinoy does. If a pinoy or pinoy descendant living in a foreign country does something the philippines highlights the filipino side. Im a foreigner & when pinoys ask me what i think of the philippines i tell them & they dont like it. They only want to hear good even if there isnt any good. They cant take criticism & will never admit they are wrong or did wrong. They have built a me me me society & i really cant see how that is possible as most are religious but me a non religious man has more of a religious attitude than most pinoys.

    5. Top people demand top prices. You get what you pay for. So no need to whine if you don’t have what it takes to pay the best in the world. Norman Black and Bates were the best our league can do for the money at those times . And both these people gave us our money’s worth every time we watched them play. To many of us, that was good enough. Now compare these two basketball players to those in Congress who we pay millions of pesos to do nothing except to think of ways to milk the government for what it’s worth to keep themselves wealthier and forever in power.

    6. We are a nation of “experts” and nobody can do things better than us.Why we even managed to beat the banana republics in Latin america.That’s why we scorned the offer of Lee Kuan Yew to help us during cory’s time. We also managed to scare the Hong Kong corruption expert to help weed out our scums. We are happy to lay with the dogs so we get the ticks and mites. when it comes to basketball and beauty that we idolized the foreign looking ones as we tend look better if in company of good looking ones?So we elect actresses and actors,basketball players and other celebs and we feel good.Only in the Phils like they say!

    7. Very true. Talents gravitate towards strong economies and freer societies that are less exposed to extreme weather phenomenons like typhoons, floods and earthquakes. I wish I could transplant PH some place here in the mid-west.