September 18, 2009
The Philippine Economic Miracle Part 4 of 4 by Willy E. Arcilla
[I'm republishing the articles written by my friend Willy Arcilla, the marketing genius behind the success of C2 in the Philippines and Vietnam, on his 2020 vision for the Philippines. I share this vision that soon all of us will say, "I Live an Awesome Life in the Philippines." - Anton, Founder/ Editor of Our Awesome Planet ]
Their heroic act not only unlocked the vaults of hidden wealth, but triggered a shockwave of nuclear proportions throughout government – members of the Cabinet, the Senate, the Congress, AFP, PNP, even corruption-riddled agencies like the BIR, BOC, DPWH, CHEd, Deped, GOCCs up to the regional, provincial, municipal, and baranggay levels returned their loot as all civil servants followed the example of conversion and restitution.
This ultimate act by the country’s most corrupt political leaders and their cronies in turn elicited an overwhelming response of compassion and charity from people, who forgave them of their plunder as they themselves were reminded of the words of Jesus Christ to those who wanted to stone an adulterous woman, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”. Even the Church hierarchy was moved by the heroism of the offenders, absolving them and honoring them in their Sunday homilies, perhaps reminded by Jesus Christ’s announcement, “I did not come for the righteous, but for the sinners”, enacting the parable of the prodigal son and a loving father, and prompting the church to declare a Feastday for all lost sheep, to commemorate what Jesus Christ said, “There is more rejoicing in heaven over 1 sheep that was lost then found, than for the 99 who are safe”.
All Christian denominations exhorted their faithful to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to fill all Filipinos with the 7 gifts and 12 fruits that enabled them to reach a fullness of life on earth, and the people implored God the Holy Spirit to fill their hearts so as to renew the face of the nation. Peace was achieved between Christians and Muslims as church officials followed the example of Jesus who loved the Jews and the Gentiles alike. People took seriously Jesus’ preaching that “Anger is a sin”. Goodness that poured forth begot more goodness, kindness was repaid with kindness as people realized the truth in the saying “kindness is something you can never give away; it always comes back to you.” Even when there were lapses in the journey as people struggled and strove to do good but faltered, there was forgiveness and understanding, not condescension, as people were again reminded of Jesus’ admonition to forgive as often as “seventy-times seven”.
Private businessmen stopped bribing officials for contracts and started paying their tax delinquencies, thus growing tax revenue collections that obviated the need for public borrowing from local and foreign banks. The balanced budget soon turned into a fiscal surplus, enabling the government to provide more social services for the less privileged in terms of massive infrastructure development including farm-to-market linkages, higher-quality public education and higher level scholarships for deserving underprivileged students; health and social services; and microfinancing subsidies to farmers, fishermen and MSMEs. As a token of gratitude from the government, tax rates were systematically reduced from a high of 35% to currently only 15%, thus attracting more foreign and domestic investments and encouraging more vigorous economic activity among existing businesses, while giving them no reason to avoid or evade tax payments to support a government that has completely regained the public trust. This capitalized on the economic wisdom espoused in the Laffer curve, that progressively higher rates of taxation will be counterproductive as it will tend to discourage private enterprise. The extra savings of a public growing in affluence were channeled to tithing for the poor.
Importantly, the businessmen also stopped labor exploitation and the rampant abuse of contractualization – introducing profit-sharing and distributing stock options to instill a true sense of ownership in reward for their employees’ deep sense of “malasakit”. This gesture effectively stopped the diaspora of OFWs, and unleashed the power of corporate entrepreneurship to drive topline revenues, reduce costs and conserve cash that enhanced their overall competitiveness. Employees took the initiative to do “more with less” and raise their companies to the next level. Even domestic helpers and family drivers started to enjoy higher salaries due to their dwindling supply, and their employers started to provide for their health insurance from new, affordable schemes, while those who can afford, started to set aside a pension fund for their helpers’ retirement and send their children to public school education, paying for meals, uniforms, supplies and transport. In a reversal of roles, one of the world’s largest labor exporters started to import workers from emerging Asian economies– providing generous wages and Filipino hospitatility.
The landed rich also started to provide comprehensive assistance to CARP beneficiaries, not only by complying with the letter of the law to redistribute land, but fulfilling its spirit of improving the welfare of farmers. They provided financing for seeds and feeds, organic fertilizers and natural pesticides, worked with R&D in UP Los Banos and IRRI for modern agri- and aquacultural biotechnology, asked LGUs to set up farm-to-market roads and post-harvest facilities, thus increasing productivity and farmers’ incomes. This led to bumper harvests which helped to bring down the prices of crops and vegetables to nourish the population, and surpluses that eventually restored the nation’s lost glory as an agricultural exporter. Many are even offering pension funds as social security for their farmers’ retirement. Even traders who used to corner the lions’ share of the value chain from farms to market also chimed in by paying higher farmgate prices to boost incomes and motivation, supply and surpluses that drove higher local demand for natural, fresh produce vs. imported processed food products laced with chemicals and preservatives. A proper diet, regular exercise and a work-life balance yielded a healthier, happier people.
What of the country’s legislators and fiscalizers who were often labeled obstructionists? They were reminded of the words of Sun Tzu that “Speed is the essence of war”, and applied a newfound vigor to pass legislation in record time, knowing full well the whole country needed to work triple-time to win the war against poverty. They realized they were contributing to the loss of competitiveness of the economy with their over intellectualization and legalese. Instead of hampering economic progress, they decided to unify and focus on negotiating with foreign creditor banks that extended behest loans during the past regimes to condone and cancel all debt or restructure them into equity investments, thus freeing up billions of dollars worth of debt repayment and winning the praise and admiration of a people once disillusioned with loathsome lawyers. Even the world was thankful for their efforts as the country’s most brilliant negotiators and elocutionists successfully broke an impasse in the long-stalled Doha talks of the WTO, by taking the initiative to engage the US and Europe in constructive dialogue with poorer countries to carve a win-win solution for the benefit of both consumers and producers.
Staunch advocates of press freedom also realized there was a graver responsibility that came with freedom of speech – that their excessive negativism was unwittingly turning away billions of dollars in foreign investments, trade and tourism, even if bad news sold a lot of newspaper in the short-term, making them remorseful of the economic sabotage they were unintentionally causing. Even pro-democracy advocates have backed down, as they were enlightened by realizing that the ultimate freedom of expression is suppression, exemplified by Jesus Himself, who, in His death throes on the cross, even found it within Him to implore the Almighty Father “forgive them for they do not know what they do”. The most acerbic editors and journalists, TV and radio commentators stopped judging intentions and criticizing or spreading hearsay and gossip; and instead started honoring Filipinos. The “good news” encouraged others to do “good works”, starting a virtuous spiral of positive reinforcement and mutually beneficial resolutions for various issues. Even the penchant for “sabong” mentality, making adversaries out of innocent folks, has ceased as enlightened writers embraced not only responsible but honorable journalism.
In effect, the Filipinos redefined their system of government formerly characterized by an “aristocratic democracy for a privileged few” to become one truly “by, for and of ALL the people”, transcending liberty to embrace the higher values of Equality and Fraternity, reminiscent of the French revolution and the honor and heroism espoused by the Katipuneros. The KKK representing “Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” which got sullied for more than a century of “Kanya-Kanyang Kurakot” had a renaissance as the new KKK -- “Kabayani sa Kaunlaran at Kapayapaan”. Collaboration replaced confrontation; dialogue replaced debates; partnerships replaced partisanship; and the politicians embraced a character change instead of a charter change.
Even the presidential elections marked a dramatic departure from previous electoral exercises as political parties proposed not just the most popular figures, but the most heroic servant leaders, thus saving hundreds of billions of pesos from wasteful election campaigns. Even the most hardened traditional politicians who exalted themselves were humbled by Jesus Christ’s admonition to his disciples who were arguing about who was the greater one among them when He said, “Whoever is last shall be first”. Big business groups and thousands of NGOs welcomed this development because good governance finally enabled them to refocus their energies and skills on enhancing their companies’ competitiveness and aggressively driving revenues and profitability vs. being distracted by looking over the shoulders of a government lacking in credibility and public trust.
Mendiola bridge, the site of confrontations and bloody massacres in the country’s painful history is now a gleaming metal and steel structure fashioned from tons of metal collected from the surrender of firearms by militias, private armies, Muslim secessionists and NPA guerillas that were melted down, recast into the “Bridge of Peace”, and adorned by a sculpture called “Flight of Freedom”, a giant pair of doves symbolizing Prosperity and Peace. The lyrics of “Lupang Hinirang” were modified to reflect a newfound love for both God and country, as Filipinos realized the original anthem unwittingly omitted any mention of the Almighty God. Thereafter, more blessings poured forth from heaven.
Now, it can be told that the Philippine success story was not so much an economic miracle as a moral one, starting with each Filipino, that snowballed when all Filipinos throughout the world resolved to rekindle their love for God and country, and rediscover their innate heroism called “bayanihan”, (a hero for others), a unique Filipino trait that was lost after more than 400 years of foreign domination, followed by decades of the pursuit of transactional politics and graft and corruption, self-interests and “kanya-kanya” mentality. It was triggered by a desire from the country’s best to devote their time, talent and treasures for the country’s least, in a way that engaged not embarassed, attracted not attacked, even those who had grown apathetic and indifferent. In turn the 50 million poor responded not only with a deep gratitude, but with a real transformation from being society’s liabilities to becoming newfound assets that built a strong national equity.
The Philippine economic miracle was finally “for good” because ultimately, it was “for God”, and the miracle enjoyed by all Filipinos in 2020 started with each Filipino in 2008.
[The author is a business graduate from the UP and an industrial economist from the UA&P-CRC. He has a 25-year career in various roles in Corporate Planning, Marketing, Sales, and General Management across Asia-Pacific, and is a recipient of the Agora Award for Marketing Excellence. He is now President of Business Mentors, Inc., a newly-formed management consultancy firm and Regional Director of ZMG Ward Howell, Inc.]