Mar 3, 2011

Is mediocrity really the goal and standard for majority of Filipinos?

Dear Filipino,

Someone (with a PhD from Harvard and who was a Summa Cum Laude at his local Manila university) told me that he believes that part of the dynamics in terms of explaining why the Philippines is where it is today -- i.e., near or at the bottom rung of the Asian economies even after 25 years since the end of Marcos rule -- is that the majority of Filipinos (both the elite and the masa) do not subscribe to the pursuit of excellence (or a higher challenge) as a goal or as a standard to live for or to die for.  In short, mediocrity (or Pwede Na Basta't Maka Sulong) is the day-to-day mode of Filipino life. 

My question is: Is this observation accurate and correct? If it is, what is the explanation? Is it cultural? Is it an effect of colonialism? And if so, were the Spaniards a stickler for mediocrity themselves?

Johnny V.  from Stanford

Dear Johnny,

Yes, let’s blame everything on the Spaniards! After all, most former Spanish colonies are practically in the same rut we are in. Heck, you can even argue that Spain is in worse shape than most of its former colonies including the Philippines – what with its 20% unemployment rate right now and near bankrupt banks.

But on second thought, let’s not do that. The Spaniards have been gone a long time and it’s time to take ownership of our state of affairs. But in investigating your main question, I will steer clear of the discussion of culture also because many experts have already done that in the past and, frankly, I’m tired of hearing those experts pontificate about our culture.

So, let’s talk about you instead. ;-)

Actually, I think the question could not have come from a more appropriate questioner. Why do I think so? Because Stanford, regularly ranked today as the “dream college” by both parents and students, has become synonymous with excellence in higher education. In fact, according to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, in 2010, Stanford is ranked among the top 5 in the world in the fields of engineering & technology, life sciences, health sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and arts & humanities. This achievement is truly remarkable because no other university placed in the top 5 across all these broad disciplines. (And what these rankings always overlook is the fact that Stanford is also an incredible powerhouse in collegiate athletics!)

The Stanford University campus.
It is even more remarkable that Stanford made it this big despite its relative youth when compared to Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge – its present “peers”. In fact, after its founding by the railroad tycoon and politician Leland Stanford and his wife Jane in 1891, the fledgling university almost went under because of problems involving its finances following the death of Leland in 1893.

However, determined to keep the university in operation, Jane personally took charge of administrative and financial matters at the university from 1893 to 1905, and she ran it like a housewife would a household because that was the only way she really knew how to run anything. She’s said to have paid salaries out of her own funds, even pawning her jewelry just to keep the university going.

It is common knowledge, though, that what really brought Stanford to its current perch is Silicon Valley, one of the biggest engines of the US economy, and that Silicon Valley, in turn, is what it is today because of Stanford. You cannot divorce the success of one from the other and you definitely cannot understand the rise of one without understanding the rise of the other.

But what was the original tie that bound the two together?

The answer, according to Professor Stephen B. Adams of Salisbury University who wrote about the topic in an Oxford Journal, is a sense of mission and regional solidarity. He explains thusly:
From the early years of Stanford University, the university's leaders saw its mission as service to the West and shaped the school accordingly. At the same time, the perceived exploitation of the West at the hands of eastern interests fueled booster‐like attempts to build self‐sufficient indigenous local industry. Thus, regionalism helped align Stanford's interests with those of the area's high‐tech firms for the first fifty years of Silicon Valley's development.
We know now that this sense of mission and regionalism would give rise to the likes of Hewlett Packard, Intel, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, Yahoo, Google and thousands of other less well-known but equally excellent and cutting-edge companies, staffed by the best and the brightest who were attracted by the lure not only of wealth and glory but also the exciting prospect and pressure of competing, co-creating and/or cooperating with like-minded souls who are in pursuit of excellence.

Now, distilling the lessons from the success of Stanford and Silicon Valley, I humbly submit to you here that the key ingredients to enable a group of people to achieve excellence are (1) a sense of mission by those in leadership roles; (2) a “regionalistic” environment which produces a sense of solidarity; and (3) peer pressure of the positive kind. Take away any one of these ingredients and you’ll likely get mediocrity at best (or outright failure at worst).

Personally, I think many Filipinos subscribe to the pursuit of excellence in their own individual fields, and I don’t think I need to detain you any further here by giving you specific examples. Suffice it to say that the “someone” you mentioned appears to be one of them; otherwise, he wouldn’t have bothered getting his PhD from Harvard. (In fact, like him, many Filipinos leave the Philippines not just to earn a better living but also to seek the best in their respective fields, advance as globally as possible professionally and thereby pursue world-class excellence in their craft.)

But then, you are probably thinking that if enough Filipinos are pursuing excellence individually, then the country should not be where it is today. To a certain extent that may be true, but I don’t buy that line of thinking completely. And, here, I’ll point to India as my counter-example.

You see, India has a lot of excellent and super-successful individuals who have thrived particularly well in countries like the US and the UK. But despite significant personal achievements of these expat Indians and the considerable economic progress of the country, India still has a significant portion of its population mired in extreme poverty. Why? I’ll give you three reasons: (1) Because the elite Brahmin class does not really exhibit a true sense of mission to help members of their lowest class, the Dalits or the untouchables; (2) because India’s still pervasive and rigid caste system produces a low-trust culture and therefore a weak sense of solidarity among its people; and (3) because there is not enough peer pressure among the powerful and rich Indians to do the right thing.

Case in point: India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, just built the most expensive, most ostentatious personal residence in the world. According to Forbes, it is a billion-dollar, 60-story palatial building in Mumbai, which, depressingly enough, is actually home to the largest population of slum dwellers in India. It’s weird saying this because I might come across as just envious (and to a certain extent, I am), but I honestly almost feel sorry for this Ambani guy – for obviously, he has some demons he’s dealing with.

Do you get my drift here?

In any case, I think your question actually involves generalities. In other words, you’re really asking whether Filipinos, as a group, are pursuing or are capable of pursuing something large-scale, something grander for themselves: i.e., an excellent and advanced economy undergirding an equitable and just society. In other words, something like what the Singaporeans or the Koreans or the Taiwanese have, to a large extent, achieved.

So, applying the Stanford/Silicon Valley model of success I discussed above, I have to ask: Do Filipinos in power generally have a sense of mission?

Well, by its very definition, the word “mission” -- which is often seen as a companion word to “vision” – is suffused with idealism and therefore connotes lofty ideals and aspirations which transcend one’s selfish interests. And I doubt, honestly, whether the past and present leaders of the country (with the exception of a handful) had or have them, or even if they did or do, that they took or are taking them seriously enough.

The in-your-face corruption, the giving and accepting of bribes, the brazen system of patronage and vote-buying, the unbelievable violence – all these belie a sense of mission among the people at the top of the public pyramid. And when even the country’s privately wealthy make their money not really through invention and production of high value-added goods and services but through sale of imported consumer products to a local populace getting subsidies in the form of remittances from their OFW relatives, through passive collection of rents, through relentless milking of precious and limited land which inevitably leads to its eventual destruction and depletion, or through their connections to the people in power, you also realize that the country’s elite are just, mission-wise at least, as bankrupt.

(I remember a “game” I once played with a friend who belonged to one of the country’s most prominent families and who is very knowledgeable about the Philippine society’s elite. Highly self-aware of the nature of his own family’s membership in the group, he said to me: “Name any rich family in the Philippines and I will tell you how they arrived at their wealth through their connection to, help or blessing of a former or present President.” Not that there are no families who made their wealth more impressively, but during our exchange, I failed to stump my friend.)

But surely, we cannot lay the blame solely on the feet of the elite. We all have our fair share in everything wrong with the Philippines, of course, and we rightfully cannot get a free pass especially because there’s more than enough blame to go around. So what about the rest of us, the masses?

Sadly, the Filipino masses (where, for the sake of expediency, I would lump the middle class) have been fickle, feeble and feckless too. Collectively, we, too, seem to have no sense of mission. For instance, we kicked out the Marcoses from power but we allowed them back in without asking them to commensurately pay for their sins first. We elevated Cory to the presidency (and near-sainthood) but we did practically nothing to support her administration. We are supposedly educated but we put up with – and actually enrich! – the likes of Willie Revillame who bring out and institutionalize the worst in us, not to mention elect his ilk to positions of power. (Quite honestly, that last example is not just being mediocre – it is macabre!)

As for having a regionalistic environment which produces a sense of solidarity, with over 7,000 islands and dozens of languages, Filipinos are supposedly already “regionalistic”, so there has to be a checkmark here in our favor, right?

Unfortunately, it appears to many from outside, or even to many among us, that our regionalism does not quite extend beyond the superficial. Indeed, Filipino solidarity is often seen as merely skin-deep, quite myopic and frail, if not totally non-existent. Why? Because the sense of mission, as discussed above, is also merely skin-deep, quite myopic and frail, if not totally non-existent!

The regionalistic environment referred to by Prof. Adams is the ethos which says, “We, in this region, are in this mission together.” It’s the “us against the world” mentality which fuels a spirit of solid camaraderie and unity strong enough to overcome self-doubt, systemic problems and external attacks.

(Source: Korea Times.)
Here, I am reminded of how ordinary South Koreans rallied to save their country from complete collapse during the Asian currency crisis of 1997 by lining up in droves to donate their own personal gold -- their family heirlooms and trinkets and jewelry – in order to refill their emptied national treasury and repay the country’s loans to the International Monetary Fund. To say it was remarkable is to understate things: According to Michael Breen of Korea Times, even “couples handed over wedding rings” and “old ladies contributed treasured possessions” such that “the international price of gold dropped to the lowest in 18 years”!

When people are lining up in droves, driven by a conviction that they’re doing something noble for the greater good, you’ll get an atmosphere that produces peer pressure. And as already mentioned above, of course, I’m talking of pressure of the positive kind: the kind which puts the onus on the skeptics, the doubters, the apathetic, and even the selfish, to put on a public face at least and for once do the right thing in a crisis situation.

But even in a non-crisis situation, positive pressure inspires the intrinsically driven, the ambitious, and the idealistic to sustain their efforts to achieve even more – for themselves and for the larger group to which they belong. This positive pressure does not repel others; to the contrary, it attracts the right and the bright people, thereby enhancing the elements which further benefit the group.

In his work on how nations achieve competitive advantage, Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School introduced the concept of clusters which, like in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, are critical masses or “groups of interconnected firms, suppliers, related industries and specialised institutions in particular fields that are present in particular locations.”

According to Porter’s Cluster Theory, clusters enjoy unusual competitive success in a particular field because they affect competition: “first, by increasing the productivity of companies based in the area; second, by driving the direction and pace of innovation; and third, by stimulating the formation of new businesses within the cluster.”  In other words, Porter is just basically saying, in management consulting lingo of course, that success is infectious, that success begets success.

I mention Porter at this juncture because this infectious dynamic is what’s needed in the Philippines right now. Indeed, the Philippines really needs to achieve a critical mass of sorts, a cluster of like-minded institutions and souls who will pressure each other positively to create a spirit and atmosphere of genuine desire for reform and succeed socio-politically and economically. If it can’t, the country will continue to be stuck in the morass of mediocrity.

So I guess, that last sentence answers your question: We are not pursuing excellence as a group. In most economic development studies, we are mediocre -- i.e., stuck in the middle of the pack, or worse (however, to say we are at the bottom is also overstating things and quite erroneous). [Edit 03/07/11.] And I'm sure you didn't need me to answer this for you -- your Harvard PhD buddy already concluded so.

But if you haven’t noticed, one thing about many Filipinos – including this Filipino despite his decision to immigrate to the US – is that they will not give up on the Philippines. And because these Filipinos will not give up on the country, the country will not run out of chances to get better either.

And here, I offer as an example the experience of the Naguenos as a group.

Naga, as late as 1988, was a poor, sleepy, third-class city in the poverty-stricken region of Bicol until an enlightened young mayor, Jesse Robredo, took over the reins of the lcal government. As soon as he did, change was almost instantaneous and the pace of progress thereafter was furious, so much so that just a decade later, in 1999, Asiaweek dubbed Naga as one of Asia’s Best Cities and its Most Improved.

(Source: PlanetNaga.)
Today, Naga is the country’s most awarded city and is the model of good governance, having won around 150 relevant international awards.  It has also been attracting new residents, investors and tourists alike.

How did Robredo do it? You bet! By leading with a sense of mission and by promoting regional solidarity!

Specifically, he instituted transparency in city affairs and finances, among others. Then, he rallied, cajoled and convinced many others in the community to join him in his ambitious mission to lift the city by its own bootstraps. In the process, he got, among others, the local Rotary Club to feed the poor children and expectant mothers; the local schools and universities to participate in more aggressive community building not just traditional education; and even the Catholic Church to sell land to the city at below-market rates for squatter housing. He also reached out to the leaders of surrounding towns and municipalities to push for the development of "Metro Naga" and discuss ways to share burdens and resources to improve everyone's lot.  Most impressively, believing citizens have to have a direct stake in government affairs, he also shepherded the passage of an Empowerment Ordinance to allow non-government groups to form a People's Council which chooses representatives to the city government's committees.

By all accounts, Robredo and the people who rallied around him were so successful that officials from other cities, perhaps feeling the “peer pressure,” started trooping to Naga to learn the city’s model of governance, which led to the establishment of the Naga City Governance Institute (NCGI). At the launching of NCGI in 2009, World Bank country director Bert Hofman was effusive in his praise, remarking that the city “is one of the shining lights of good governance in the country today.”

If you visit the website of Naga ( today, you’ll appreciate why Hofman said that. Despite the small size and limited budget of the city, its website, I think, can hold its own, in terms of aesthetics and substance, against the websites of much bigger, much richer cities all over the world. The website, which captures the welcoming, progressive and hopeful zeitgeist of the city, is inviting the Internet surfer to see/meet/ invest/live/experience/study in the city – the city that “SMILES to the World.”

The challenge for P-Noy and the people around him is how they can ignite the spark which will replicate on a national level what Naga has accomplished on a city/regional level. It will be difficult, sure, but man -- God knows how much many people like myself are just dying for that to happen!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at


Anonymous said...

Dear Filipino,

You tire me out. One question and you go onto a major research and diatribe. How much do you sleep at all, if any? But I do really appreciate all those info you get from your incessant effort to push the Filipino people out of this quagmire and perhaps improve our lot, or to say it properly, to bring it back to the level of excellence and respect we were used to. Naga seems to be a good example. But don’t forget the City of Marikina, another recognized model city. So there seems to be some trend here.

So what do the people have to do now - now that we have established that there are a lot of ethnic Filipinos in pursuit of excellence? We support our government and enforce it to continue to do the right thing. If they don’t, we force it to do the right thing. The Filipino people should not only be the watchdog for a good government, but should also act to make sure that the leaders are doing the proper governance. To do this, and to make sure the leaders are recognizant of the consequences of their behaviors, we need to make sure that our laws should always be reinforced blindly, and the thieves that suck the country dry or do things for their own personal benefits (including relatives’ and padrino’s benefits) be tried and incarcerated immediately. That would be a good start. And to put salt in our wound, why do some regional people still vote for and put some people back into public position after these former public servants (or king and queens or so they think) did so much injustice to the Filipino people and the country as a whole (example is looting the country dry which caused the country’s economy to plummet down uncontrolled), and have caused foreign investment to completely shy away from our country.

The Filipinos have enough intelligence and talent to make this country progressive and respected once again – I’m sounding like a broken record. Why, because we were once, after World War II, even without the major help of our American allies. And think of the brain drain – thousands and thousands of graduates in the medical fields, in engineering, arts and sciences and the likes being exported to the whole world for lack of jobs in the Philippines. And how do we reconcile teachers and other professionals going to foreign countries and work as servants and laborers? Sad indeed, but hopefully our day will come, and we should not only hope but should do something about it.

Alex Gaston said...

The premise is all wrong. The Philippines is NOT anywhere near the bottom of the economic rankings in Asia nor in the world. This is a false stereotype mouthed recklessly by even the Filipinos themselves. The Philippines is in fact in the middle of the pack. To believe see the latest ranking of the Philippines in the much respected 2011 International Institute of Management Development (IMD) World Competitiveness Report in Switzerland (No. 36 out of the top 59 countries of the world); the Legatum Institute of Development Management of MIT; the United Nations Human Development Index; the Citicorp rankings of countries for 2011 (No. 3 most promising country for 2011); the current rankings by HSBC for Southeast Asia (middle); and reports of so many other prestigious institutions. It is more accurate to say that the Filipinos are suffering from an acute inferiority complex and/or colonial mentality and do not appreciate the fact that in truth we are NOT at the bottom of the barrel nor are we mediocre. We are in truth average in the economic rankings of the countries of the world. Furthermore there is a big shift in the criteria for measuring economic development. It is no longer the GDP alone that measures the economic well-being of a nation. That is obsolete. All these studies by prestigious institutions measure economic performance from hundreds of economic factors and indicators. Look at all these studies to understand what I am saying.

Anonymous said...

Dear Filipino,
I agree with Alex that we are not at the bottom of the pack, and so we should stop beating ourselves up about it.
I would also like to agree with HSBC's assessment that we are a promising nation, and that our time is now!
The balance of power in the world has shifted to the Asian sphere, with China doing the matador's dance over the stuck bull which is the US. The thing is, the Philippines is the red cape, what happens to us, makes a difference to the matador and the bull, and to everyone else watching.
We have the pool of talent - albeit a lot of our brainiacs are abroad - social media and more formal knowledge management systems will allow them to share their expertise and experience locally - as long as they still have the Philippines in their core operating systems.
The large increase in our inward remittances tends to affirm the fact that Filipinos are still tied to the homeland by heartstrings.
If true servant leadership can be expressed by our public officials, and the overseas Filipinos rally to bring investments back - even if just $100 bond to be reinvested in lending to agriculture or industry, then we can create a new economy that will have true benefits, and for a wider group.
What we need is for credible people to sound the trumpet call for unity and progress. Stop the political bickering and inane 'opinionating' of the press, roll up the sleeves and get to work!
The Philippines is worth living for! Mabuhay!

Brouha Ha

Anonymous said...

Dear Filipino,

Not being an economist and certainly not an expert in business management and international economics, I was awed by the information that Mr. Gaston presented on the economic ranking of the Philippines as a nation. I did a little research and found the following:

1. The 2010 World Competitiveness Yearbook published by Institute of Management Development in Switzerland showed the Philippines being 43 out of 58 countries. This means the country is about 28% from the bottom of the seriatim, and 78% of the other countries are above it.
2. I didn't find any study on economic rankings of countries done by the MIT Sloan School of Management which has a 5-year alliance with IMD to develop and market executive program. Nor did I find a study done by The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT on the same topic.
3. The 2010 Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Program is a composite of national measure of health, education, and income for 169 countries. The Philippines was ranked 92 out of 169 countries or about 43% from the bottom of the list.
4. The Republic of Korea ranked highest among the countries grouped on the HDI as part of East Asia and Pacific—number 12 in the world, which is in the “very high human development” category, followed by Hong Kong, China (21) and Singapore (27). Afghanistan (155) ranked lowest amongst Asian countries out of the 169 countries assessed. The Philippines was not even mentioned in the discussion with its 92 ranking but was certainly above Afghanistan (155) - what a treat! it's kind of late so I stopped my research - sorry.

Maybe Mr. Gaston can give us more supporting documents on his arguments. What I know is that Singapore was below the Philippines, and South Korea was way down on the economic list in the early 1960's. And they are now consistently up on the list even making the top 10 in the world. As has been mentioned earlier, if we are an economically viable country, why are there so many of our professionals leaving for abroad to work but suffer indignities by working as maids and servants and lowly workers. Have you noticed how many of the cruise ships employ hundreds of Filipinos with degrees in Hotel Management and other professionals working as busboys/girls, cooks, servers, waiters, janitors? The same situations are true in a lot of nice hotels all around Asia, Europe and America. I can't forget a forwarded email that apparently came from Hong Kong showing uniformed Filipino 'collegialas' with their picture taken in front of the ill-fated tourist bus at the Luneta Park with a caption saying - 'Look at these bitches, they can be your maid someday'. That was horrible and perhaps from the same fiber as the Chua's Chinese.

The Filipino said...

@Alex, Brouha Ha and the Anonymous folks:

Thanks for all the long and very thought-provoking comments!

@All readers of this blog who want to comment:

Please give yourself a NAME and don't use Anonymous. It makes it easy for other me and other commenters to refer to you and your comments. Thanks!

Marikina Chap said...

OK, that was me - the first Anonymous and the other Anonymous (4th comment).

I still can't find HSBC's study proclaiming the Philippines as an emerging power. But that is very satisfying to know.

With all our brain power, inherent gifts in music and the arts, and capacity to do the best job we can do, we should be back up there - among the top South East Asian Countries. The country is blessed with abundant natural resources and our weather is conducive to propagate and exploit these resources.

Malaysia appropriated or loaned public lands to their farmers and citizens, and provided them with seeds and fertilizers, loaned machineries and educated them in modern and scientific farming, and allowed them to keep their profits, after taxes of course. And the country has progressed and risen like the Phoenix. And look at Vietnam - what can one say, after years of wars and oppression.

What I don't like about our economy right now is that a major part of the GDP comes from remittances from OFW's. And from what we all hear, through their heartbreaking work ethics and sacrifices, away from families and loves ones (and exploited by these foreign nationals). I heard it said that a lot of middle east economies would go standstill if the Filipino workers stop working for them.

Thanks to you and your readers giving us some indications and confirming that the Philippines is rising again as an economic power in the area. We now need more than ever to support our government and to make sure they do the right thing for the country and us.

Ephesus said...

Thanks for the quick repsonse to the question.

Great post as usual. I like your reference to Stanford as unique and apropos as a good proogue to the topic..

Interestingly enough people like Jess Estanislao have ranked Robredo heads and shoulders above the rest among public officials in terms of what he has done to Naga.

@ Meanwhile, There is a saying among the Greeks that in the question already lies the answer.

What am I leading to ?

The desire to excel requires the daring to excel. There is a significant amount of risk involved in trying to achieve excellence.

To dare requires bravery - bravery is nothing but the ability to face the fear of failure but to remain steadfast nonetheless.

My own theory about "Corruption" is that corruption is the easiest business in the world because it is the enterprise which yields the highest rate of return without the attendant risk.

"Corruption" as an endeavor violates the normal state of affiars, i.e. The Law of Economics where Return is a function of Risk.

So what am I saying ? Because the drive to excel does not necesaarily promise an automatic sucessful outcome, this fear of failure creates doubt and stirs fear - in the end - which inapacitates the person fgrom the desire to excel.

In the end, it is a survival mechanism - the "it" referring to mediocrity.

That is why Pope John Paul (soon to be beatified on May 1st) exhorted the faithful to :Be not afraid.

That is why "virtue" according to the Greeks is the good which people pursue for the sake of its own good.

And that is why Courage or Fortitude is one of the 7 virtues that defines a life of Excellence:

Meanwhile, And what are the other virtues? That's another topic for your next blog - and how those 7 Virtues do apply to "National Development"


Johnny V from Stanford

Anonymous said...


Let us table all the rankings. And let us do away with the unquantifiable sense of "Inferiroity Complex" and "Colonial Mentality ".

Question: Do you sincerely believe that a country that has 12 million people working abroad (majority as tsimoys and tsimays or underpaid servile workers) while the lazy elite stay home as feudal lords waxing eloquent and singing Karaoake or playing golf and forever dealing with their business cronies in a Crony Capitalist system that is only open to their cronies and those who are open to practising bribery that this country "is in the middle" of the pack ?

This is prcisely the question: Why is this mediocrity the staple or standard that the Pinoys have to swallow and be content to live with ?

Johnny V. from Stanford

Alex Gaston said...

I have just sent you by email the report of Asian News Network (ANN) dated Feb. 26, 2011 headlined "Philippines named among most promising countries" by global banking giant Citigroup in a research paper titled "Global Growth Generations (3...G)." To quote:

"Global banking giant Citigroup has identified the Philippines as one of 11 countries that will likely stand out in a globally integrated economy in terms of high growth rates and investment returns over the next 40 years."

Alex Gaston said...

For your readers, this is the summary of the IMD World Competitiveness Report Online released in 2011. To get the full report have to subscribe to IMD. The partner of IMD in the Philippines is the Asian Institute of Management where I used to teach.

IMD is one of the best business schools in Europe located in Switzerland. It is affiliated with the best business schools all over the world. In the US I believe it is MIT and/or Carnegie Mellon University.

The summary ranking of the Philippines for 2010 out of 59 countries studied by IMD is as follows:

Overall competitiveness - 39th place;
Economic Performance - 34
Government Efficiency - 31
Business Efficiency - 32
Infrastructure - 56
Domestic Economy - 42
International Trade - 31
International Investment - 56
Employment - 27
Prices - 18
Public Finance - 42
Fiscal Policy - 48
Institutional Framework - 41
Business Legislation - 48
Societal Framework - 23
Productivity & Efficiency - 48
Labor Market - 3
Finance - 36
Management Practices - 31
Attitudes and Values - 32
Basic Infrastructure - 56
Tech Infrastructure - 29
Scientific Infrastructure - 56
Health and Environment - 48
Education - 56

Give and take a few points, the Philippines is in the middle of the pack in most categories and nowhere near the bottom of the barrel as most Flipinos themselves like to think.

For instance, government efficiency, management practices, attitudes and values, international trade, employment, societal framework, technological infrastructure, are all near average and not rock bottom as most Filipinos like to say. Surprisingly in prices of commodities, the Philippines is a lot better than average.

The over-all ranking is pulled down by low scores in basic and scientific infrastructures and education and that is where government has to work harder. It has little to do with the culture and character of the Filipino which we erroneously blame for a wrong assessment of our country's economic performance.

Alex Gaston said...

This topic has been discussed thoroughly in the yahoogroup of ateneoforbetterphilippines, a think ...tank of about 150 alumni of the best universities in the Philippines including Ateneo, de la Salle, UP, San Beda, AIM, Mapua, Holy Spirit, St. Theresa, Maryknoll, St. Scholastica and many others. We have Phds., MA's and MBA's from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and others.

We also have 4 university presidents, 5 Cabinet secretaries, columnists, and many grad school professors including myself. And executives of some of the biggest firms here. We discuss national issues and events in depth. Many of our members are residents of the United States. Let us all work for a better Philippines and realize that we have a beautiful and PROSPEROUS country after all in comparison with the others.

For starters, think about this. Prices in our stock market have nearly doubled in the last year. Property prices for 2010 rose from 30-50%. Can the US claim such achievements? From what I hear the recession in the US is far from over, and may get worse. And the US property market is still in ICU.

Anonymous said...

Alex Gaston,

Thank you for your effusive and effluent response citing statistics from insitutions such as the IMEDE that the Philippines and its leaders are not poster boys and poster girls of mediocrity and substandard governance.

Tell that though to the 12 million Filipinos who are working as OFW's living the hard life as menial or servile workers.

Tell that to my employees who during a business visit to Manila from Singapore (in fact just the other day) whispered to me, their boss, in embarrassment: Boss, pardon me for asking, but why is there so much poverty amidst so much signs of wealth ? What is the elite doing to better the life of the poor in their country ?

The question to you is: Is this the standard (IMEDE rankins) that you believe by which the Filipino Nation has to survive and live ? That the oligarchy that controls the banking and remittance infrastructure gain tremendous (additional) wealth through the earnings of the blood, sweat and tears of the Filipinos ?

According to Vice President Jojo Binay himself there are 3.5 million houses that need to be built for the 20 million Filipinos living in hovels !

Amy Chua raised a point in her book that mentioned the "indigenous poor" in the Philippines: The Tsinoys and the Tisoys seem to be content with the status quo.

Meanwhile, thank you for the post. Re the US and the recession - this is another topic for discussion but last time we looked the US still has a per capita income of $40,000.00. The Philippine per capita is $3,000.00.

Johnny V from Stanford

alex said...

The world is now a global market and economic community. Filipinos are working abroad because of globalization. The wages are higher in the middle East so they go there. Wages are cheaper in China so the Americans and Europeans and other Asians put their factories there.

But working or investing in other countries is no sign that the home country is sinking. That is a big fallacy again mouthed by Filipinos themselves. Is America sinking for Americans to put their factories in China? The principle of comparative advantage internationally is at work here. That is all there is to it. If the Arabs stop paying higher salaries, all the OFW's will go home. If Chinese labor becomes more expensive, all the Americans and Europeans will go home as well. As you know, the Philippines is now the number one in the world for call centers surpassing India, And foreign companies are flocking here to put up more call centers because precisely of comparative advantage. The Filipinos speak English better, and are more carinosa/carinoso to customers.

The Philippines is 31st among 59 countries when it comes to employment in the AMD study. That is average. India is becoming the third economic giant of the world yet millions of Indians are working elsewhere including the US. Is India sinking? The Chinese too. They migrate to all points of the world despite the fact that they are becoming the richest country in the world. There are more Indonesian maids in the US than Filipinos. Is Indonesia sinking also? There must be a million Koreans who have migrated to the Philippines and more are arriving every day. Is Korea sinking? Divisoria is now populated by thousands of millions of mainland Chinese. Is China sinking?

With regards the poor people, believe it or not there are many more poor people in the US than in the Philippines. There are only half a million people who are squatting in Metro Manila according to official figures of the MMDA. There are millions of American homeless who occupy abandoned lots and buildings, tent cities, ghettos, and sidewalks according to official sources too. There are 19 million foreclosed or abandoned homes in the US and squatters have moved into many of them because of the recession according to news reports.

With regards to the so-called oligarchy and lazy elite who play golf here, anyone who believes that must be residing outside of the Philippines and has lost touch with reality. He still believes in Marxist theory which has been proven false with finality. In our forum in AFBP, I challenged everyone to name the so-called oligarchs and elite who allegedly ravage the economy if any. Is Noynoy an oligarch because he is a Cojuangco? Is Henry Sy an oligarch because he is the richest Filipino? Are the Ayalas despicable oligarchs because of their real estate, banking, and industrial businesses?

Or aren't they the people who in fact provide millions of jobs to Filipinos and their families and move the country forward?

Nobody could name the oligarchs in their minds for in truth the Marxist theory of class struggle, oligarchs versus the proletariat, has been proven false with finality and abandoned by the communist countries themselves. Yet many Filipinos still think blindly like Marxists, pitting the poor against the rich when we should all be working together for a better Philippines.

BTW, the assessment of HSBC saying that the Philippines ranks in the middle of Southeast Asian countries was given by the CEO of HSBC when interviewed live by ANC two weeks ago. He also said the Philippine peso will rise to P37 to one US$ in 2011, and to P35 to one US$ in 2012. Foreigners believe in the Philippines. Unfortunately many Filipinos themselves do not.

Unknown said...

Hey, why don't you opt out the Anonymous readers can only comment if they log in to either an Open ID and a Google Account so to eliminate anonymous comments.
You should also have pointed Davao City as one great example, besides Naga.

The Filipino said...

I may just do that -- turn off the ability to post anonymous comments. What's giving me pause is the thought that some "shy" people have great opinions but would never share them if they have to identify themselves...

@Alex & Johnny:

I'm impressed with the depth of your arguments, even though you appear to be polar opposites (at least superficially). Because of the extreme demands on my time lately though, I'll let my post stand as my official stance on this topic. Of course, I reserve the right to revisit the comments and re-argue some issues raised.

The Filipino said...

@Marikina Chap:

You are right: P-Noy, despite his flaws, deserves our all-out support. That does not mean of course that we should exempt him from well-deserved criticism. I, for one, am sickened by some of the failures in leadership which he exhibited in the short time he's been in office. And I hope he keeps Robredo in his Cabinet -- a public servant who deserves his post more than most!

Alex Gaston said...


Had lunch with Charlie Borromeo our AFBP member who is going home to San Francisco tonight. A successful software manufacturer in Silicon Valley and also here.

He confirmed Pinoys make a big mistake to conclude that OFW's like himself go abroad because our country is sinking. That is not their rationale. What we are seeing is globalization in action. Supply goes where the demand is in the global market. And that goes not only for maids and drivers but for all skilled workers, executives and entrepreneurs as well.

So you see a lot of Pinoys also in Silicon Valley and Wall Street and the biggest firms in America. I know because my own kids work in big firms in the US. We should be proud of Pinoy OFW's who compete well in the global market and not think of them as reluctant refugees.

In the same manner we see a growing number of expats in the Philippines. Workers and executives go where the demand and comparative advantage is. That is strictly business. Exactly what I said earlier. Charlie hires Pinoy programmers in the US and also here in Makati.

We are now one global marketplace and globalization does not frown on immigrant workers nor on foreign investments. That is the very intention of globalization. One global market for goods and services without national barriers.

Workers go where their skills and investments are in demand and are paid well. Whether they are Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Chinese, Indonesians, Indians, Mexicans, Filipinos or whatever.

While many Filipinos go to work abroad, many foreigners are also flocking to the Philippines to work and live here. Hundreds of thousands of Korean, Chinese, Indian , Taiwanese, and other nationals are also moving here every year. Koreans especially. They are now everywhere in the provinces, cities, and municipalities, with Korean signs and businesses all over the place.

There are more Indians now in AIM than Filipinos. And the list goes on and on. Their countries are not sinking by any means. They see comparative advantages for them in the Philippines.

Charlie and I plan to raise this issue for thorough discussion in AFBP. We all have to learn what globalization and what the resulting international migration of workers from all nations is really all about.

Ephesus said...

Alex Gaston,

If the Fiilipino elite and oligarchs are all truly and really for Globalization, then why don't they do away with the 60/40 Law ?

Why can't citizens of the US or of other countries practise Law, Medicine, Accounting, Engineering, Architecture, etc in the Philippines yet Pinoys are allowed to practise their professions in the US even if they are not citizens but for as long as they are licensed by the appropriate Professional Board?

Why can't non-Filipino citizens own land (not just over-priced condos) in the Pinas ?

Johnny V from Stanford

Had Enough - Cool It. said...

I'm really getting tired of those name dropping, and 'according to these studies and that'....

The question basically is still - why are there just so many OFW's in menial labor, considering these were educated professionals from the Philippines. The Pinoy refutation abroad on OFW's is not really very flattering (especially in Southeast Asia). They think we are maids, busboys, cooks, laborers, waiters and waitresses, janitors, technicians, clerks, to name a few (not that I am name dropping). I don't think this includes the 'brain drain' in the late 60's thru the early 80's which were more of professionals in the medical, engineering, scientific fields, business and finance, law and others. These people contribute to the higher than average per capita income in the US and Canada and but they are now mostly citizens of these foreign countries.

Unknown said...

The mission of people in power back home is not to improve the job market but to NOT do anything knowing that their desperate citizens would leave and work somewhere else. At the end of the day each citizen sends money back home and the government gets a cut from every foreign exchange transactions. That is making some money without doing anything. No wonder the public servants are a sought after profession.

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