Marina Bay Sands is One Big Foreign Direct Investment

Marina-Bay-Sands-3These days, when you think about Singapore, you imagine a photo of the “three buildings with a boat on top.” If you have friends who have been to Singapore, they prove that they visited it with a photo of them with Marina Bay Sands as the backdrop. For all intents and purposes, Singapore’s new de facto landmark is Marina Bay Sands.

But did you know that Marina Bay Sands is actually the result of Foreign Direct Investment?

Make no mistake, folks… Marina Bay Sands is majority-owned and operated by a foreign entity — an American company called “Las Vegas Sands Corporation.”

But Singaporeans and the Singapore Government have absolutely no issues with the fact that Singapore’s representative landmark is foreign-owned, because they are practical and business-minded and understand that Marina Bay Sands creates lots of jobs, other economic opportunities, and generates a lot of money that gets pumped into the Singapore economy, and a lot of tax revenues. Marina Bay Sands is a premier venue for international conventions, bringing in lots of attendees from all over the world to attend such events, and turning these attendees into tourists who pump a lot of money into the Singapore economy.

Overall, Singapore wins because of Marina Bay Sands because Singapore now has a nice landmark that tourists and visitors associate with the country, lots of jobs were created and Singapore earns a great deal of money from its operations. Singapore is more than happy to receive foreign direct investment for big projects such as this. In essence, Singapore did not need to spend money for this. Las Vegas Sands Corporation took the risk of spending all the money to make this impressive mega-structure.

Singaporeans don’t care that an American company owns Marina Bay Sands because Singapore benefits from it anyway!

This is a far cry from the barriotic-minded attitudes of many so-called “Nationalistic” Filipinos who make an oftentimes overreacting fuss about “national patrimony” when it comes to ownership by foreigners of corporations in the Philippines. Small-mindedness often takes over and prevails in the Philippines and the bigger picture never gets looked at. Instead of pragmatically looking at the fact that inviting in foreign direct investors and multinational corporations will create lots of jobs in such a short span of time for Filipinos based in the Philippines and that these MNCs will bring in technology, skills-training, and know-how that is quite often of a much higher level than what is available in the Philippines, these barriotic-minded “nationalists” (kuno) end up letting their irrationality and emotions take over and all they see is that “foreigners own the companies.” They don’t see the bigger picture in which employees and the wider society are benefiting from the employment generation and the skills and knowledge-transfer that occurs.

But let’s look at Singapore. Singapore’s prosperity is the direct result of Foreign Direct Investment. In fact its very existence as an entrepôt long before its independence in 1965 was the result of Foreign Direct Investment by the British East India Company. After Independence, the late founding Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew realized that the fastest way for Singapore to solve its unemployment problem and develop its economy was to bring in Foreign Direct Investors and Multinational Corporations.

As such, in Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”, he writes in pages 57-58:

“The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNC’s were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNC’s continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries.

MNC’s controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma.

Anyway, Singapore had no natural resources for MNC’s to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNC’s could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNC’s.”

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In the preceding excerpt, the late Lee Kuan Yew reveals that he was exposed to the prevailing anti-MNC and anti-FDI mindset that dominated among many Third World economists and ideologues. This is the same mindset that was promoted by Filipino Leftist ideologues such as Joma Sison, Renato Constantino, Alejandro Lichauco, and are continuously peddled by leftist groups such as IBON Foundation, NEPA (National Economic Protectionism Association), and the MAN (Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism), Bayad Muna, and the CPP-NPA-NDF and its numerous front orgs.

But these ideologues cared more about ideology and theory, not much about practicality and real world problem-solving. Lee Kuan Yew, being an extremely sharp thinker felt that such theories may have sounded cute on paper and could stir people’s emotions, but would have likely failed or at best taken a very long time to succeed. He couldn’t afford failure. In fact, his practical-mindedness made him consider the fact that setting up industries required technology, know-how, and financial resources which the local investors & businessmen and even the country’s government did not have.

The lag-time in waiting for local industrialists to emerge from the current pool of businessmen would have meant that many unemployed Singaporeans would have been jobless and poor for a long time. Since Lee needed pre-packaged “ready-to-run” solutions, he felt that bringing in MNCs and Foreign Direct Investors who already had the financial resources, the know-how and the technology to hit the ground running was Singapore’s best chance to immediately create jobs in the shortest possible time.

It helps greatly that the late Lee Kuan Yew and his friend and colleague the late Goh Keng Swee were both highly analytical and highly intelligent skeptics who had doubts when pure theories and ideologies were bandied about without any practical basis. So the anti-FDI and anti-MNC sentiments prevalent among many third world economists did not impress them.

In page 66 of LKY’s book “From Third World to First”, Lee explains:

“We did not have a large group of ready-made entrepreneurs such as Hong Kong gained in the Chinese industrialists and bankers who came fleeing from Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), and other cities when the communists took over.

Had we waited for our traders to learn to be industrialists we would have starved…

It is absurd for critics to suggest in the 1990’s that had we grown our own entrepreneurs, we would have been less at the mercy of the rootless MNC’s. Even with the experienced talent Hong Kong received in Chinese refugees, its manufacturing technology level is not in the same class as that of the MNC’s in Singapore.”

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As it turns out, Lee Kuan Yew had practical experience as a businessman – particularly during the Japanese occupation. This experience made him understand the requirements of running business operations and understanding certain processes.

This is unfortunately what many Filipino leftist ideologues lack. Most of them have never operated businesses, and many have never worked in real industry. In most cases, they tend to be ivory-tower academics (usually from non-practical fields such as literature), as in the case of Joma Sison. Not understanding how business or industry works, such ideologues are quite likely to talk purely about highfallutin’ concepts such as “sovereignty” or “national patrimony”, but they do not understand the practical concepts of how a manufacturing or other industrial operation must be set up nor do they understand the kind of financial capital, technological know-how and skills-requirements needed to make it work successfully.

Attracting Foreign Direct Investment is the route that Singapore took in solving its unemployment problems because it is the fastest way to get companies set up as MNCs already have existing technology, know-how, and even monetary resources at their disposal. Even Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamad also tapped Foreign Direct Investments and MNCs in order to solve their unemployment issues.

From page 308 of Mahathir’s memoirs “A Doctor in the House”, Mahathir writes:

“Nevertheless the increase in foreign investments helped to create jobs and so lowered the unemployment rate, which was high at the time. Our approach differed from those of Japan and Korea, where the preference was for acquiring foreign technology for investment by the locals.

We did not have local entrepreneurs with the money or the willingness to invest in industries they were not familiar with. It was only after many years that the Malaysians acquired the knowledge and industrial skills to invest in manufacturing.

Thus it was through FDI that we succeeded in converting our agricultural economy into an industrial economy and eventually solving our unemployment problem.”

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Dr. Mahathir, just like his contemporary Lee Kuan Yew, had also been a businessman during the Japanese occupation, and had developed a keen understanding of how businesses are run. The quote below, taken from page 334 of “A Doctor in the House” reveals how Mahathir had a similar insight with Lee Kuan Yew regarding the fact that the local businessmen in Malaysia (and Singapore) were mostly traders and most did not have the confidence to go into certain new fields in which they were unfamiliar. It was for this reason that it was necessary to invite Foreign Direct Investors and MNCs that had the expertise and the financial resources to set up operations in industries or fields that local businessman had hitherto not had any expertise in.

Here is the quote from page 334, Mahathir writes:

“Managing a manufacturing industry is very difficult and there was no substantial industry in Malaysia at that time that we could take our lessons from.

We went for foreign investments because we did not have locals who were willing to take the leap. Locals wanted to stay within their comfort zones. When there is no competition in the mix, it is easy to get away with low quality, bad management, dirty processes and inefficiency.

But in a competitive environment, you must always be on guard. You have to look for ways to improve your product and be more cost-efficient. If you do not, you can be very sure that your competitors will be doing exactly that. Tax protection may provide some comfort but it should not make things too easy and discourage effort. It should certainly not cultivate bad attitudes and habits.”

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It is therefore foolish for Filipino leftist ideologues and proponents of “National Industrialization” to mindlessly and irresponsibly champion protectionist state-sponsored industrialization when local expertise in properly and successfully executing the operations required in such industrialization is woefully inadequate or non-existent.

The problem of the Filipino leftist ideologues is that they care more about their ideology and dogma than they do about the actual welfare of the ordinary Filipino People. They do not care that their plan for “National Industrialization” is likely to fail because they never cared to understand the prerequisites (financial capital, know-how, technology, etc) necessary to make it succeed, nor do they even care that attempting to make “national industrialization” actually happen can and will take a very long time before majority of Filipinos can be gainfully employed. Filipino leftist ideologues unfortunately aren’t really all that interested in job creation. Their primary goal is in fulfilling their ideological mandate.

In stark contrast, Dr. Mahathir, in page 372 of his memoirs, insists that job creation is of utmost importance:

“Creating jobs, especially by implementing policies that encourage the creation of private sector work opportunities, is the proper role of government.

That was why when Malaysia invited foreign investment, we did not insist on immediately collecting taxes. We were prepared to forgo taxes if the investors created jobs for our people.

In our view, no one who was prepared to work should remain unemployed. In fact, the Government was so successful in creating jobs that there are now more than two million foreign workers in the country. We cannot ourselves meet the demand for labour that our economic development has generated.”

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Singapore and Malaysia are both the two most developed economies of the ASEAN region and both countries relied heavily on Foreign Direct Investments and bringing in Multinational Corporations as a means of creating thousands of jobs in a short span of time and training many local employees to learn new technologies and skills that they would not have learned had the foreign investors not come in.

The single biggest indicator of Singapore’s reliance upon Foreign Direct Investments for job creation and economic development is the fact that Singapore’s new modern landmark is none other than a Foreign Direct Investment itself: Marina Bay Sands.

The Philippines ought to learn from this and realize that there is nothing wrong with relying upon FDIs and MNCs when it comes to fighting unemployment and developing the economy. It is precisely because so many Filipinos and so-called “intellectuals” have not yet learned this insight that the Philippines continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the ASEAN region and continues to have a chronic dependence on sending OFWs to foreign countries, Singapore included.

The Philippines must immediately remove all of its outdated and barriotic 60/40 restrictions and other anti-FDI restrictions that keep Foreign Direct Investments low.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution NOW!

Here's how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

Here’s how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

(Singapore was not included in the graph above as its advanced First World status and extremely high FDI figures would dwarf all the other ASEAN countries as Singapore’s FDI in-flows are generally more than twice the highest FDI-inflows in the graph.)

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum is an IT Professional based in Singapore and is an accomplished and award-winning Stand-up Comedian during his free time outside of his IT day-job and his Constitutional Reform advocacy. Orion won First Prize in the 2014 Magners Singapore International Comedy Festival Best New Act Competition. He also won the August 2014 “Open for Steve-O Competition” that got him becoming the opening act for International Stunt-Comedian Steve-O from “Jack-Ass” in his Singapore tour.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Tacloban Tragedy: A Painful Wake-up Call

Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan

Note: This was originally a status update from FB that went viral. We were able to  get permission to publish it from the lady who was able to speak with several survivors of Super-Typhoon Haiyan (local name: “Yolanda”) particularly the update of her own cousin who was in Tacloban when the disaster happened.

We’ve been instructed by her to edit some areas of the original post, in order to protect the witnesses who recounted their tales. But it is really important that we who were not there on the ground be able to read accounts like this. We’ve also modified some of the formatting and have italicized or set some of the text in bold where the original author sought to emphasize certain words or phrases.

The original Facebook status update was written on November 17, 2013, so please take note that “yesterday” refers to November 16 and calculate other time references accordingly.


     Krizette_FB

Dear friends,

Yesterday we met and talked to six survivors, not including my husband, who only had to survive the aftermath. In truth, for all the images we see here in Manila, all of them say that we cannot fully comprehend the extent of the devastation unless we see it with our own eyes — or smell the stench of death that sticks to clothes.

“The storm only lasted for 5 hours,” says my cousin. Her home, situated in front of Robinsons Place Tacloban and MS grocery, suffered minor damage. It was only after going out to survey the damage that she only fully understood the severity of the situation: Everywhere she looked she saw people walking dazed, frantic, and calling out for loved ones. She is a volunteer, so she walked to the city hall to help out the local government, saw bodies lying by the side. She and other volunteers, she says, repacked goods during that first couple of days. It was also understood that they would be given a pack each. “We saw it loaded in a truck, the truck drove away, and we never saw it again,” she remembers. “The volunteers were also not given anything.” 

Day One, she says, people waited patiently for help. By the end of Day Two, people became frantic. (Imagine finding your family members dead, your house completely damaged, no water and electricity, all compounded by no food.)

The first “looting” at Robinsons grocery was relatively peaceful, says another survivor who does not want to be named. People helped themselves and each other. “They were friendly, you can ask people where the baby food aisle is and they’d even help you go there,” says the survivor. People only took what they needed.

“It only became violent in days three and four, when people had been going for days without food or water and the bodies were still in the streets,” adds my cousin. Another grocery right beside Robinsons Mall, Market Savers, which is set up like Makro or S&R (warehouse style) stationed several armed men in the entrance protecting already-damaged goods. For 3 days, people ignored it. And then because starvation can make you do desperate things, on the fourth day, the guards were overpowered by a hungry, angry mob. Guns were reportedly fired, and some people got hurt.

“People have been neglected without nothing to eat for almost a week, their family missing, and you didn’t see any semblance of government,” says my cousin. Save for the organized criminals who attack the stores with guns and trucks, the ordinary looters only went in the stores days after inaction from the government, and only got what they needed. Another store, a corner mom and pop operation, was also looted, but the owners decided to just distribute the goods by “throwing” them from the second floor of the building. To be fair to the businessmen of the city, they gave away what they had. Another cousin of mine who owns gas stations gave away their gas before heading to Manila. My cousin also told a local official that somebody should go around with a megaphone to announce the schedule of the delivery of food, to calm the masses. “In one ear, out another, “ My cousin says, shaking her head ruefully.

There’s no use sugarcoating this: the government bungled the operations. The local government of Tacloban is ill-equipped; the national government’s attempts are half-hearted at best. I chatted on FB with the wife of the highest official of Tacloban and she believes the help did not come because of politics.” She laments, “They are so evil, they are so mean.” “They” refers to the national government. I shiver to think that President Aquino would intentionally neglect the people of Tacloban because it is a Romualdez bailiwick. But, guess what, I wouldn’t put it past him. Pakabili po siya ng empathy at sympathy, dahil wala po nun ang presidente natin.

Still, because it is human nature to move forward, you can see the first signs of life in Tacloban. Some stores are already opening — yesterday, too, some businessmen who are now in Manila met to discuss the economic future of the city, yet some will be forever boarded up. How can you recover when the chain of supply and demand is broken? The businessmen in the city lost their stocks, which amounts to millions. They have suppliers they are answerable to. Some of these goods were purchased on credit. In one fell swoop, all they worked hard for all their lives are gone, just like that. And then there are ordinary employees who now have no work and no means of income, because the offices will not be open in at least a couple of months. The scenario that looms for most: No house, no food, no money. There are those retirees who spent all their retirement money to finally purchase their own modest houses, and now they have nowhere to live. It’s hunger + helplessness + depression. Lesser people would have crumbled — but Warays aren’t getting sad, they’re getting mad.

Mr. President, people are not statistics. It only took one day—sorry, I meant five hours—for everything to change for them. Waraynons are naturally courageous and resilient, our ancestors after all were warriors, but we need help rising up from the rubble. You don’t think we’re even worthy of one day worth of your attention. You have not stayed even one full day to assess the damage.

Only 29 towns have been given relief—Leyte has more than 40 towns—7 days after the typhoon. The situation may be getting better, but not nearly fast enough for the millions of people at the mercy of a President who may care, but not nearly great enough.


The Wake-up Call

As you may already know, the issue of the national government’s unwillingness or inability to respond appropriately in providing relief to the victims of Supertyphoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) is all related to the low quality of leadership over at the Palace. This is all a result of the election in 2010 of a man who was not only ill-prepared to assume the responsibilities and duties of being the top decision-maker of the country, but was totally unwilling to even try to get himself up to speed.

This was thanks to the dynamics of the Philippine system of government and the way elections occur within a Presidential System. Aside from all the research done by world renowned political scientists which has revealed numerous problems of presidentialism such as gridlock, a tendency to make extensive use of discretionary pork barrel funding, and a tendency towards greater corruption, our Presidential System has unfortunately caused many ordinary Filipinos — including highly educated ones — to tend to vote based on personality and name-recall. Presidential Systems tend to make people care less about platforms, programmes, and principles, and care more about “the personality of the person we voting for” and look at markers like “who his parents were” or “what surname does he have.”

Had we instead had a true Parliamentary System (not the fake/bogus one we had under Marcos’ martial law era or the French-style “strong president” semi-presidential system Marcos shifted to in 1981 when martial law was lifted), the Philippines’ electoral dynamics would have been very different.

In Parliamentary Systems, people do not care only about voting for who their local district representative would be but also care about who the party leader is of the party that the local candidate they choose belongs to. As such, instead of looking only at one personality, voters are forced to look at two main people: the local representative who will represent their constituency, and the party leader who will become the prime minister should his party win a majority of all seats. Since a vote for the local representative means a vote for his party’s leader as well, voters tend to think from within a “big-picture” perspective, putting more importance on the the party affiliations of the local candidates they vote for, knowing fully-well that their local candidates’ party affiliation will likely determine who will ascend to the post of Prime Minister, and which party’s members will constitute the Cabinet.

(Let’s take the UK’s example. When a person votes for the local member of parliament in his own district/constituency, he looks at what parties the candidates belong to.

One candidate might be named “John Smith” who represents the Conservative Party while another candidate named “George Jones” may represent the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is currently headed by David Cameron, while the Labour Party is headed by Ed Milliband. If the voter personally likes John Smith, he also has to consider that voting for John Smith represents voting for David Cameron to continue on as Prime Minister. If he doesn’t particularly like David Cameron for whatever reason, then the voter must then take a step back and look at what “John Smith” has in common with David Cameron: being from the same party and having Conservative Political Leanings. Does the voter agree with those political leanings? Well, that’s what the voter will be forced to deal with. Ultimately, in parliamentary systems, voters care a lot more about party platforms and their manifestos simply because of this electoral dynamic.

More importantly, it’s not just about who is going to be the Prime Minister. It’s about who will become the ministers. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Labour Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers will all come from the Labour Party. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Conservative Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will all come from the Conservative Party.)

This change in electoral dynamics goes a long way in improving the way people vote. It also changes the way politicians will campaign during elections. Since Presidential Systems are more about the candidates’ personalities and “who they are”, that’s what candidates and politicians concentrate on selling and what they stand for takes a back-seat. But in Parliamentary Systems, where party affiliation is of greater importance, candidates campaign more about what their own parties stand for. There is less of the “epal” credit-grabbing meant to gain name-recall among the populace. Instead, candidates in parliamentary systems are much more likely to talk about the ideas and principles that their parties stand for and plan to achieve as well as the programs and projects their parties plan to implement.

There are many other major advantages to Parliamentary Systems, including the absence of gridlock as well as the ease of replacing non-performing leaders such as ministers or even the prime minister himself. In addition, the Opposition plays an official and active role in scrutinizing the incumbent government’s policies and implementation thereof so that each minister is “shadowed” (aka “followed around” in meetings) by an official opposition counterpart known as the “shadow minister.” Each minister, including the prime minister, is shadowed by a member of the Shadow Cabinet. The Minister for Education is “shadowed” by the Shadow Minister for Education, etc, and the Prime Minister himself is shadowed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Come question period (which is at least once a week in open parliament), the Shadow Ministers each grill their corresponding ministers in government regarding their decisions and their performance. The most exciting question period of the week occurs when the Leader of the Opposition grills the Prime Minister. This constant scrutiny by the Opposition Shadow Cabinet of the Cabinet Ministers keeps all of them on their toes and prevents them from engaging in corruption, since the opposition and its shadow ministers are always in constant surveillance – looking for any sign of wrongdoing by the government that it can exploit in order to discredit the government and use to further their cause in seeking to take over. This constant surveillance by the opposition is why parliamentary systems have been proven to be generally less prone to corruption than presidential systems.

Imagine if we had a parliamentary system in the Philippines. Noynoy, Dinky, and Mar Roxas would be hard pressed to make excuses they way they did in front of journalists. Unlike journalists who tend to ask neutral questions, the opposition shadow cabinet tends to feature opposition leaders who are out to probe, grill, and cross examine government ministers in the open parliament. No more palusots. No more lame excuses. No more tolerance of incompetence. Noynoy or any other vote-magnet puppet simply cannot survive Parliamentary Question Period.

Post-Disaster Economic Reconstruction

It is also necessary that when thinking about the reconstruction efforts of all the affected areas, we must understand that we will need a lot of Foreign Direct Investments as the quickest way to help out in creating the much-needed jobs that will get people who have lost their livelihoods back on their feet.

Look at this graph of ASEAN’s 2012 Foreign Direct Investment in-flows:

2012 FDI in ASEAN

The Philippines is lamentably at the bottom of the ASEAN pile as far as attracting FDIs goes (which explains the high unemployment rate) and the super-typhoon’s destruction has obviously made things much, much worse as far as unemployment is concerned. We have continued to experience a dearth in domestic job-creation such that more than 10 million Filipinos have been forced to find employment abroad as OFW’s and emigrants. Now, an estimated 4 million people are said to have been displaced. How many of them lost their livelihoods? (Now we can see just how badly we need rapid job creation to occur in the Philippines on a massive scale.)

Removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions as well as the 60/40 ownership limits in the Constitution (as well as laws) will go a long way in attracting more and more investors to set up in the Philippines and create much needed employment for our people. Bringing in FDIs by removing anti-FDI restrictions has worked everywhere it has been tried and it is the secret of Singapore’s success and ascent into First World status despite having been poorer than the Philippines more than half a century ago. Massive FDI-attraction was the jump-starting spark that got China out Maoist Communist economic lethargy to become a major capitalist powerhouse and the second largest economy in the world, and it is also the key ingredient in Indonesia’s rapid rise within the ASEAN region.

We’re all so happy to receive aid and assistance from other countries but we have to realize that aid is temporary. Asking for aid long-term is mendicancy and that is unsustainable. As such, once it’s time to rebuild the Philippines and all the areas hit by disaster, we will start needing to earn our keep. We will need to work to earn some money for ourselves. Whether we like it or not, Foreign Direct Investments create employment opportunities and these pay salaries. We’re not asking for alms: we’re working for a livelihood.

Does it really matter if the companies we work for are foreign-owned versus Filipino-owned? Think about it — more than 10 million Filipinos are working abroad for foreign employers anyway. Bringing foreign investors in allows rapid job creation to happen in the Philippines so that our people can be with their families and find jobs without having to depart for faraway shores.

But lastly, we also need to make sure that when job creation does happen, it happens in the regions, not in the already overcongested Metro Manila where far too many rural peasants have gone in search of work to end up becoming the capital city’s urban poor. That’s why we need Evolving Federalism (aka “Region-based Decentralization”). We need to empower the regions in order to have the necessary autonomy they need to create their own pro-business economic policies that would be more conducive to fostering economic development and attracting investors – both Filipino and foreign.

Ultimately, when all three reforms are done, the Philippines can truly get back on its feet and turn itself around so that it ceases to be Southeast Asia’s laggard. This is not just about  the reconstruction of the affected areas hit by the recent super-typhoon. This is about doing what we should started to do long ago in order to improve our country as the Philippines has continued to slide and get left behind by other ASEAN countries who used to look up to us.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) ought to be the wake-up call that gets all Filipinos uniting behind this most important reform advocacy. This is, after all, for the benefit of ourselves and our future generations. The selfish Oligarchs and the ignorant anti-reform forces have held us back for far too long. It’s time all Filipinos learned more about these necessary reforms and started pushing for them so that we can achieve our rightful place among the successful and competitive countries of the world. Now is the time to spread the word!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

correct icons small

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Infographic: Solutions to the Root Causes of the Pork Barrel

Baboy-Barrel

Many Filipinos want to get rid of the Pork Barrel. But as mentioned in a previous article, it is necessary to understand the root causes of this “contraption” in order to come up with a truly effective solution.

We at the CoRRECT™ Movement have come up with an infographic that aims to educate netizens in a step-by-step manner exactly how the Pork Barrel came to be and what solutions are necessary to address those root causes in order to totally eradicate the corruption-prone pork barrel as it exists.

Please feel free to pass this infographic around to as many people as possible in order to promote a much deeper understanding of the issue among a wider population.

Benign0 is just as clueless as “Benigno”

benign0-benigno - smaller

Yes, you read it right.

We’re talking about Benign0 (the “Get Real Philippines” guy who uses the “Jimi Hendrix” avatar on the left) being just as clueless as his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III. Why so?

Because just like his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III, benign0 is rabidly against Constitutional Reform, and just recently came out with a new article that highlights his total lack of insight and analytical ability when he attacks the notion of removing the blanket anti-Foreign Direct Investment restrictions found in the 1987 Constitution which actively discourage Multinational Corporations (aka “MNC’s”) and Foreign Direct Investments (aka “FDI”) from coming into the Philippines.

Check this screenshot out:

bobonign0

Oh wow. Really, benign0? Do you really think that your namesake’s point was “before you sell your building you need to fix its rotten floors first lest the new owner’s furniture fall through it?” Or did you not realize that your namesake is just simply clueless, doesn’t know anything about economics, and is simply out to protect the monopolistic vested interests of fellow members of the oligarch class that he was born into?

Wait a minute, benign0, did you not see the blatant error that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III made? It’s this one here:

tanganign0

Did you not notice the error,  benign0?

Did your “critical thinking faculties” fail you when you could not see that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III committed a major logical blunder when he introduced a fallacy in the form of a “red-herring?”

Perhaps you do not get it despite me pointing out to you in red what the fallacious snippet was…

You see,  benign0, it seems like you – just like your clueless namesake Benigno S. Aquino III aka “Noynoy” – are incapable of understanding the difference between:

(1) Business/Corporate Ownership by foreigners
(2) Land/Real Estate Property Ownership by foreigners

As it turns out, your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III was trying to mislead the Filipino Public that the whole “60/40” and “anti-Foreign Investor restrictions” issues are related to the whole Land Ownership issue. They are not.

One is about whether or not Foreigners are to be allowed to own businesses or perhaps limiting them to a small minority share of entire businesses, while the other one is about allowing Foreigners to own land. They’re totally different issues altogether.

What matters primarily to MNC’s and Foreign Direct Investors is whether the country in question freely allows or restricts foreign entities to own businesses in the country. As we all know, countries that are more open to allowing majority ownership of corporations and businesses or even allow up to 100% ownership by foreigners are more likely to be able to attract foreign direct investors than those countries that are more closed. That is obvious.

Allowing land ownership to foreigners on the other hand, is merely a secondary or “extra” feature that can help bring in more investors. It is possible for countries to allow 100% corporate ownership by foreigners, but ban the ownership of land by foreigners. China and Vietnam are countries that allow foreigners to own up to 100% of companies, but prohibit everybody – both foreigners and local citizens – from owning any free-hold real estate property.

President Benigno S. Aquino III  aka “Noynoy” simply couldn’t make the distinction between the two. He either didn’t know anything about the topic and made an erroneous statement showing his sheer ignorance and inability to distinguish between the two issues of “corporate ownership” versus “land ownership” or he was actively trying to distract the public by using the “land ownership issue” as a kind of smokescreen distraction to throw everyone off the real issue.

How could you miss that, benign0?

Weren’t you supposed to be intelligent? Aren’t you supposed to engage in critical thinking?

Looks to me like you were following “the other Benigno.” Don’t you remember Obi-wan’s famous words, eh benign0?

* * *

Here’s how it works, Ladies and Gentlemen:

For benign0, the Philippines should not even attempt to try to emulate the tried and tested best practices of Singapore’s “Third World to First” strategy in trying to create massive employment opportunities for their people by removing all sorts of anti-FDI restrictions and actively inviting as many Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investors to set up local operations in order to hire as many local employees as possible, thus easing (and eventually eliminating) the persistent unemployment problem. GRP’s webmaster benign0 seems to have actively ignored (or perhaps forgotten) that Singapore was not the only country that actively employed the “actively invite MNC’s and FDI’s in by removing anti-FDI restrictions” strategy.

Let’s see… Aside from Singapore, here are examples of countries who actively dismantled anti-FDI restrictions in order to bring in massive MNC-and-FDI inflows that caused rapid job creation for their people, resulting in the step-by-step reduction of poverty and many of the other issues that result from poverty:

1) Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamad

2) China under Deng Xiaoping (邓小平)

3) India under Narasimha Rao

4) Vietnam under the current “Communist” Party of Vietnam

5) Indonesia under  Susilo Bambang Yudhyono

6) Cambodia under the late Norodom Sihanouk

Singapore started the ball-rolling.

It was Singapore that went against the grain of most people in the “Developmental Economics” field which had long since been dominated by Marxists and other ideologically-fixated proponents of the “closed economy”-centric and autarky-based “national industries” model of development which erroneously held the zero-sum theory that “economics means that if one makes money, someone else loses money” as opposed to the win-win theory that economics involves a free exchange of value wherein both parties have a net gain as a result of the exchange than prior to when the exchange occurred.

Thanks to the aggressive policy of bringing in MNC’s into Singapore and getting them to create so many jobs, the Singaporean public now gained a huge purchasing power and people who previously had little or no income now had incomes that would allow them to feed themselves and pay for their most basic needs.

It is no wonder that the rest of the ASEAN region and many in the wider Asian Region are emulating Singapore’s “bring-MNC’s-in” approach by removing anti-FDI restrictions in their laws and economic policies.

Let us review how things turned out on the FDI-inflows front in ASEAN back in the period of 2010-2011:

ASEAN with Singapore

Alright. Let’s look at those values so that we all have a good sense of comparison:

Singapore   113,000,000
Indonesia    32,000,000
Malaysia     21,000,000
Thailand     17,000,000
Vietnam      15,400,000
Philippines   3,500,000

As you can all see from the graph, Singapore is pretty much “off-the-charts.”

I colored it GREEN just to show that it is the leading country in the pack. The laggard is colored RED. Poor laggard. Poor us. We’re the unfortunate laggard: the “runt of the litter.”

And we’re the laggard because we are the weakest as far as FDI inflows are concerned. Oh wait a minute! Yes, that also corresponds with the fact that among all these countries listed in the graph, we also happen to be the country with the worst incidence of unemployment and underemployment. Oops!

And First World Singapore is the country that happens to have the highest FDI inflows. Hmmm… Is this a coincidence? Or is this clearly connected?

Well obviously it is connected! Attracting FDI’s and MNC’s to come to Singapore was precisely the reason why Singapore became a First World country in just around 30 years in the first place. Malaysia, for the longest time, also had the second best FDI-inflows, and that’s why Malaysia had also been one of the more dynamic and better countries in the region, seen as being second to Singapore, often “stealing opportunities” from Singapore by touting itself as a half-priced Singapore. It just so happens that Indonesia decided to really work hard at getting more FDI’s flowing in because their leadership is dead serious on job creation and real economic development.

Ok. Since Singapore is already a First World country and it pretty much is in the league of the Big Boys (the Western Countries plus Japan — oh wait… It bested Japan to become the richest country in Asia based on GDP per capita!), so to be fair, let’s compare ourselves among other third worlders. Let’s take Singapore out of the picture:

Asean minus Singapore

Geez, we’re looking really really bad here!

In the first graph where Singapore was around, the inclusion of the First World country, its FDI-attraction figures totally dwarfed everyone else’s, so in a way, the Philippines kind of didn’t look that bad since “everyone else was dwarfed by Singapore.”

But looking at this second graph, with Indonesia taking top spot (in GREEN) our status as the worst country in the region as far as unemployment and FDI-inflows is concerned should wake everyone up.

It should wake benign0 up, since it was he who said:

loser-benign0Thus spake the clueless one.

“Reliance on foreign capital and foreign commercial activity is an obsolete concept embraced by losers.”

Now that was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read coming from benign0

Clearly, benign0 just doesn’t get it.

He simply hasn’t read up on economics and economic history enough to realize that it is actually the AUTARKY-based “Import Substitution”, “Closed Economy” and “National Industries” economic model that is obsolete. It has already been proven time and time again to be the slower and more-prone-to-failure approach to economic development.

He simply hasn’t realized that it is the Open Market concept of freely allowing FDI’s and MNC’s to freely flow in that has worked the best and the fastest in transforming poorer countries to become richer countries.

benign0 also forgets that the country he emigrated to – Australia – is the result of a huge Foreign Direct Investment venture by the British Empire. Worse, he ignorantly forgets that many industries in Australia were started by British foreign direct investors and Australia’s mining industry was actually jumpstarted by foreign companies. Ho boy.

The guy needs to do some research (which, by the way he never does which is why he always loses to me in debates during the few chances that I have the time to engage that slacker), but of course, he is lazy to read. He hasn’t even read Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First” which he bought, and if he read it, he would have realized that the cornerstone of Singapore’s rapid rise to First World status was its openness to foreign direct investments.

Would you believe this was in Singapore?

Would you believe this was in Singapore back when it was still “Third World” — …Akala mo siguro nasa Pinas, ano?

(Take time to notice how the photo of Singapore back when it was still “Third World” looks very much like a scene from the rural Philippines. Well, obviously, just looking below, one can see just how Singapore got built up into a First World international hub of business all thanks to Foreign Direct Investments.)

Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore icon, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Benign0 doesn’t realize that Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s new representative landmark, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Singapore is just one case in point, but in Western Europe, the old perennial laggard Ireland too became one among the fastest growing economies in the world at the time that the Asian Tigers (yes, including Singapore) were getting a whole lot of attention, giving it the monicker the “Celtic Tiger.”

How did Ireland do it? Simple: It did what Singapore did…

It allowed FDI and MNC’s to come in and create lots of jobs for their people!

In the end, FDI and MNC-attraction was the key in all these examples of fast-growing “former laggards” who got their acts together.

Even  benign0‘s ignorance of Philippine Economic history gets highlighted as he clearly doesn’t even realize that the very reason for why the Philippines was “second only to Japan” back in the 1950’s and 1960’s was because of the post-war reconstruction programmes that the Americans helped us out with. True, they sent us aid. They paid “rent” for the US military bases on Philippine soil back then. But most importantly, they sent in hundreds, even thousands of American investors and corporations to invest in the Philippines to create jobs.

Luckily, despite all the existing anti-FDI legislation that had been existing as well as the anti-FDI public utilities and natural resource provisions in the 1935 Constitution, the Philippines inserted a new amendment into the 1935 Constitution that allowed all American citizens and American entities to enjoy the same economic rights guaranteed to Filipino citizens and Filipino entities. This was known as the Parity Rights Amendment. As such, many American companies did not have to deal with whatever 60/40 rules existed in legislation in certain sectors. Whatever Filipinos could own, Americans could own too. There were just so many Americans and American companies in the Philippines at the time so that a lot of employment was generated by the massive hiring that American companies did.

Alright. So now it’s clear.

benign0 simply doens’t know what he’s talking about. (As usual. He comments about a lot of stuff he hasn’t done any research on)

Rather than actively looking for solutions that could make the Philippines a better place, he’d simply prefer to just yak and yak about how “Filipinos are destined to be losers” or how “Filipinos will never succeed” or how “Foreign Investments are a shortcut to success.”

That last idea is the whole point of why we are fighting for the removal of all those anti-FDI Constitutional restrictions! Yes indeed, Foreign DIRECT Investments are a shortcut to success! There’s nothing wrong with taking shortcuts that work and have no side-effects.

Why take the long and painful route of forcing autarky upon ourselves through the use of a closed economy when we can take the tried and tested faster way of rapidly creating massive employment for millions of Filipinos simply by removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions that shoo MNC’s and foreign investors away?

(I mean, come on, everyone else is using the short-cut route already! Everyone else in the ASEAN region is going with the MNC-attraction strategy. Why should we make things harder for ourselves than it should be?)

Is benign0 a masochist? Or does he just want Filipinos to continue to suffer when in fact bringing FDI’s in is one way of creating jobs and training opportunities that can jumpstart economic development?

As it turns out, it looks like benign0 just really prefers to see Filipinos continue to fail, because that justifies to him that his decision to leave the Philippines back in 2000 to emigrate over to Sydney was “the right one.” After all, should the Philippines improve itself after he left, it could make him and his wife Ilda think that they jumped the gun and quit.

How can benign0 actively go against Constitutional Reform (particularly economic liberalization as discussed in this article) when it is obviously the key missing ingredient in the Philippines’ quest to move up the value chain and get rid of its massive unemployment, poverty, overdependence on OFW Remittances, and its host of so many other social issues derived from all those I’ve just mentioned?

Oh well. The obvious conclusion anyone can get from reading this article is simply that the benign0 from GRP is just as clueless as the other Benigno (Aquino III) from Hacienda Luisita.

benign0-benigno - smaller

Constitutional Change Now

 

(originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21st November 2012)

by Peter Wallace

Let me give you a few points to ponder when considering whether or not we need to open up the economy by amending the Constitution. Because now is the time to discuss it. If we do, we can vote upon it in 2013.

In 1935, there was rudimentary AM radio, negligible commercial air travel, cars that could reach 100 kph if they struggled hard enough. TV was unheard of. The only household appliances were a simple refrigerator and toaster.

Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have cell phones; today, we can’t leave the house without them. Imagine if the Constitution had banned mobile communications in the name of protecting national security. Today, I can turn on the TV and CNN is right there in my living room. It doesn’t need a transmitter here, or even an office, so why not let it have one if it wants?

Technology has removed borders. Satellite communications, fiber optic cables, digital technology were all unheard of in 1935 and perhaps a rarity in 1987. They are a part of our lives today, so we may as well let the foreigners in as they’re already in.

The dream of many Filipinos is to gain a foreign education to add to what they’ve learnt here. They dream of going to Harvard, but the cost is prohibitive. Why not bring Harvard here? What it will have to charge will, alone, be enough to make it no threat to local colleges. Anyway, do we want to protect colleges or open up opportunities for students? Foreign colleges can bring research and new technologies to the Philippines, too, an area where we have been weak. Indonesia recently passed a law (it does not need constitutional change) to allow foreign ownership of educational establishments.

Maybe a 75-year lease on land seems enough, but would you want to be able to only lease the land for your house? No, you’d want to own it, passionately so. Well, foreigners don’t think in some strange foreign way; they want to own, too. Filipinos can, and do, own land in America and almost everywhere else, so why not here, at the very least on a reciprocal basis? For “own use” would be fair enough. The agrarian reform law has destroyed the ability to own agricultural land, so farmers are under no “threat.” And if limited to own use for house or factory, the amount of land taken would be infinitesimal.

I’m willing to bet many of those who are against foreign ownership of land have relatives who own land in other countries. So, apart from anything else, it would be only fair to have reciprocity. But that’s not so much the point. What is the point is that if we want to achieve more rapid growth, allowing foreigners to own land at least for their own house or factory will help achieve that. As it is now, that inability to own land is seen as a major deterrent to attracting investment.

The ideal way to review the Constitution is through a constitutional convention. The argument that it costs more and takes more time is true, but we are talking about the Constitution, the fundamental document of the nation. You don’t consider the cost, which is small on the national scale of things, anyway.

But the more practical way, given political realities, is for Congress as a constituent assembly to do the review, with both chambers voting separately before it goes to a plebiscite of the people. There’s also concern that the review would not be restricted to the economic provisions but would shift to the political arena as well, and end up extending the terms of politicians. Maybe, but it may also lead to a serious re-think of the whole system—something that I think is needed. For instance, a parliamentary system would better suit Philippine culture. Having come from one, I think it’s a better system, anyway. I don’t like the dictatorial power a president holds even in a democratic system, particularly in a country where hierarchy is a given. You don’t question, or disagree with, the boss, just because he’s the boss. Well, I disagree with that. Rising to the top through a political process does not make you a greater expert than everyone else. The fact that you need the president’s support if constitutional change is to be effected is a perfect example of this fundamental weakness in a presidential system, Philippine-style. Think about it: Why should you need (as in this system you do) the President’s—one man’s—support for something to succeed?

The problem with the presidential system is that it panders to the hierarchical nature of the Philippines. There’s a reverence for the boss (I like that) at a level not common elsewhere. A Philippine president is almost royalty. A parliamentary system somewhat levels the field. A prime minister is a first amongst equals, and may be taken out by a simple vote of confidence if he doesn’t perform.

In a parliamentary system, the majority decides, the prime minister can’t override it. That’s as it should be. So I wouldn’t object if the style of government were included in the review.

Everyone says, “Not now,” it’s too open to risk of political machination (to just extend terms, for example). But if not now, when? With a President disinterested in a continuance in power—something that’s unlikely to be ever repeated—this seems an ideal time. If a full review were to be agreed to, then a constitutional convention is the only way.

Whichever is agreed to—a full review, or just the economic sections—let’s do it now.

We’ll never have  a more favorable time.

* * *

Peter Wallace has been described as the most prominent foreign businessman in the Philippines, and an important voice for business within government. Peter has been conducting political, economic and business analysis for over two decades, advising multinationals, major Filipino companies, embassies and international agencies. Having covered 4 presidencies, 2 revolutions and some 8 attempted coups d ‘etats, Peter provides a balanced assessment of conditions and forecasts of what can be expected. Peter’s links into government, senior business groups, the academe and various political factions ensure some of the best insights available.

Exposing Esposo

(This article is dedicated to the late William Esposo, a man who took it upon himself to expose his own ignorance in the field of economics and showed his true colors as being nothing but a lackey of oligarchs [he was an oligarch himself] in the Philippines.

May there be no more foolish writers in the Philippines who will follow in his footsteps in trying to defend the rotten status quo. This one’s for you, Billy.)

A little over a month ago, on the 16th of January, I released an article entitled “Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™” in which I laid out the general principles behind the CoRRECT™ Movement, whose full name is “Constitutional Reform & Rectification forEconomic Competitiveness & Transformation.”

Not too long after, on the 23rd of January, an extremely poorly-researched article came out of the Philippine Star authored by erstwhile pro-Oligarch pundit William Esposo entitled “Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem”, in which Mr. Esposo derided the now snowballing clamor for Constitutional Reform spearheaded by the CoRRECT™ Movement (as an umbrella coalition) together with numerous similarly aligned pro-Constitutional Reform groups with responses that were laughably full of factual inaccuracies and logical lapses.

Mr. Esposo opened up his article, to wit:

“Here we go again. Some people want to dance the Cha cha again. Cha cha is of course the adopted moniker for Charter change, a revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

It is largely suspected that Cha cha is being promoted with the use of “economic” boosters as its front but in reality — it’s the Trojan Horse of people with sinister personal and selfish motives. The more popular “economic” boosters being floated are:

1. Opening the ownership of Philippine land to foreigners.
2. Removing the 40 percent ownership limit of foreigners in Philippine corporations.”

Mr. Esposo needs to be corrected as the CoRRECT™ Movement is not that aggressive in pushing for the removal of land-ownership restrictions (number 1), and instead concentrates its efforts on pushing for the removal of the 40% ownership limit on foreigners and foreign investors in corporations in the Philippines.

It would certainly be a big bonus if restrictions on the ownership of land were to be removed from the Constitution as land ownership restrictions or special requirements that would qualify certain foreigners into owning land could instead be legislated more flexibly. That being said, the CoRRECT™ Movement emphasizes the much greater urgency and importance of removing the 60/40 protectionist provisions which are making the Philippines one of the most restrictive investment destinations in a region where 100% foreign-owned investments are fueling economic growth in the various neighboring countries such as Vietnam, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many more.

Going back to Mr. Esposo’s statements on the land issue, he then went on to say:

“If we’re a big country like the US then it could be alright to allow foreigners to own Philippine land. Seeing that we’re a small country which is hardly the land area of the US State of California, this proposal is idiotic.”

If everyone were to analyze the issue carefully, if Billy Esposo were looking for the truly idiotic one he just needs to directly face a mirror and point at it. (Sorry, Mr. Esposo, you started off calling out-of-the-box thinking as “idiotic”)

Let us review:

Monaco is a teeny-weeny principality, yet it allows foreigners to own land.

If indeed we were to acknowledge Mr. Esposo’s flawed knee-jerk reasoning, then why are the teeny-weeny countries of Europe – much smaller than the Philippines – such as the Benelux countries (Belgium,Netherlands, and Luxembourg – all of whom have zero restrictions on foreign land ownership), as well as Monaco (zero restrictions), Liechtenstein (foreigners must be residents to buy land), and Andorra (permits ownership based on certain requirements), all allowing foreign ownership of land(Caveat: Liechtenstein & Andorra have certain requirements)

Why does teeny-weeny Singapore allow foreigners to own land? (There is, of course, a need to get certain approval to qualify for owning landed property, but usually, business owners operating in Singapore who create jobs easily get it.)

(Since mid-2005 foreigners can buy apartments (known as strata-titled properties) in all buildings without needing approval from the Singapore Authorities. Previous rules about the apartment block needing to be higher than six storeys and classified as a condominium no longer apply.

A foreign person (any person who is not a Singapore citizen, Singapore Company, Singapore limited liability partnership or a Singapore society) will still need approval from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to buy land-titled property such as houses, bungalows and vacant plots of land.)

Why does Malaysia allow foreigners to own land? (There are size restrictions that require special government approval or opting into special programs for investors, retirees, or others. In general, Malaysia is even ranked as being more liberal with foreign land-ownership than Singapore.)

Taiwan and South Korea both allow foreign land ownership based on a reciprocity principle: Citizens of countries that allow Taiwanese or South Koreans to own land can also own land in Taiwan and South Korea.

Thailand, for instance, also allows full foreign land ownership, albeit there are certain requirements such as investor status or special approval from the government.

Jurassic leftists who don’t understand economics showing their ignorance once again

Outside of the Philippines, a large number of developed countries as well as highly-progressive and fast-rising developing countries have provisions that allow foreigners to outright own real property or land or allow them to meet certain requirements that would qualify them to legally purchase and own land. In the Philippines, foreigners are specifically limited only to being able to purchase condominiums. On the other hand, foreigners who are permanent residents or are married to Filipinos / Filipinas are forced to purchase land in their spouses’ names because there is a total ban on foreigners owning land – even for business purposes that would help create jobs for Filipinos.

Just the same, Billy Esposo still went on to spew out some more factual inaccuracies as he said:

“It also did not occur to the legislators pushing for this that China and Vietnam — two Asian countries that are attracting the bulk of foreign investors — do not allow land ownership by foreigners.”

Firstly, both China and Vietnam – being Communist Party-controlled, and being based on Socialist principles of collective ownership – subscribe to highly “Georgist” (based on the philosophy of Henry George) or “Geoist” principles where man can only own that which man can make. Since land is not made by man, it cannot be owned by man. And thus, land is ultimately under State custodianship and then merely leased out in “sub-custody” to long-term lessees or owners of transferrable (and resalable) “land-use rights.” In short, no one owns the land – not even Chinese or Vietnamese citizens, only the State does.

That being said, the systems in both China & Vietnam recognize that the improvements (physical structures, houses, buildings, factories, etc) made on top of leased land as well as the land-use right can be owned, and thus, a system that is, for all practical purposes, similar to land-ownership actually exists.

If we were to consider this as a “time-bound” alternative form of “ownership” of land-use rights and the improvements made on land, we thus find that Mr. Esposo’s sweeping generalization that Vietnam & China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” iswrong. From here on, when talking about “land ownership” in Vietnam or China, we will be referring to land-use rights which are transferrable (often called “leasehold property”) and can be purchased and sold just like any normal property under the default “fee simple” model of land ownership common in the USA and the Philippines.

外灘 – The Shanghai Bund was a result of foreign investment; When they left China, the foreigners couldn’t take the buildings or the land with them. But Esposo clearly didn’t know that.

Certainly, both China and Vietnam do not match the liberal land-ownership schemes found in countries like the USA and several others (including several European countries previously mentioned), where foreigners even those without special residency status may purchase, own, and sell “freehold” fee-simple land. However, to say that both Vietnam and China “do not allow land ownership by foreigners” is definitely wrong as both countries have created schemes that allow foreigners to own leasehold residential property as well as property related to running a business (a factory, etc) at full 100% ownership. Moreover, foreigners who buy leasehold property are easily able to sell-off their property at a profit, which essentially makes the distinction between freehold (fee-simple) and leasehold property irrelevant.

Even before 2007, China had already allowed expatriates who lived in China for a year to be eligible to purchase leasehold property as personal residence, as long as they could prove that they were going to be the primary users of the residential property and were likewise limited only to one property. Foreigners wanting to purchase property for commercial purposes could still do so, except that this had to be done through a Corporate-Entity known as a “Wholly Foreign-Owned Entity” (WFOE) or through an Equity or Contractual Joint Venture (JV). The WFOE scheme allows full 100% ownership by foreigners, and also required certain residency and business-visa status.

In 2007, China made changes that further relaxed such restrictions.

Saigon Night Skyline

As for Vietnam, we find that leasehold property is treated somewhat similarly to pre-2007 China’s laws which allowed foreigners who had residency status were allowed to buy, own, and sell one residential leasehold property. The Vietnamese Law Consultancy website states:

In accordance with the legal provisions currently in force, foreigners permanently residing in the country are only entitled to ownership in respect of movable property, but not real property located in Vietnam except residential houses. In accordance with Decree 60/CP issued in 1994, a foreigner who is a permanent resident in Vietnam can only have ownership in respect to one house for himself/herself. Foreigners who are not permanent residents in the country are not entitled to ownership in respect of real property located in Vietnam. (In accordance with article 181 of the Vietnam Civil Code, real property is the type of property which cannot be moved or relocated and includes items of property fixed to residential houses and residential building works; other assets fixed to land and other assets provided for by the laws.)

Foreign investors in Vietnam are categorized as foreigners who do not permanently reside in the country, but in practice, they enjoy a particular status in respect to ownership of real property in the country notwithstanding the absence of specific provisions of Vietnamese law. In particular, foreign investors are entitled to joint ownership in respect to factories, enterprises, warehouses and other types of real property that they contribute to the capital of joint venture enterprises. The ownership of foreign investors in these cases is proportionate to their capital contribution to the joint venture, and, as a matter of course, they are also entitled to joint ownership in respect of the products produced by and other types of movable property of the joint venture. Where foreign investors invest 100 percent capital to establish the factory, enterprise and warehouses and/or other real property in Vietnam, the property and products produced by their enterprises are absolutely in their ownership.

Foreign investors do not have the right to own land in the country; this applies even to Vietnamese individuals and organizations pursuant to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam which stipulates that land is of the state under the ownership of the whole nation.

It is noteworthy that only during the duration of investment in Vietnam the foreign investors have the ownership in respect to the real property that they contributed as capital or which was 100 percent created by their invested capital. Upon the expiration of their investment duration, if no extension is granted or the foreign investors do not apply for any extension, the foreign investors are not permitted to maintain their ownership in respect to the real property they contributed as capital or invested 100 percent in its establishment. In those cases, the foreign investors must deal with their property by way of transferring it to a Vietnamese party or by other means in accordance with the provisions of Vietnamese law.”

The concept of LEASEHOLD properties is common in the British Commonwealth

It was essentially made clear that land per se cannot be owned by individuals – both locals and foreigners. Therefore, there is no real preferential treatment in both China or Vietnam with respect to land ownership. No one truly owns the land except the state, and this paradigm helps immensely in preventing or at least drastically-reducing speculative purchases of land.

Fee simple “Free hold” land is oftentimes in danger of being purchased by speculators with no intention to develop the land for productive use, and this is unfortunately the situation in the Philippines as numerous Filipino speculators buy land, keep it idle, and wait years on end without developing the land while waiting for the value to appreciate before selling it at a profit. The leasehold concept introduces a time-bound concept that forces land-use right buyers to make calculated purchases that coincide with real land-development plans.

As everyone can see, Mr. Esposo has clearly attempted to misrepresent the facts regarding land ownership. He tried to use land-size as an excuse to explain away why the USA can afford to allow land-ownership by foreigners, but he failed to take into account how small principalities of Europe or countries smaller than the Philippines such as Belgium, the Netherlands, or Malaysia actually allow foreigners to own land. He also tried to use the examples of both China and Vietnam, conveniently ignoring the fact that for all intents and purposes, both China and Vietnam have prohibited free-hold of land for all individuals – both foreign and local, yet they allow the purchase, ownership, and sale of leasehold properties by foreigners just like they do locals.

Either Mr. Esposo is someone who simply does not know the facts and is too lazy to do the necessary research or he is a malicious liar out to deceive the public.

But it doesn’t end there. Billy Esposo continues on in spreading ignorance by stating:

“It is also reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations. We are in our worst economic situation at this time and removing this provision is tantamount to giving foreigners the full run of our economy. We need more Danding Cojuangcos, Manny Pangilinans, Jaime Zobel de Ayalas, John Gokongweis et al and not the Donald Trumps et al.”

Esposo foolishly insulted MVP, Mr. John, and Don Jaime by implying that they require protectionism for them to succeed.

Mr. Esposo once again blatantly displays his ignorance of the facts and of history. He pontificates by telling us that it is “reckless to allow foreigners to own more than the 40 percent limit in Philippine corporations” (As found in the current Constitution), yet he does not even attempt to explain why! He expects us thinking people to just accept his word without providing proof, facts, evidence, and information to back his statements up.

More importantly, he totally ignores the fact that the rest of the progressive world and all fast-growing economies have already either allowed foreign investors to come in with 100% ownership of the companies they set up or are quickly dismantling whatever protectionist policies some of them may still have.

The man simply has zero knowledge of the strategy that Singapore made use of as a means to create massive employment opportunities for their people at a time when the British Military bases were about to leave and were threatening to leave tens of thousands of Singaporeans jobless as a result of the pull-out. Lee Kuan Yew simply refused to listen to the prevailing developmental dogma of the time which was that “protectionism was necessary to keep patrimony in the hands of local citizens” and that “foreign multinational corporations” (often referred to by Filipinos Leftist & Pseudo-Nationalist dinosaurs as “Transnational Corporations”) were “evil.”

From pages 57-58 of “From Third World to First”, Lee Kuan Yew says:

Lee Kuan Yew tapped MNC’s in order to create jobs and develop Singapore’s economy from Third World to First

The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNC’s were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNC’s continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries. MNC’s controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma. Anyway, Singapore had no natural resources for MNC’s to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNC’s could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNC’s.”

Following the advice of Dutch economist and UNDP economic planning consultant Dr. Albert Winsemius, Lee Kuan Yew developed an open-economy strategy of allowing 100% foreign ownership of companies, molding governmental policies to comply with the preferences and requirements of said multinational corporations in seeking to make Singapore a highly attractive location for investment, with the obvious intention of continuing to create more and more employment opportunities for Singaporeans. This was meant to cause jobs and corporations to compete against each other by raising salary offers to applicants. It’s all simple law of supply and demand: The more jobs there are, competing against each other for the few job-seekers, the higher the wages become. Conversely, if there are more job-seekers than there are jobs, it is the job-seekers who compete against each other for the scarce jobs, and thus, salaries are bid downwards.

The latter is obviously the case in the Philippines.

In a shameless effort to ingratiate himself to the handful of Filipino tycoons and rich families, Esposo even sought to flatter Danding Cojuangco, Manny Pangilinan, the Zobel de Ayalas, and John Gokongwei, when the problem of the Philippines is simply that there are just too few of these rich enough people to invest in businesses and corporate expansion, and our 95+ million people, including the 10+ million overseas Filipinos do not have the luxury of time to wait for new Filipino tycoons to emerge.

Worse, he was actually insulting “Mr. John”, MVP, and Don Jaime when Esposo implied that these tycoons require Constitutional Protectionism in order to survive and thrive in the Philippine economy, instead of recognizing that their competence and acumen is such that they can actually compete regardless of foreign competition. John Gokongwei’s Jack & Jill, for instance, is sold and exported abroad and is a strong product that non-Filipinos enjoy.

(On a side note: The Chan family’s snack brand Oishi, known in China as 上好佳 – “Shang hao jia”, is China’s children’s most popular snackfood. When I was living in China and people found out I was Filipino, they always said “Shang hao jia!” …Competent businessmen do not need protectionism to succeed!)

Filipinos need jobs now, and to paraphrase Deng Xiaoping’s favorite Sichuanese proverb:

Original:

不管黑貓白貓,抓到老鼠就是好貓

(“buguan heimao baimao,      zhuadao laoshu   jiushi   haomao”)

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, if it catches mice, that’s a good cat.”

Deng Xiaoping

My version:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a foreign company or a local company, if it creates jobs for Filipinos, that’s a good company!”

It truly is jobs that matter. If Esposo learned to analyze properly and decided to open his eyes to the obvious reality, he would have noticed that Filipinos are desperately trying to leave the Philippines in droves just to find overseas employment. Be they Filipinos with high-flying qualifications and desired skills who emigrate together with their entire families to countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or to a lesser extent, the USA (they’ve made it harder to go there), or individual Filipinos forced to leave their families in the Philippines while they work abroad in the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, or elsewhere, the fact remains that Filipinos leave the Philippines simply because of economic reasons and the obvious dearth of jobs in the Philippines.

Mr. Esposo is one such person who simply cannot see how much better it is to bring in hundreds or thousands of Foreign Companies to come to the Philippines and massively create local jobs for millions of locally-based Filipinos, than it is to send Filipinos abroad and away from their families and loved ones to foreign lands in order to be employed by foreign companies.

Unbeknownst to Esposo, the biggest show-stopper that prevents foreign companies from coming to the Philippines to create jobs is the Philippine Constitution. Whereas China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and many others do not have Constitutional Restrictions on foreign ownership of corporations, the Philippine Constitution continues to block a large number of foreign companies from coming in by imposing 60/40 protectionist requirements. Either they find a rich oligarch to partner with or they simply can’t invest.

In the meantime, Vietnam is happily taking in all the companies who have all tried to come to the Philippines to take advantage of our English Ability and relatively high quality of human resources, by simply telling the would-be entrants to the Philippines that “The Philippines does not allow 100% foreign ownership, we in Vietnam do…  Plus we’re willing to give you tax holidays and other freebies: Come to Vietnam!” Many such companies would have preferred the Philippines over Vietnam because of our English ability and greater affinity to Western or American standards, but because Vietnam’s economic provisions are way more pro-business and pro-foreign investor than the Philippines, Vietnam scoops up a huge number of investments originally meant for the Philippines.

Going back to the Singapore story, Esposo is obviously ignorant of the fact that China’s economic boom is actually directly traceable to Singapore’s open-to-foreign-investment strategy.

Mao Zedong was a pathetic failure when it came to Economics

After having suffered pretty much two decades of economic mismanagement under Mao Zedong’s Communist planned economy – some 10 years of the Great Leap Forward (which actually went backward), and another 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, China was ready for change when Deng Xiaoping came to power after Mao Zedong’s death.

(Mao used the Cultural Revolution as a means to punish his own fellow Communist Party leaders who had criticized his failed policies during the Great Leap Forward by tapping into the clueless, young, rabidly frothing-at-the-mouth Red Guards by building a Mao-centered personality cult around himself, and used the Red Guards to denounce, humiliate, and exile those Council Members who had proposed corrective measures against Mao’s disastrous economic policies. One of those who was denounced, purged, humiliated, and exiled to the countryside was Deng Xiaoping)

Deng did state visits all around the region and the World in order to learn more about what other countries did to develop their economies. One country that totally struck Deng Xiaoping was Singapore. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Singapore was one of those states that Maoist Propaganda denounced as being “Capitalist running dogs” and tools of Imperialism.  The propaganda tried to present all those countries as being weak, poor, exploited by colonialists, and unable to get their acts together. But during Deng Xiaoping’s visit, he saw a rich, prosperous, well-ordered society that was heads and shoulders above China in all ways. And he asked Lee Kuan Yew what their secret was and Lee answered without hesitation: Foreign Investors and an Open Market Economic System.

Deng was convinced. He no longer needed to read through 50 page “business value proposition” plans that would recommend shifting to Singapore’s free market system. He saw the difference between Mao’s China and Lee’s Singapore and saw how far behind China was. He endeavored to get his fellow Communist Party Council Members agreeing on the need to adopt Capitalism and the Market Economy as well as the need to bring in Foreign Investors, and of course, he got weird looks from all kinds of dyed-in-the-wool fellow Communists who believed in “From each according to his ability, to each according to need.” It was in such an instance that Deng Xiaoping famously wittily issued his retort by citing his favorite Sichuanese Proverb of the Black Cat and the White Cat.

Shenzhen before the 1980’s

Hesitantly, his party-mates accepted his proposal by allowing him to create a small pilot test-site to serve as a kind of proof of concept. He then proceeded to choose a small fishing village not too far from then British-controlled Hong Kong. The sleepy village, known as Shenzhen, saw China’s People’s Liberation Army cordon off a huge area of unused land with barbed-wire fences, and then went on with the task of building roads and other infrastructure.

Right after the project, Deng persuaded thousands of Hong Kong businesses and other foreign-owned companies operating out of the then British-controlled Crown Colony of Hong Kong to set up their manufacturing plans and facilities in Shenzhen in order to take advantage of the lower cost of land-lease as well as the much lower labor costs.

Shenzhen today

As years went on, the project was a success. Shenzhen became a modern city and served as a showcase of how Capitalism and the Free Market Economy could help Mainland Chinese lift themselves out of poverty. Shenzhen also showed how a vibrant Capitalist-run economy could end up having more funds for the city government (as a result of taxation) for many social and infrastructure projects. Not long after, the lessons learned from Shenzhen’s success story which all ultimately came from Singapore’s “pro-Foreign Investment” economic system was replicated throughout China. Today, China is the 2nd largest economy in the World, surpassing Japan, and clearly, the rapid economic boom continues on.

Fast forward to 1991, India itself was on the verge of economic collapse and bankruptcy. The IMF and World Bank had told then prime minister, the late Narasimha Rao, that they were not going to be able to lend any more money unless major structural reforms were undertaken to change the highly sluggish and over-regulated protectionist economy of India. Back then, India had long subscribed to the concept of Gandhian Minimalism, preferring small-scale locally-owned villeage-based cottage industries. Home-spun cloth was seen as “more Indian” than industrially woven cloth. Small-scale businesses were more in line with Gandhi’s philosophy than big business. And the laws of the land reflected this. Not only were importing and foreign companies heavily restricted or outright prohibited, special laws were set up to prevent large companies from emerging. The moment a company became large, it was required to spin-off into smaller companies.

Gandhi’s idealism didn’t work as far as economics was concerned

It was because of this highly idealistic but impractical economic strategy that an Indian economist Dr. Raj Krishna described India in the 1970’s as having a lethargic “Hindu Rate of Growth”, evoking images of Fakirs, Sadhus, and Yogis doing self-denying stationary poses, being steady and unmoving – just like India’ economic growth rate.

But since the IMF and World Bank wouldn’t allow these to continue, PM Rao decided he needed professional help. He immediately tapped into the highly competent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh to become Finance Minister and asked him for a plan of action. Aside from immediately easing certain business restrictions and economic policies, Dr. Singh proposed studying “the other large country” – China – and thus an Indian delegation was sent to China to observe how they did what they did.

The difference was staggering: China’s airports were well-maintained, after getting off the plane and out of the airport, the roads were first class. The Indians wondered what it was that allowed China to enjoy such high standards of infrastructure. Deng Xiaoping told them about the foreign-owned corporations who hired millions of Chinese laborers and office workers, whose tax contributions helped fund all the infrastructure developments as seen in the airports, roads, and bridges.

Narasimha Rao’s decision to liberalize India in 1991 turned it into an emerging major economy

Immediately upon returning to India, reforms continued on at break-neck pace. Whatever protectionist restrictions that used to exist were now dismantled and foreign companies came into India. Looking for low-hanging fruit to dangle to foreign, especially American companies, India presented its highly-educated, professional, and English-speaking white-collar workforce to American companies. The proposal was simple: Whatever white-collar job that Americans could do, Indians could do at a fraction of the cost.  Be it answering phones, processing accounting forms, encoding data, etc, India pioneered the Call Center and Outsourcing industry as a means to save its economy, provide jobs for millions upon millions of its highly-trained English-speaking new graduates and underemployed citizens and to move away from India’s decades-old “Hindu Rate of Growth.”

If Mr. Esposo read more books and did more research, he would have been cured of the ignorance that he has recently displayed in his Chairwrecker column. He’d have seen that the secret to China’s and India’s success was their decision to follow Singapore’s “100% Foreign Investment” model as a means to create job opportunities for their people. In the 1980’s, when Malaysia’s Mahathir bin Mohamad became Prime Minister, he too took his cue from Singapore and actively pursued a policy of allowing 100% foreign ownership in numerous economic sectors, thus creating Malaysia’s highly-competitive manufacturing and IT sector.  In a bid to compete with Singapore, Malaysia even went on to provide numerous incentives for Multinational Companies who would set up their 100% foreign-owned Asian Regional HQ’s in Malaysia instead of Singapore. This move once again created so many new jobs.

Esposo needs to get himself a copy of Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First” so that he can read for himself the story of Singapore’s tapping into Foreign Investors and MNC’s as a means to create jobs.  That way, Mr. Esposo will read the following quotes from Lee Kuan Yew’s book, from page 62:

Esposo should have gotten a copy of this book

And from page 66:

“We did not have a large group of ready-made entrepreneurs such as Hong Kong gained in the Chinese industrialists and bankers who came fleeing from Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), and other cities when the communists took over. Had we waited for our traders to learn to be industrialists we would have starved… It is absurd for critics to suggest in the 1990’s that had we grown our own entrepreneurs, we would have been less at the mercy of the rootless MNC’s. Even with the experienced talent Hong Kong received in Chinese refugees, its manufacturing technology level is not in the same class as that of the MNC’s in Singapore.”

Billy Esposo clearly belongs to the dinosaur generation. The man simply does not have what it takes to be relevant in this day and age and should just retire from spreading false information and lies.

But his ignorance did not stop there. He went on to say:

“The biggest argument against Cha cha at this time is this — it is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. We can revise our Constitution again and again in the next 10 years but that won’t get us anywhere if we do not repair our damaged culture and improve the Filipino mindset. The real problem is not what the Philippine Constitution allows or disallows but what is in the minds and hearts of Filipinos — how we think, feel, act and react as a people.

Cha cha will not reform the people and political players who suffer from a damaged culture. A good, strong president has better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture. The problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people.”

The question needs to be asked: How can a president have better chances of reforming a nation’s damaged culture if the manner in which a Philippine President emerges is itself damaged so that instead of the most competent candidate(s) emerging at the top, those who do emerge happen to be those with the highest winnability rating, that is, they are the ones with the most name-recall or the most popularity, yet more often than not , they are also the candidates who are utterly lacking in competence and ability?”  Worse, how can that be possible with the current 1987 Constitution when the presidents who emerge are always turning out to be minority presidents because there is no run-off election to trim down the contenders to only two if there are so many candidates?

Indeed, we can all see that Mr. Billy Esposo has done nothing but pontificate without providing a single shred of evidence to back up his extremely weak claim that the “problem is not the Constitution but the culture of our people”, especially since it is obvious to Social Scientists, Political Scientists, Anthropologists, Organizational Development & Human Resource Professionals that Systems influence (and sometimes even determine) Culture, and on the macro “society” level, it is the Constitution that determines the type of system that we end up with.

Systems can change destiny since systems change culture!

Mr. Esposo is another one of those people who knows very little about the social sciences or culture, as he is unable to see how culture is by itself a system and realize that cultures are the products of different systems. He also fails to see that the 1987 Constitution, with all its flaws in creating a system that consistently produces weak minority presidents plus a non-constituency Senate, explicitly specified economy-hindering protectionist economic provisions (when it could have instead just kept mum on it just as a majority of the world’s constitutions do not make economic restrictions in their constitutions). Most other countries of the world, instead of making explicit mention of specific economic restrictions in their respective constitutions, chose instead to relegate economic policy-making to the realm of legislation in order to have more flexibility in making changes if and when conditions change.

Since Mr. Esposo is grossly uninformed and ignorant about the facts of “Culture Change”, he needs to read a bit more about how cultures can be improved. He needs to arm himself with a copy of B.F. Skinner’s “Beyond Freedom & Dignity” to learn more about Behavioral Modification, and Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First”, where the esteemed Singapore Statesman was able to change the cultures of a mostly impoverished rag-tag motley crew of numerous racial groups and oftentimes mutually-antagonistic ethno-linguistic groups who originally had extremely disorganized, messy, dirty, and unhygienic habits (spitting, urinating, and defecating anywhere) and successfully created a new prosperity-compatible, highly organized, and extremely hygienic Singaporean culture.

It is only because Singapore was able to have an extremely competent, brilliant, and hardworking leader in Lee Kuan Yew due to the meritocratic Parliamentary System bequeathed to them by the British (as opposed to the popularity-centric American system bequeathed to Filipinos by the Americans), that Singapore was able to transform itself. The same can be said of Malaysia, where the brilliant, extremely competent, and equally hard-driving Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad was also able to emerge at the top of Malaysia’s leadership structure thanks to the meritocratic nature of the Parliamentary System that Malaysia inherited from the British, and was thus able to improve the nature of Malaysia’s (and especially the majority Malay-Bumiputra) culture.

Mr. Esposo needs to enlighten himself further by thinking about the views of the late Harvard political scientist Dr. Samuel Huntington who in a speech delivered at Colorado College on February 4. 1999, said:

The late Dr. Samuel Huntington

“…many studies have ranked countries in terms of their levels of corruption. Again, they breakdown in terms of cultural groupings. The least corrupt countries are Nordic, Scandinavian, or English-speaking; the most corrupt are Asian and African. There is, however, one interesting exception to this pattern, which illustrates an important point. Singapore always ranks right up there with Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and New Zealand as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, while its Asian neighbors, Indonesia, China, Thailand, the Philippines are among the most corrupt. How can this be explained?

The answer of course is political leadership. Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled Singapore for decades, was determined to create a non-corrupt society and in large part did. He thus exemplifies a most important insight about culture, articulated by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” And that is what happened in Singapore.”

Before a culture can save it from itself, it really needs to make sure that it gets the best types of leaders. And that means the most competent and most capable candidates, not necessarily the most “winnable.”

Mahathir & Lee Kuan Yew

As such, it is necessary to put in place a system that can more easily cause the most competent and most capable among a country’s leaders and thinkers to emerge on top. Can the Philippine Presidential System in its current form easily allow the best candidates to emerge on top when the dynamics of the Philippine Presidential elections are such that it is “winnability”(name recall, popularity/celebrity-status), not competence, not track-record, not ability, and certainly not platform, that causes a candidate to win, when we don’t even have a run-off election in order to ensure that we avoid ending up with an electoral winner who merely gets a plurality among more than three other candidates and therefore ends up as a minority president?

Faulty Political System Produces Faulty Political Culture

Mr. Esposo needs to realize that ordinary Filipinos not only have a faulty, damaged general culture, we have a faulty and damaged political culture as well.

Juan Linz, PhD

Due to his refusal to do the necessary research in order to make an impartial and objective assessment on how making changes to the flawed political system can help to fix the damaged political culture of Filipinos, he holds the extremely erroneous view that shifting to a parliamentary system will not do much to improve the behavior and political culture of both the electorate and the politicians themselves. He had better arm himself with the work of Yale’s eminent political scientist Dr. Juan Linz, who in his book ‘The Failure of Presidential Democracy’ (volume 1) particularly in his essay entitled‘Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?’, said:

Political engineers, like engineers who build bridges, should plan for the most unfavorable conditions, although we might hope they will never materialize. Doing so maybe considered wasteful when the additional costs are counted, which in the case of political institution-building are the costs of the innovation, of challenging tradition. As the builders of bridges can never assure that the bridges will not collapse under some extreme circumstances, no constitution maker can assure that the institutions he creates will survive all challenges and dangers and assure a consolidated democracy. However, the accumulated evidence of the past in presidential systems, particularly in Latin America and Asia, and the success of contemporary parliamentary democracies in Western Europe show odds that seem to favor parliamentary institutions.

Innovation is not necessarily good, but to cling to the institutions of the past when they have failed too often and to choose not to innovate is to miss a historical opportunity… I think that the intelligent use of historical opportunity after many failures and dictatorships is evidence that innovation is possible and can be successful. No one in Spain between 1975 and 1978 could have been sure that the experiment would be successful. However, the experience of Spain and other European democracies, particularly the German Republic, shows that innovative leadership and thoughtful constitution making can greatly help to generate the conditions for a stable democracy…

Institutions lead the same actors to behave differently; they provide incentives and disincentives for certain behavioral patterns. My assumption is that parliamentarism would impose on parties and leaders patterns encouraging greater responsibility for governance, greater accountability, and at the same time the need to cooperate and compromise (except when one party gains an absolute majority). Parliamentarism also allows changes in leadership without a regime crisis and continuity without the fears associated with ‘continuismo’ in presidential systems.

In parliamentary system governments can demand from parties (either their own if it had majority or those in a coalition) support in votes of confidence, threatening them otherwise with resignation in the case of lack of support and ultimately with the dissolution of the legislature. The rule of each party and even of each deputy would be clear to the voters, who are unlikely to sanction destructive sanctions by parties. The party that fails to support its prime minister would have to pay a price. In the Spanish experience in recent years, an undisciplined, faction-ridden party (the UCD) was severely punished by the electorate. In fact, one of the main reasons for the UCD’s and the Communists’ loss of support in 1982 was the internal squabbling perceived by the electorate…”

As we zero in on the Philippine context, we all find that generally speaking, the best candidates do not win, and those candidates who do win are oftentimes not the best. Sometimes, in order for the most qualified and most competent candidates to win, they need to pretend to be what they are not. Instead of presenting themselves as the competent and highly intelligent philosopher-king types who can steer the country towards greater heights, the damaged nature of Philippine Political Culture forces competent candidates to pose as movie stars or do song and dance numbers just to get the much needed amount of attention among the public.

It has apparently escaped Mr. Esposo’s mind that the Philippine Political Culture, starting from the Philippine electorate’s general preference for popular incompetents to the Filipino politicians’ turncoatism and lack of party dynamics are all traceable to the very flawed features inherent in the Philippine Presidential System. Mr. Esposo would have known this had he decided to educate himself further by reading Dr. Yuko Kasuya’s book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines.”

He would have learned, for instance, that the extremely volatile nature of the party system where politicians frequently switch parties is traceable to the removal of the ability of the incumbent to run for reelection, as determined by Dr. Kasuya’s extensive data-gathering and statistical regression analysis, as she found that political parties have all become ad-hoc groups that work only during election campaigns.

In the older 1935 Constitution which allowed incumbent presidents to run for re-election, the presence of the incumbent always ensured that the opposition to the incumbent would consolidate themselves, so that instead of the current system where there are ten or more parties and candidates vying for the presidential elections, in the past, there was always just two or at most three parties fighting it out. As soon as reelection was banned in the 1987 Constitution, thus creating single 6 year term presidencies for duly-elected presidents (as opposed to presidents who were originally vice-presidents who took over as president), the number of contenders in the elections immediately exploded.

Based on the study she made on the Philippine situation which she checked-off against other countries, she concluded the following in the chapter entitled Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies:

“…limiting a president to a single term is more likely to destabilize the legislative-level party system than if presidents are allowed to serve multiple terms. Whether or not presidents are banned from immediate re-election affects the presence or absence of the incumbent in presidential elections, which is the driving force of this conjecture. In single-termed systems, the incumbent is always absent in the presidential race, while multi-termed presidential systems retain a higher possibility of incumbent entry. The absence of the incumbent contributes to the fragmentation of the presidential race, which then leads to party-system instability at the presidential level. Furthermore, higher instability in presidential competition destabilizes the legislative-level party system. I tested this claim using the data from 36 newly-democratized presidential countries with regression technique, and the results supported my claim. One implication of this finding is that it is more advisable not to adopt single presidential term limits if one wants to avoid party-system instability.”

There are far too many features that were discussed by Dr. Kasuya which reveal the inherent flaws of the current Philippine Presidential System as prescribed by the 1987 Constitution. It would simply be better for Mr. Esposo to head over to PowerBooks and get himself a copy as it merely costs 350 pesos and will totally enlighten him and cure him of his lack of information.  That way, instead of pontificating on matters in which he has absolutely no information backing him up, Mr. Esposo might be more capable of making informed opinions based on solidly-researched empirical evidence.

The Biggest Irony of Esposo’s Opinions

Last but not the least, Mr. Billy Esposo had one totally flawed opinion which actually went totally against his own anti-Constitutional Reform stand: He mentioned that he wanted to change the name of the Phlippines.

He said:

It is also time to change the name of the Philippines to complete the transformation. Name gives identity. The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. Parents give their children names that have the qualities they wish their children to emulate. No one names his child Lucifer or Satan.”

Has it occurred to Mr. Esposo that in order to change the name of the country, he needs to make changes in the Constitution? Apparently not.

It is thus for this very reason that Billy Esposo has once again exposed his ignorance and lack of analytical ability for the entire world to see. He goes against Constitutional Reform, and yet Esposo espouses changing the name of the Philippines to something else, conveniently ignoring the fact that with all the instances of the words “Filipino”, “Philippines”, and “Philippine” in the Constitution, changes will need to be made to the text.

Who – to use Esposo’s own term – is being “idiotic” now?

Q.E.D. – Quod Erat Demonstratum

This article probably contributed to William Esposo’s demise on April 7, 2013. He was so stressed by the fact that this writer clobbered him. Hey, it was Esposo who started it. He attacked first. This writer simply corrected all of Esposo’s wrong facts.

 

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

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If you liked this, you might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1.  Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

3. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

6. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed