How to Help Improve Philippine Society?

This week I came across this question from Francis Kong, posted at Yahoo! Answers. He asked:

What can we do to help make the Philippines a better place for ourselves and for our children?

It is not only the government’s job to improve the future for our children.
It is the responsibility of every Filipino to create a better Philippines for the coming generations. All of us must think about how we can contribute.

The question is posted at this link:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Al63Ma4yNZfqjJqZbeLsyxjsy6IX;_yl

I posted my two cents’ worth:
Wow, this is like a chicken-and-egg question. My suggested answer is: SHORT-CIRCUIT THE CHICKEN-AND-EGG SITUATION.

We definitely need better leaders to set examples, implement laws correctly and justly, set the right environment for the proper growth of the populace (economic, political, etc.) That’s the chicken.

Problem is, we also need an electorate that’s better educated and motivated to put the right leaders in place. That’s the egg.

Theoretically, without the right leadership, the environment will not be conducive to breeding healthy eggs. Corrupt leaders simply keep the environment contaminated by maintaining the masses’ dependency on them through bribes and the patronage system; by taking advantage of regionalistic preferences (i.e., he may be a devil but he’s OUR devil,,,and our devil will always take care of his own); through fear and intimidation, etc.

Because of this, the eggs, er, people, will always put into office the wrong kinds of leaders. And the right kinds of leaders will be disillusioned and opt out (e.g., Mrs. Monsod, if I understand a recent TV interview correctly).

The process must be short-circuited by a force coming in from outside. This force would include business leaders, educators, and everyone else willing to contribute and actively participate in helping Philippine society.

The process of short-circuiting would involve (but would not be limited to) the following:

1) Subsidizing education for the children, to train, equip, and support capable teachers who would not only teach CORRECT skills, but also right and godly values. (Note regarding skills: have you seen the essays and answers to simple questions submitted in many job interviews nowadays? These indicate how much our educational system has deteriorated, and has been simply a huge collective diploma mill for many years now.)

2) Include ENTREPRENEURSHIP as a core subject in childrens’ and youth’s education. For so long, our educational system has trained children to aspire to be employees (a company prexy is still an employee). A successful entrepreneur who has right godly values will have more positive impact on society—not the least of which are providing income to more people, and imparting godly values to many through his or her godly example.

3) For the older people, setting up businesses and cooperatives in the provinces, and train the people in entrepreneurship. Hopefully, this would have two effects: (a) encourage the people to stay in the provinces and stop migration to the “dream” urban centers; and (b) teach them to fish, and not just feed them with fish for the day.

4) IMPORTANT: The training in entrepreneurship should not be just the old “Livelihood training programs” such as soap-making, candle-making, detergent manufacture, etc. These have been tried for years and found wanting, with very few exceptions. This is because the people who are trained in these livelihood skills all start producing soap, or processed meat, or candles, or whatever, all at the same time, and compete with each other and ultimately kill each other’s businesses quickly (while the NGO’s and mission organizations which conducted the livelihood programs feel self-satisfied with finishing their targeted programs for the year and send self-congratulatory reports to their foreign partners and supporters, complete with numbers and photos, to ask for money for more programs next year—while the people they have “trained”, and who have killed each other’s businesses, look for other “skills” and other NGO’s from whom they can borrow capital again, to try again and again…). The help should include the provision of solid and actual marketing contacts, establishment of cooperatives, etc. Through cooperative ventures, the people band together instead of killing each other (one possible setup would be for certain persons or families to take care of the soap supplies, another of the processed food supplies, another of the garments supplies, etc). Through marketing contacts (if possible, marketing CONTRACTS), the people are enabled to actually sell the products or services which they have been trained to provide. A big problem with current livelihood trainings is that the beneficiaries have no contacts, means, training, or skill to properly and profitably market their products and services, and they all compete and kill each other selling within the same community.

5) For big business to altruistically share in the improvement of the community by providing marketing outlets and sharing their marketing infrastructure with the small entrepreneurs; setting up scholarship foundations for competent children from poor families; subsidizing hospitals, health centers, and drugstores for the poor (usually, small entrepreneurs are stopped dead in their tracks by illness in the family); setting up housing programs in the provinces and opening marketing and production ventures or small branches of their firms near these settlements. These need not lead to losses for big business. It should be possible to figure out population sizes which could be resettled in given areas and where the company’s branches could be set up profitably, which would provide marketing outlets and business and employment opportunities for the resettled people.

These are only a few suggestions. We could come up with many more possible ways to short-circuit the chicken-and-egg process of corrupt politicians always being elected and supported by a beholden electorate. The point is to achieve two important goals:

1) instill correct, godly values in the youth who will be our future leaders and electorate, and

2) break the hold that politicians have through the patronage system, which is made possible by the dehumanizing poverty of many of our countrymen.

Such actions would also hopefully neutralize the growing hostility and resentment felt by the poor towards the rich. This would lead in turn to a more stable and manageable environment in which it would be easier for the two sides to communicate with each other and appreciate one another’s points of view.

Well, just a hurried and abbreviated answer to a very complicated question. I have many more ideas, but space and time are limited in a Yahoo! Answers context. We can talk further, if you want, through email or even personal conversation. I would certainly love to explore this question further, and join forces with others who want to do something solid and practical for our country.

Shalom! Peace and wholeness to you!

Mel

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9 Responses

  1. I have no issue with all of Mel’s suggestions, particularly the one that addresses the problem of education. We should push for these if we can while we live in the country.

    But I am also a true believer in the power of market forces. When you can no longer take the stench of government, vote. Vote with your feet. Move to a country where there is less corruption and fewer obstacles to individual progress. Take your families so that you won’t have to prop up the economy with your remittances. When the government realizes that the largely professional and tax-paying middle class is dwindling fast – as is the case from what I’ve read in the papers recently, it will be under increasing pressure to reform. Can you imagine being left to govern a selfish and self-indulgent , tax-evading elite and the teeming, starving masses?

    Do not get me wrong. I always encourage people to stay in the country if they can. But when you find yourself disenfranchised in your own country, the only right akin to suffrage is the right to emigrate.

    I am not being entirely facetious nor cynical. A case in point regarding the sheer power of the markets: George W and the US Congress have not been able to stem the exodus of jobs from the US to India no matter how protectionist they get.

    I also have some strong views about education but that is another story.

  2. Hi, Boboy.

    Well, depends on how low the leaders can go, I guess. There are countries where it seems that the leaders are quite satisfied “to govern a selfish and self-indulgent , tax-evading elite and the teeming, starving masses”, as long as they have millions or billions or dollars or euros worth of treasure stashed in a safe haven country, and they still command fear within their own country.

    Might be too dangerous to see how low our leaders are willing to go, eh? Might take decades for the country to recover, if ever. In that case, wouldn’t it be better to stay and help fight the corruption, be salt and light as it were, stop the rot and shine the light?

    Regards,
    Mel

  3. When I was in Singapore last year, I asked a taxi driver what he thinks we should do so that the Philippines would be like his country. He immediately answered with a word: “Education.”

  4. Hi, Pastor Eric.

    Actually, what I’m driving at in my proposals above regarding education is to abandon the present generation and take care of the next.

    This was what our Singaporean friends told Perry and me when we were there some years ago. They said that Lee Kuan Yew’s basic approach was to make sure that the next generation was taught the proper values (including, especially, cleanliness and orderliness) and not to mind the present generation which insisted on throwing trash around and spitting in public, among the more visible of their “undesirable characteristics”. Our friends said that Pres. Lee’s reasoning was that, when the present generation finally died off, the next generation that would take over would have the proper values.

  5. Hi Mel.

    Something to reflect on –

    During the hypergrowth years of South Korea (1960s-1987), it was under a corrupt military dictatorship. Whoever was leading South Korea at that time was not the ‘right leader’ if we use current Pinoy definition.

    Yet it seems the leadership then correctly formulated effective economic policies.

    So can a ‘corrupt leadership’ effectively manage an economy? From the South Korean experience, it would seem. Marcos could not.

    But I think the catalyst for the South Korean economic miracle is its citizens. South Koreans who love their country enough for them not to migrate to first world countries and work for the development of their country. Particularly South Korean entrepreneurs, and the chaebols.

    A combination of patriotism and entrepreneurship would be an explosive pair.

    However, its sad that evangelicals are the last people who would advocate patriotism and entrepreneurship.

    And controlling population growth would certainly help.

  6. I love what you said, and I totally agree with them (very sadly, in the case of the second sentence:
    “A combination of patriotism and entrepreneurship would be an explosive pair.

    However, its sad that evangelicals are the last people who would advocate patriotism and entrepreneurship.”

    So what could WE do, practically, NOW? I want to do something, and I’m trying to link up with people who want to do something. I know your church has a lot of evangelical businessmen and educators. Do you think they’d agree with the “short-circuit” process described in my post? Can we link up with them for some brainstorming sessions?

  7. short-term and long-term goals are needed.

    improving education is a long-term goal and it needs equal attention.

    very short-term goals –

    help increase the acceptance rate in call centers (like help in English proficiency), to help reduce unemployment

    make a database of ‘licensable’ technologies: UPLB, the Intellectual Property Office, and DOST have many technologies waiting for commercialization. lets help them disseminate these technologies

    specifically promote entrepreneurship in agribusiness and tourism

    tap Fil-Ams to promote offshore outsourcing to the Philippines, particularly IT outsourcing. Call centers are great, but Pinoys can do more than speak English. Besides, the money is in non-voice offshore outsourcing – IT, finance, accounting, human resources, etc.

  8. Interesting discussion you have here. I agree with egenias on entrepreneurship in agribusiness and tourism. We are still agriculture-based and the trend now is toward organic agriculture. On tourism, I guess we have a competitive advantage here over other countries for we are blessed with a beautiful country. Sad to say, we often don’t take care of it. Our other kababayans who have left the country can help by promoting the country to foreigners. Imagine if all of each of our OFWs can convince one foreigner to visit the country. Tourists spend on accommodation, food, souvenirs, among others. So this will likewise spur the growth of local entrepreneurs.

    On my part, my contribution in improving the Philippine society would probably be to be a better person myself. Follow traffic rules, pay my taxes, will not pay grease money, vote wisely, and not speak ill of my country to foreigners.

  9. Hi Mel. To answer your question, with so many problems to fix, I’d recommend starting with something simple.

    I’d like Pinoys to rebuild a culture of discipline.

    Lee Kuan Yew was right – we Pinoys have too much democracy and too little discipline. This massive lack of discipline has all sorts of negative effects, like every-man-for-himself, crab mentality, I’ll do what I want when I want kind of attitude in so many Pinoys, even Christians.

    Since PNoy is in power to influence so many now, I think if he did the same thing for national discipline what he did to ban wangwangs, we might get to a good start.

    If discipline stays as bad or gets worse, more people will indeed be voting with their feet.

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