Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Let ‘unbridled free trade’ give way to ‘fair trade’



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Let ‘unbridled free trade’ give way to ‘fair trade’

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


In the international trade scene, the President had declared it emphatically: “no to unbridled free trade!” Fair trade should be the game in trade, not free trade. This does not mean a full return to protectionism, which proved counterproductive in the past. Protectionism had only served rent-seekers, who did not engage in full-scale S&T innovations that could have propelled us to advance in product development, achieving world-class standards in many of our articles of industry & trade quite early. Returning to a regime of protectionism is surely out of the question.

Permit articles of imports to come in, employ this strategy to meet ‘commodity security’ and keep prices at competitive rates, while minimizing the possibility of shocks. This should also challenge domestic market players to become more competitive, precisely by engaging in dynamic research & development or R&D, resulting to higher-level product innovations (intended for the domestic market). Meanwhile, continue to institute a regime of ‘safety nets’ and strengthen those that have already been erected. However, where ‘infantile enterprises’ are barely out of the take-off stage, e.g. petrochemicals and upstream steel, provide certain tariff protection, but set limits up to that point when dynamic R & D have made production more cost-efficient, permitting thereafter competitiveness in both the domestic and global market. The latest move of government to provide the greatest incentives on upstream steel, for instance, is a right move, as it will entice market forces to install our long-delayed integrated steelworks.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Monday, March 16, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Various stakeholders in the past were divided along the question of what should be the driver of growth & development (demand-side discourse): the external, or internal market? The followers of the ‘externalists’ were the ones behind the export-oriented development strategy, whose rationalizations for massive exports were quite poor recycles of the mercantilist contention that wealth should be produced more from out of the external markets (colonies during the time of empires). The ‘internalists’ were the ones behind import-substitution strategies, whose rationalizations were poor photocopies of Keynesian demand-side formulations.

In today’s context, it is wiser to view both the external and domestic markets as synergistic spheres for accumulating national wealth and meeting head-on the demands for delivering welfare. The external market discourse can work only in circumstances where a domestic demand has failed to develop, which in our case was the pre-1990s economy. By the late 1990s, it was clear that a significant change had taken place on the demand side of our economy, as folks were buying a lot of articles of commerce at a time of crisis. The middle class population is rising relative to the entire population, whose households’ needs have become more differentiated and have leaped beyond the bounds of ‘rice-and-galunggong’ expenditures. Today, Filipino families purchase around fifty-three percentum (53%) of their household needs from supermarkets, malls and large retail centers, even as the wet markets and sari-sari stores are declining in importance. These changes are real, and we cannot be blind to them by continuing to harp on an export-driven growth.

We must then fast-track large-scale redistribution schemes, such as to witness the rise in purchasing powers of our own people. This cannot be done outright during the next three (3) years, as we face a fiscal dilemma of crisis proportions. But beyond 2007 lies new opportunity fields. The fiscal route to stabilization will have been solidly achieved by then, and the nation can embark on more ambitious endeavors aimed at increasing incomes, reducing unemployment and poverty and increasing domestic consumption.

As the domestic market catches up in stabilizing the economy and producing national wealth, stakeholders shouldn’t be remiss in improving the competitiveness of our export products. Our great advantage is that we have ample supplies of skilled labor, with wages still relatively low. The power sector is also quite rich in supply of electricity, even as new projects are now being planned to neutralize possible supply problems in the short run. Hopefully, power supply would stabilize and electricity cost would decrease, contributing thus to rendering our exportable articles more competitive enough. Save for capital goods and petroleum, large volumes of which our producers continue to import, the other factors of production are within our hands to control and manipulate, inclusive of rent and interest rate. It is hereby argued that, with such factors controllable enough, we can optimize conditions for rendering our exportable articles maximally competitive and continue to permit the external market to be a source of substantial wealth. What more if we produce all of our essential capital goods, thus further bringing down the cost of production, given that the price of other factor inputs also go down?


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continue to stimulate growth through the ‘physical economy’



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continue to stimulate growth through the ‘physical economy’

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


This writer strongly argues that the greatest driver of the economy must be the ‘physical economy’. By ‘physical economy’ we refer to the combination of (a) agriculture, (b) manufacturing, (c) infrastructure, (d) transport and (e) science & technology (S&T) whose results further induce ‘production possibilities’ in the sectors a-d. An economy that is prematurely driven by the service sector, growing at the expense of the physical economy, will create imbalances in the long run, failing in the end to meet the needs of the population. A premature service-driven economy would be subject to manipulations by predatory financiers, who would do everything to destroy the national currencies and consequently the physical economy of the nation as well. An economy driven by derivatives and every kind of speculative pursuit is a ‘virtual economy’ such as what has dominated the USA since the era of Reaganomics.

I would hazard the thesis that our national economy moved to a service-driven phase prematurely. Look at all the fiasco after our ‘physical economy’ had rapidly declined in GDP contributions since the early 1990s, as the service economy advanced in its stead! Relatedly, the over-hyped Ramos-era ‘Philippines 2000’ economy was largely a ‘bubble economy’ driven by speculation and portfolio capital, and was more in kinship with the ‘virtual economy’ than any other one. We have not fully recovered from the bursting of that bubble, even as we are now threatened with another bursting of sorts—of the debt bubble, leading to fiscal crisis.

It pays to learn our lessons well from out of the immediate past experiences. And the clear message sent forth is: get back to the physical economy and re-stimulate the concerned sectors, while simultaneously perfect those services where we have proved to be competitive, e.g. pre-need sector, retail, restaurant/f&b. We should also strive to learn some key lessons from other countries’ positive experiences such as China’s, whose economy continues to grow enormously, and grow precisely because it is the physical economy that primarily drives it up and lead it—at an enormously rapid rate—towards development maturity, permitting China to outpace the USA’s economy on or before 2014 (using GDP Purchasing Power Parity indexing).


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Evolve from ‘capitalist markets’ to ‘social markets’



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Evolve from ‘capitalist markets’ to ‘social markets’

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


The ‘capitalist market’ (or simply ‘market’) is the haven of financial predators and market  sharks, while the absence of market is the homestead of the rent-seeker and exclusively-privileged partocrat (single party bureaucrat). As the cases of the ‘mixed economies’ and that of China’s have demonstrated, the market impeccably performs a   pivotal role in stimulating growth & development, and should not be wished away too soon. Rather, we should evolve a market that is not a ‘pure market’ in the classical sense.

As experiences world-wide have transparently indicated, leaving everything to the market redounds to: (a) diminished welfare, as indicated by low wages, low accessibility to social services, high unemployment, and massive exploitation of labor; (b) ecological disaster, indicated by environmental degradation, depleted natural resource base, destruction of indigenous communities and their natural habitats; (c) speculation in the capital and realty markets, leading to further instabilities and proneness to shocks, both internal and external; and, (d) lackluster product innovation due to low value given to S&T development, in societies where there is a lack of entrepreneurs, such as the Philippine case demonstrates.

The balance lies in developing a ‘social market’, where concern for private initiatives as well as for welfare are harmonized and balanced, while at the same time controlling speculation and optimizing conditions that induce innovations. Within the context of a social market, there should increasingly evolve ‘social enterprises’ or collectively-owned enterprises: cooperatives, people’s corporations, grammin, and other related types that are rising though still at an experimental phase. While private enterprises should continue to prevail, large-scale enterprises should begin to innovate on new physical asset-ownership schemes that would eventually see a large portion of the assets co-owned by ordinary folks and corporate employees. In the long run, the ‘social market’ will be a terrain where both wealth gaining and welfare providing functions will be fused exquisitely, signifying the end of state-induced welfare and the return of welfare functions to communities.

[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / People are the most important assets, revise accounting systems!




NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / People are the most important assets, revise accounting systems!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


The prevailing mindset perceives assets in terms of physical assets (estates, chattel, monies). Ownership is then defined in terms of right to control and dispose of such assets. Wealth is computed in terms of the values, calibrated through price, created through the utilization of the physical assets. For a while, the classicists introduced the notion of ‘labor theory’ of value, premised upon the value-producing powers of labor. But the efforts of the classicists failed to get translated into acceptable accounting systems, as such systems have always been based on physical assets and prices.

Look at what is happening among various agencies, especially business firms: there is a lot of ‘pirating’ of people going on among them! Likewise are there efforts to retrieve those same people ‘pirated’ by competing agencies. The same event holds true for the state and NGO sectors: ‘piracy’ on grand scales! This phenomenon is a clear manifestation that people, not physical assets, are the most important of all in an organization. When an agency loses good personnel, the effect is instantly debilitating, a debilitation that can be offset only through the timely arrival of replacements who are as good as the ones who left. The converse is also true: when an agency needs people to shore up its output levels, ‘pirate’ high-achievers from other agencies most especially those who have “made a name” in the sector concerned. The piracy of people in the entertainment world is even more instructive in indicating to us the central import of people, not physicals, as value producers. We need not belabor the point that the ‘piracy’ strategy comes often in the form of higher pay scales and incentives.

That is why it pays so much to manage people well, and to design new organizational principles that would bring out the maximum potencies of people most specially the highly talented ones. Bureaucracies have become outdated dinosaurs, as ‘flat organizations’ have become the wave of the present: the new organizations make plenty of room for self-initiatives, resourcefulness and innovativeness by good staff. Bureaucracies, which follow from only two principles—vertical (hierarchy) and horizontal—can stifle innovativeness, as experiences have shown. The ‘task master’ mindset and ‘boss mentality’, as well as the excessive stress on routinary processes, have turned off many achiever personnel most specially the highly talented ones whose nature of work is ‘symbolic/analytic’ (to use Reich’s term). Today, new principles are emerging that are leading to a massive ‘re-engineering of the organization’, such as Total Quality Management or TQM, web organizational structure, team work principles and ‘human resource empowerment’.

Yet inspite of such revolutionary changes and explosion of amazingly appropriate principles about organizations and human resources, no changes are happening in the accounting systems that can correspondingly reproduce the organizational principles taking place. The only appreciable concept is that of GDP Purchasing Power Parity or PPP, which computes total income on the basis of purchasing power of local consumers relative to those of the world’s strongest economy. Using the GDP-PPP, the Philippines’ GDP stood at $379 Billions as of the end of 2003, with GDP-PPP per capita at around $4,600 more or less. (See The World Factbook, 2004, for such index reports.) But this indexing does not in any way address the accounting question raised here.

Should the notion of ‘human capital’ become popular, the accounting system should consequently follow. The notions of ownership would then change, indicating the revolutionary implications of the paradigm shift. Those pretending ‘radicals’ of the day, many of whom are steeped in 19th century socialist thought, tend to view the asset realm from the focal lenses of antiquated Victorian-era ownership concepts, and are no less conservative than the oligarchs they sordidly hate. They offer no radical solutions beyond changing (antiquated) asset ownership, strategies that eventually stifle innovativeness and human expression, as criminal Stalinist regimes have shown. New Nationalism must take on the challenge of presenting a far more revolutionary concept that can, in the end, contribute to evolving a strong base of ‘human capital’, ‘social capital’ and ‘strong nation’.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Promote synergy with civil society in the development path




NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Promote synergy with civil society in the development path

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


In the old formulations, development was an exclusive endeavor of state and market players. That is, the directions of development were largely the handiworks of political, bureaucratic and corporate elites. There should be an admission that this structural formulation was a factor in generating the crisis-level ailments of mass poverty, large-scale unemployment, low wages, sluggish growth and dependence. So why retain a formula that had failed us miserably?

The current context, where a dynamic and colossal civil society operates, points to the ever-growing recognition of the potent role of civil society in co-determining the compass of development. At the grassroots level, development efforts will be accelerated to a great extent by involving civil society formations acting as ‘social capital’ base, as studies have positively demonstrated (citations from Peter Evans’ works on ‘state-society synergy’). Insulating the state from grassroots folks, as the same studies have shown, have produced dismal if not tragic effects, e.g. India’s non-involvement of ‘social capital’ in the erection and maintenance of irrigation facilities resulted to program failure in the end.

Building and maintaining ecologically sound, clean cities can likewise be effected through the tri-partnership of state, civil society and market, as demonstrated by the Puerto Princesa case. Under the stewardship of the dynamic city mayor (Mr. Hagedorn), the tri-partnership was galvanized. Businesses have since been conscious of operating on clean technologies and environmental responsibilities, city streets sustain hygienic images, traffic is well managed as motorists exude discipline, and civil society groups constantly monitor the initiatives that saw their hands dipped into their (initiatives) making. All we need to do is replicate this same Puerto Princesan trilateral partnering at all level and in all communities to ensure better results for our development efforts.

The ‘state-society synergy’ in our country had just recently been appreciated and grasped by many state players. Being at its ‘take-off’ phase, it is understandable that synergy is only a lip-service among many state players, notably the local officials. State players still regard civil society groups with ambivalence, while civil society groups are suspicious of state players whose sincerity can only be as low as their Machiavellian propensities would dictate. Such local state players desire to subordinate civil society groups, and many politicians have constituted ‘government-initiated NGOs’ or GRINGOS as cases of non-authentic subordinated groups. On the other hand, local-level volunteer groups can at best perceive domestic politicians as ‘Santa Claus’ providers, and utilize them largely as gift-giving patrons. Strengthening state-society synergy has a long way to yet, but it is not exactly starting at ground zero in this country. It is, by and large, a core variable in developing citizenry and constituencies, and must be advanced beyond its current take-off phase.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Shift intervention from the ‘provider state’ to the ‘enabler state’




NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Shift intervention from the ‘provider state’ to the ‘enabler state’

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


The failure of neo-liberal policy regimes does not mean that the state should go back to a full interventionist role, performing a guardian regulator and ‘provider’ for all sorts of services. The problem with the excessive ‘provider’ role is that it had (a) bred rent-seeking on a massive scale among market players, (b) reinforced dependence among grassroots folks who have since been always expecting for a ‘Santa Claus state’ to provide abundant candies, (c) produced new forms of rent-seeking, with civil society groups serving as the beneficiaries, and (d) further reinforced graft practices in both the public and private sectors. Thus, the ‘provider state’ further reinforced  the patron-client relations in the various spheres of life (‘feudalism’ is the term used by Maoists for clientelism), consequently dragging all of our development efforts into a turtle-paced sojourn.

In the new intervention mode, the state, armed with a leaner organization and trimmed down budgetary purse, performs a superb catalytic role. It engages various stakeholders in the growth & development efforts, challenges them to directly embark on development pursuits, and demonstrates unto them how welfare can be accessed to through alternative means other than through the state’s baskets. As the state continuously engages the stakeholders through dialogue and cooperation, institutions will also become strengthened along the way. The state will gain its esteem as an ‘activist state’, while at the same time receive acclaim as a truly ‘modernizing state’ as it propels society gradually away from clientelism towards a context marked by rule-based (modern) institutions, citizenry and dynamic/autonomous constituencies.

However, within a transition period from ‘maximum provider’ to ‘maximum enabler,’ the state should continue to perform a provider role in such areas as education, health and such other human development concerns that are, in the main, crucial to building national wealth. Combining state regulations and at the same time giving ‘fiscal autonomy’ in tertiary education and vocational-technical level would remain to be a fitful strategy of ‘minimal enabler’. A similar strategy will have to be applied to some other economic sectors to be able to advance gender equity, by recognizing rights of marginalized gender to education, employment, representation in managerial positions and other related concerns.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]