Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries




NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Our mining sector had been in the doldrums for quite some time now. The production levels of both (a) base metals and (b) precious metals have surely been at lackluster levels. Meantime, logging has been totally banned to arrest further deforestration and its accompanying desertification and soil erosion. It is only in the energy sector where extraction has been impressively high, and the sector is appreciably a very dynamic one even in terms of R&D considerations. We are now at the crossroads concerning such sectors as mining and forest resources, where a revivified extraction is in the pipelines but couldn’t move because of constitutional and/or statutory constraints.

Note that most of the country’s natural resources for extraction are habituated by (a) tribal peoples and (b) migratory slash & burn peasants. Such populations have long ‘guarded’ the resource-rich habitats. It would surely be a faulty policy to drive them away—hidden under the euphemism of ‘relocation’—in order to give way to a mining concessionaire. Likewise would it be unsound to merely integrate some of their members as wage laborers for the extraction operations. Such actions, derived from regarding the people as ‘high disutility’ entities, are plain reactionary, even as they push the populations to the limits, leading to the folks to constitute hostile millennial movements and rebel separatists. The moves are reactionary as they contribute to the weakening of the nation, to the fragmentation of the national community.

The most pro-active path to address the concerned issue is to design and concur stewardship arrangements with the said populations. Three things are addressed by the stewardship: (1) the people will stay in the area, with better housing and amenities, who in turn will monitor and safeguard the entire operational sites; (2) where necessary, the same folks will be employed in the operations and administrative jobs where applicable, on a first priority basis; and, (3) the people will be co-owners of the firm, with equity/stock participation derived through a calibration of their productivity potency, historical role in stewardship of the area, and other variables. It is argued that this stewardship path is the win/win formula for the state, investors (market), and the communities concerned (‘social capital’/civil society). Consequently, the contribution to the GDP through resource extraction jumps up to a historic high level.


[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.]

Sunday, April 05, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continuously open the market to external investors



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continuously open the market to external investors

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


National savings continue to hover at a pathetically low rate of seventeen percent (17%), which is significant but is way below the minimum of thirty percent (30%) to render it as ‘critical mass’, like that of our neighbors’. The problem cannot be addressed sufficiently than through a continuing inflow of capital from external investors. Note that in today’s global context, the term ‘foreign capital’ has already lost its meaning, as the boundary between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ has been effectively erased. The cross-country partnering cum out-sourcing arrangements among diverse firms have become the norm of today’s business, rendering obsolete the previously sacrosanct notions of ‘domestic’ capital and ‘foreign’ direct investments. Not only that. Latest researches have verified that transnational corporations or TNCs now tend to create more values within their host countries and reinvest the profits locally than remit them back to their ‘home country’ (a term that has also begun to lost meaning).

This doesn’t mean though that such investors should be served ‘free lunch’, through very long regimes of tax havens or through spurious ‘strike-free zones’ (read: haven for wage freeze) which makes our laborers appear like wild jackals who need to be perpetually gagged. Some forms of valves (capital controls) should also be instituted, so that the capital investments and profits wouldn’t just flow out like hemorrhage the moment that the economy hits cyclical crisis. Surely, pro-active measures can be devised to let the said investors stay, more so for those that truly re-invest their ROI for their original and diversified business concerns, as well as to those that conduct dynamic R&D and truly transfer technology.

In today’s globalizing context, corporate ‘national champions’ have become obsolete. The  bygone era of ‘national champions’ can still be observed in the names of certain firms, such as in the names Philippine Airlines, Philippine Long Distance Telephone, or in Bank of America, American Express. Asset re-structuring is the norm, and large corporations are becoming rapidly globalized. Mergers and de-mergers are happening at rapidly ‘chaotic’ paces. The circumstances challenge investors/stockholders to quickly grasp the lesson of   ‘thriving on chaos’ or else their ventures would face bankruptcies and foreclosures as what befell many former large ventures, inclusive of former ‘national champions’.

The thought that “foreign capital might harm national interest” is simply passé and out-of-context, in as much as the term ‘foreign’ has lost its meaning save for the antiquarian Old Nationalists who regard foreign things as essentially dangerous (but are they not using foreign frameworks in their perceptions of foreign things?). Let the investors come in, recombine their assets with our domestic investors’, extend their stock participation beyond the forty percent (40%) constitutional limit. Note that “our very own” big corporations are participating in ‘foreign’ countries, and their levels of investment participation go beyond forty percent (40%). It is high time that we readjust our thinking about the matter.


[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.]

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.]