Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Message to the Graduates

I’ve been back home just a few days when requests started to come in, asking me to speak at commencement exercises. Unfortunately, I won’t be staying long because I am bringing my whole family to the US shortly after their classes end tomorrow. My daughters are excited to return to the lives they left 2 years ago.

I have to be back in our clinic to take care of business. Working without your family nearby, regardless of the compensation is brutal. Even with Skype and inexpensive direct dialing, the sacrifice is enormous. I think of all those millions of Filipinos, stuck in the deserts of the Middle East who would look forward to a brief phone call every month or so because of the expense that could have been part of the regular remittances that their families back home had grown to rely upon.

But I would have to emphasize this to all you graduates, that all is not lost. Most of us Filipinos continue to do our duty quietly every day. We know what needs to be done, we are painfully aware of the sacrifices that have to be endured. We have to do what we have to do.

How I would personally prefer to go around the country talking to the youth, the various citizens groups just like a true, traditional politician but I wouldn’t be setting a good example to my children. I don’t want them to see me transform into one of these unproductive trapos who talk and talk and become experts in living off this abominably unfair system.

All this excitement about the economic gains that our country has achieved needs to be placed in the proper perspective. Gross domestic product is the sum of our combined personal expenditures (which accounts for 70% of the GDP), government expenditures, investments and exports minus our imports.

Since 1985, personal expenditure was estimated from the results of a survey among 50,000 families inquiring about their income and expenses. These figures would closely correlate each other until 2001 when personal expenditure estimates greatly outpaced survey results. Two possible explanations: to make our GDP look better, we fudged the numbers in the finest Filipino accounting tradition or, a more plausible explanation was that the $14.5 billion in remittances that overseas Filipinos sent last year was significantly understated.

In terms of investments, the Philippines is at the bottom of the list in attracting foreign direct investment among the 6 major economies in Southeast Asia. Singapore attracted $36.9 billion, Vietnam $11.3 billion, Thailand $10 billion, Malaysia $9.4 billion, Indonesia $5.9 billion. We got $2.5 billion.

While previous administrations had higher investments and expenditures, our economic figures are much rosier today because based on the numbers supplied by our Bureau of Customs, we are importing much less. Are we to believe that we are importing less oil, less rice, less electronic goods, less vehicles and so on? Or is it because of the phenomenon most everybody is aware of, namely rampant smuggling?

So our economy is doing better not because of the honest example and leadership of Gloria Arroyo, nor is it because of the legislative prowess of her 2 sons and brother in law. There are very few takers when it comes to investing in our country because of our reputation for unbridled corruption: the powerful can buy elections without fear and convicted plunderers are promptly pardoned. Crime and corruption pay handsomely here. Our leaders do not inspire us to become productive and industrious, law-abiding tax payers. The overseas Filipino is largely responsible for any economic growth worth mentioning.

The lesson dear graduates is one you think about every day. How to get out of this country and begin making a decent living. How to get away and begin living in a more equitable and just society. How to leave this mess behind and concretely help your family and country by remitting money.

We can easily become bogged down with dreams of a snap election or a double resignation or a mass conversion among our traditional politicians—everyone’s free to dream. The trouble with this fantasizing is that we depend on our same old tormentors to make things better for all of us.

I, myself am returning to the US in a few days. I will work hard and I will become stronger so I might come back to fight another day. In one of my favorite movies Cinema Paradiso, there is a scene where the young Salvatore leaves his hometown Giancaldo, and whereupon his blind and old mentor Alfredo throws in a final bit of advice: never to return and that holding onto the past will keep him from going forward. I am telling all of you to go and find your destiny but never forget the country you leave behind and all our unfortunate sisters and brothers who never had the chance to live their dreams. Congratulations to all you Grads!

33 comments:

pian said...

Our country remains in the rock bottom of the investments list despite the economic gains because we have a very free and critical media which openly reports these corruption issues for everyone to know and see, compared to these other countries. I don’t see Vietnam to be squeaky clean on corruption, I do see them however to have a very controlled media which don’t openly report these corruption scandals. You wouldn’t expect a foreign investor in his right mind to invest in our country.
Your opinion that the growth in GDP was primarily driven by the growth in OFW remittances and not because of GMA would remain merely an opinion, even if these OFW remittances have been with us long ago, but only in this administration did our economy grew this much.
Whether credit will be given to her or not will always be in question, until this popularity contest in our democratic system is removed, so unpopular but capable people like you will have the chance to be voted. Right now, celebrities-turned-politicians have better chances of being elected, our voters don’t care at all if these candidates are capable or not.

Anonymous said...

Pian, I can't believe how terribly loyalist you are notwithstanding all the evidence, it is bordering on stupidity. Dr. Bautista points out that the remittances began increasing in 2001, an advantage not enjoyed by any other previous administration. Not unless you will claim once again that it was GMA who convinced all the OFWs to seek other shores and give money to your country.

Who is controlling the media? Is this paranoia? If there is anyone who can control the media it would be your GMA government.

Anonymous said...

To Pian, Asan ang economic growth na sinasabi mo? Karamihan ng Pilipino, gusto umalis ng Pilipinas, hindi dahil mainit, dahil masama ang ekonomiya. On paper lang ba iyang economic growth na sinasabi mo?

Pian said...

TO THE 1ST ANONYMOUS
Well, I will not claim that it was GMA who convinced these OFWs to seek other shores and remit them to our country. What I can do claim however would be that the one in line to replace her just in case was voted purely because he’s popular with the masses.
I can also claim that you’ve left it simply to your opinion that the OFW remittances suddenly rose only during this administration. That it was only the OFW remittances which were the driving force of the economy, in which case we wouldn’t need a President at all.
I can also claim our media is free to criticize the administration, while those other countries like Vietnam and Singapore are controlled.

Pian said...

TO THE 1ST ANONYMOUS
Well, I will not claim that it was GMA who convinced these OFWs to seek other shores and remit them to our country. What I can do claim however would be that the one in line to replace her just in case was voted purely because he’s popular with the masses.
I can also claim that you’ve left it simply to your opinion that the OFW remittances suddenly rose only during this administration. That it was only the OFW remittances which were the driving force of the economy, in which case we wouldn’t need a President at all.
I can also claim our media is free to criticize the administration, while those other countries like Vietnam and Singapore are controlled.

Pian said...

TO THE 2ND ANONYMOUS
E kung in paper lang yung economic growth, at least naman meron, so mas may pag-asang may mararamdaman kesa naman saw ala.
Kung may economic growth, sana kasi makita siya ng mga foreign investors, at yun ang tinatarget, pag dumami sila, dadami ang mga trabaho dito, mababawasan ang OFW phenomenon. Itong mga OFWs, nangyayari to sa maraming developing countries, most especially sa Bangladesh.

Anonymous said...

So Pian, you have no evidence of the economic growth you have been talking about?

pian said...

Yung ebidensya ko ngayon nasa papel na nirereport. Ayaw mo ata ng economic growth e. Pag walang economic growth, edi wala kang aasahan. Walang ebidensiyang kinakailangan.

Anonymous said...

Pian, why don't you give us numbers? And explain why people do not feel this economic growth. Baka naman dinuktor lang ang numbers, at bilib na bilib ka na.

GMA also won the elections on paper. Hello???

Anonymous said...

LOL. Even in the great USA, companies like Enron manipulate financial statements.

marian said...

pian, what will it take you to believe that your country is going down? the corruption is turning away investors and is forcing what is left of the middle classes to leave.

pian said...

TO ANONYMOUS
So di ako dapat mabilib don sa eco growth kasi on paper lang siya?
E ang gumagawa non 3rd party at imposibleng doktorin.
Pag wala namang eco growth, wala kang maaasahan.
Gusto mong maramdaman na ito ng mga tao kaagad? Hello??

pian said...

TO MARIAN
Well, what would convince me is if the eco growth being reported is false.
That this is the only corrupt country.
I’m part of the middle class and am not leaving.

Anonymous said...

This Pian is pathetic.

Can you buy food, medicine, education with economic growth on paper alone?

pian said...

Mas pathetic ka. Can you buy food, medicine and education WITHOUT EXPECTING anything because there’s no growth?

pian said...

O ito yung mga nangyari na bills na hindi nabigyan ng priority dahil mas binigyang halaga itong NBN-ZTE corruption scandal na nakansela naman. Take note: yung mga accusers sa Senado tumakbo under sa party ni Erap. Kumbaga pawang mga hipokrito.

Budget delay costs lives
Tell the truth about rice situation–farmers
Villar blames govt, P720-million fertilizer fund scam for problem
Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. blamed Malacañang for a supposedly looming food crisis, which, he said, could have been averted had the government used a P720-million fertilizer fund properly in 2004.

Villar on Monday told a press conference that they could now see in the reported rice shortage in parts of the country the ill effects of Malacañang’s lack of cooperation with the Senate in the investigation of an alleged scam that caused dissipation of the P720-million fund.

The amount, supposedly for the purchase of fertilizers, was used instead to buy overpriced and virtually useless chemicals as shown in a Senate inquiry.

Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, the project head, has been hiding and has avoided clarifying his role in the fertilizer scam.

“If there is low rice production now, one of the reasons are the missing fertilizers,” Villar said.

The budget was delayed because of wrong priorities: the flunked testimony of Vidal Doble in the "Hello Garci" issue, prioritizing NBN issue which is not part of the 2008 budget. All these are part of GMA-oust People Power plan, which again flunked, in Feb 25, the EDSA I anniversary.

Ito, pinagpipilitan kasing corruption ang pinakaproblema kaya tayo mahirap:
Jens Chr. Andvig and Odd-Helge Fjeldstad in their book entitled Corruption: A Review of Contemporary Research, surveyed econometric studies testing the relationship between corruption and economic growth. They conclude that the widely held assumption that corruption lowers growth is questionable because of ambiguous and contradicting results. The assumption that corruption repels investment and therefore lowers growth - which this WB believes as a matter of faith - is also "not entirely justified".

A. Brunetti, G. Kisunku and B. Wedder Credibility of Rules and Economic Growth - Evidence from a Worldwide Private Sector Survey in 1999 found out that if at all, the impact of corruption on GDP growth and GDP levels is insignificant.

We are not the only country that is affected by the weak dollar, but foreign investments increased in other ASEAN countries more than ours since the US$ weakened.


In 2006 alone, Thailand had 5x > than Philippines, Indonesia > 2x, Malaysia 3x. These are economies also beaten by the Asian financial crisis and the weakening of the US$.
Philippines is a choked state

It’s not because of corruption that gives rise to wrong policies. It’s the other way around: you have corruption because of wrong policies. Put right policies in place then corruption is minimized. That's what happened in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

so you admit that it is because of the failed polcies of GMA that there is widespread corruption. you said it yourself pian.

pian said...

I didn’t say it was the policy of GMA. Rather, the wrong policies of the country, like the presidential form of government in a multi-party system. That's the reason you have a multi-organized criminals in the figure of politician-businessmen as a result of the country being transformed from having an "organized" corruption (Marcos) to a "disorganized" corruption.
Here is Philippines with a lot of problems arising from lack of investments from both domestic and foreign. And here is paid media telling us that the reason is corruption. That's stupidity.

Anonymous said...

People have been expecting for years Pian. GMA and people like you have been trumpeting economic growth. Still prices are rising, salaries stagnant. People can expect all they want from economic growth on paper, and their children continue to stay hungry. Go to the poor and tell them they can "expect" medicine for their dying children, and show them GDP charts, etc. How many lives do you really think you can make better? Truly better?

pian said...

OK. Mukhang mas gusto mo no-growth scenario. Kung ganon ibalik na lang si Erap.

pian said...

I’m posting some good news, at nawawalan na ng saysay ito dahil pawang ingay na lang dito sa korupsyon. Remember, yung mga nag-iingay sa pag-iimbestiga, pawang mga hipokrito at si Erap ang primary backer nila:

2007 - A RECORD YEAR FOR PHILIPPINE TOURISM
"Asia Effect" Radiates Around the Globe
Intel does a Nano with Atom chips
The new class of chips is specifically intended to tap emerging markets such as India, Philippines etc …
Sun Microsystems eyes emerging markets
Bonds: A haven of stability - …we have emphasised the theme of buying countries with strong economic resilience and selling those reliant on global capital. …in markets such as the Philippines

Top exec of Citicorp advisory board cites impressive gains of RP economy
Philippines 81st in world tourism-RP has advanced by five rungs in world tourism, according to the World Economic Forum, ranking 81st among 130 countries surveyed.
World Bank hails RP fiscal performance

2001 - 11.43B
2007 - 34.80B

budget deficit

2001- 64%
2007 - 9%

peso status

2001 - 51.40
2008 - 40.41

external debt

2001 - 68% of the GNP
2007 - 36% of the GNP

Foreign debt service

2001 - 14.9%
2007 - 9.45%

GNP per capita income

2001 - $725.7
2007 - $913

Anonymous said...

thanks pian for listing all the positive gains that OFWs are responsible for. thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

"OK. Mukhang mas gusto mo no-growth scenario. Kung ganon ibalik na lang si Erap"

Tapos ang usapan. Can't defend your position so just be an asshole.

pian said...

TO THE 1ST ANONYMOUS
So you credit this solely to the OFWs and we wouldn’t need a president at all?

TO THE 2ND ANONYMOUS
The point I’m making is that it’s better to have growth than none at all. Because if there’s actual growth, then there would be hope of something to trickle down than none at all. But admittedly, this takes time. You want this to happen now?

dr_clairebear said...

Dear Dr. Bautista,

I am not sure if you have ever been asked to participate in The Blog Rounds, a blog carnival for Filipino medical bloggers. We're still a small on-line community, but hopefull a growing one. I would like to invite you to join us this week. The topic is At a Crossroads" and it is all about the choices we make as doctors and as people.

I know you have a very busy schedule, but I am hoping you will join us because I know you must have a lot to say on this topic. It doesn't have to be a new post, you can send me a post related to the topic that you've made a while back, and I will include it in the blog carnival.

I really, really hope you can join us. As young Pinoy docs in these hard times, we are in need of the inspiration and wisdom.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Pian, you have posted a nice summary as evidence of the Philippines' economic growth. Why don't you explain the process of this economic growth becoming eventually felt by the regular citizen.

pian said...

No amount of explanation could ever convince you.
But I’m convinced the economic growth is real for they shouldn’t have reported it otherwise.
I’m convinced the growth surpassed all previous administrations.
I’m convinced if we make efforts now, they will benefit us more than before.
I’m convinced that the one in line to replace her just in case she’s ousted was voted simply because he’s popular with the masses, just like when FPJ was voted.
I’m convinced her accusers in the Senate (where many are aiming for the presidency) are not really serious in wiping out corruption, but are simply grandstanding. Otherwise, they should have enacted laws by now, this investigation should be in aid-of-legislation. They should have brought this to the proper forum which is the court..
I’m convinced that Chiz E and Alan C are young trapos. They knew they didn’t have to perform in the House, they only had to make noises that placed them in the Senate.
I’m convinced these Ang Kapatiran candidates didn’t make it in the last elections simply because our voters don’t know them at all. That they only need adequate exposure to increase their chances of winning.
I’m convinced it’s our democratic system that’s illegitimate.

Remitter said...

The analysis is indeed thought provoking. Yes, Philippines is indeed not the best investment destination and this has to do with the fact that over the years the country has remained heavily dependent on remittances coming from countries like the US and the UAE. The investment possilibilities and potentials were neglected for a long time which has led to this. Topographically, Philippines is ideally situated and could have become a chief economic hub but if the infrastructure is not developed, foreign investors would obviuosly turn to other South east Asian countries.

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