January 17, 2005

WHEN TOMORROW COMES

“Hold me now, oh hold me now. Till this hour has come around. We fought for justice and not for gain but the magistrate sent me away.” --- The Edge singing for U2 in Van Diemen’s Land


When tomorrow comes to this nation of our birth, what door should open to us and what road shall lead us unto what place?

To be certain, we take some little strides forward, and we have gained them, as our exports grow and the remittances of our overseas workers (our modern day heroes) redound into more and more families that are uplifted from the cruel stranglehold of poverty. Yet, as we examine our terrain, our society’s flawed pyramid of wealth, there are still much left to be desired. Like upon a battle, when the smoke clears after the last gunshot is heard and we see the dead and the maimed lying on the bloodied warpath, we know by heart that battles may be won now but the war ain’t over yet.

We must seek our future now for if tomorrow comes, we have no regrets to drink to and have no blame to impute upon ourselves.

Now we seek the key or keys to our forward march into the economic battles of this global economic world where competition is the harshest ever and those who flinch for even for just a second would surely lose any economic advantage where even the richest of nations now are more inclined to protect their markets with inequitable tariff adjustments that favors the few that caters to their own interests. The GATT is never fool-proof in fact, even as we speak, many have already seen blatant loopholes in the agreed rules and conduct of trade that markets like ours could not compete with subsidies other rich governments give their own farmers. There were times in the near past that it was much cheaper to import vegetables from South Korea than source them from local producers. And we are just talking about vegetables here. Fair play is an illusion and we only must realize this. We see even the European states gathering into a strong union in order to build and rebuild their markets and keep other competitions out of the way. To compete then is never to depend so much on equitable tariff adjustments from more advanced states but should be mainly on terms of quality and standard.

The great Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once wrote: “Pity the nation that does not sew its own garments and pity the nation that does not make its own bread”.

The name of the game is self-sufficiency and resilience in trade. When we produce our own grains, then we do not have to bleed ever-scarce foreign currencies just to feed our people with bread. If we build our own cars, then we do not have to worry about being in the losing end of the economic game where we sell them commodities like rattan furniture and then on the other hand we buy from them high-end products like aircrafts. We gain a little and then lose heavily by gigantic profit margins. This is the apparent cause of the vicious cycle that we are in and that is why we continue to depend on foreign loans and aid to fulfill our budgetary requirements for the vicious cycle clearly indicates the symptoms of a bleeding nation and nobody seem to see the emergency situation.

There is no nation that rises without sewing its own garments. There are few exceptions primary of which are small countries like Singapore and Switzerland. Singapore rose steadily in the 1970’s by being the hub of British middlemen buying and selling anything from oil to silk and transporting them from one place to another—mainly to and from China mainland, which even in the past was already a very huge market. Of course, we know that Switzerland earns its wealth mainly by safekeeping other nation’s wealth and nothing much else. The Philippines could not become Singapore in a sense that the littlest of population of Singapore made it easier to distribute wealth into everyone’s pocket. We are a nation of tens of millions that we could not do business by simply becoming middlemen for other nation’s goods, to sell into somebody else’s market. In short, foreign investment may help small nations like Singapore but a huge nation like the Philippines, we need more effort than just taking in foreign investments. We need to look inward and see if we can create more wealth and become self-sufficient. When we sew our own garments, we can keep more hard currencies by not having to buy garments elsewhere.

When we can produce everything that we need then we will have lesser needs from outside entities and we do not need to bleed the nation for things we haven’t got. Productivity is the key to our nation’s success and self-sufficiency is our main objective.

Our engineers should have more buildings built. The lawyers more cases prosecuted and defended and judges should have more cases decided. Our farmers should reap more harvest and our fishermen should catch more fish from the seas. The writer should write more enchanting narrations and our poets should sing more wordy lullabies that endear the heart of readers. Our teachers should educate more children and our doctors cure more of those who are sick and pained. The carpenters must hammer more nails into more wood and cement while our taxi drivers should carry more passengers from one place to another. Our sellers then should sell more and our buyers would certainly buy more and more. And then when our laborers produces more sardines and electronic products, then they can have more in their pockets as the wages of their blood, sweat and tears rises also. And more money in the pocket of our laborers, the more they buy cigarettes and beer and milk and garments and the rich capitalists would surely have more business in mind. This is the cycle of our dreams, not a vicious one that holds us down like a leech, but one that will supplements us and complement every member of our society, and one day we could become a nation where no one is left behind, where everyone shall have a share in the pie and everyone moves ahead and not only the chosen and lucky few.

Many amongst us, the daily economists beside the leaders of our nation may at many times look outward towards the multinationals and the foreign investors with money to spare. But perhaps, we may miss the more important aspect of real economic progress where we only have to develop a self-generating system of economy by looking inward just one more time. We should give it one last try.

VERSE OF THE DAY. Matthew 21:22. “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
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