Weapons of Mass Upliftment: Good Governance, Quality Education, and Sustainable Development

Article excerpt

(Speech delivered by Former President FIDEL V. RAMOS, Chairman, Ramos Peace and Development Foundation (RPDEV).)

AS we all know, citizenship is neither a part-time job nor a hobby: It is an everyday obligation. Concerned citizens like you and me and our national and local leaders must, therefore, work harder than ever before to create more powerful Weapons of Mass Upliftment (WMUs) to be applied against our real enemies, foremost of which are poverty, disunity, greed, selfishness, corruption, laziness and complacency. Our WMUs begin with quality education, good governance, teamwork, creativity, innovation, information technology (I.T.), pro-action (justin-time or JIT delivery), international cooperation, and other people-empowering reforms that will lead to our countrys greater competitiveness and sustainable development in the fast-changing world of the 21st century.

Our shared vision of a better quality of life for all Filipinos could be put within reach if our leaders in the executive, legislative, judicial and private sectors perform as they pray and pray as they perform, and arm our people with WMUs.

Over these past six years, we Filipinos have fallen low in world ratings.

Once we Filipinos were the model for all Southeast Asia. Our nationalist revolution sparked by Emilio Aguinaldo led to colonial Asias first free and sovereign Republic more than 100 years ago. And there was a time during the mid1950s when we seemed headed for longterm economic success.

But, in 1981, our neighbor Thailand passed us by. Right now, the average Thai is three times as rich as the average Filipino and Thai leaders envision their country being fullydeveloped by 2015 only 10 years from now.

Why have we Filipinos fallen so low? The findings of a prestigious think tank the International Institute for Management Development of Switzerland (IIMD) may show why. Every year, IIMD carries out competitiveness surveys of 60 selected developing and developed countries. These surveys suggest how the Philippines has gone down in recent years.

Last year, 2004 was the fifth straight year of decline for our country, starting in 2000 with a ranking of 35 in a field of 60. In 2002, we ranked number 40. In 2003, we dropped to number 49.

The Philippines is currently ranked the worst of the 60 countries in terms of certain key parameters in teacherpupil ratio, in pollution control, and in the ability to transport goods to the market. In government efficiency, which measures the extent to which government policies and practices are favorable to competitiveness, we fell from number 38 to 42. The Philippines ranked 52nd in business legislation and institutional frameworks meaning its rules and policies are not as investor-friendly as those of other countries in the survey.

Our combination of strengths and weaknesses

But what is really worth our attention is what the IIMD Report reveals about our countrys curious combination of strengths and weaknesses.

The Report says our competitive strength lies primarily in our workpeople. The IIMD rates us "number 1" among all the 60 countries in the availability of skilled workers. And it rates us "3rd" in the availability of senior managers; "4th" in people skilled in information-andcomputer technology; "10th" in accounting and financial skills; and "12th" in qualified engineers.

Our competitive weaknesses, on the other hand, lie in the prevalence of tax evasion; our poor infrastructure; and the level of corruption in government. In corruption, the IIMD ranks the Philippines as "2nd" from the bottom.

In short, the IIMD Report confirms what most of us knows fully well, and that is: Our countrys strengths are peoples strengths. But our countrys weaknesses are governments weaknesses.

Since our workpeople, our senior managers, and our information-and-communications technologists have the reputation of being among the best in the world, the logical but alarming conclusion is that the primary blocks to our global competitiveness are governments dysfunctions. …