The wasted collective intellect of Philippine society

01 October 2003

Take a moment to wonder: What happens to all the collective experience, skills, insights, and philosophies accumulated by our countrymen from the work they did overseas?

You'd think with all that knowledge, some of it is bound to be properly applied to the Philippine setting. This glaring lack of a nation's capability to tap the vast knowledgebase residing in the minds of its returning overseas workers further re-enforces the issue of our country not being an environment that rewards innovation and doing things properly.

Whatever investment we attract from overseas and from domestic sources are in it for the plunder. The Philippines is prized by such "brave" enterprises for its low-hanging fruit: (1) its cheap labour, (2) its EPZ's that essentially insulate them from the "real" Philippines, and (3) for the wide availability of government officials that can be engaged to provide "consultancy services". For much the same reason as the only advantage of the Philippine lifestyle (not counting the Friends and Family factor) versus a lifestyle in the First World is accounted for mainly by the availability of cheap domestic help, enterprises that remain in the Philippines exploit efficiencies that are made possible by the country's underdevelopment rather than by any virtue afforded by whatever dismal achievements made in the last 50 years of independence.

As long as this culture of plunder grips the land and the fruits of underdevelopment continue to hang low, the vast knowledge mines of our university graduates and balikbayans (returning foreign residents) will remain woefully underdeveloped.

It does not take any measure of genius to pick low-hanging fruit and the Philippines is the modern-day equivalent of the European Dark Ages. People of any intellectual worth are not visible in the arts, in circles of power, and in corporate boardrooms. Instead they lie low as technocrats -- mere advisers to the lords of the land. It is in such an underdeveloped society that power to determine so many people's destinies lies in so few people.

Philippine society does not reward people who invent fluorescent lamps or develop a way to shorten sitcoms to 30 minutes. The prize goes to the men and women of privileged birth who exhibit the ablest audacity and stomach to pick these low-hanging fruit or go to bed with the harvesters of these fruit.

We are a highly-politicised culture. One fourth of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs From Third World to First World -- The Singapore Story, was devoted to describing the innovation and thinking that went into the development of its winning administrative infrastructure and development policies. Filipino historians will be hard-pressed to come up with even one page that falls outside of the political arena for a similar book.

Email me!


Send us

Type In Your Name:

Type In Your E-mail:

Your Friend's E-mail:

Your Comments:

Receive copy: 

A Lack of Common Sense(back)

Click here for your good deed for the day!