The need for a vision
I do not believe that anyone would be willing to sacrifice his life to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. I suspect that not a single Cabinet member would give up his life to improve the investment rating of our economy. Not even our central bank governor would go to the mountains to lead a guerrilla group dedicated to lowering interest rates or improving the peso-dollar exchange rate.
Yet, in the history of the world and of the Philippines, there were people who willingly gave up their lives. Today, there are those still involved in a continuing struggle that has nothing to do with their personal lives.
Sometime back, a foreign journalist wrote an entirely erroneous analysis of the Filipino people. According to him, the economic strategies of the Philippines are working because the deficit targets have been met and our sovereign bonds provide among the best returns in Asia. However, he said that while this approach works well in other countries, in the Philippines supposedly, the people want grandstanding and strongman leaders. He cited a Quiapo vendor who complained that his income has gone down.
As usual, these condescending foreign journalists arrive at their analysis from their rendezvous at five-star hotels and long discussions with members of the elite. A trip to Quiapo for them suffices as their encounter with the local people.
The overwhelming majority of the Filipino people, who do not live in gated villages and have never been inside even a one-star hotel, are not interested in any particular type of leadership or charisma or economic strategy, GDP, interest rates, currency rates and other economic indicators. All these are irrelevant unless these translate to a better life for them.
Mang Pandoy has been the classic example. Even during the years when the Philippines was supposedly on the verge of becoming a tiger economy, his life did not improve. It is such simple logic that it is hard to fathom why so many supposedly intelligent people cannot understand. To the Quiapo vendor or the poor rural worker or the squatter household, the president who can improve their daily lives in terms of nutrition, shelter, education, health care and freedom from harassment will earn their loyalty even if he or she has the most boring personality in the world.
I have a very well-meaning friend who believes that the key to Philippine economic progress is to lower our cost of labor and to improve labor productivity. How do you explain to the poor, who comprise the majority, that for our country to be richer, they must agree to remain poor, or worse yet, become poorer?
Of course, many of my friends who are economists and businessmen will tell me that I am being too simplistic. I will again be told that the economic pie must first be enlarged before the poor can start tasting a few crumbs. Perhaps that is why the common tao has stopped believing in technocracy. Somehow, even the best and most glowing economic figures never seem to translate to a better life. In fact, the opposite seems to have happened. Squatters are now viewed as causes of problems and obstacles to progress rather than as the beneficiaries of economic growth.
In the final analysis, our leaders in Malacañang and Congress must understand that just like in any organization, strategies, business or economic, are not enough. People will never be committed or dedicated to strategies and objectives. Strategies answer the “what” but don’t answer the “why” – and knowing the why is more important.
Our leaders must understand that the great leaders in history were those who provided their followers with a vision. It must be a vision that is more than just a rallying cry for foreign investments and economic growth. It must be compelling and must also touch the heart, and not just the mind.
The most important facet of any Philippine leader’s vision is that it must encompass the dreams and cravings of the Filipino people and not just of the few. Other aspects of what is considered a good vision come from the writings of Jimmie and Joseph Boyett.
Among them are:
• Evokes a clear and positive mental image of a future state;
• Creates pride, energy and a sense of accomplishment;
• Gives meaning to the changes expected of people;
• Is memorable, motivating and idealistic;
• Offers a view of the future that is clearly and demonstrably better;
• Fits the people’s history, culture and values;
• Sets standards of excellence that reflect high ideals;
• Clarifies purpose and direction;
• Inspires enthusiasm and encourages commitment;
• Is ambitious and grabs attention;
• Focuses attention on and guides day-to-day activities;
• Screens out the unessential;
• Energizes people to transcend the bottom line;
• Provides meaning and significance to daily lives;
• Bridges the present and the future;
• Moves people to action.
Developing a vision for the future is always difficult, emotional and often times confrontational because it is an exercise that combines analytical thinking and ideological beliefs and values. It requires a combination of both the heart and the mind.
However, without a vision, an organization, especially a government, will find itself engaged in confusing, incompatible and time-consuming projects going in different directions or even nowhere at all.
Also, if the direction requires short-term sacrifices, people will not make those sacrifices unless they understand why they are required to do so and what the relevance is to their lives.
Ultimately, the people will follow a person who presents them with a compelling vision of the future that they can connect to their personal aspirations.
I have expressed these ideas many times in the past and today, still find them very relevant.
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Last 2021 writing date via Zoom: Young Writers’ Hangout: Dec. 11, 2-3 p.m. with Neni SR Cruz
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