You want growth, but can you handle growth?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-07-08
“You can’t handle the truth.” This was the famous Jack Nicholson line in the movie A Few Good Men after the prosecutor, played by Tom Cruise, demanded: “I want the truth.” In like manner, we Filipinos want growth, but can we handle growth? That’s something we should all ask ourselves and seriously ponder.

Every Filipino wants economic growth for our country and we all hope to participate in that growth just as we could all use the extra cash. In pressing for economic growth, Filipinos must also play a role in generating that growth. The government can only provide the right environment for more economic activities. To achieve growth, Filipinos must reciprocate with individual productivity that’s founded on ethical practices.

How can a Filipino household grow in income and improve its standard of living when the father of the family prefers not to work and just drink with friends? In his endeavor to provide every Filipino family a home, build communities and form a stronger nation — Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga (GK) discovered that many fathers are major obstacles to household growth and often it’s the mothers who struggle to make ends meet.

Preferred indolence is a bigger obstacle to attaining economic growth than lack of jobs. How many times have we seen some families move up financially because of pooled hard work (UNITY) and resourcefulness (PROFICIENCY)? The average Filipino is one of the smartest in the world. How many times have we heard the government say that there are lots of jobs available, but many who need jobs are simply not qualified? In many cases, government has provided jobs but some of our countrymen just didn’t exert the effort to prepare to qualify for the jobs available.

Manny Pacquiao’s phenomenal rise from poverty should serve as an inspiration to the many Filipinos who adore him. Pacquiao did not win all his titles from just sitting around street corners and drinking his time away — but from hard work to become the best in his weight category. Wishful thinking on the part of Pacquiao could not have defeated boxing greats like Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez. If Pacquiao daydreamed most of the time, Morales and Marquez would have made ground meat out of him, and they’d have eaten him as a taco.

Unfortunately, as observed by many groups who have been trying to uplift the poorest communities — like GK and the Focolare’s Bukas Palad (open hands) community development and nation building endeavors — there can no improvement if the very person who should lead the family happens to be the big boil on the heel of progress. Indolent fathers would also tend to spawn indolent sons. Early on in life they think that the father of the family isn’t supposed to work but just enjoy life. The cycle of poverty remains unbroken because there has been no effort to institute self-reform.

The indolent Filipino is seen in those who are the targeted beneficiaries of reform but offer the biggest resistance to reform. Look at those who are complaining about the K to 12 Education Program that’s designed to produce high school graduates who will qualify to fill jobs. The complaint is ridiculous if you think about it. One of the biggest impediments to getting a good job is the lack of skills. The education program was designed to rectify that situation. How can these beneficiaries of K to 12 want two less years of schooling that keeps them unemployed to two more years of schooling that will provide them with jobs?

The seriousness of the government to address poverty the right way has also resulted in the implementation of the CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) program of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). Since many of the poorest in our society operate on a meal-to-meal basis and are unable to think medium term or long term — the CCT eliminates a good load of the parents by providing the stipend. Reciprocity on the part of the family beneficiary is to ensure that their children all go to school and are provided the proper environment for learning. Part of that proper environment for learning is adequate nutrition. Badly nourished kids cannot think as fast as those who are fed an ideal diet.

The CCT and K to 12 are similar to Manny Pacquiao’s killer punch combinations. CCT and K to 12 combined will bring the poor child into school where a job is available after 12 years of schooling. This is essentially inclusive growth. It doesn’t rely on the so-called trickle down effect, which never came during our few boom times. The government opted to bring the poor to the bonanza instead of waiting for the bonanza to find its way to the poor. The CCT has been proved to work wonders in many Latin America countries with a similar poverty syndrome as ours.
Its critics are wrong when they call CCT a mere dole out. It’s not a dole out because the beneficiary has to exert effort and reciprocate the assistance. It’s a dole out if they’re just given money and they’re not made to accomplish something. Many of the CCT critics missed seeing the big picture. Without this type of intervention, the poor cannot break their generational cycle of poverty. They’ll just continue to find themselves worrying where to get their next meal.

CCT and K to 12 are a government’s — nay, a nation’s — investments in its poor people. The payoff comes when these kids become productive members of our economy and they’re thus able to send their children to school when they too become parents. By becoming productive members of our economy, we thus are able to provide a better haven for investors, improve our tax base while lessening the amounts that we’ve had to spend on the poor.

There’s the old saying that you can bring a horse to water but you cannot force it to drink. Our poorest of the poor are expected to exert sincere and earnest effort to be able to participate in the growth of our country.

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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