Iron out the devil in the details

GIL H. A. SANTOS

IN my last column I suggested the priorities for the Asean 10 to consider for 2018 to realize the predicted forecast that these developing nations will be the fastest growing in the next decade.

But in reality, that is easier said than done.

Like strategic planners and public policy formulators know, the devils are in the details of the planning and actual implementation of those priorities.

Let’s take the case of agricultural and fisheries production and modernization, among the 650 million population of the area, and still growing, guesstimated at 2.5 percent annually.

This case alone, involves education of the farmers and fisherfolk of the region, changing their mindset so they knowingly and voluntarily want to adopt/accept modern methods and devices of mass production, industrialization, and learn/internalize basic corporate or cooperative management.

It also requires that the governments liberalize foreign investment rules to attract sufficient financing for this sector, drastically reduce local corruption and strengthen local governments to enforce laws.

Additionally, the governments must extend easy financial or banking access for the emerging entrepreneurial sectors—the small business startups—which is now attracting new college graduates and young professional in Asean.

In Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines, the average farmer and fisherman are marginalized. They enjoy the benefits of free public elementary education. But their dropout rate is presumably high because they are the poorest of the poor.

A big number of their children do not go back to farming and fishing because their governments encourage them to work in the US, Europe, the Middle East and major cities in Asia and the Pacific for better income. They are the labor exports. Their yearly remittances to their families form part of their governments’ hard currency revenues and international reserves.

They are the major contributors to their countries’ consumer spending trend.

Of course, academic and scientific researchers will disagree with me and contend I have no formal survey to make my conclusions. But if in the Philippines alone, there are some 3,000 overseas Filipino workers who leave daily as contract workers in the Middle East, Europe, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, the Central Asian cities, and as crew members of international shipping, it is a no-brainer to conclude the same is true of four other Asean member countries.

Industrializing Asean agriculture and fishery also needs enlightened political leaders to encourage inventors and innovators with additional safeguards for their patents and new inventions because piracy of their creations is definitely a threat in this age of globalization.

Private industries, on the other hand, must do their part by paying considerable remuneration for inventors to live decently while working on their creations full time so the countries—and the unified or integrated Asean 10—can catch up with the industrial world.

Then, there is a need for the Asean economies to get fast access to accurate international market information in real time. This will need the experienced information gatherers—reporters if you wish—plus top political, economic, technology and environmental analysts for correct interpretation of all factors directly and indirectly affecting prices and market/financial movements/developments.

The experienced communicators/reporters/analysts will help insure the competitiveness of the Asean enterprises in the world market and enable Asean members to diversify their manufactured goods, or change to alternative markets, as fast as will be tactically needed whenever that imperative arises.

So how do we launch and jump-start this Asean prioritization move?

It must be endowed with the strong collective political will of the 10 Asean heads of state to do it. Hopefully within a year, at least, with working agreements between agricultural and fishery educational institutions and top government cabinet officials, and the currently operating government and private news media of the region can begin the operation.

But while the media in almost all of the Asean 10 are functioning, they will have to boost their manpower with practicing professional economists, geopolitical experts, technologies and environmental scientists who will provide the fast and accurate interpretations of developments and trends impacting on the region.

The outputs of these experts must include peeks in the immediate and long-term future of the Asean. It is also probable that private industries will support this because they can benefit from these, as long as their executives can see how the information are directly or strategically relevant to their businesses.

I know from where I write because we tried this when I was consultant to the

Philippine News Service more than 25 years ago. We failed because the geopolitical and economic environment was different then and the Cold War was still taking its toll in the region. Asean unity was a dream then.

However, this 21st century is more conducive to this type of initiative because of the current Chinese diplomatic and trade offensive following its rise to become the second top economic power in the world.

The nuclear threats from North Korea, the flashpoints in the Middle East and

South China Sea, the present war against international terrorism, the pending economic shifts in Europe with Brexit looming, the dropping confidence of the Americans themselves on their elected President Donald Trump and the deteriorating physical environment of the planet earth are, among other factors, also pushing this inevitable

Asean development to reality.

This is the time to push this so Asean economic integration can be realized sooner and induce inclusive growth of the area. At the same time, it offers the world its agriculture and marine resources as source of food, organic medicine, and young manpower in the next decades.

The odds, to me and other incurable optimists/hopefuls, now is better than any in the past.

Singapore is this year’s Asean chair and host of the 32nd Asean summit

conferences. To Thailand and Vietnam will pass the summitry gavel in the next couple of years. On them will depend how much ironing job they will exert to clear the devil out of the details.

gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com

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2018 may be geopolitically stressful

GIL H. A. SANTOS

Last of 2 parts

THE first step the Asean 10 citizens must understand and internalize, even in the remotest possibility of a third world war (on the presumption that the word war between North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un and US President Donald Trump will not end in pushing their nuclear buttons) are the bases of the actions of these two.

One principal consideration of any analyst of the current Asia-Pacific geopolitical and military tensions is the historical background of all the players in this game—mainly North Korea, the US, China, Japan, and Russia.

Important given factor/presumption is that the governments of the Asean members are aware of the realities of globalization and the vital role of economics in this game.

And they are using this knowledge, intensifying their individual efforts to gather accurate data in real time— then vetting these—and working to unite faster, trust and closely cooperate with each other so not any one Asean member becomes a collateral damage in case any shooting starts.

Of course, it can be argued that this is the ideal situation—but it is impossible to do in the immediate and medium-term future. In the longterm (a century) maybe!Most likely?

The reality is: the economies, cultures, and governance of the Asean members are on different levels of development due to their colonial histories.

Economically, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam (in various degrees) are ahead of the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Precisely, these are the major reasons there is the urgent need to fast-track the regional unification. It will be best for the Southeast Asian region, with its 650 million youngerpopulation (and still counting), predicted to be the fastest growing group of sovereign states in the next two decades.

It is the best peace broker in this North Korean-American verbal war. During the 31st Asean Summit in Manila late last year, President Rodrigo Duerte took the first step to be the concerned mediator and offered his services. This year’s Aseansummit host,Singapore, is expected to continue the group’s initiative to maintain Southeast Asia as a region of peace, amity and friendship.

North Korea distrusts Japan and the US because Japan had occupied Korea for 70 years before the last world war. It took Manchuria from China for its natural resources and lost it after Japan lost the last war as member of the Axis powers. The Americans, since 1945, still has military bases in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Americans themselves are critical of, and vocally against, their government leaders for keeping US military bases in foreign lands in this century. It is anachronistic and antithetical to their concept of popular democracy.

The second world war, which united the British, the French, the Nationalist Chinese (of the late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, predecessor of now the Peoples Republic of China in the mainland and in the United Nations), Russia (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and the US, also incubated the Cold War even before 1939.

It was the offshoot of the 1917 victory of the Russian Bolsheviks (headed by Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Beria and General Zhukov), which emboldened the followers of Karl Marx to push for communist (versus capitalists and monarchies)dominance worldwide as the alternative government “because men are not born equal.”

In practice, however, as is actually evidenced both in Russia and China, this is a myth. There is a “strong government” which translates in suppression of individual liberties and complete control by the central government. They both have adopted the capitalist principles of international trade and export economy.

But unless a Russian or Chinese is a member of their Communist Party or kowtows to the ruling Central Committee controlled by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, respectively, one cannot be a “capitalist” or “entrepreneur.”

For student readers of this paper, particularly the millennials, the Cold War was the ideological conflict between the Americans and their European allies on one hand, with Russia on the other. They were allies for convenience against Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Italy under Fascist Mussolini, and Imperial Japan of Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, known as the Axis.

(Before 1939, Stalin’s then Soviet Union, which had converted to communism the North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, Chinese leader Mao Zedong, and North Vietnamese guerilla-chief- against-the-French Ho Chi Minh. They were schooled in Moscow.They all returned home to fight, with Soviet war materiel and financial help, for government control.

(Mao beat Chiang in 1949 in their power struggle and he founded the current China. Chiang retreated to Taiwan, and was militarily supported by the US for more than 25 years. Ho and his military chief General Giap beat the colonial French in the 1950s and their successor, the US, in 1957—the Vietnam Wars), while Kim invaded South Korea in 1952 and launched the Korean War which ended in a truce in 1954).

Russia directly supplied the North Koreans with war planes and military intelligence during the Korean War. Russian and US fighter jets engaged over the Yalu River known as the MIG alley. China sent army troops and tangled with American (and their allies) foot soldiers under General Douglas MacArthur.

Russia’s stake in the Asia-Pacific region is quite obvious if you look at the world map. Its eastern side—part of Siberia—is well in Northeast Asia. Its Asia port of Vladivostok is opposite Japan’s Hokkaido Island. It has a border with North Korea and a long borderline on the Amur River with China.

And Putin’s vision of Russia is one of a major influential economic power, in friendly and peaceful competition with Europe and the West. Yet the Russian leadership has not forgotten the historical wars with Napoleon’s France, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, their defeat with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the popular destruction of the Berlin Wall which unified Germany, and their exit in defeat from Afghanistan in 1991.

Therefore, the question persists: are the Russians under Putin and the Central Committee not on a revenge mode by dreaming ofreturning their homeland to its “old glorious years”?

China has claimed it has not “invaded” nor “colonized” any country or people and its claim of neighboring countries (Tibet, Nepal) and the South China Sea; that it is a “civilization state” because it had been a “unified” country even before the Treaty of Westphalia defined sovereign states as a group of people inhabiting a territory it can defend against invaders, having abinding common language and history, and a duly organized government recognized by other countries.

But a cursory readingof a few published accounts shows this being questioned by scholars: In the early centuries of man’s development, communities expanded and grew into territories and eventually into tribes, clans and dynasties of families or ruling classes for their own increasing populations (though infant mortality was also high for lack of medical technological advance).

This was called “the territorial imperative,” or the need for land to feed, house and clothe the people. Admittedly, it is primitive but effective. And the only way to expand the territory is by invasion and occupation. China was ruled by families which intermarried to keep their land and continued to go to war—to defend their holdings or acquire additional areas.

The Qing Dynasty invaded Burma four times from 1765-1769. They have an 800-mile border. The Northern Burmese fought the invaders each time and China gave them independence.

Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty invaded Vietnam, then known as Dai Ngu, and captured the Ho Dynasty, which was ruling Vietnam then and occupied the Vietnam from 1407 to 1427.

China invaded Tibet and the current Dalai Lama had to escape through Kashmir in 1957 and is still in self-exile. He has not announced any successor but the Chinese under Mao declared thePachen Lama as the head of government.

China invaded Vietnam but the troops of Ho and Giap, victorious over the Americans in 1975, fiercely fought back, forcing the Chinese to retreat in March 1979.

Thus, the Chinese are still distrusted despite their financial and technological offers worldwide.

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