I’ve always been fixated on the notion that a man’s prosperity is directly proportional to how hard he works to attain such prosperity. In short, for someone who hasn’t inherited a trunk of gold from his ancestors, the only way to succeed is to work his butt off to acquire assets to proudly call his wealth. It follows that a democratic and capitalist society that promotes the virtues of individual initiative is proper and fitting , for such an environment offers a person the much needed latitude to explore his potential and the opportunity to pursue his dreams. Growing up in a capitalist society like Pinas where people had been brainwashed by the proverbial notion of the American Dream, I have seen how the value of government as a primary partner of prosperity diminish and the private sector being hailed as the true agent and purveyor of wealth and prosperity.
When I came to this country, I highly admired the right wing, conservative, pro-business political party agenda because of my unshakeable belief that a government must be run like a business. Working in the corporate world for sometime it was just natural for me to be influenced and blinded by the notion of productivity – less effort for more results, less expense for more profit – there could be no other way. I have survived the trials and tribulations of downsizing and became impervious of its social consequences, convinced that a company must be lean and mean and its loyalty to the almighty dollar the ultimate name of the game.
I lauded political parties that were favorable to businesses and disdained socialist leaning parties that subscribe to the belief that big and strong government is extremely essential, as if people’s lives depended entirely on it. I favored political parties that called for lower taxes and hated those that called for tax increases to boost social assistance programs. I hated the idea of people going on welfare and government subsidy because I never quite understood the concept. From the country where I came from, people never depended on the government for help. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat – period. I was averse to the idea of my taxes going to those people who don’t work. Deep inside me, I abhorred freeloaders. Heck, if I break my back working to achieve my dreams and wants, why should I support these people who don’t move their butts to support themselves?
After so many years living in this country and witnessing the volatility of politics and the unpredictability of the economy on the global scale, I have come to appreciate more and more the imperfections of society and the unreliable mechanisms that govern it. The Enron imbroglio, the war in Iraq, the oil crisis, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown are examples of the dangers of the wealthy turning a capitalist regime into a plutocracy, distorting the balance of wealth and shattering people’s hopes for a bright future. The trillions of dollars written off by financial institutions all over the world in the sub-prime debacle had shrunk many people’s assets. Many lost their homes, their retirement, their lifetime savings. The root of all of these was the capitalist greed, the desire to amass wealth at every opportunity no matter how risky. Who do they turn to now for help? The government ?
I hated the socialist principles but it was Tommy Douglas, the leader of the first socialist government in Canada and North America for that matter, who introduced and implemented universal public health care in Canada. It was the socialists who had the fortitude to think that the government must take care of its citizens when they get sick, that everyone, poor and rich alike must be given the same kind of treatment and more importantly, must not be burdened by medical expenses. In a way, the socialist agenda respects the fact that not we are not all equal, that there are the intelligent and not so intelligent among us, there are weak as there are strong, there are wealthy as there are poor, there are the motivated and the discouraged and those who lag must not be left behind and condemned for failing to make the grade.
I am gradually appreciating the virtues of socialism and the notion of a strong government that acts as a social safety net when everything else fails. I believe in the government being a primary partner to prosperity, not only as a universal health care giver and a donor to the underprivileged but also as a catalyst of progress. The capitalist pig in me still believes in prudent fiscal policy and reasonable taxation schemes for businesses and individuals alike. I would like to see an increased presence of socialists in the provincial and federal political arenas not as ruling governments but as strong opposition , to challenge and check the excesses of the capitalist majority agenda. Yes, I admit that I am gradually but cautiously understanding the wisdom of the socialist agenda on the pursuit of equal access and opportunity for all but I am not yet ready to turn into a socialist swine.
DOING BUSINESS IN PINAS
Back to capitalism now, how easy it is to start a business in Pinas ? A company that partners with global financial consulting firms to find out how the ease of doing business in 178 countries has come out with very interesting results. The company’s mission is to “provide objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 178 countries and selected cities at the subnational and regional level ” .
The measurements for the East Asia and Pacific region is not very encouraging for Pinas. In the overall ease of doing business ranking, Pinas is a poor 21 out of 24 countries. The detailed report also says that it takes 27 days to start a business in Taguig and almost twice as long, 52 days in Manila. In the measurements, Pinas was ranked 22 in starting a business, 16th in dealing with licences, 21st in employing workers ( I thought we have an oversupply of talent), 19th in protecting investors, 22nd in paying taxes, 17th in enforcing contracts, and 19th in closing contracts. The results clearly doesn’t bode well for investors and the government needs to do something to improve its efficiency in this area. The highest ranked in the ease of doing business amongst the 178 countries ? Singapore. What about Pinas’ worldwide ranking ? 133 .