1. We are not successful because we have American bases. (This is no longer true, but for a long time, we used to have American bases and they left in 1991.)
Germany, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Qatar, all have American bases. They’re all rich and relatively successful countries. For a long time, Singapore and Malaysia relied on British and much later. Australia-New Zealand air squadrons to provide an ample security blanket to fend off any external aggression especially during the Cold War.
Why then did these countries succeed? Didn’t some of our ultranationalist activists keep saying that the American bases were the reason for our sorry state?
Had the bases continued on. We could have continued earning crucial revenues in rental payments as well as maintained well-paying jobs for local contractors and service providers. We also would not have had to deal with external aggression as the USA would have provided a security blanket for us. We could have concentrated our efforts on simply building our economy.
Ok, so we kicked out the American bases… Did our society improve because we kicked them out?
2. We can’t learn from Singapore because Singapore is small and the Philippines is big. Singapore is easier to manage because it is small.
China learned from Singapore. China is the world’s third largest country in area and the world’s largest in terms of population. Malaysia is almost the same size as the Philippines in land area, and yet Malaysia also learned from Singapore.
One of the largest ex-Soviet Republics, multi-ethnic but Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, decided to deviate from the other ex-Soviet Republics which took inspiration from Western Europe and decided to “look East” for inspiration. Because of this realization by Kazakh leaders that they had more in common with Asians than with Europeans. They primarily chose similarly multi-ethnic but Muslim-majority Malaysia on how to run their society, and took part of its economic cue from similarly multi-ethnic Singapore.
In fact, what many smart-aleck Filipinos don’t understand is that oftentimes, the issue with size is really just a matter of scale, but the underlying principles are often still the same. After all, a big corporation and a small mom-and-pop family business both have the same aims: to make money and not go belly up.
The same goes when comparing small model airplanes against humungous jumbo jets like the Airbus A380. Regardless of size, model airplanes and jumbo jets all work within the same principles of aerodynamics. Their wing cross-sections have the same shape, and all of them move based on the roll, pitch, yaw, are governed by the counter-forces of drag and gravity, and must create both sufficient thrust and lift in order to both move forward and stay aloft.
All that really differs is scale: small model planes need very short runways while humungous jumbo-jets need extremely long ones.
Besides, the Chinese, thanks to their more than five thousand years of continuous civilization know his big-small concept pretty well. When Deng Xiaoping announced to his colleagues in the Communist Party of China, that they needed to learn from tiny little Singapore, the colleagues protested that Singapore was too small. But Deng was armed with a proverb:
(mă qüè sui xiăo, wŭ zàng jù qüán)
“The sparrow though small has all 5 vital organs complete.”
In other words, the tiny sparrow and the large majestic eagle both can fly and both have the same concerns.
Besides, all we really need to do is to decentralize the Philippines. So that we end up with easy-to-administer regional entities and turn each of them into mini-Singapore’s.
That’s precisely what China did in order to make it easier for them to emulate Singapore’s economic success: They decentralized the economic administration of China into more easily-manageable provinces and autonomous regions.
Who says gigantic Mainland China cannot learn from teeny-weeny Singapore?
Now… If China can learn from Singapore, why can’t we?
3. We’re not progressive because we’re still a young country, we only gained independence in 1946.
The Modern State of Israel was declared in 1948, Singapore became totally independent in 1965. These countries are all younger than the Philippines. In fact, Israel owes its existence to the Philippines because we broke the tie at the UN resolution in 1947 that partitioned/carved out territory from British-Mandate Palestine to create an independent Jewish State.
Kazakhstan became independent from the USSR only in 1991 and today it has emerged as one of the most economically progressive countries not among the former Soviet republics, but also among the fast-rising economies of East Asia. Why is it that despite having been under the economically debilitating Communist system of the USSR until as late as 1991 and being a young independent country, they are able to do the right things and become extremely progressive?
4. We’re not economically-successful because we’re not as huge as the USA, Canada, or Australia
So what was that bit about Singapore being progressive because it is small?
5. We’re not progressive because we’re not a solid country with one language and a single national identity
So what about Switzerland which has German, French, Italian, and Romansch all as official languages? How about Singapore which has English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil and so many more languages? Why are they rich? How about Spain which has Castilian, Catalán (and Aranese), Basque, and Gallego?
Were the Singaporeans (or the Malaysians) a “solid” group with a single identity when they decided upon independence to embark on a focused economic development program? They weren’t. They were divided by race/ethnicity, by language, by communal loyalties, by dialect (even the Chinese used to be divided and were oftentimes antagonistic towards one another), by religion, and by class background among others.
6. We cannot succeed because we are a Catholic country.
A large number of the countries in the top tier of the GDP per capita listing come from predominantly Catholic cultural backgrounds. In the 2010 listing, at the top of the IMF list was Luxembourg whose population predominantly comes from a Catholic cultural background. In fact, among the English-speaking countries of the world, the top country in 2009’s IMF and World Bank listing was Ireland, itself a Catholic country with a large number of practicing Catholic believers.
Besides, both Catholic Spain and Italy are still among the world’s developed countries.
There is no reason why the Philippines should not be able to enact modern policies that seek to solve practical and secular concerns. All that holds Filipinos back is the backwardness mentality and the refusal to want to progress.
7. We cannot succeed because we used to be a Spanish colony.
The Netherlands was once a Spanish Colony. Why then are they a relatively successful and prosperous country?
Moreover, we’ve all noticed how Chile, a former Spanish colony just like the Philippines, had actually succeeded in proving itself to be a developed country able to set high standards of planning and implementation during the rescue of the Copiapo Miners.
Likewise, Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century had actually ended up poorer than some of its former colonies who possessed the gold and silver mines which Spain did not have, and as such, the loss of the last few remaining colonies due to their defeat in the Spanish American war had actually taken its toll on Mother Spain’s coffers.
However, during the latter part of Generalissimo Franco’s reign in Spain, the Spanish Miracle occurred. Through the adoption of correct and progressive economic policies that promoted the entry of foreign investors and bringing in the capital and technological know-how, Spain prospered, developed, and enjoyed the second highest economic growth rate in the world (second only to Japan’s post- WWII Reconstruction).
To a certain extent, Chile also went through a similar stage of rapid economic growth at some point during the late Gen. Pinochet’s rule.
It is simply not true that having been a previous Spanish colony should condemn the Philippines to permanent failure.
8. We cannot succeed because we are an archipelago.
Japan is also an archipelago. Why are they still one of the world’s top economies?
Moreover, Indonesia is also an archipelago, and yet its GDP per capita is higher than that of the Philippines.