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PRODUCTIVITY IS A MATTER OF NATIONAL SURVIVAL

by Rene T. Domingo (email comments to rtd@aim.edu)

We understate the importance of productivity by saying that it merely helps attain national progress, for progress is something that can be postponed and compromised. The point is that productivity is an urgent must for national survival.

Foreign debt. Inflation. Unemployment. Corruption. These evils that developing countries in Asia curse everyday will not go away through policies that attempt to surgically remove them. They are but irritating symptoms of a bigger, silent malady that afflict and continues to afflict the nation: wastefulness. We waste resources (that we can ill afford to). We waste opportunities (that seldom come). We waste time (that can never be recovered). And we have no excuses because our problems are not unique. The dragon economies have all experienced the same trauma, may even worse, at one time or another during their nationhood. But their solutions were different. Instead of applying band-aid solutions, government and business join hands, not in the spirit of friendship but in the spirit of common survival, to save whatever meager resources and opportunities that remain in the country, and carefully, patiently kindle them into a bigger fire that their dragon economies would breathe.

The sector in our economy that consumes the most resources is business - big and small. Men, machines, materials, and money - in short, the fate and usage of our precious national wealth - are practically consigned to business decision-makers we call managers. The wasteful attitude and decisions of this group of people can wreck and have wrecked more havoc to the national economy than any other group in the country - public or private. Worse, in our follow-the-leader culture, the managers' wastefulness is emulated, if not exceeded, by their subordinates - employees, workers, laborers. If we are to survive and prosper as a nation and set our priorities in the right direction, we have to start instilling and drilling productivity consciousness into our management population, the de-facto managers of the nation's wealth and future. Hopefully, this desired attitude shall permeate into the labor sector - the next most critical group that directly handle (or mishandle) the expensive machine and material resources.

Most business failures and losses in the country result from mismanagement of resources, rather than from inadequate financing, low demand, stiff competition, inflation, labor unrest, high interest cost and other reasons beyond the manager's control that are conveniently given as excuses to escape responsibility. In fact these reasons, real as they are, are actually what the manager is supposed to anticipate and manage, as his job. Seldom do we realize that collectively, these business failures, contraction, and closures, due to unproductive decisions by managers, cause most of our national ailments: unemployment and unrest, lost tax opportunities for the government, unpaid bank and government loans, spoiled raw materials, rusting equipment, wasted foreign exchange, and bad international reputation.

Productivity is not working harder, faster, longer. It is managing smarter and working smarter. We can try to do double-time what we have been doing, but we shall remain wasteful and miserable. To be productive is to ensure that, every piece of resource that we have - every barrel of oil that we import, every worker that we hire, every dollar that we borrow and spend, every equipment that we install - is used wisely and effectively to produce value and results that increase the national wealth.

National progress may be slowed down by the business sector that maintains the same unproductive methods and attitudes. Most business are suffering from excess and expensive inventories, idle machine capacity, excess and inefficient manpower, and inappropriate technologies. Their profits are wiped out or their losses aggravated by huge interest expenses to pay for loans that financed these wastefulness and inefficiencies. Our dismal level of national productivity is the bottleneck that limits our economic growth and exports. Our prime attention and energies are now focused on exports; but export growth is highly dependent on the consistent quality and delivery performance of our business firms. But quality, delivery, and low cost that permits competitive pricing are the results of productive methods, decisions, and attitudes. Unproductive exporters are uncompetitive - they would not grow and would not have enough staying power in the fierce international market. To have an all-out national export drive without simultaneously honing the productivity of our business sector is dangerous: it can just lead to more losses, bankruptcies, and permanently damage the image of Philippine products abroad.

The Productivity Revolution should not be a movement that begins and ends on certain dates. It is neither a festival with songs and slogans. Neither should it degenerate into the highly publicized off-and-on campaigns against corruption, prostitution, illegal recruitment, traffic jams, garbage, and the like. These social irritants are easy to see and exciting to write news on. Many would assign these symptoms to poverty; but poverty is only another major symptom or result of the real ailment - chronic national productivity that cause the hemorrhage of our national wealth and the fundamental weakness of the economy.


 

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