Why are we always late?

By Joel B. Belinan

“My last visit then to Bangkok was in 1994, then in 2006, barely 12 years after, I had again the opportunity to visit, and to my big surprise it was transformed into a modern prosperous country… “

After months of pendency, the government’s Bureau of Food and Drugs under the Department of Health finally approved the use of Ivermectin to Treat Covid-19 infection. Of course, this had been a subject of debates for quite some time as the government from the very start seemed to be very reluctant to look at the application for registration even after all those reports that such drug has been approved and was being used in other countries. And of course, the motherhood government statement that they will have to do first the needed research, studies and trials was the usual voice we heard from those so-called medical authorities as if this country has the best system and capability to know than those advanced countries already using it. I remember at the start of last year when this pandemic was just starting, another drug made in Japan called Avigan had been snubbed by this government forcing its company to instead bring it to other countries and, yes, they approved its use and are now using it.
It’s not only during this Covid-19 time. Why is this country keep on being left behind by our neighbors despite the fact that after World War II we were the second fastest growing economy in Asia next only to Japan? In fact, we were once the envy of our neighboring countries as we were the first to become an independent republic, the first to have a Flag Carrier airline, and that their people were dreaming to visit our big cities among other things.
My Korean friend Master Sung Am Cha narrates to me their version of the story of how their President (I forgot his name) stirred the Korean industrial revolution (starting in the mid-60s) and economic development. Accordingly, after the Korean War, South Korea looked at our country with very high respect and always wanted to flatter our government. Apparently with the impact of the Korean War their country was in a mess and poverty was the main problem. “We were always grateful of your government’s donations of rice as people in our country were always in need of it,” my friend said.
Then according to him during the first year of President Marcos’ presidency (maybe 1965), a gathering of international leaders in Manila was attended by their Korean president. Marcos who seemed to look down on the Korean president and his country and arranged the seat for the Korean leader at the back of the other world leaders. Upon arrival at the airport in Seoul, the Korean leader in his speech, said that other people in the world looked down on South Korea because its people were poor and he himself had to endure such embarrassing treatment. He, however, told his people that they should not take such treatment negatively and, instead, he challenged them to do everything they could to transform their country into a better one. “In this regard, please just follow what I say. Don’t ask so many questions and just follow my plans and let us attain prosperity. These I remember were our President’s words at that time.” Of course, he said it in the Korean language, Master Cha said.
Accordingly, the Korean president’s first move was the revival of the already dead Korean steel industry and immediately employed 500 thousand workers. This, however, immediately grew to become millions in just a few months which started the massive industrialization of South Korea. In 1988, South Korea first hosted the World Summer Olympics (Seoul Olympics) and as, everyone knows, a country usually announces to the world its economic and other kinds of progress by hosting big events like the Olympics. Korea is now one of the most prosperous countries in the World while we had been left in stagnation.
In the early 1990s, I used to pass by Bangkok, Thailand due to the nature of our task as missionaries of Ananda Marga. At that time, Bangkok was being touted as the AIDs and traffic capital of the World. I remember, our population then was almost the same as that of Thailand. Of course, based on land area, it is much wider.
They also were suffering from all sorts of problems that third world countries have like squatter colonies occupying roads right of way in cities while their rural provinces suffered from much-needed infrastructures and, yes, they were constantly disturbed by political intramurals such as crippling demonstrations, military coups or military mutinies and takeovers.
My last visit then to Bangkok was in 1994, then in 2006, barely 12 years after, I had again the opportunity to visit, and to my big surprise it was transformed into a modern prosperous country. Of course, prior to that, there had been a lot of news about how Thailand was marching towards prosperity but what actually appeared before my eyes were so shocking.
Their main International Airport could even rival the Changi International Airport of Singapore including the number of flights, in and out. The highway that leads to the city was so wide with a skyway that directly connects with downtown Bangkok. The roadside shanty towns that used to congest the roads have been cleared, while the once murky Bangkok river had been cleared and even became another transport avenue at the same time a tourist destination. Then I came to know that their population had stabilized and avoided an explosion unlike ours. They are barely 70 million now while we are already 110million. “The traffic and AIDs capital of the world” is not anymore proper to describe Bangkok.
What about in other fields of development like in sports where we used to always compete with Indonesia for the SEA Games supremacy? We are of course left far behind that we could only lord over the South East Asian Sports events only when we hosted them.
Indeed this current pandemic has been wreaking havoc everywhere but the suffering depended on the national leaders. Corporations have been leaving China since last year transferring to Vietnam (the most preferred country), Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Thailand. The Philippines have not been a very attractive destination due to the current government’s policies, among other factors. According to information, Vietnam is now saturated with so many corporations starting anew. Bangladesh is almost in the same situation while small countries like Cambodia and Laos have very small human resources to support industries. Myanmar with its brewing civil war is not an option. Thailand on the other hand seems not too keen on these industries and has been very selective on what to welcome. The Philippines has the best opportunity as the next option but is losing the chance due to the complete lack of an effective plan of the government to deal with the current situation. That leaves Indonesia as the only other option around. **

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