(By John Chen Yechong)
After 20 days in Philippines, lots of thoughts and confusion fill up my minds. Especially for a year staying in most developed place, Scandinavian, most efficient place, Hong Kong, and most undeveloped place, Philippines, the great comparisons shock me a lot. Doing profitable business in developing country is hard. However, the broader question should be why it is hard, and why the country is left behind.
Doing Business here is extremely hard due to the poor infrastructure. I am doing business project for the resort. However, the power failure is so frequent, nearly every day. To maintain the electricity supply, they have to generate the electricity by themselves which costs a lot. The water supply is really unstable during dry season. They cannot refill the swimming pool during dry season. There is no developed public transportation in the island, costing far longer time for visitors to reach the resort. Moreover, the internet development lags behind. Means for knowing the information are much limited. Essentially, people mainly rely on word-of-mouth effect. There is information gap and business is hard to promote among people quickly. Lastly, the business is always negotiable in price and others. In a developed market, the price is always fixed and reflects true market value. Due to the immature market, everything is negotiable. Sometimes there is no such business before resulting unreliable pricing. Overall, the market is not effective and efficient in Philippines.
Another interesting observation is that the price is not well correlated to income in Philippines. Price level is too high for people with very little income. The salary for waiter is only 4000 pesos per month while a meal set costs around 200 pesos (5% of income). Although it is cheaper than Hong Kong, considering their income, it is unaffordable. More surprisingly, many things are more expensive than mainland China where the income is 6 to 7 times higher than Philippines (apple cheaper, mango around price, motorcycle 2 times cheaper, etc.). In my opinion, the reason behind is that their production efficiency is too low. For example, in China, people have sea farm to produce lots of seafood. However, in Philippine, the funniest thing is that people catch crabs on the beach! Similarly, an equipped chickens farm can produce a chicken in less than 50 days while here they need half a year. In restaurant, it takes more than 45 minutes to prepare food after people order it. Therefore, the supply is not enough to fulfil the Philippine needs, pushing the price too high. Worse still, lots of goods cannot be produced domestically. Importing from China always raises the price. The only way to solve the problem is to adopt efficient machine and scientific method. However, this will result in lots of unskillful workers losing their jobs, making the society more turbulent, even revolution.
At this point, it seems that education is very important since it can increase skills of the workforce. Unfortunately, their education seems poor as well. During our stay in Philippines, we distribute soap and teach some hygiene knowledge to kids in daycare center and primary school. I get the chance to talk to teachers and students here and learn more about their education. Their teachers cannot speak English fluently. It is weird in a country where English is their official language, just like teacher in China cannot speak fluent mandarin. It’s susceptible whether they are qualified as a teacher. After school, the children do not have assignment or revision notes. It is hard to believe they can understand the knowledge learned during day. In daycare cente (like a kindergarten), there is only one teacher (with very limited education) taking care of children. This is not enough for children’s early education. For rural education, I cannot find some places for farmers to learn the new planting or farming techniques. Therefore, the production rate is low even though they have better climate. In China, government sets up lots of agricultural education station in villages to promote latest agricultural technology which boosts the production in last 30 years.
Staying with Philippine people days and nights gives me more chance to understand their thought. They are very kind and friendly but sometimes lack some basic senses. Their diet is very unhealthy with only meat, soft drink and alcohol. That is why lots of them are over-weighted. One small van with 12-person limit can carry 30 people. If, unfortunately, an accident happens, lots of people will easily get killed. There are many other examples like this, making me feel that the “right to survive” is under threat. Another thought that surprises me is their thought of poor. Their logic is that “I am poor because I am poor”. They like to use “poor” as an excuse but not motivation. Influenced by Confucius idea, Chinese people believe that hard-working can change our life. Therefore, in our value, Philippine logics is totally ridiculous and unacceptable. They are defeated even before any attempt.
Although I have tried really hard to live like Philippine and understand Philippine better, there are still lots of confusion. But I really enjoy life here. The experience in Philippine makes me know more and think more about people’s life, thought and situation in developing world. Most happily, they have lots of virtues that impress me a lot. They are really honest and sincere. Doors are always open even nobody is in house. People here are close and ready to help each other. It would be an unforgettable experience in my future life, the special life in Philippines.