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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Several factors behind Cebu’s success

I REFER to the article by Karim Raslan “A quiet sense of optimism rules” (The Star, April 20) which highlights the success of Cebu in the Philippines.

It’s a good read, and I hope our politicians took the time to read it too. I can relate to much that he has written, having spent almost 10 years in that lovely country, organising start-up joint venture companies with Philippine government corporations.

The Philippines’ growth has been and is still being stunted by corrupt politics with strong nepotistic tendencies, an administration bogged down by serious bureaucratic inefficiencies, and a totally egoistic legal profession.

I thought then that Malaysia was a shining model in South-East Asia but sadly now we are “closing” up on our neighbours. What their politicians cannot grab through legal and ethical means, they resort to using “nationalistic” pride as the excuse.

Manila Hotel and Terminal 3 are two examples where foreigners have invested heavily and have subsequently lost due to “nationalistic” reasons as ruled by the courts.

I would like to add one more reason why Cebu seemingly is able to, as you said, slowly move forward. Its economy is supported by the services sector (call centres, software development, etc).

Underpinning the success has been their ready acceptance of the English language as the language of business, the judiciary and even among people from all walks of life.

In spite of it being colonised for more than 400 years by Spaniards, Filipinos took to the English language like ducks to water after a short 50-year rule by the Americans.

I would say their average proficiency in the English language has made all the difference. We need to take a hard look at ourselves, and may I suggest here that we should look beyond race and religion.

TAM YENG SIANG,
Petaling Jaya.

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