Righteousness: The Only Solid Foundation Upon Which Reforms Can Thrive

Why Fighting Corruption is not Enough
By Walden Bello

After nine years of witnessing increasing poverty among the masses and spiraling corruption in high places, it is understandable that Filipinos see a strong correlation between corruption and poverty. And the judgment of many is probably correct that the candidates that are free of the taint of corruption stand the best chance of turning this country around. Moral leadership may not be a sufficient condition for successful leadership but it certainly has become a necessary condition in a country that has been so deprived of exemplary public figures like the Philippines.

Corruption, however, has become the explanation for all our ills, and this brings with it the danger that, after the elections, campaign rhetoric might substitute for hard analysis on the causes of poverty, leading to wrong, ineffectual prescriptions for dealing with the country’s number one problem.

Let me be more explicit: Corruption must be condemned and corrupt officials must be prosecuted because being a violation of public trust, corruption undermines faith in government and leads to an erosion of the moral bonds among citizens that serve as the foundation of good governance. Corruption, however, is unlikely to be the main cause of poverty. Wrongheaded policies are, and clean-cut technocrats have been responsible for more poverty than corrupt politicians.

The complex of policies that have pushed the Philippines into the economic quagmire over the last 30 years might be summed up in that formidable term: structural adjustment. Also known as neoliberal restructuring, it involved prioritization of debt repayment; conservative macroeconomic management that involving huge cutbacks in government spending; trade and financial liberalization; privatization and deregulation; and export-oriented production. Structural adjustment came to the Philippines courtesy of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, but it was internalized and disseminated as doctrine by local technocrats and economists as doctrine.

Prioritizing Debt Repayment

Corazon Aquino was personally honest and her contribution to the reestablishment of democracy was indispensable, but her submitting to the International Monetary Fund's demand to prioritize debt repayment over development brought about a decade of stagnation and continuing poverty. Interest payments as a percentage of total government expenditures went from 7 percent in 1980 to 28 percent in 1994. Capital expenditures, on the other hand, plunged from 26 percent to 16 percent. Since government is the biggest investor in the Philippines—indeed in any economy—the radical stripping away of capital expenditures goes a long way toward explaining the stagnant one percent average yearly growth in gross domestic product in the 1980’s and the 2.3 per cent rate in the first half of the 1990’s.

In contrast, our Southeast Asian neighbors ignored the IMF’s prescriptions. They limited debt servicing while ramping up government capital expenditures in support of growth. Not surprisingly, they grew by 6 to 10 percent from 1985 to 1995, attracting massive Japanese investment while the Philippines barely grew and gained the reputation of a depressed market that repelled investors.

Trade and Financial Liberalization

When Fidel Ramos came to power in 1992, the main agenda of his technocrats was to bring down all tariffs to 0 to 5 percent and bring the Philippines into the World Trade Organization and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), moves that were intended to make trade liberalization irreversible. A pick-up in the growth rate in the early years of Ramos sparked hope, but the green shoots were more apparent than real, and they were, at any rate, crushed as a result of another neoliberal policy: financial liberalization. The elimination of foreign exchange controls and restrictions of speculative investment attracted billions of dollars in the period 1993-1997. But this also meant that when panic hit the ranks of foreign investors in Asia in the summer of 1997, the same lack of capital controls facilitated the stampede of billions of dollars from the country in a few short weeks in mid-1997. This pushed the economy into recession and stagnation in the next few years.

The Estrada administration did not reverse course, and under the presidency of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, neoliberal policies continued to reign. New liberalization initiatives in the next few years were initiated on the trade front, with the government negotiating free trade agreements with Japan and China. These pacts were entered into despite clear evidence that trade liberalization was destroying the two pillars of the economy, industry and agriculture.

Radical unilateral trade liberalization severely destabilized our manufacturing sector, with textile and garments firms, for instance, being drastically reduced from 200 in 1970 to 10 in recent years. As one of Arroyo’s finance secretaries admitted, “there’s an uneven implementation of trade liberalization, which was to our disadvantage.” While he speculated that consumers might have benefited from the tariff liberalization, he acknowledged that “it has killed so many local industries.”

As for agriculture, the liberalization of our agricultural trade after we joined the World Trade Organization in 1995 transformed the Philippines from a net food exporting country and consolidated it into a net food importing country after the mid-1990’s. The year 2010 is the year that the China ASEAN Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiated by the Arroyo administration goes into effect, and the prospect of cheap Chinese produce flooding our markets has made our vegetable farmers fatalistic about their survival.

Click here to read full text.

Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain. (Psalms 127:1)

In the absence of a corruption-free governance in a society (corruption-free, in a deeper sense, free from spiritual corruption, that the divine principles of righteousness bring), no governmental and societal reform could ever succeed. No matter how strong and complex a structure may be built but if it sits on a weak foundation, it will just be a matter of time and the whole structure will fall miserably as soon as its weak foundation is crushed by its weight. The very heavy demands of genuine reforms' structural framework alone (click the figure above to enlarge and see the diagram) will already need the support of a very strong and most stable foundation.

[Luke 6:47-49] Everyone who comes to me, and hears my words, and does them, I will show you who he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on the rock. When a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it was founded on the rock. But he who hears, and doesn't do, is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

Right reforms work for the accomplishment of the divine principles of righteousness because they emanate from the intellect of man -- intellect that the Lord blessed man with which enables him to choose to do the good and right things that bring prosperity and blessings to his fellowmen.

[1 Corinthians 3:10-13] According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ [the Divine Righteousness]. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man's work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man's work is.


Link Between Corruption and Poverty

By: The African Center for Economic Growth

Since the end of the last decade the emphasis has moved from building public awareness on corruption issues to understanding the nature of corruption and its effects on the economy, society and politics; understanding the nature of the beast as it were. The global anti-corruption movement, therefore, has moved towards research and a host of rigorous tools have been developed to study and monitor corruption wherever it takes place. Hand in hand with this, efforts to combat corruption have moved from the moral exhortation stage to a phase that has seen greater attention focused on developing holistic anti-corruption strategies that are built on equal pillars of prevention, enforcement and public education.

In the past it was sometimes argued that fighting corruption meant mainly streamlining administrations and reforming bureaucratic red tape. The economic liberalization programs implemented by many African governments over the past decade and a half were partly put in place with the premise that the weakening of central controls on economic affairs would reduce discretionary decision-making by the government in economic affairs and thus corruption and inefficiency. Indeed, as you shall find out, economic liberalization in many cases has led to new and sometimes deadly forms of corruption and economic crimes generally.

What the efficiency argument proponents overlook is the fact that more often than not the inefficiencies and irritating red tape exists by design, not by accident, and that its removal is not simply a paper exercise. It is also acknowledged today that administrative reforms by themselves do not improve matters significantly, though they do help. The equation C (corruption) = M (monopoly) + D (discretion) -A (accountability) often used to explain corruption, omits V (values), and seems to suggest that ethics are an irrelevance. In studying the apparent intractability of corruption in many countries V (values) has risen to the fore along with other vital linkages that help present a more comprehensive picture of the nature of corruption in any given country. The link between poverty and corruption is one of these vital relationships and, as you shall find in chapter 2, corruption is an important cause of poverty because it promotes unfair distribution of income and inefficient use of resources.

Defining Corruption

It is not intrinsically useful to make qualitative distinctions between corruption in various parts of the world. At the end of the day it often means the same thing: the abuse of public office for private gain. However, this can be broken up into petty corruption, grand corruption and looting. Petty corruption involves relatively minor amounts of money or gifts changing hands where one of the parties is themselves a relatively minor official in the organization or system within which the transaction takes place. For example paying a policeman one dollar to ignore the fact that your car's license has expired. Grand corruption most often involves businessmen and government officials of senior rank and the figures involved are significant. Examples of these are kick-backs paid to officials on government public works contracts.

The third type of corruption is 'looting' and has recently been described by some commentators as large-scale economic delinquency. It differs slightly from petty and grand corruption, however, and is sadly prevalent in those developing countries where institutions of governance are particularly weak. It usually involves the kind of scams whose figures are so huge that when they are successfully concluded they have macroeconomic implications fairly quickly -- they cause banks to collapse, inflation to rise, the exchange rate to decline. The impetus for looting is often political and it happens under the direction or with the acquiescence of important political players in a given country. It often involves, for example, the printing of currency to fund fictitious projects, using public revenues to award enormous contracts to individuals who never supply the goods or the services. The primary movers in the companies behind these scams don't just cream off 10 or 20 percent with a cut within that for the higher-ups. In these deals the cut can be as high as 100 percent and most of the cash goes to the higher-ups. These resources fund election campaigns and pay for private militias in many African countries.

Another important distinction between grand corruption and looting is that in cases of grand corruption a minister may take a kickback of 100,000 dollars on a government road construction contract worth a million dollars. The road is built but its quality does not reflect its cost. Looting on the other hand is a much more premeditated activity because it often entails the deliberate creation of a government project for which resources will be allocated and spent but the project is not meant to be completed from the outset. If grand corruption is manslaughter, then looting is murder. Looting, as far as I can tell is most prevalent in a number of developing countries and I have also heard of it in relation to certain countries in transition. To understand it with a view to dealing with it one needs to examine the context that facilitates it.

Corruption As An Elite Activity

Many African countries are characterized by weak and vulnerable national governance institutions, such as parliament, the judiciary, civil service and police; a limited democratic culture; and, human, natural, technological resources that are not developed. Many of these countries are also characterized by an environment where there is limited awareness on the part of wider population with regard to consequences of corruption. In this type of environment, the very character of vital national institutions such as the civil service, judiciary, legislature, police and others are transformed. Even though one cannot sometimes tell from the outside, an alternative or parallel power structure develops that has tentacles in all economic, political and social sectors. This structure has one primary purpose, to maintain the ruling elite's hold on state power and, therefore, the primary mode of economic accumulation.

Many African elites of today have acquired wealth through connections to the state or via participation in the state itself through politics, the civil service or military. They are the ones who win most government contracts, are able to obtain loans from state-owned financial institutions most easily; are able to apply successfully for government allocations of public land and are able to lobby most effectively for government tax concessions, changes in investment regulations and the like. Corruption, the serious corruption that undermines development in the most sudden and debilitating ways, is an elite activity. When elites that are part of informal structures of power perpetrate much of the most harmful corruption, it exacerbates already serious levels of poverty and economic inequality. This is partly because in the economies where such elites flourish the governance institutions are weak and members of the elite and their associates are almost literally beyond the law. As a result the well-connected people don't have to pay the same taxes like everyone else; policemen and other junior officials seeking small bribes don't dare solicit cash from them. At the end of the day it is the poor and the weak who face the true brunt of corruption. This is a critical link between corruption and poverty. The fight against corruption in many developing countries like Kenya is economic because it deepens poverty, exacerbates inequalities and makes for economies whose very structure is skewed. It is also political because corruption breeds impunity and undermines vital governance institutions sustaining shadow power structures. The fight against corruption is also social and cultural because where impunity with regard to corruption prevails one finds the corrupt transformed into latter day heroes and the principles of honesty and hard-work become unattractive.

The fight against corruption is not an insurmountable struggle. The first step in dealing with a problem is recognizing it exists and this has happened in Kenya. The second stage involves understanding the nature of corruption and facilitating the implementation of viable anti-corruption strategies. This book, analyzing as it does the links between corruption and poverty, is an important step in promoting this understanding that exemplifies the second phase in the global struggle against corruption.


Choose Life; And It Shall Live Long

Obama turns up the heat for health care overhaul
By Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo News

President Barack Obama is trying to persuade a weary public and wavering Democrats to get behind his frantic, late-stage push on health care, while Republicans dig in and demand starting from scratch after a year's worth of work.

"Now, despite all the progress and improvements we've made, Republicans in Congress insist that the only acceptable course on health care is to start over. But you know what? The insurance companies aren't starting over," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday.

"I just met with some of them on Thursday, and they couldn't give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums — by as much as 60 percent in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this."

Republicans were not swayed.

"It's not too late: We can, and we must, stop this government takeover of health care," said Rep. Parker Griffith, a retired physician and a first-term congressman from Alabama who switched parties in December and delivered the GOP message.

The competing addresses underscored the urgency behind Obama's last-ditch push for immediate health care reform. Without a victory — and quickly — Democrats move into a fast-approaching election season without a major, tangible accomplishment that affects voters' pocketbooks. And with a chasm remaining between the two parties, Democrats considered passing the overhaul with votes just from their party.

That process would let the 59 Senate Democrats declare victory with 51 votes instead of a 60-vote supermajority. It also would allow Obama's team to get back to talking about the economy, which has shed more than 8 million jobs since the recession began.

Obama is pleading with Democrats to overcome divisions to seize a historic moment to remake the health care system during this election year. The White House wants to pass a health care overhaul and then campaign on it. Voters will pick candidates to serve 34 Senate seats; the entire House is up for re-election.

White House officials hope the immediate changes in the health overhaul would be enough to satisfy voters' expectations — and Democratic lawmakers who were hardly unified in support of the plan.

If Democrats pass the plan, voters would find greater consumer protections and a ban on discriminating against customers with previous ailments. Small businesses would receive a tax credit this year, insurance companies would no longer be able to drop patients' coverage if they become sick, and plans would be required to offer free preventive care to customers.

Griffith said leaders of the Democratic Party he left last year were missing the point.

"For them, health care reform has become less about the best reforms and more about what best fits their 'Washington knows best' mentality — less about helping patients and more about scoring political points," he said. "This is no idle observation. I've witnessed it firsthand."


The Constant Desire For More...

By Dr. Patrick Morley
Founder and CEO

On a drizzly day in June 1978, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn delivered a riveting commencement address to a crowded audience on Harvard Yard that would shake the foundations of the way Americans thought about themselves.

"When the modern Western states were being formed," he said, "it was proclaimed as a principle that governments are meant to serve man and that man lives in order to be free and pursue happiness. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to this end imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to carefully conceal such feelings. This active and tense competition comes to dominate all human thought and does not in the least open a way to free spiritual development" (emphasis added).

Two years earlier Francis Schaeffer wrote that the majority of people had adopted two impoverished values: personal peace and affluence. "Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity--a life made up of things, things, and more things--a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance" (emphasis added).

Why are Americans caught up in the constant desire for more and more things?

The material prosperity we enjoy is a modern miracle. In 1950 our homes were one-third their present size, no one had heard of an invention called a "personal computer," Greyhound was how America traveled, space exploration was an abstract idea, television was an infant, and a millionaire was a rarity. Our progress would make even Solomon burn with envy. Who would have guessed that, in the 65 short years since the end of the Great Depression (1942) and World War II (1945), America would achieve such a remarkable standard of living--even in the middle of such a devastating recession? Yet, our prosperity has a dark side.

The dominant economic theory in America in our lifetime has been consumerism. Webster's Dictionary defines consumerism as: "the economic theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is beneficial." Is this true? A glance at newspaper ads and TV commercials readily proves that, true or not, the world of commerce diligently applies this theory to their marketing and business plans.

All in all, America is sick. We have a bad case of the "-isms." Standing behind this constant desire for more and more things are a host of addictions to "-isms," such as individualism, hedonism, materialism, relativism, careerism, secularism and materialism. Materialism is buying things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.

The American opportunity for prosperity has spun out of control. We have created a nation addicted to consumption rather than production. Rather than an overriding desire to produce value and make a contribution, we have created a culture that wants the benefits of labor without the obligation to perform it. Richard Weaver says we have observed the extinction of the idea of mission--that men no longer dream of high goals like building a cathedral. The end result is self-pampering and eventually self-disgust, for the ancient truth that labor is therapeutic has been lost. Man's decision to live wholly in this world is evidenced by the worship of comfort rather than making a contribution to the public good.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with consuming. It is elevating consuming and consumption to a philosophy of life that leads to sin. Paul said it best: "Those who use the things of this world (should live) as though not engrossed with them" (1 Corinthians 7:31). While consumption is no sin, it is "pre-sin." Virtually any good thing can become sinful when carried to the extreme. The Scriptures put it this way: "A little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough" (1 Corinthians 5:6) and "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Forces That Encourage Materialism in Social Structures

The constant desire for more and more things is encouraged in social structures. The availability of installment credit, which Daniel Bell calls "the greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant work ethic," has eliminated the need to postpone acquisitions and defer gratification until a time when people can pay with cash they have saved. Today, we can instantly gratify our desires for an ever-growing litany of products, which--according to Madison Avenue--symbolize progress and change.

A fascination with new things creates a restlessness in modern man. Through the structure of advertising the ethic of "sell" constantly bombards us with the newest, most improved gadgets. Madison Avenue pin-stripers have created a phenomenon we might call psychological obsolescence. We are made to feel itchy for a new car, even though the one we have had for only three years runs fine.

The advances of technology give Americans "convenience, comfort, speed, hygiene, and abundance" in such proportion that there seems to be little need to look anywhere else for fulfillment, meaning, and purpose. Indeed, we don't even need to plumb the meaning of death because we can postpone it.

Forces That Encourage This Desire in Philosophy

Previous cultures took it as a task to preserve their culture--its inventions, values, etc. Today, this is almost seen as a wicked idea. Change, even change for the sake of change, is a virtue. C. S. Lewis said that what one generation called permanence, we now call stagnation. This idea inexorably feeds the desire for more and more things.

An evolution from community to individualism has made us a more anthropocentric culture. Today the manager and the therapist, products of this individualism, define the outlines of American culture. The assumption is that we can manage and fix everything, whether a problem in production or making someone feel good about themselves. We have seen a loss of language that speaks for the public and common good, and of a concern for community. The triumphant language today is that of individualism, a concern for the individual. This has in turn led to self-centeredness. Selfishness inevitably leads to a desire for more and more things.

Problems It Has Caused: Theological Compromise

The constant desire for more and more things has led to a syncretism between materialism and Christianity (if such a thing was possible). People begin to think the purpose of Christianity is to help them become more successful, and that if God loves them He will bless them with a temporal blessing.

In the process, people become cultural Christians, which is to say there is not any marginal difference between the way they order their lifestyles and the way non-believers order theirs. There is a God we want and there is a God who is. They are not the same God. Cultural Christianity means to seek the God (or gods) we want and not the God who is. It means to want God to be a gentle grandfather type who spoils us and lets us have our own way. It is to live by our own ideas, to be a Christian on our own terms. To be a Cultural Christian is to abandon the first principles of orthodoxy. Whereas Cultural Christians are a community of orthopathos concerned for right feelings, Biblical Christians are a community of orthodoxy concerned for right beliefs.

The church, rather than calling people to sacrifice and self-denial, too often ends up catering to the ambitions of its congregation. The church shows men how to be successful but not how to be faithful. Rather than calling men from materialism, "me"ism, and worldly lifestyles, the church becomes the agent of personal fulfillment for men who cannot control their appetite for more and more things.

Individualism in the church, the infatuation with the "new thing," and an insatiable desire for more and more things has caused a segment of the church to refocus on meeting the felt needs of people. Seeker-sensitive services often entertain the mind, but do not engage the soul. The church begins to offer its attendees support rather than salvation, help rather than holiness.

In this process the church becomes worldly. People become consumers of religion instead of worshippers of the most holy God. They come to receive a blessing rather than give God a blessing. They come to be entertained rather than to be broken. The congregation is looked at as an audience to be entertained rather than a flock of sheep to be discipled. All this comes from an anthropocentrism fostered by culture, but not expunged by biblical preaching. Instead, the insatiable desire for more and more things is overlooked or, worse, promoted as the essence of how God blesses.

Furthermore, the church has often been too seeker-sensitive by allowing people to remain anonymous without at some point calling them to transition into becoming part of a community of believers. According to Bellah, religious individualism must be transformed by reconnecting it to the public realm.

However, in other ways, the church has not been seeker-sensitive enough. The church has not recognized the confusion of the average Christian about how to live an intentional, deliberate Christian life. The church has not discipled men and women how to go "into" the world without becoming worldly.

Ministry That Is Sensitive To Deliberate Christian Living

Ministry that is sensitive must simultaneously respond to the survival needs of daily living while at the same time elevate people's thinking to the higher plane of worship, praise, and thanksgiving.

So how does the church balance appealing to seekers with transforming them? The church needs to begin where people live day-to-day. Today the church and culture are so far apart that preaching "bridges" must be constructed that bring people from the world in which they live and struggle into the Holy of Holies, where they can feel a fresh touch from the living God. To do this effectively, we must give seekers what they need in the context of what they want--real needs cloaked in their felt needs. Today people want success. So let's talk to them about success, but then transition into what constitutes true success from God's eternal perspective.

Meaningful ministry must call people to right things: surrender, sacrifice, suffering, and service; not to success. It must help people discover their identity and purpose in Christ, not in satisfying worldly ambitions. It must help them discover their spiritual gifts and calling, rather than endorse the pursuit of pleasure. It must help men and women discover God's will rather than encouraging them to write their own script--a script that invariably includes a constant desire for more and more things.

For the half of our churches that are getting it right, to God be the glory. Enter into His rest. For the other half, God loves you, but he wants you to "repent and do the things you did at first" (Revelation 2:5).


Shaking Those That Can Be Shaken

See: List of Earthquakes In The Last 30 Days Alone

(As it was spoken using the verse in Haggai 2:6.)