Friday, May 12, 2006

Lessons from the Most Competitive Cities Study

Rational Technology for May 14, 2006

"All development is local. A growing body of evidence shows that business growth is most supported at the local level." This observation was made by the USAID mission director during the presentation of the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project (PCCRP) of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

This is self-evident for us who live in a small town like Dumaguete, an implied creed to live for our daily struggles. But it's good to be reminded of this in stark terms every now and then. Given our continued history of patronage, e.g., "this project made possible through the office of Congressman so-and-so" or "GMA CARES", we might sometimes think that our efforts don't matter. Well, our efforts do matter and in a much more significant way than largesse from the national government.

So indeed, if, to paraphrase the saying, growth begins at home, where do we begin? The report offers this philosophy on competitiveness:

"City competitiveness is the ability of a city to create and maintain an environment that sustains more value creation for its enterprises and more prosperity for its people."

While there are several factors affecting city competitiveness (enumerated in my last column), "...foremost is the leadership value of local government officials, followed by the presence of a strong support system (business alliances and responsive civil society). Other factors influencing city competitiveness include the quality of human resources, presence of good infrastructure, and a stable peace and order situation."

The report lists down the following best practices:

1. Basics form the bedrock. Roads and bridges, power, water, and telecommunications have a significant impact on the development of a city.

2. Quick, simplified response from the local government brings down the cost of business.

3. Accurate and timely collection of statistics is valuable. Data builds into policymaking, resulting in regulations and ordinances responsive to current and emerging needs.

4. Ideas should move people to action. The constituency must be engaged through online availability of development plans, text facility, radio programs, pamphlets, meetings, and participatory governance.

5. The key to getting people to change their behavior sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation, such as health, cleanliness, etc. This principle is explained fully in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point."

To what extent do we adhere to these best practices? I think the report, available on request from AIM by the local government, should be the basis of a self-examination. It takes a mirror such as this to show us where we excel and where we can improve. Senator Francis Pangilinan, in the keynote speech at the survey results presentation, had these words of wisdom to offer:

"Cities must become pockets of excellence... Each city is not competing against other cities; it is competing against itself. It must surpass its own self."


  1. a cyberfriend has observed that people from dumaguete are too conservative for development, like when receiving money for port development, it takes a lot of fuss before the project gets implemented. worse, the project doesn't get implemented at all and goes to other places instead...if this will be the case, i guess dumaguete will continue to be a laggard in development and in surveys.

    but on the other hand, we can see also a genuine effort of dumaguete stakeholders to preserve their environment and heritage.

    we have also seen that uncontrolled development takes its toll on the environment and a lot of other elements. these can be seen in places like manila and cebu, even baguio...they just put up infrastructure anywhere, some of them, i would say 'walay taste' and just left out unmaintained and being left dirty...since dumaguete hasn't attained as much environmental degradation as these places mentioned, there is actually still a room to balance preservation of environment and heritage with progress...what we can do probably is for stakeholders here, both the conservatives and the progressive minded to sit down once and for all and to chart dumaguete's future directions taking into account lessons learned from other cities, as well as point out best practices from cities and places around the world that have successfully integrated environmental preservation and progress, and i guess we have a lot of examples...and learn from them.

  2. and one more thing...i wonder why we lagged in human resources when in the first AIM surveys Dumaguete was number 1...if the number is one of the primary considerations, then maybe this is where we are pulled down because dumaguete has a very small population...i guess dumaguete better move forward in hosting other high quality schools such as La Salle and UP as there were moves in the past to get these schools to locate here.

  3. Thanks for the input, Riche. Great insights.

    Different criteria might have been used for the human resources component. These studies do differ from year to year. The qualification for this year was the match between the courses offered to local needs, so....