Back in 1975, I was invited by Professor Erhard Meister (RIP) of the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt in West Germany to spend a year there to give lectures, do mathematical research and to assist him in supervising a student’s doctoral thesis. I took a sabbatical leave from the University of Regina and brought my whole family there to taste the European life and for me to expand my professional horizon.
I have always been an admirer of Germany despite the two debacles brought about by German leaders, namely, Kaiser Wilhelm who lost World War I in 1918 and Adolf Hitler who lost World War II in 1945. Our one year stay in Europe was most exhilarating and educational. Besides getting the children into German schools we had many side trips around Germany and Europe including Rome, Paris, London, Innsbruck, and Edinburgh. We learned to know more of the German people. They are serious, hard-working, intelligent, and have a great sense of humor, especially after a pint or two of German Pilsner.
When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989 and Germany was reunified, I was thoroughly impressed by the wisdom and compassion of the German people towards each other. To date, Germany has poured nearly $2 trillion in rebuilding East Germany neglected by the communists. (I remember in 1975 when I was invited to give a lecture at the University of Berlin, I had to drive through East Germany to get to Berlin and we noted the desolate treeless landscape we went through on unmaintained dusty roads for two hours.) Next time you have a chance to go to Europe, visit the eastern part of Germany and see the new autobahns, railways, stadia, landscaping and new housing developments.
But Germany also looks outward as trillions and trillions of Euros are borrowed from the German government and banks by countries especially in the south such as Greece, Spain and Portugal. And to think that these countries were on the winning Allied side and not decimated and defeated as Germany was in 1945. So much is coming from Germany to the rest of Europe in terms of money, products and technology that a new term is coined, namely the “Germanization” of Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be achieving without shedding a drop of blood what Wilhelm and Hitler desperately wanted, namely a German Europe.
So how did Germany rise from the ashes of WWII and become like the doting uncle/ savior for a bedraggled southern Europe teetering on near bankruptcy? I’d say wise management of their economy, honest government and plain hard work. Countries ridden with corruption including our beloved Philippines under Marcos will take a step forward and two backwards. Basically, it is the love of one’s country more than one’s self that propels a nation’s progress.
Shall we emulate Germany? The April 25th issue of Financial Times has a heartening report by David Pilling that the Philippines is moving in the right direction. Essentially, these are what he reported.
The Philippines, after years of indebtedness, is a net creditor. Overseas remittances from millions of kababayans working abroad have added nearly $80 billion to our foreign exchange reserves. We are also helping the labor and professional shortages of mature economies such as Canada, the U. S. and European countries. Philippine call-centers have grown exponentially adding billions to our economy, thanks to our facility with the English language and the computer.
The deficit has narrowed down to a manageable 2 per cent. Government spending has been kept in check with subsidies on fuel and power being scrapped. Belt tightening is the order of the day.
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino has made a good start. For one, his government has sent out a strong message that it will not tolerate corruption, a distinct change from past governments which thrived on it. Noynoy has instructed tax collectors to go after evaders including some big names. The tax take has edged up even without necessary tax reform.
The Aquino government is also restoring rice self-sufficiency after the country was forced to import a fifth of its needs in 2008. It is also making public-private partnerships to build the roads, railways and power stations that have failed to keep pace with an exploding young population. We are nearly 100 million.To top all of these, many well-established scientists, engineers and other professionals are returning to help in the education and refocusing of our young Filipinos. The Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) is one organization encouraging its members to do so.
We are not thinking of “Philippinizing” Asia but it feels good if we can leave the company of have-nots and join the haves. We can borrow a page from Germany’s book of progress.