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Numbers more than letters

"China’s and Taiwan’s spectacular economic growth happened only over the past 40 years, and it’s not because of lawyers."


Those who quietly work in their laboratories, poring over numbers and coming out with formula after formula, contribute infinitely more to the betterment of life in this planet than those of us who use letters to talk and talk, debate and quibble over rights and legalese.

Of the eight million who graduate from the universities of China, two-thirds finish science and technology or mathematics and specialized IT courses. 

There are 300-million people in the United States of America.  There are one million lawyers.  In contrast, China has almost 5 times more the population of the US of A, but there are only some 300,000 lawyers in the country.

I am sure the ratio in Taiwan is also lopsidedly in favor of scientists, engineers, physicists and IT experts, rather than lawyers and politicians.

This was one of the topics of my conversation over a mid-autumn celebration dinner with a barrister from Hong Kong, who firmly believes that in a protracted US-China trade war, China would eventually win.

“Sure, Chinese companies stole certain intellectual property rights mostly from Silicon Valley at the beginning of their great economic leap,” my barrister-friend admitted.

“But now, Chinese scientists and innovators have levelled up and beaten America in technological advances.  A clear example is Huawei and 5G innovation, and in the very near future, 6G, 7G…,” he explained.

“On the other hand, American farmers are chafing over the results of Trump’s tariff walls as trade war tool.  As far as China is concerned, they can always buy corn and soybeans from South America, or lease lands in other more hospitable Asian countries to ensure its food supply sources, if Trump remains intransigent, or loosen up and import from the US, as carrot in the negotiations,” he said.

In that mid-autumn celebration, my barrister-friend introduced several fund managers, inventors, IT app creators, and entrepreneurs from Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Jiangsu, and Taiwan, and most of them were in their thirties and early forties.

What impressed me most, and the same is true for Taiwan, is how the educational focus is on science and technology, and applied mathematics.  In the Philippines on the other hand, the results of the bar exams are always front page news, and lawyers are placed in a pedestal in our educational hierarchy.

Not that lawyers are useless.  They do serve a purpose. It’s just that they are not as important as scientists and engineers, or even farmers in building an economy, or in job creation and income generation.

In this day and age, numbers matter more than letters or words, whether written or spoken.  Technical formulae developed by the human mind trained in math and applied to daily lives matter much much more than debates in the legislature or harangues in committee hearings.  

China’s and Taiwan’s spectacular economic growth happened only over the past 40 years, and it’s not because of lawyers.

Speaking of Hong Kong, I flew in for my friend’s celebration and flew out the following day.  Lo and behold, it was my first time to see no long, snaking queue in immigration, just a single line, and I breezed past it within five minutes.  The arrival area was eerily quiet, and the airport express train to the main island at best a fifth of its capacity full.

Hotel rates were so low.  Last year, we had to stay at North Point for an annual family gathering in November, and we paid almost double compared to what I paid for an upgraded hotel room in the city center.  

The protests, now going on its fourth consecutive month, has really taken its toll on Hong Kong’s tourist-driven economy. And although the opening of classes has somehow abated the ferocity and frequency of the protests, the issues still simmer, and the opposition to the government leaders if not the system itself has created a life of its own.

The hows, whens and whys of the political developments in the Crown Colony that has now become a “special autonomous” territory of China bear continued watching.

* * *

Meanwhile at home, the BuCor mess keeps unraveling, as the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings peel off one sordid revelation of corruption after another.

Thus, the Department of Justice under Sec. Meynard Guevarra is proposing to amend the law that supposedly strengthened BuCor while diminishing DOJ’s control over it. Left largely unsupervised by higher authorities, our penitentiary system has become a cesspool of corrupt practices where practically everything is for sale.

Oh, and please, when you do revise the law, would you please do away with those shoulder boards or epaulettes that give high officials of the Bureau of Corrections the privilege of displaying stars on their shoulders, much like military or police generals?

They remind me of the Italian polizia, long ridiculed by their more efficient counterparts in Europe as “all form and little efficiency.”  

As saving grace, the Italian  police and their carabinieri always try to look “snappy”; our BuCor officials, epaulettes and all, look as “shabby” as their competence and corruption sucks.

* * *

As we write this article, we learned that former senator and former Cebu governor Rene Espina passed away after a lingering illness.

Rene was UNIDO secretary-general and I was his deputy when we were still struggling against the Marcos dictatorship in the early and mid-eighties under the leadership of Salvador “Doy” Laurel.

A gentleman politician of the “old school,” I learned so much from Senator Rene as political mentor.

My profound condolences to Tita Pining and the Espina sons, Mari, Jean and Erik.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Numbers more than letters , science and technology , mathematics , IT courses , US-China trade war , China , Taiwan
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