Bedlam
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The only reason UK Prime Minister Theresa May is still there is because no one wants her job.

Last Tuesday, the British Parliament rejected May’s proposal for a negotiated exit from the European Union by a margin of 230 votes. That was the largest margin of defeat by any British Prime Minister in nearly a century. Many previous prime ministers were forced to dissolve their governments in the wake of smaller margins of defeat on key issues.

The Labor Party is putting a no-confidence motion on deck to force new parliamentary elections to be called – and, perchance, put that party in power. However, even less Britons are confident the Laborites have what it takes to pull the country out of this self-inflicted crisis.

The UK is due to exit the European Union on March 29. There is far too little time to reconfigure the terms of Britain’s exit and renegotiate terms with the 27 other member countries. Should the UK exit without a deal with the EU, most economists are predicting such economic chaos the British economy will certainly slip into a deep recession.

The hardliners in May’s own Conservative Party basically seek to dictate the terms of their exit on the rest of Europe. That is not possible. Notwithstanding, they voted against their own leader’s proposed exit deal.

Many British commentators have taken to calling the current phase of crisis and confusion as the “Brexit bedlam.” Meanwhile, in the most recent poll, it appears 80% of British citizens prefer a new referendum on the matter. That will open a window to rethinking this whole Brexit business – and probably lead to the UK to the ignominy of returning to the fold.

Those who wanted to leave the EU argued that the bureaucracy in Brussels stifled Britain’s independence. They threw up rhetoric about the British retaking control of their country. In fact, they merely disagreed with some of the EU policies, most notably the more liberal attitude toward migration.

When the referendum was held, many young and urban voters thought the idea of leaving the EU was so outlandish it could not possibly happen. Well, the rural and older voters dominated that vote and chose to leave the EU. Populism and nationalism won the day and the messy task of making Brexit happen began.

Now, Brexit turns out to be a dead end. Many of those carried away by nationalist hysteria now regret their vote to leave. They want to reconsider – although it might be too late in the day to do that.

Regionalism, interdependence and interconnected economies are the realities of this age. Nationalist demagoguery can only be entertained as a steep price.

The British people are not prepared to pay the price nationalism commands. They bought a one-way ticket to this bedlam.

5G

Last year, a milestone in the history of our telecommunications development was marked with little fanfare. Smart Communications brought full 4G services to consumers in Batanes while Globe brought the same services to Tawi-tawi. Every municipality of this archipelagic nation is linked to the mainstream of data services.

The interconnection of the entire archipelago is significant. During times of emergency, every community now has the means to connect to the rest of the country by data transmission. 4G technology allows our extremely useful smartphones to function.  

With the completion of 4G coverage, no community will be left behind as the economic mainstream is driven by e-commerce, financial technologies (including electronic payments), high-definition mobile television, video conferencing and the rapid transmission of educational material. Nothing could be more important for economic inclusion.

At present, current available mobile speed is 14 mbps. For fixed broadband, average download speed is 17.73 mbps. This is no means state of the art. But it allows tolerable download speed for movies, a factor that will soon affect the way our movies are made and distributed. At the very least, the available download speeds have made DVDs extinct.

If completing nationwide coverage for 4G was the story for 2018, making 5G available on a mass scale will be the goal of competition among the telecommunications giants in 2019. 5G technology will enhance the growth of our business outsourcing sector. It will force dramatic changes in manufacturing. It will encourage the more widespread use of artificial intelligence in the things we use.

Widespread availability of 5G will bring about revolutionary changes in our enterprises, making them more competitive and making markets more accessible. The two telecommunications giants are now making significant progress in adopting 5G. The third telco player will have to compete by offering cutting edge technology. By the time this third player hits the market, the technological terrain would have moved quickly ahead.

It is not true that the so-called “duopoly” have been uncompetitive. Apart from the race to make 5G available, the two giants are offering all sorts of promotional programs to attract clients.

Smart Communications, celebrating its 25th year, is even conducting a raffle among its subscribers dubbed “Amazing 25.” Up for grabs are MVP Rewards points, data smartphones and a grand prize of P25 million in cash for a lucky subscriber to be drawn on Feb. 28.

The telecoms giant is offering various programs that effectively bring down the cost of accessing data through mobile devices. This will encourage even more Filipinos to use mobile devices more frequently.

About 70 million Filipinos now subscribe to mobile data services. That should have profound social, cultural and economic consequences over time.

THERESA MAY
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