It’s all about Competition

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Competition forces you to shape up, or ship out!

It is well-known that the concept of healthy and fair competition has the effect of an “invisible hand” that essentially results in benefits and improvements for everyone.

We CoRRECTors and other advocates of Constitutional Reform do not subscribe to the idea that human beings have to be saints so that things will get better. Humans are fallible and make mistakes. Instead, it is clear that when people have to compete, that’s when people improve: because competition forces people to shape up or ship out. Whenever there is healthy competition, unscrupulous behavior ensures that one’s competitors will eventually win. When there is competition, lousy service and lousy products lose out as consumers prefer to buy the better products & services.

CoRRECT™ – Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation is really all about Competition, Competitiveness, Competence, and Choice.

Let us review the Three Point Agenda:

1) Economic Liberalization

Companies compete against other Companies for Employees

With economic liberalization, we allow more investors into the economy, whether they be foreign or local. It is very possible to have local players comprised of talented local Filipino technology gurus (who unfortunately do not have their own cash) who are supported and funded by foreign venture capitalists’ seed money.

We will have more foreign investors and foreign companies coming in – instead of having to send Filipinos abroad to work for foreign companies in foreign lands – so that Filipinos can earn and learn (foreign multinationals often have good skills and personnel training programs) while being with their families, and not needing to work as migrant workers and OFW’s abroad.

With more economic players, there is more competition. Companies will compete against each other and will thus be forced to provide better goods and better services to the end consumer. Simple Law of Supply and Demand: Companies will be forced to compete against each other in hiring the best employees, dangling higher wages or benefits just to attract applicants to choose to work for them and not for a competitor.

Filipino workers will see that more jobs also means higher wages, with the highest wages going to the most competitive, skilled, and hardworking workers. Many workers will thus seek to improve themselves and compete against others, by learning new skills, and making themselves more attractive to employers in order to command higher wages.

Compare a situation that has an abundance of competition versus a situation that has a lack of it.

Without competition, you end up with lethargy & laziness. You end up with Despair. People feel resigned to the fact that no matter what they do, they’ll continue to earn low wages and they can’t find alternatives. And when they try to go into business, they also realize they don’t have much capital to begin with (and with the 60/40 constitutional provisions, generous foreign venture capitalists and angel investors are nowhere to be found) and even if they do, they may find that while there are many people, only a few have jobs that pay them enough to allow them to afford whatever it is they’re selling.

Clearly, competition is better. Economic Liberalization ensures competition, and economic competition improves our economic lives as wages improve.

The Philippines’ OFW problem is really nothing but a serious manifestation of the obvious lack of competition in the economy and lack of companies and jobs, forcing Filipinos overseas either as overseas workers, or as full-fledged emigrants.

When jobs are scarce in a country, people are forced to look for jobs overseas.

2) Region-based Decentralization (Evolving Federalism) 

Regions Competing Against Other Regions in attracting Investors

With Region-based Decentralization, the regions will be empowered to make their own economic and business-related decisions so that they themselves can decide how they want to attract investors to come over and set up companies in the regions.

Instead of a centralized unitary single monolithic entity such as Imperial Manila, we end up with empowered autonomous Regions who can compete with each other in trying to best attract investors and businesses. Whether it be by providing lower taxes or creating better policies, or it could even be by simply improving the efficiency of their own regional bureaucracies, the simple point here is that by making the empowered Regions compete with each other, they are forced to improve themselves in order to attract economic opportunities and businesses because in turn, the more businesses go to regions, the higher their revenues, the better the region’s infrastructure, and the more respectable the region’s leaders become.

If certain regions succeed in making themselves richer by successfully attracting so many investors and multinational companies as well as national companies originally headquartered in Manila, since they are autonomized and empowered to keep a bigger share of the tax revenue that they collect and are also empowered to make their own regional decisions, they may even decide to raise the salaries of their own government employees and leaders, thus making it unnecessary to resort to graft and scraping little kickbacks just to decently raise families. Regions will compete against each other and thus try to lessen their inefficiencies, lessen corruption, lower taxes, improve infrastructure, etc.

Competition clearly improves things, not just in a corporation versus corporation type of competition but also in a region versus region type of competition.

3) Parliamentary System

Parties competing against other parties to provide better results

In the current Presidential System, there is no real competition based on competence and platform. Instead, the competition is based on name-recall and popularity: both of which are irrelevant when it comes to delivering results.

But in a Parliamentary System, real competition that makes sense happens.

It’s a competition of Party versus Party (as opposed to personality versus personality).

In parliamentary systems, there is intra-party competition where the best members move up to the top, the best one becoming party leader. Parties also compete against each other on the basis of platform and performance

Notice also that in Parliamentary Systems, party leaders (who are in the running to become Prime Minister if their respective parties win majority of all seats or if their parties form coalitions where they have the most seats within the coalition) campaign using the pronoun “We.” They speak more collectively about their party’s platforms and their party’s past performance by always referring to “Our Party” or “My Party” unlike in Presidential Systems where presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” all the time.

Parties will be forced to compete against other parties by presenting their platforms to the public and showing that their platforms are more responsive to the needs of the people. More importantly, parties will be forced to compete against each other by choosing the best members among themselves to be the senior members of the party, the best of whom will be the party leader.

In a Parliamentary System, unlike in a presidential system, the Prime Minister and his majority bloc are always in competition against the Leader of the Opposition and his minority bloc. Active Debates ensue. The Leader of the Opposition tries to show that the Prime Minister does not know what he is talking about. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, must always be on his toes to show that indeed, he does know what he is talking about and has the facts to prove his point…

In a parliamentary system, there is an intense system of competition where the Majority’s “Government Cabinet” is always being challenged by the Minority’s “Shadow Cabinet.”

In a Parliamentary System, the competition between the Opposition versus Government during parliamentary debates ensures that the Government is on its toes

The Minister of Finance from the Government Majority is always on his toes and must always prove himself as the Shadow Minister from the Opposition Minority always challenges him and questions his decisions. In fact, since every single decision that the Minister of Finance makes within the Ministry of Finance regarding budget and other concerns is always done in the presence of the Opposition Shadow Minister of Finance, everything is above board, everything is transparent.

In a Parliamentary System, the Majority Government faces off in a highly competitive confrontational seating arrangement against the Minority Opposition

In fact, even the seating lay-out of a Parliamentary System (particularly the Westminster and Spanish systems) force the Majority and the Minority to face-off against each other in a face-to-face debate. The Government side sits on one side of the parliament hall directly facing the Opposition who are on the other side. Compare that with the Philippine legislative chambers’ seating lay-outs where all members of the House of Representatives and even the Senate all face the front where the presiding officer (Senate President or Speaker of the House) is seated.

There is no real sense of “competition” between the two sides. As such, this obvious issue of the physical seating lay-out in the legislature is also why there is a very poorly-developed sense of party cohesion in the Philippine setting. If the Philippines shifted over to a Parliamentary System where the seating lay-out features direct face-to-face confrontation between Majority versus Minority, this institutionalized competition between both sides will actually force the development of an improved party system: It will force parties with similar philosophies and platforms to coalesce or merge and prevent the proliferation of too many fractured mini-parties, while it will cause parties with very different ideas to become distinct as far as their platforms and policy proposals in concerned.

Most of all, forcing Majority and Minority to face-off in debates as a result of such a seating layout fosters the kind of greater competition that results in higher transparency and lower corruption.

In such a system, you don’t need to hope and pray that your government’s leaders are extremely honest people. Instead, the competition between the Minority Opposition and the Majority Government keeps them honest, as the Minority-Opposition essentially keeps close watch over the Government’s dealings and decisions. The Majority-Government, on the other hand, will try its best to ensure that it is able to deliver on its promises and thus enable it to gain the trust and confidence of the voting public for the next general elections.

In the presidential system, the decisions made by presidents and their cabinets often tend to be done behind closed doors, without any observation or scrutiny unlike in a Parliamentary System where the intense competition between Majority Government and Minority Opposition blocs forces the opposition to scrutinize the Government in the minutest detail.

Knowing this, it is thus no wonder that countries using parliamentary systems dominate the top ranks of Transparency International’s CPI listing (Corruption Perceptions Index) of the Least Corrupt Countries of the world, while presidentialist countries (and semi-presidentialists and dictatorships) dominate the bottom tiers.

In a Parliamentary System, there is Competition everywhere. There is Competition among parties and competition within parties.

Among parties, the parties try to outdo each other by executing policies better and producing better results than their opponents, and presenting better planned projects, better planned policies, and better platforms and manifestos to the general public.

Within parties, party members compete against each other to show who embodies the party’s principles and who is worthy to move up the ranks and eventually take on important roles within the party and within government in case the party wins a majority and forms the government.

A lousy debater who cannot articulate his thoughts properly, cannot think on his toes, has poor knowledge of history, poor knowledge of geopolitics, poor knowledge of policy, poor knowledge of economics, etc can never rise up the ranks in a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system, the higher you go, the more exposed you will be to heated debates and intense scrutiny by the opposing side.

Not everyone in a party can do this. And certainly, because of this, not everyone aspires to become a party leader (and therefore only a select few ever really aspire to become Prime Minister).

Becoming a Prime Minister, a deputy prime minister, a minister, or some other senior member is clearly not for the faint-hearted and especially not for the weak-minded. To be a Prime Minister, you must be better at debates than your own party mates. You must be the “go-to-guy” or “go-to-gal” that everyone relies on when there is a difficult question. You must know all the relevant facts and figures in order to support your statements and often, you will not have notes or teleprompters helping you out when you extemporaneously respond to questions during debates and Question Time. There is no such thing as “Teka muna, tanungin ko muna advisers ko” in parliamentary debates.

The parliamentary system is all about healthy competition. It’s the kind of competition within parties that ensures that the best and most competent member in a party becomes its leader.

Competition between Minority bloc versus Majority bloc ensures that Corruption is kept very low as scrutiny of government is very intense.

Competition between Parties ensures that parties come up with solid platforms and solid plans of action.

Clearly, competition forces the best in everyone in a parliamentary system.

Sadly, the Philippines is presidential, that’s why we continue to be mired in mediocrity.

 

In Summary…

CoRRECT™ is all about COMPETITION.

1) Economic Liberalization:

Competition among corporations and companies creates more jobs, increases wages for employees, and creates better goods and services for consumers/clients/customers.

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2) Evolving Federalism:

Competition among regions ensures that regions try to outdo each other in attracting investors, coming up with better policies, streamlining their bureaucracies, improving their infrastructure, etc.

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3) Parliamentary System:

Competition among political parties and blocs ensures that the public ends up with better parties, higher quality politicians, competent leaders, and the direct competition between Opposition Shadow Cabinet versus Government Cabinet means greater scrutiny of decision-making & budget concerns, thus drastically reducing/minimizing corruption and influence peddling.

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

 

It’s the Economy, Student!

The PhD President: Respected by leaders of developed and progressive countries; envied and villified by small-minded, rumor-mongering, TFC-watching and ABiaS-CBN-brainwashed Pinoys

By Dr. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PhD

 [I wrote this article on and off in my spare time during my house recuperation, re-hospitalization and hospital detention from October to December 2011.]

The economy I turned over

Countless studies have shown that rapid increases in average incomes reduce poverty. Policy research, notes economist Stephan Klasen, has shown that “poverty reduction will be fastest in countries where average income growth is highest.”

When I stepped down from the Presidency in June 2010, I was able to turn over to the next Administration a new Philippines with a 7.9 percent growth rate. That growth rate capped 38 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth despite escalating global oil and food prices, two world recessions, Central and West Asian wars, mega-storms and virulent global epidemics. Our country had just weathered with flying colors the worst planet-wide economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1930. As two-thirds of the world’s economies contracted, we were one of the few that managed positive growth.

If you look around you in our cities as you drive by the office towers that have changed the skyline, if you look around you in our provinces as you drive over the roads, bridges and RORO ports where we made massive investments, that is the face of change that occurred during my administration.

By the time I left the Presidency, nearly nine out of 10 Filipinos had access to health insurance, more than 100,000 new classrooms had been built, 9 million jobs had been created.

We built roads and bridges, ports and airports, irrigation and education facilities where they were sorely needed. To millions of the poor, we provided free or subsidized rice, discounted fuel and electricity, or conditional cash transfers and we advanced land reform for farmers and indigenous communities.

No amount of black propaganda can erase the tangible improvements enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of families liberated from want during my decade at the helm of the nation. But these accomplishments have simply been part of the continuum of history. The gains I achieved were built on the efforts of previous leaders. Each successive government must build on the successes and progress of the previous ones: advance the programs that work, leave behind those that don’t.

I am confident that I left this nation much stronger than when I came into office. When I stepped down, I called on everyone to unite behind our new leaders. I was optimistic and I was hopeful about our future.

However, the evidence is mounting that my optimism was misplaced. Our growth in the 3rd quarter of 2011 was only 3.2 percent, well below all the forecasts that had already been successively downgraded. The momentum inherited by President Aquino from my administration is slowing down, and despite his initial brief honeymoon period, he has simply not replaced my legacy with new ideas and actions of his own.

The politics of division

In the last year and a half, I have noted with sadness the increasing vacuum of leadership, vision, energy and execution in managing our economic affairs. The gains achieved by previous administrations – mine included – are being squandered in an obsessive pursuit of political warfare meant to blacken the past and conceal the dark corners of the present dispensation. Rather than building on our nation’s achievements, this regime has extolled itself as the sole harbinger of all that is good. And the Filipino people are paying for this obsession–in slumping growth, under-achieving government, escalating crime and conflict, and the excesses of a presidential clique that enjoys fancy cars and gun culture.

Vilification covering up the vacuum of vision is the latest manifestation of the weak state that our generation of Filipinos has inherited. The symptoms of this weak state are a large gap between rich and poor — a gap that has been exploited for political ends — and a political system based on patronage and, ultimately, corruption to support that patronage. Recently, politics has seen the use of black propaganda and character assassination as tools of the trade. The operative word in all of this is “politics” – too much politics.

I know that the President has to be a politician, like everybody else in our elected leadership, whether Administration or Opposition, and we must all co-exist within this system. But what really matters is what kind of politics we espouse, not how much. The enemy to beat is ourselves: when we spread division rather than unity; when we put ego above country and sensationalism above rationality; when we make everyday politics replace long-term vision in our country’s hour of need.

Everyday we draw nearer to what may be our country’s hour of greatest need, because an increasingly ominous global environment is aggravating our self-inflicted weakness. The leadership’s palpable deficiencies in vision and execution are hurting our economy at a time when the rest of the world faces the ever more real threat of a double-dip recession, one that we may have escaped the first time during my term, but might not be able to avoid again.

Our dream of growth

In order to avoid such a grim outcome, we must pursue the economic growth of our country as the permanent solution to our age-old problems of poverty and even corruption. Every postwar Administration to my recollection has sought to advance the economic growth of our country as a matter of highest priority. Only by enlarging the economic pie can there be more and bigger slices for everyone to enjoy.

It is in poverty that we find the material roots of the problem of corruption – because the political system based on patronage–and ultimately, corruption to support patronage–is made possible only by the large gap between the rich and the poor. This will persist until and unless we enlarge the economic pie. Unfortunately, the present Administration has chosen to turn the problem upside down, anchoring their entire development strategy on one simplistic slogan:  “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”  If there is no corruption, there is no poverty—this is a proposition that also tells us that the undeniable persistence of poverty to this day therefore means the continuation of corruption under this Administration.

The Economist commented earlier that: “…The President’s approach to fighting corruption…is to punish the sins of the past rather than try to prevent crime in the future. Mr. Aquino has proposed few reforms to the system.”

Meanwhile, most analysts are downgrading their growth forecasts for this year and the next. The Dutch bank ING cited the government’s “under-spending in the name of good governance” as the reason for lowering its growth forecasts.

Now more than ever, as the rest of the world faces renewed threats of financial and even sovereign defaults as well as economic recession, it is high time for us to return to the commitment to growth that has been the primary objective of every administration in the past.

Sunshine industries

Returning to this mainstream commitment to growth enables the country to tap the opportunities of the 21st century. In line with this, during my time we promoted fast-growing industries where high-value jobs are most plentiful.

One of them is information and communication technology or ICT, particularly the outsourcing of knowledge and business processes. My Administration developed the call center industry almost from scratch: in June 2010 there were half a million call center and BPO workers, from less than 5,000 when I took office. It was mainly for them that we built our fifth, virtual super-region: the so-called “cyber corridor”, the nationwide backbone for our call centers and BPO industry which rely on constant advances in IT and the essentially zero cost of additional bandwidth.

These youthful digital pioneers deserve government’s continuing support – by upgrading instead of downgrading and politicizing CICT, the government agency that oversees our digital infrastructure; by continuing to fund related voc-tech training programs; by wooing instead of alienating foreign companies seeking to set up shop here. As countries like China and Korea rapidly make their own way up the value-added ladder of outsourcing, we must work harder to stay ahead of them.

I had coffee with some call center agents one Labor Day when I was President. Lyn, a new college graduate, told me, “Now I don’t have to leave the country in order for me to help my family.” I was touched. With the structural reforms we implemented to promote ICT and BPOs, we not only found jobs but kept families intact.

We created appealing employment opportunities by focusing on the development of priority sectors, such as BPO. We need to create more wealth and keep people working here at home.That is why I remained so stubbornly focused on the economy. Many times during my tenure I expressed how much I longed for the day when going abroad for a job is a career option, not the only choice, for a Filipino worker. My economic plans were designed to allow the Philippines to break out of the boom and bust cycle of an economy dependent on global markets for agricultural commodities, and pursue consistent and sustainable growth anchored on a large domestic market and the resiliency of Filipino workers at home and abroad.

My successor flattered me by parroting what I said, but tried to frustrate me by distorting what I did. Instead of acknowledging his debt to his predecessor, he accused me of doing the opposite of what I had achieved, by describing my government as “…[one] that treats its people as an export commodity and a means to earn foreign exchange”. Then he promised to install what I had already established and which he appears bent on dismantling: “… a government that creates jobs at home, so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity; and when its citizens do choose to become OFWs, their welfare and protection will still be the government’s priority.”

Indeed, it’s so easy to claim achievements that have already been accomplished by others, and take credit for what is there when the one who did the work has gone. Just make sure she is forgotten, or, if remembered, vilified.

The President’s words were brave indeed—and yet his government has consistently failed to back them up: by failing to rescue our countrymen from China’s death row, or promptly evacuate them from national disaster in Japan, or comprehensively secure them from political unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Now we are facing a new challenge of “Saudiization”, as the government of our largest OFW market, Saudi Arabia, sets out to implement a massiveprogram of replacing OFW’s with its own nationals, starting next year.

Will this government have the will and the skill to properly navigate such uncertain waters? Protecting our overseas workers will urgently require contingency planning and continuous backdoor diplomacy with their host governments, while creating alternative jobs at home for them will require—again—the kind of commitment to economic expansion that I cannot overemphasize.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure strengthens our competitiveness and enables us to attract new levels of jobcreating foreign direct investment. Infrastructure investment not only drives economic growth, but also creates a more efficient, competitive economy, by improving productivity and lowering the costs of doing business.

I am alarmed that the pace of infrastructure build-out has slowed dramatically under this Administration, with some projects even being cancelled outright for no good reason—such as the earlier-noted flood control projects in Central Luzon—and our country being sued by investors. At a time when we should be wooing their money, we are inviting litigation from them instead. This kind of flip-flopping may help explain the tepid investor response to the Administration’s flagship public-private partnership (PPP) program, where only one project has been awarded after all of eighteen months.

I was heartened to hear the President announce recently his willingness to resume government infrastructure spending next year. However, one cannot help but notice the timing, so close to the upcoming 2013 election campaign.

Land productivity

In my first State of the Nation Address in 2001, I said that the first component of our national agenda should be an economic philosophy of free enterprise appropriate to the twenty-first century, while the second should be a modernized agricultural sector founded on social equity.

Within a couple of months after taking office in January 2001, I personally conducted Cabinet meetings to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1995, which had never been implemented for lack of funds. After several discussions with selected department secretaries as well as heads of government banks, we uncovered budget items and available credit to channel more than P20 billion a year to provide fertilizers, irrigation and infrastructure, extension services, more loans, dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and seeds and other genetic materials to our farmers and fisherfolk. This was perhaps the biggest reason for the decline in poverty that was posted during my first few years in office. Oh, and that reminds me of a time my sister had to borrow money while travelling from låna-pengar.biz in Sweden when she spent too much. Anyway…

The current Administration originally fixated on the single goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice by 2013. I too wanted to achieve rice self-sufficiency, but I knew the odds were tough. Since the Spanish period we’ve been importing rice. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate. Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong River like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile river delta plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbors in the path of typhoons from the Pacific.  So historically we’ve had to import 10% of our rice, and so I took care to keep our goals for agriculture wideranging and diversified.

Recently the Administration seems to have retreated from the original objective of rice self-sufficiency by 2013. In its place, do they have an alternative vision in mind for our all-important agricultural sector?

The real challenge in this cetury is broader. The real task at hand is to make the finite land that we have planted to agriculture ever more productive, through agricultural modernization founded on social equity.

Higher productivity from farm lands is critical for our development. By making more food available at lower prices especially to our poor, we are effectively bringing down the required level of real wages in our country—already among the highest in the world, according to UP Professor Manny Esguerra—and helping to make our manufacturing industries globally competitive again.

As for social equity, being the daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal, the father of land reform in our country, I am gratified by the evaluation of one of my favorite Economics teachers, UP Professor Gonzalo Jurado: “The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, to the extent that it is a land distribution program, can now be described as having almost completely succeeded in attaining its goal. [CARP] should now be a developmental program aiming explicitly to raise farm productivity…so that the country as a whole will benefit from the tenurial rearrangement.”

And of course it is the landowners who must set the example of compliance with the law in order to allow the rest of us to move forward—such as the Arroyos in my husband’s family, who voluntarily submitted long ago to land reform even without an order from the Supreme Court to do the right thing.

Our children

For Filipinos, family is everything and the future of our children is sacred. That is why I invested so much time and effort in rejuvenating our education system. I met with teachers and other educators to get a first-hand look at the improvements that we need to make. I listened to what these fine public servants had to say, and in response to their advice, I increased the country’s total budget for education by nearly four times: from Ps 6.6 Billion in 2000 to Ps 24.3 Billion in 2010 when I stepped down. Those funds went into the following critical areas of educational spending:

  • We built 100,000 new classrooms, more than the three previous administrations combined.
  • We supported one in every two private high school students—a total of 1.2 million students–with the GASTPE financial voucher program.
  • In 2009 alone, we doubled TESDA’s budget.

For the long term, key recommendations were also submitted by the educational task force I created in 2007–comprising representatives from the major educational and private sector bodies under the leadership of former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres–in order to fashion a new educational roadmap with special attention to the needs of the youth and our growing knowledge-driven industries.

The task force report is the only document I personally handed to President Aquino, when we were together in the car being driven to his inauguration last year. Unfortunately that report seems to have landed in his circular file, making our schoolchildren yet another casualty of the ongoing vilification being waged against me.

I’m now saddened by news reports that the administration has been under-funding state colleges and universities without offering alternatives to the more than ten percent of our student population who attend these institutions.

Moreover, to my knowledge, any major educational reforms implemented by this administration have been limited only to adding another two years to basic education. I do not know how sound this is, or how widely supported among education professionals.

The poor

I often said during my Administration that we need to continue translating our economic and fiscal achievements into real benefits for the people. We must continue to invest in what I like to call the three “E’s” of the Economy, Environment and Education. These include such pro-poor programs as enhancing access to healthcare, food, housing and education, as well as job creation. They are central to lifting our nation up.

Over the past decade—fuelled by the windfall from our mid-term fiscal reforms—I initiated or expanded a raft of social programs for the poor.  We increased PhilHealth insurance coverage, set up nearly 16,000 Botika ng Barangay outlets to deliver affordable medicines to the poor, ordered the drug companies by law to reduce their prices, energized 98.9 percent of our barangays, provided water service to 70 percent of previously waterless municipalities. And of course, we also introduced “Four P’s”, the highly successful conditional cash transfer program aimed at encouraging positive behavior among the poor in exchange for cash assistance.

But perhaps more than our social services, what the poor benefited the most from was the low inflation and the low unemployment we made possible through effective management of the economy. Despite the global food and oil price spikes of 2008, domestic inflation slowly declined on my watch, bottoming out at 3.9 percent by the time I stepped down in June 2010. And unemployment, which had peaked at nearly 14 percent under President Estrada, was averaging only around 7.5 percent  toward the end of my term in office.

The problems of the poor are serious indeed, and they deserve serious thinking and serious solutions—not empty slogans, not the bloating of the cash transfer program for patently political ends, and certainly not the inability of this administration to keep the price of rice affordable or create more jobs by continuing the growth agenda. The moment that agenda is compromised, it is the poor who will feel first and the hardest the dire consequences.

The environment

No nation can aspire to become modern without protecting its environment.

On my watch as President, the country’s forest cover increased from 5.39 million hectares in 2001 to 7.17 million hectares by 2009. And we registered 40 projects abroad to reduce greenhouse gases—the sixth largest number of such projects among all countries.

I also signed a large number of laws to codify environmental protection—including new legislation to promote Ecological Solid Waste Management, Wildlife Resource Conservation and Protection, Clean Water, and Biofuels. And I tried to set the example for our countrymen by dedicating every Friday to environmental concerns.

I created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change in 2007, which was later enhanced into the Climate Change Commission under the Climate Change Act of 2009. Under the law, the Chief Executive chairs this Commission, just one of only a few bodies headed by the highest official of the land. And yet President Aquino to date has not convened the Commission even once. The country can ill afford his lack of interest in this matter, now that climate change is causing calamities at the most unexpected times and places, such as the December typhoon floods in Cagayan de Oro and my home town of Iligan City.

Presidential drudgery

As my father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, used to say: “The Presidency of the Philippines is a tough and killing job that demands a sense of sacrifice.” At the end of the day, it comes down to plain hard work. A president must work harder than everyone else. And no matter what he thinks he was elected to do — even if that includes running after alleged offenders in the past — he must not neglect the bread and butter issues that preoccupy most of our people most of the time: keeping prices down, creating more jobs, providing basic services, securing the peace, pursuing the high economic growth that is the only way to vault our country into the ranks of developed economies.

Good management begins with planning ahead, not pointing fingers and blaming others after the fact. It means spelling out your vision quickly and clearly so your team grasps their mission at once and immediately starts to execute it.

Unfortunately, planning and preparation seem to be absent from this administration, whether it’s for taking OFWs out of harm’s way on short notice, or evacuating flood victims—or rescuing foreign tourists held hostage by a crazed gunman. By comparison to that incident, not a single life was ever lost in all the coup attempts against me that I had to put down by force. There is no secret behind this: it against any crisis, implemented with hands-on leadership from the very top.

Once the plan is in place, the leader must proceed to hands-on execution. There is no room for absenteeism, nor for coming to work late and leaving early. There is simply not enough that can be done if the Cabinet meets only four times in an entire year.

There is no room for sleeping on the job…

The last major task for good management is to exercise control without fear or favor. This was the principle I was following when I brought AFP controller General Garcia up on charges in 2005, and cancelled the NBN/ZTE deal in 2007.

These days—alas—there is absolutely no fear in the administration when they’re running after me or my allies. But there is definitely a lot of favor involved when they excuse—and even defends—their friends even from misdeeds committed in full view of the public.

This is not the kind of ethics that should be practiced by one who claims to have a genuine reform agenda. Neither will it attract capital from investors who desire regularity and a level playing field. Nor do our people deserve to be consigned to economic stagnation, government lethargy, and nobody-home leadership.

Neither the President nor anyone else can truly expect to govern the next five years with nothing but a sorry mix of vilification, periodically recycled promises of action followed by lethargy, backed up by few if any results, and presumptuously encouraging gossip about one’s love life in which no one can possibly be interested. Given the electoral mandate that he enjoyed in 2010—the same size as mine in 2004, as predicted by every survey organization at that time—our people deserve more, and better, from him.

 

‘Sensya na po, Sir…’

Tara, party!

Once upon a time, may isang galanteng gustong mag-imbita sa kanyang mga kaibigan na mag-party sa bahay…

Mr. GALANTE: “Uy mga kaibigan, MAY PARTY AKO SA SABADO!! Kainan, Inuman, Kantahan, Sayawan… PUNTA KAYO SA BAHAY, HA…”

Pagdating ng Sabado…

(Sa gate ng bahay, may bouncer.)

GUEST: “Nandito kami para sa party…” 

BOUNCER: “May dala ba kayong 10,000 pesos?”

GUEST: “HA? Anong 10,000 pesos? Akala ko ba party ito?? Inimbita kami eh.”

BOUNCER: “Sensya na, may 10,000 pesos na entrance fee sa party ni boss…”

GUEST: “Teka, eh siya mismo ang nag-imbita sa amin na pumunta rito tapos ngayon hihingan niyo kami ng 10,000 pesos na entrance fee? Sira-ulo ka ba?”

BOUNCER: “Sensya na po Sir, nakasulat po sa rules and regulations ng bahay ni Boss na pwera lang sa mga kamag-anak, lahat ng papasok dito sa bahay niya ay dapat magbayad ng 10,000 pesos entrance fee. Eto po Sir oh, eto ang Handbook namin. Kita niyo po…

Page 23, line 5:

“Everyone who is a non-relative (within 3 degrees of consanguinity) may not enter the premises, even if there is a party, unless they pay the standard entrace fee of 10,000 pesos.”

GUEST: “Walang hiya naman, nag-imbita ng party eh yun pala may entrance fee!! Sira-ulo pala yang boss niyo!! Doon na lang kami sa ibang party pupunta, at least OPEN HOUSE sila!

BOUNCER: “Sensya na po, Sir, yun po kasi ang nakasulat sa Rule Book namin eh. Tagasunod lang po kami…”

bouncer

Yan ang kwento ng Pilipinas…

Mag-iimbita ng mga “FOREIGN INVESTORS” na pumunta raw sa Pilipinas.

Pagdating ng mga investors sa Pinas, meron palang mga RESTRICTIONS sa Constitution na nagsasabing kelangan muna silang maghanap ng local partner…

Kamot-ulo si investor: “AKALA KO BA INIMBITA NIYO KAMI NA MAG-INVEST, eh bakit kayo may mga kalokohang restrictions na yan???”

Tuloy, pumupunta na lang sa Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, China ang mga investors… Kawawa naman ang Pinas…

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