paano na yung papaano: a framework for a way forward

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The paper below was written in December 1, 2009. Where are we now? There have been things that have worked as planned, things that did not go down as well as expected, things that were excluded, mistakes that have been committed and maybe things that were not thought of and therefore not done.

It is sad to note that there has not been a dent made on poverty incidence and hunger. If anything, they have gotten worse (http://opinion.inquirer.net/79930/two-views-on-poverty-from-the-top-and-the-hungry). Government exists to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Despite the over-all economic growth, the benefits have not been felt by those who really need it. It is here that we appear to have failed. We have failed because we have not been bold enough to do more to upset the status quo. The rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. Will the next president do any better? It is unfortunate but there does not appear to be someone in the horizon with the heart, the mind and the will to do so.

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I have never seen, at least in my lifetime, a Philippine presidential or indeed, any electoral contest for that matter, where a candidate has presented to the electorate “the how” for achieving the grandiose plans and goals that he/she is proposing for all the madla to hear. If we truly are to TRANSFORM (your words) our country, it would be nice to start with a robust (as opposed to the mababaw) game plan beyond all those motherhood statements.

My intent with this paper is not to prescribe the solutions to the various ills that afflict our nation but rather to begin (or continue, if you’ve started the thinking already) the process of thinking of these solutions which conform (or maybe re-form) the ideals of the Liberal Party. As such, this paper will raise a lot of points to ponder and generate the questions that need to be asked.

The idea is to answer these questions to be able to concretize thoughts in a structured and holistic manner. This is also where outside input need to be sought for specific policies that will be pursued. We should recognize that we do not have a monopoly of ideas and seek these out. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure during this process to continue to critically assess these inputs as to their congruence with the candidates’ and the party’s ideals.

Hopefully, all these will allow action to be taken from Day One of the Noynoy presidency.

From a campaign point of view, a robust plan provides a disciplined template from which messages can be transmitted. It allows the campaign to go on the offensive by taking some control of the way the electorate will hear from the candidates. Mas madali mag-project ng sincerity kung yung sinasabi mo ay natutugma sa nararamdaman mo at may confidence ka na magagawa mo talaga ang mga sinasabi mo.

It puts the other candidates on the defensive should they hew to what has been the norm of spewing motherhood statements or plans of government which are put together on the fly. It will also allow Noynoy’s campaign to spot inconsistencies in the other candidates’ messages without having to worry about them doing the same.

Having said all that, here is my attempt at putting this road-map together.

1. The Premise

I start with very basic premise that Noynoy and Mar are in this to improve the lives of each and every Filipino.

At the end of the day, this is what I think should be the foremost and the most basic motivation for this presidential campaign.

The rest are just symptoms of problems (e.g. improve peace and order, reduce corruption, provide jobs, etc.).

It is not to improve the lives of just some Filipinos but all Filipinos. This is the ideal and we will likely fall short of this ideal. Moreover, a lot of how this plays out will be based on the perception of the individual (are you better off now than you were before Noynoy’s presidency?). Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop us from striving for this ideal and try to improve the lives of as many Filipinos as we can.

It is important for Mar buy into this, as well as what follows. The opportunity that is before us could provide 12 years of “transformational” governance. Six years will probably not be enough to (1) undo what has become status quo over generations, and (2) build, strengthen and institutionalize governance that will be our legacy to our children, grandchildren and beyond.

2. How do we know that we are making a difference and improving the lives of each and every Filipino?

(Forgive me for couching this section in some basic economic numeracy).

It is very important that we have one key measure to track the progress of our ideal of improving the lives of each and every Filipino.

I propose that this should be GDP per capita.

I am perfectly aware that not everything is about money but as has been said – “money can’t buy happiness but it sure helps.” I would also argue that this measure provides a simple unifying metric by which progress in most (if not all) other areas of governance can be directly or indirectly linked or related. As an example, a proposal to improve peace and order could be linked to economic well-being by allowing commerce to be undertaken in a more stable environment that could provide jobs to Filipinos. Another example, a proposal to reform the judiciary could be linked to economic well-being by allowing more investments by investors who will have more confidence in the rule of law in the conduct of business. And so on and so forth…

It is also necessary to supplement this over-all metric with other measures that would track the contribution of the lower economic strata of the population to an improvement in the over-all GDP per capita. This could be something along the lines of an index of poverty incidence. I do not totally subscribe to the idea that a widening of the income gap is bad by itself but it should be the aim of governance to focus resources on providing opportunities to those who lack for these. By so doing, we help the individual improve him or herself.

3. How do we improve GDP per capita?

There are two components to this measure – GDP and population.

Let me tackle the population issue first. This is an issue that Noynoy already has a firm opinion and stand on so it should be easy for him to continue to articulate that position in relation to improving the well-being of the Filipino. His opinion also happens to coincide with having a positive effect on the GDP per capita metric i.e. slowing the rate of population growth will improve GDP per capita (assuming GDP grows at a faster rate than population growth).

4. How do we improve the economy i.e. GDP?

The ability of a nation’s economy to flourish depends on the environment and infrastructure that exists to support such growth.

I enumerate here some of these environmental supports:

a. Fiscal Policy
• What are our budgetary priorities?
o How do we make our budget more efficient? Eliminate waste?
• How do we improve revenue generation and sustainability?

b. Monetary Policy
• Not much needs to be done here except to appoint the right people to the BSP and respect their independence.

c. Physical Infrastructure
• Rather than build infrastructure for show, we should target infrastructure spending to maximize its multiplier effect on the economy.
• It is sad to note that many of our roads, bridges and other such infrastructure are sub-standard and inadequate. This needs to be addressed.
• The presence and conversely, the absence of quality infrastructure not only has economic effects but also leads to quality of life issues for our citizens who have to navigate and suffer through daily traffic grid-locks, haphazard construction practices (e.g. street diggings, open man-holes, etc.) and the like.

d. Knowledge and Education
• We continue to go through the annual rituals of complaining about the lack of classrooms, the decline in the quality of education, lack of funds, etc.
• In the meantime, we are being left behind in thinking about how to prepare our citizens for the changing global dynamic
• WE SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT AND CHALLENGING OUR CURRENT EDUCATION INFRASTRUCTURE AND FRAMEWORK.
• IS OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM PROVIDING THE RIGHT EDUCATION FOR OUR CITIZENS TO BE RELEVANT IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY?

e. Governance Factors
• How do we tackle graft and corruption other than forming another committee?
o Graft and corruption is encouraged by the example of the leadership.
o It is also a function of the mentality of going with the status quo. Changing this mindset calls for new ideas.
o Lastly, it is a function of the level of wages being earned by government employees.
 Raise wages by reducing size of government through attrition and redirecting savings to increasing salaries (I know, easier said than done but we have to start somewhere).
• How do we encourage the Supreme Court (as administrator of the country’s judicial system) to continue to clean up its ranks?
o How do we encourage the Supreme Court to “speed up” the wheels of justice”
• How do we maintain peace and order?

f. The protection of the environment

Many in the private sector are now making environmental protection a key corporate governance measure. This ensures the sustainability of their businesses. On a broader scale, the national government should strongly espouse the protection of the environmental for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

I do not claim to have a monopoly of ideas and I’m sure that I may have missed out on some things but again my aim is not to be comprehensive but to provide a template for a start.

5. What about the social ills of society?

I will not make a judgment as to whether the social ills that plague our nation have gotten worse over the past several years. I would like to focus instead on the light at the end of the tunnel which is a speeding train.

We take pride in our OFWs and for 10 years until coming home this year, I was one of them. We have to admit, however, that most of these OFWs are outside the country because of economic necessity and the lack of opportunity. For this reason, the social impact of these OFW deployments should be unacceptable and shameful to our national leaders.

How many families have we heard or seen break up because of the separation of husband and wife? How are we addressing the transformation of our society where the recent predominance of female OFWs has challenged our traditional family structure? How are we caring for our children at a time when one (or even both) parents are away? Are we willing to let this be our continuing future and risk the further deterioration of our familial and social structures?

We should take it upon ourselves as a challenge to bring these OFWs back with better opportunities back home. Ask almost each and every OFW out there – “if you were given the chance and the same opportunity, would you rather stay here or go home to the Philippines?” Some of us who have been out there have been fortunate enough to have answered the question by coming home. So many more cannot.

Again, framing a platform for government in this manner may not suit many people – I argue that because of its simplicity and disciplined structure, it will be easy to communicate and more importantly, it will be doable.