Recently, fellow ProPinoy Doy Santos wrote a three part series on “That vision thing.” He looked at the administration, and found it wanting, and made a few suggestions on how to make things better. His piece reflects the disillusionment of many of Aquino’s supporters, which can be summed up into: “Things are moving too slowly,” and for those who lived through the first Aquino presidency, “It is 1986 all over again.”
It isn’t to say they are wrong, and nor is it to say, they are entirely correct.
The sluggish turtle movement of change is there. Bureaucracy, and Inertia weighs much of it down. Going from campaign to presidency, I think we all expected things to move a little faster, and we are frustrated that the changes aren’t taking place as rapidly as we had hope it would be.
Recently too, Manuel Buencamino wrote a timely opinion piece, “Letter to ‘Senator’ Zubiri” and he talked about the folly of removing VAT on Oil. The militant left of course would rage, that we should remove VAT from Oil. These are harder times because all over the world, food, energy and water— the essentials— are getting more expensive, and more difficult to acquire.
On top of it all, we have rising toll fees, and talk of increasing transport costs. And it feels like everything is getting more and more expensive because it is.
I disagree with the president on subsidizing Oil for certain sectors like public transport, but I recognize that it does two things: it is political, and it is economic. The president chooses to step the negative impression he gets by helping public transport. It is economic in that there is some pressure relieved from those poor families. I disagree with it in that that money might be better spent on Conditional Cash Transfer programs, but I understand the political necessity of oil subsidies.
As President Clinton pointed out, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It always is.
My disagreement too is that for all our talk about the cost of energy on the rise, the government has done very little in long term solutions to the problem. Yes there is talk about getting more power plants, talk about using solar; talk about refurbishing the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The wind turbines up North are good experiments, but as a nation we have not settled on a strategy and gone through with it.
The same problem could be said about water. There is going to be a fresh water crisis as Climate Change begins to affect the world. Metro Manila is already experiencing to a degree, problems on water. It relies heavily on Dams and Rainwater to give over 13 million people fresh water daily.
On the agriculture side, the nation has been talking about food independence since Mr. Estrada held office. That was a good dozen or so years ago. We have had nine years of Mrs. Arroyo, and Mr. Aquino inherits the same problem, which now becomes even more urgent. There is no coherent long term strategy for ensuring we feed millions of Filipinos.
Speaking of feeding millions of Filipinos, how certain are we that we are counting Filipinos properly? What does the National Statistics Office say about the numbers? Can we determine how many Filipinos are living in say, Tawi-Tawi? Sulu? Do we have numbers of how many Filipinos are working abroad? How many have gone back? And if so, can these numbers help the government determine how much Rice for example are we to produce or import?
In many ways, I think there is a disconnect in what we think we want the President to do, and what the President is actually doing. Notice the priority legislation of the Government. Whistleblower act. Budget reform. Public-Private Partnership. K+12. Revenue.
What this suggests to me, the President’s priority is institutional repair. He wants to patch holes that Arroyo poked through.
The Finance department is moving along just fine. It is raising revenue on the order of the President.
The matter of K+12 is also moving along. It isn’t understood much. Many of those who raved and ranted last year expected that the President’s “education” policy is to keep feeding university level funding. I understand why the focus is on K+12 or basic education. It is a case of Garbage in, Garbage out.
How can we expect to improve education if the foundation is weak? And it also speaks to the entitlement that people seem to have grown on the college level.
Is this a case of the government not communicating as well or is it our inability to listen?
What has happened in the last year is that the Presidency seem to have taken a backseat to the driving. There is a big disconnect between Arroyo’s style of leadership, and Aquino’s. Arroyo was a micromanager. Aquino isn’t.
Aquino’s style from what I’ve heard from stories from people in government that there is a problem that he sees, and wants solve, he doesn’t go and tell you how to do it, but instead says, “I want you to get this done. I want results.” In many ways, Aquino’s style if it works could result in a more competent bureaucracy. It makes the president less… aristocratic, but it is so far removed from the norm that was Arroyo’s or Ramos’.
And President Aquino doesn’t do well with soundbites.
What seems to be indicative is that when there is a problem in a particular sphere, the best way to solve it under this government is to just solve it. It brings the whole, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country” adage to the fore. The changes we want from the government will have to come from things we do. It is the little things, the tiny pebbles like Zambuanga Fund for Little Kids, that has nothing to do with Government that will ultimately advance the way of life. It is in building business in the private sector that will generate jobs.
How best to explain why Aquino’s trust rating fell? It’s the economy.
What seem to characterize the Philippines in the past year is how boring everything is. There are no political scandals yet. And the way government operates is difficult to distill for normal people in the streets. They certainly will have difficulty understanding Public-Private Partnerships, for instance. What is indicative too is that for the change we want to achieve, the best way is to stop asking what government can do for us, but what we can do for our country.
Photo credit: Malacañang Photo Bureau