July 26 2010
A SONA is both a report card on the previous year and a road map for the future. Pres. Noy’s SONA was awkward in that, for the first part, he was reporting on the state of Gloria’s nation rather than his.
The President graded Gloria’s performance and this is what he had to say:” Thanks for the loose change”. The revelations of corruption make for unpleasant reading so I will leave them unattended. They arguably met the standard for “shock and awe”. It was not pretty.
For Part II, the road to recovery, the President was more expansive.
Everybody has their own take on a SONA.
The common man is looking for what in the document will land him a job, educate his child, find him shelter.
The political detractor sees the SONA as a target to deconstruct.
Media looks for tomorrow’s headline.
Cabinet officials scour the text for a mention, any mention of his name or his department, to assuage his insecurity. Cabinet officials are like websites, their importance depends on the number of hits they get.
Writers look for sentence construction, how words are united with thought.
Political pundits ask whether there are in fact any thoughts. They search for undeliverables and false promises they can parade to their readers.
Businessmen look for any new taxes.
Credit rating agencies and bondholders want answers to the country’s P4.5 trillion debt and P325 billion fiscal deficit.
NGOs want to know when the big fish will be put to fry.
The big fish wonder whether they will indeed be put to fry.
Let us see how these audiences graded the SONA using their respective metrics:
The common man (B+)- The SONA gave him part of what he wanted- the grist, the details of the corruption on which he could vent his anger- which accounts for the relatively high grade. On the prospect of his landing a job the speech was less forthcoming which pulled down what otherwise could have been an A.
Media (A)- It got the headline it wanted:” Noy to Gloria: Shame on you”.
Cabinet officers (A)- The President gave each of his boys at least one mention with Sec. Singson of DPWH getting the most hits. The smile on their faces was evident.
Writers (B)- SONAs are the product of inputs from all government departments, overlaid with PR .The outcome, predictably, is sleep inducing .
B is not a bad grade since SONAs are by nature boring. Unlike Inaugural addresses where one can take a cosmic perspective SONAs are supposed to be businesslike.Talking brass tacks does not lend itself to soaring prose.
Pundits (B)- The speech was thoughtful which annoys pundits no end. They want something to tear apart and there was little of this.
Business (A+)- No new taxes, hence the grade. Then there were all these public/private partnerships mentioned by the President. The Government should be careful: In the past a number of these ended up with the Government and the Filipino picking up the tab.
Creditors (C)- Budget deficits are here to stay. The President said little about financial reform. He should have because most of his agenda depends on it.
Separately, the DOF said it aims to drop the ratio of deficit to GDP to 3% from around 4% but so what. At this rate our overall debt could still grow by 40% to P6.3 trillion by the end of the President’s term. Bondholders, good luck.
NGOs (B)- The NGOs were thrown the Truth Commission as proof big fish are being targeted. However, the Commission will be powerless without the co-operation of the Ombudsman. And for now Ms. Gutierrez is hanging tight.
The big fish (B) – The President promised that small and medium fish will be fried by the BIR and Customs, weekly. For the big fish stay tuned.
The SONA reinforced the image of the President as humble and trustworthy. He absolutely connected with the common man. His delivery was excellent.
By my count the weighted grade for the SONA was a B+ for sincerity and goodwill. It could have done with more content especially on fiscal reform. Next year’s test will be harder. The President will no longer have the past Administration to hit on. He will also have to deliver on his promises. Let us wish him luck.