August 1 2010
Dear Mr. President:
I just gave you an 88% trust rating. But do not thank me for it is arguably a curse: You now have the responsibility to actually do something with it.
The 88% is a mandate to lead. At the SONA you informed me of the indiscretions of the previous Administration. Thank you but now please act on them.
The 88% is a mandate to take risks. You are managing my future. Invest it in a Growth Fund. Take bold steps. I do not want business as usual.
The country has to seriously address its budget deficit. Be aggressive in growing our revenues if necessary with new taxes; and in slashing expenditures. The tax increases should not be on income or VAT as these will deter investment and consumption. They should be on assets, specifically: A higher tax on property to fund education, a tax on vehicles to fund infrastructure, a tax on cigarettes and liquor to fund healthcare, a tax on conspicuous consumption to fund social welfare. The rich will not care and if they do so what.
Please cut our national debt. As it is my family of five already owes P 250,000 to some bondholder in New York. I cannot take any more.
Please do not fund your agenda largely with private sector partnerships. When it comes to money, capitalists and you are not on the same page. Government, especially one on its knees for funds, is no match for Business. Look at the experience with the IPPs.
Take a risk on people. Understandably you have gone for safe choices, safe almost to a fault. This explains your difficulty in filling positions. There are good candidates who are prepared to serve but are wary of being outsiders in what they perceive is a private club. Cast your net further and you will be surprised at the diversity of good names. Don’t let your close advisers limit your reach. Assure them you will always love them.
I ask you not only for change but to institutionalize change so it will last beyond your term. Enhance our institutions by reforming their values. Instill honor in public service. We need a noble Government, one that graduates will aspire to, one that civil servants will take pride in.
The trust rating that I have given you is not transferable. Please tell that to your Cabinet officials who may be hoping to bask in your glory. They have to earn their own halos.
Do not worry about detractors. My trust is your shield. It will protect you, it will buy you the time and the power to govern.
Yet trust is elusive. One day it envelops you with its magic, the next it leaves you naked at the door. And the villain is doubt.
Do not let doubt enter my mind. I do not want it to appear like a thief in the night to announce you have no clothes.
The 88% is my take on your sincerity and honesty. With all due respect it is not necessarily a measure of your competence (which is still to be determined). They are related but only so: I trust my best friend with my life but not to manage my money. At the end it is your competence more than your honesty that will land me a job.
The 88% rating can be a curse. You can become addicted to it, to the elation, the warmth that the number gives. It could lull you into complacency, discourage you from taking risks that may jeopardize your popularity. You could or worse, your people could, become paralyzed by it. Nobody wants to be the one that caused your numbers to plummet.
Tell them not to be afraid of the polls. They should do what they must do, be bold even at the risk of failure. Initiative is worth the price of failure.
In fact, tell them the rating will surely drop. It is just political gravity. Obama’s number has fallen from 68% to 47%, Sarkozy’s and Merkel’s similarly. The idea is for the rating to return to where it is by the end of your term. Do not sweat the in-between.
So there. You have my trust but do not get hung up with the number. If all works out the number will take care of itself.