If P-Noy Should Fail….

Obama’s fall in popularity is said to be a harbinger of things for P-Noy.

That is so silly.

The two men come from a different space, time, culture and circumstance.

Obama failed because he was more ambitious for the American people than they were for themselves, because the problems he inherited were far deeper than he had imagined, because his priorities were wrong and because he did not properly communicate his many achievements to the nation. He allowed the opposition to set the agenda and tone of the national dialogue.

If P-Noy should fail it will be for different reasons. It will not be for lack of intelligence, goodwill or courage.It will be because he has not set a vision for the country, because there is no plan, because he tolerates mediocrity, and because he is not ready to go beyond his past and zone of comfort particularly in his choice of key people.

It may also come from a crisis, natural or man-made, a Luneta, only bigger, for which we are unprepared.

A vision is an overarching view of the nation, politically, socially and economically. It is a definition of the common purpose of the people.

Politically, it means building an ideology and an infrastructure that will survive one’s time. It involves cutting the umbilical link between money and political power. It requires educating the populace and giving them an alternative to cartel politics and family dynasties by, for example, strengthening political parties, mobilizing the youth and the NGO’s.

Organizationally, it means revamping the civil service so that it does not become a tool of vested interests. Public service should be made a noble profession.

Socially, it means inculcating values that make for a progressive, respectful and caring community. These values have to be defined, propagated and re-propagated until they become part of the nation’s subconscious.

Economically, it means presenting a Plan.

We are over four months into the Presidency and we still have to hear of an economic blueprint. The closest to it were the references in the SONA to Private Public Partnerships. If this is what passes for an economic plan than we are rudderless.

Firstly, PPP is a concept, not a roadmap. Second, if PPPs of previous Administrations are any indication e.g. the BOT’s in the power and transport sector; we as a nation are in trouble.  The Government, particularly one in financial straits, is no match for the private sector in negotiating terms. The consumer will end up picking up the tab. Our exorbitant electricity bills and highway tolls are witness to this.

The clearest indication that there are no reforms in the pipeline is the absence of a Legislative Agenda from Malacanang. Congress and the Senate still await directions.

The President has talked repeatedly of judicial reforms but no agenda has been set with the Judiciary, no serious discussions started with the Supreme Court.

As for taking corrupt officials to task, let us not even go there.

This Administration talks the talk but has still to walk the walk.

Messages of goodwill substitute for policies, statements of intent for strategy. We are given lists of accomplishments, transactions really – $2.4 billion in foreign investment, P30 million saved on a spectrometer, the banning of wang wangs- when what we need is a blueprint and the means to realize it. The achievements will follow.

We suffer from mediocrity.

Mediocrity is an absence of ambition, of disbelieving that we can be better than we are, much better. It is not wanting to be transformational nor extraordinary. It is an acceptance that business as usual is good enough.

This ordinariness is reflected in the President’s inner circle. On the matter of his key people P-Noy’s instincts are tribal. He goes with what he knows. Loyalty beats performance, trust trumps competence.

He will sacrifice Robredo for Puno because of a shared past, not because of ability. (Incidentally, the measure of whether you are on your way out of office is when P-Noy stops referring to you by your name. Thus, Robredo became “the one in DILG”, Paje “the one in DENR”. One wonders if Shalani became “the one from Valenzuela”.)

I hope the President succeeds because he is all we have. For this he needs to articulate a vision for the nation, to formulate an economic and political plan, ones that have real ambitions for the country; and to reach beyond his experience and relationships.

Only then can he take us on the journey of change and realization that was the promise of last May 10.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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