Two years into its term and with the impeachment trial over, the Aquino Administration now owns its next 4 years of Government. The bad news? It can no longer blame the past for its failures. It’s show time.
Where are we today?
Economically, we are significantly better than we were 2 years ago but short of where we need to be. The stock market and real estate are at record highs, foreign investments are flowing in albeit selectively, our banking system is sound, our fiscal situation is improving and we could soon earn an investment grade rating.
Yet that is not enough. We are uncompetitive in manufacturing, there is little value added in our exports and extractive resources, our infrastructure is decaying (witness the power situation in the south and the state of our airports), our educational system cannot cope with the increasing demands for skilled manpower. The number of unemployed and underemployed continues to grow as does the income inequality. The only beneficiaries of the economic surge have been the wealthy.
We have eradicated big time corruption –the ZTE, DBP/Philex and MRT muggings- but it remains an everyday occurrence for the man in the street. Justice is still subject to influence and the highest bidder. I have personal experience of this.
Despite the fanfare, corruption in the bureaucracy is unabated. Like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, 90% of corruption is hidden underwater. The most notable example is in the Dept. of Education where purchasing and moneyflows are controlled by syndicates. In a story that could soon surface, the Department has stopped remitting salary deductions to at least one financial institution with teacher loans, threatening to push it into banruptcy.
Not much has changed in our political culture. The line-ups for next year’s elections show that family dynasties and money are still the driving forces. The Ampatuans and corporate criminals are still out in the streets, protected by influence and expensive lawyers.
All this explains why, despite the headlines about our improved economy and governance, the President’s poll numbers are declining. The Filipino does not see the Government as relevant to him and when he does it is its ugly side.
The President’s State of the Nation is due in July. We hope it will not be an ode to the Administration’s achievements but a detailed prescription for the future. We hope it will not be a compendium of platitudes but a checklist of things to do and how to do it.
We trust the President will broaden the “daan matuwid” to encompass a grander vision, one that will go beyond simply eradicating dishonesty and include a blueprint for progress the Filipino can touch and feel.
On the economic front, we need to retool the country’s capital, human and management capabilities to make us globally competitive.
On the capital side, this means upgrading our infrastructure.
On the human side, this means improving education.
On the management side it means streamlining the bureaucracy, upgrading technology, dismantling monopolies and cartels, improving farm to market access, and enhancing the quality of Government personnel.
It is an axiom that great organizations are about great leaders.The Administration needs leaders particularly on the economy which is not the President’s core competence.
Historically the Philippine economy has been led by the finance people in the Cabinet. Yet all great companies -Apple, Coke, Nestle- are led by product or marketing people. So with us: We need economic leaders who understand production, sales and markets, who are passionate about excellence, innovation, competitiveness, productivity, logistics and strategy.
The reported transfer of DOE Sec. Rene Almendras to head a revamped Presidential Management Staff is a step in the right direction. Almendras is a trusted classmate of P-Noy and is an organization man. He can bring economic issues closer to the President.
Leadership is necessary in other vital areas like education which has one of the largest budgets. The tendency has been to have an educator head the DepEd when really the function should be split into two, the knowledge side (curriculum, teacher training, etc.) led by an academic; and the administrative side (purchasing, classrooms, etc.) led by an enforcer to deal with the corruption. As it stands, the syndicates run rings around a DepEd Secretary unfamiliar with the ways of the street .
The Administration is now one third into its tenure. Having gotten rid of some of the deadwood, it now needs to shift to a higher gear, to go beyond the messages and the numbers, to bring real change to the Filipino.
My wish? The President apply to the economy the same passion that he brought to taking down GMA and Corona.