Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Usual Sandwich Filler

While the world pauses to mourn the recent deaths of chess genius Bobby Fischer and Australian actor Heath Ledger, I'm trapped in the office still on salary patrol. I would be glad to have this whole episode over.

I did find time to post on one of the e-forums, where one hot topic was de-sizing government. I just had to butt in. Here it is:

We just missed saying happy anniversary on the lifting of Proclamation 1081 just a few days back.

Just my two cents':

1) The original criticism on creation of new congressional districts and provinces is the bureaucracy that comes with them, whereas it is possible to do more with less bureaucracy in government. I tend to agree with this - how much more government service do we need really when its quality at the primary levels ( i.e. barangay) tend to be cosmetic? And let's not get started on the macro level, that's a whole other debate.

2) There is also a valid criticism on the nature of congressional spending, i.e. CDF. Time and again, we should take this discretionary spending power away from congressmen.

3) To take the structure of government further --- what were the original bases for setting up provinces --- geographical, linguistic, economic? I'd put my money on one major point: politics. We can look back to history given the way the Americans organized the territorial government when they came over. There is some good reading that this organization is the first root of our Muslim separatist problem - I don't have the link now, but Manolo Quezon does discuss this on his site.

4) Ah, benchmarks! If it were that simple to quantify the role of government in our lives.
==> I was late today because some woman passed out on the street and the usual gaggle of kibitzers got in the way of paramedics. #$% government!
===> My daughter was walking on the railroad tracks outside our shanty. The train ran her over. #$%!!$^ PNR! the mayor! etc. etc. etc.
===> I need a job. Anyone, please hire me! Someone, give me an allowance!
===> There are a bunch of drunks on the other corner singing on their darned videoke on full blast until the wee hours of the morning. What to do?
===> A shipment of smuggled chicken is being sold at bargain basement prices at our discount center! Screw the bird flu, time to shop!
===> Damn! We sucked at the Southeast Asian Games! Where's the pride here, kabayan?

If we are to look closely at the things that work for us --- private initiative in providing services for those who can afford them, courage and determination to work overseas to make extra dollars, contributions by the sectarians in moving education to a higher level (memo to UP on the celebration of your centennial: in five years, if not less, DLSU will overtake you as the pre-eminent Philippine university in terms of academic reputation, quality of graduates, and infrastructure. Accelerate reform now!), innovation and ingenuity in micro-level enterprises --- is that in an environment where individual effort and contribution, fairness, excellence, and quality are observed, we do well.

Government's role has expanded to that point where it has to intervene in everything. When it does that, it tends to stultify initiative and individualism and thus promotes mendicancy and stagnation. Instead of helping themselves, our people point the finger on others, and mostly on the government. Unfortunately, despite our socialist policy efforts, we cannot aspire to become a welfare state like those in Scandinavia. Given the mad scramble of these states to enlist foreign workers to support their retiring citizens, that system is flawed as well.

Methinks the government's role in most public spheres is to generate consensus to reduce duplication of activities, support innovation, set fair standards. and then punish violators vigorously. This model will definitely work in business, education, sport --- while the government can focus on securing our borders within and without, fostering healthy international relations, and promoting cultural identity.

Still, while we can go on theorizing models of government, it still bears to remember that without a proper culture of public service, any model is guaranteed to fail, as it is doing poorly right now in the Philippines. Change must come from the top, while those below must keep on pushing to ensure that happens. To be a truly "strong republic" the citizens will have to be "strong" in mind themselves.

1 comment:

Rhea Paredes said...

Thanks for the kind words on my blog, Otep. Best wishes, and keep writing!