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Nov 02

Four points for discussion

I was in a somber mood last night as I had a discussion with friends inspired by a very unsatisfactory dinner at Dencio’s Eastwood. The staff were pleasant enough, but obviously in a rush to go home and so tried to discourage prospective diners by telling them the last order would be at 7:30 (we arrived at around 6:30). After we were seated, other potential diners were turned away outright. While I can understand the reluctance of the wait staff to prolong their work on a holiday, considering other restaurants were deserted, I’d have thought they’d welcome business when they can get it. But the main takeoff point for discussion was the smallness of the portions and the noticeable deterioration of the taste and quality of the food. This is something I’ve been noticing in many restaurants lately (at least moderately-priced ones). The reason, obviously, is that restaurants have been hit hard by the increase in VAT, which raises their costs even as it discourages people to eat out. Something has to give and it’s the size of portions and the ingredients that are the first to suffer from cost-cutting.

A few months ago, Jollibee reported fewer people were eating out and even as the other under-reported (to my mind) creeping horror is the incidence of people who have to look for food in the garbage bins of restaurants, the reality may be that outright starvation still doesn’t haunt our land but hunger is affecting a growing proportion in a manner the statistics can’t cover up: that is, based on their own experiences more people say they go hungry if not always, then more often. And for those starving outright -2.9 million according to the survey- that’s only slightly less than the entire population of Bulacan Province. Imagine if nine out of every ten people you encountered in Bulacan -traveling from Malolos, to Baliuag, to Hagonoy, was starving, and only then can you come to grips with the scale of misery.

The misery for the portion of the public that has a voice -the middle and upper class- has not been so drastic, or so devoid of options, or so sudden, that it leaves no choice but to fight or flee (and fleeing for self-preservation is easier than ever). Therefore, those with the strongest representation in government are in the position of the frog put in a pot of water and slowly boiled to death. And for those in such miserable conditions that there is no hope of flight, and whom you’d expect to be the first to fight -they won’t, don’t, or can’t. After all, the armed forces and the government is careful not to shoot down Civil Society or politicians even when they protest, at least not in the metropolis. But it does not hesitate to mow down and abduct those in the periphery, the provinces or institutions cut off from the culture and aspirations of the middle class (so even if you have Ateneo or La Salle students protesting, too, it’s UP students abducted and who vanish). And when those from the upper and middle class raise their voices in indignation, they are check-mated by authority appealing to “the law,” that is, it’s letter, never mind its spirit. Indignation then becomes stuck in agonizing over the form, never mind the substance, of dissent.

Add to this other harsh realities, such as the nation-wide lack of toilet facilities, the (anecdotal, to be sure, simply because I haven’t found data on it, on the growing incidence of young people dropping out of school even as other parents abandon private education for public schooling, not because it’s better, but because they have no choice, financially), the refusal of government in general to address the cost of medicines, and outrage is the only thing to feel over officials being so consumed by going hell-for-leather for things like constitutional change that they would postpone meeting basic needs in order to devote their cash and political will to essentially cosmetic, and not substantive, improvements. Much as One Voice, for example, has been maligned by both the administration and some opposition groups, one of its basic points -which attracted me to the effort, in the first place- is precisely the need to do so much, now, which can be achieved within the existing constitutional parameters and other legislation. You do not need a new constitution to stop starvation and provide basic sanitation. Officials need to be questioned -and fought- if they insist otherwise.

Last week I attended a symposium sponsored by the UN at the Department of Foreign Affairs where I got to interact with people from groups as diverse as Anakbayan, the Land Bank, the DFA, business, etc. One person at a group discussion I was tasked with facilitating explained how a decades-long plan to build a circumferential railroad in Mindanao finally got off the ground. It had been stalled by opposition from Muslim rebel groups who’d refused to allow construction in areas they controlled. The official said he went to Muslim leaders and asked, “so even if you want independence, when could you possibly achieve it? A year, ten, fifty years? And if you do, would you rather achieve independence with a railroad, or have to start building one after you win your war?” The Muslim rebels withdrew their objection, and Mindanao, both Christian and Muslim areas, can start embarking on building a much-needed railroad.

The scorched-earth governance we have now is precisely one of the big problems and it’s what makes me impatient in the face of those who insist “the economy is improving!” (for some) and “the best is yet to come!” (for whom?) and “let’s move on.” No, and no. It is improving in some respects as even critics like Tony Abaya point out -and yes, everyone knows there are improvements. But the larger mission of government to focus on the basics -and meaningful ones for a citizenry that doesn’t have the middle and upper class options of tightening their belts- is being held hostage to the political survival of the administration. There is no incentive for anyone, on more than a patchwork, small-scale level, to improve anything.

Which brings us to my column for today, which is Four points for discussion. If neither administration nor opposition have the capacity to lead, much less inspire, then a slow rebuilding is all that’s left -but is that rebuilding, which has already begun, dooming itself to failure by refusing to even think of the big picture?

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  1. manuelbuencamino

    On Ane Margallo’s comment in previous post

    Abe,
    You’re right. “ULAP maintains its unqualified support to the agenda of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for constitutional reforms.”
    So that’s why she was hurt about “gigantic fraud” because it implied that Arroyo’s personal agenda included foisting another gigantic fraud on the people.

  2. Cabagis

    Perhaps you are targeting the wrong government.

    Local governments have a lot to answer for the improvement of regional infrastructure.

  3. mlq3

    cabalgis, i have to do more research but the problem as i’m trying to get to grips with it is, there is an admirable trend in delivering more modern, efficient and even accountable leadership on the local level. the reverse is obviously happening on a national level. but as some local success stories show, after a while the local runs out of things to do and spend things on, or put another way, there is no positive and creative force to get local success stories to reach out and begin to be duplicated.

    the positive and creative force is the regional approach which brings the national to terms with the local, without the local being too traumatized or alienated by the national -and the national being seen as impractical and out of touch.

    put the problem in another way: even in very rich local governments, a highly satisfied middle and upper class and a pampered mass base still have to contend with other areas that are mired in poverty within their areas. that’s because, i’d argue, the local have to provide voters who can be mobilized for the national. it’s not the middle or professional classes that matter in national elections, it’s the informal settlers a mayor can transport to vote for the president or congressman or senator. but in the local races, the professional and middle classes do matter.

    is the solution abolishing national government then? you can’t, even if you wanted to, and precisely the tendency now to turn local communities’ backs against the national is suicidal, it will catch up with them and it will lead to dissilusionment that is counterproductive. but if the local tackled the regional, and the national also tackled the regional, you actually have the potential for a more creative and positive dialogue instead of the disjoint we have right now.

  4. Shaman of Malilipot

    Well, if Gloria was hurt, it’s because the truth really hurts, doesn’t it?

  5. Shaman of Malilipot

    As far as I know, there are supposed to be Regional Development Councils that will precisely promote regional growth and development by coordinating local government plans and, hopefully, attain a more efficient and effective allocation of resources. Plus, there are supposed to be Regional Presidential Assistants who will provide the necessary linkage with the national government. So, I wonder why these things aren’t working, it seems.

  6. mlq3

    shaman, my impression from the symposium i attended is that there are a several problems.

    first, what regional approach exists is hampered by the national priorities being dictated not by development, but the pork barrel. for example, some of the bureaucrats seemed quite upset with the plans for a poro point international airport because it makes no sense according to them.

    second, the regional approach from a national perspective is in its infancy; national plans are just that, plans, as always what’s lacking is not just implementation, but prioritization, at which congress is no help (the political please all approach being, legislate all, worry about funding later).

    third, because they’re finally flush with cash as the local government code’s begun to really have an institutional effect, there’s no incentive for local officials to think of their neighbors. either they concentrate on themselves or lobby the national government but are indifferent to their neighbors. this is duplicated on many levels, in that various industries have managed to set up tripartite councils, say bureaucracy-private-sector-civil society but the various industries don’t talk to each other or compete too much and coordinate too little.

  7. Shaman of Malilipot

    So, Manolo, what did the symposium have to offer to overcome the 3 problems you cited, so that, in your own words, the local could tackle the regional and the national could also tackle the regional?

    I have laways been for a regional approach to development. I come from Bicol and I despair at the fact that our local leaders couldn’t provide the region with an international airport, an international seaport, and an excellent railroad system.

  8. hvrds

    Re: MLQ 3 ‘s column today
    “The best analogy I can point to is how the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution turned China into an intellectual, managerial, economic — even political — desert. It took them 30 years to recover from those projects; and 20 years from the Tiananmen Square massacres. It will take us 30 years to recover from Edsa People Power II, Edsa III, 2004 and 2005.”

    Unfortunately MLQ3 got China’s history all screwed up. Cultural Revoltuion was from 1966-1976. Deng Xiao Peng initiated an agricultural revolution in the countryside by de-collectivization in the late 70’s. Adam Smith would have been so proud of him. He corrected history as Mao had tried to leap frog into the industrial stage during the Great Leap Forward with disastrous effects. The Cultural Revolution tired to cover up that disastrous failure. You cannot turn the peasantry into the proletariat by command. When you see and hear the ‘Fraudster’ Lambino speak about his movement for revolution please remember that.

    They learned from that tragedy. This set the stage for where they are today. Command economy in finance and upstream industries and mixed economy in the downstream sectors. They are the country together with India that are most responsible for uplifting the greatest number of people on this planet from poverty in such a short time. That remarkable achievement was done prior to their so called trade liberalization.

    President Fidel ‘Nichood’ Ramos and Joe Almonte after reading books by Bill Gates and Alvin Toffler like Mao believe that the Philippines could leapfrog into the post industrial stage (Third Wave)without having to go through the necessary agriculture and industrial revolutions. One of the more important parts of that Philippines 2000 playbook was institutionalizing the export of workers most especially entertainers.

    The middle class that MLQ3 is talking about came about as a result of that policy framework started earlier. Just check out the number of men vs women that we are exporting today. Unfortunately for us China and India have a vast army of workers (Billion) waiting to make the transition from the countryside to the built up areas. Entry level wage – $1-2 a day. Filipina maids are now a social status commodity in India and Pakistan. Filipina call girls in Singapore and HongKong are giving Russian, Eastern European and Chinese professionals a run for their money. Japan still prefers blondes.

    Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards there was no society in the Philippines. It was still pre –First Wave development. Small tribal communal settlments. So now since Spanish Manila and later U.S. Manila was more integrated with the economies of the world rather than its own domestic economy, all the regions today in the Philippines would like to develop by integrating with the world also. Recipe for disintegration.

    “According to the natural course of things, therefore, the greater part of the capital of every growing society is, first, directed to agriculture, afterwards to manufactures, and last of all to foreign commerce. …”
    “But though this natural order of things must have taken place in some degree in every such society, it has, in all the modern states of Europe, been, in many respects, entirely inverted.”
    “The foreign commerce of some of their cities has introduced all their finer manufactures, or such as were fit for distant sale; and manufactures and foreign commerce together have given birth to the principal improvements of agriculture. The manners and customs which the nature of their original government introduced, and which remained after that government was greatly altered, necessarily forced them into this unnatural and
    retrograde order…………..”
    “……A revolution of the greatest importance to the public happiness was in this manner brought about by two different orders of people who had not the least intention to serve the public. To gratify the most childish vanity was the sole motive of the great proprietors. The merchants and artificers, much less ridiculous, acted merely from a view to their own interest, and in pursuit of their own pedlar principle of turning a penny wherever a penny was to be got. Neither of them had either knowledge or foresight of that great revolution which the folly of the one, and the industry of the other, was gradually bringing about.”
    “It is thus that through the greater part of Europe the commerce and manufactures of cities, instead of being the effect, have been the cause and occasion of the improvement and cultivation of the country.”
    “This order, however, being contrary to the natural course of
    things, is necessarily both slow and uncertain. Compare the slow
    progress of those European countries of which the wealth depends very much upon their commerce and manufactures with the rapid advances of our North American colonies, of which the wealth is founded altogether in agriculture……..”Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
    Two of the most influential worldly philosphers in human history
    are Smith and Marx. They are also known as the most inlfuential economic determinists of our time.

  9. hvrds

    Almost all Asian economies except the Philippines followed the dirigist model of Alexander Hamilton in one way or another.
    “Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our growth”
    “The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privelege of being neutral.” Alexander Hamilton , The Federalist Papers

    Today anyone espousing these views would be labeled a communist or leftist.
    “A few years ago, the term “world economy” was used as shorthand for the economies of the developed world. Now China is too big to ignore and India is poised to join it as a global player. What happens in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and a host of other countries can set stock markets trembling everywhere.” Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist of the IMF.
    http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~drodrik/shortpieces.html
    http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~drodrik/WB%20oped.pdf

    “At first sight, the World Bank’s newest report on globalization contains few surprises. The report repeats the mantra that the countries that have gone farther down the path of globalization are the ones that have had greater success in economic growth and poverty reduction. But buried in the pages of the report is also a startling admission: the countries that integrated into the world economy most rapidly were not necessarily those that adopted the most pro-trade policies.1 Think about what this means. For the first time, the Bank is acknowledging that trade liberalization may not be an effective instrument, not just for stimulating growth, but even for integration in world markets. It is admitting, in an underhanded manner, that its repeated assertions about the benefits of globalization do not carry direct implications for how trade policy should be conducted in developing countries. In other words, the Bank
    is beginning to face up to a reality that is obvious to anyone who looks at the empirical record with an open mind: Rapid integration into global markets is a consequence, not of trade liberalization or adherence to WTO strictures per se, but of successful growth strategies with often highly idiosyncrati characteristics.”

    “Consider China and India, the two growth miracles of the last two decades and leading exemplars of the World Bank’s “globalizers.” In both countries, the main trade reforms took place about a decade after the onset of higher growth. Moreover, these countries’trade restrictions remain among the highest in the world. In China’s case, high growth started in the late 1970s with the introduction of the household responsibility system in agriculture and of two-tier pricing. The authorities did not embark on import liberalization in earnest until much later, during the second half of the 1980s and the 1990s. As for India, its trend growth rate increased substantially in the early 1980s by about 3 percentage points. Meanwhile, serious trade reform did not start until 1991-93.
    Governments in both countries focused their scarce political capital and administrative resources on areas other than trade liberalization.”

    “Since both India and China did increase trade substantially, they are both globalizers by the World Bank criterion. But as their experience reveals—along with the experience of many others, such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam—deep trade liberalization is hardly ever a factor in fostering higher growth and expanded trade early on. It is good to see the World Bank catching on to this simple reality.” D. Rodrik

    “The new agenda of global integration is built on shaky empirical ground and is seriously distorting policy makers’ priorities. Making compliance with it the first order of business diverts human resources, administrative capabilities, and political capital away from more urgent development priorities such as education, public health, industrial capacity, and social cohesion. It undermines nascent democratic institutions by removing the choice of development strategy from public debate.”

    “World markets are a source of technology and capital; it would be silly for the developing world not to exploit these opportunities. But globalization is not a short cut to development. Successful development strategies have always required a judicious blend of imported practices with domestic institutional innovations. Policy makers need to forge a domestic growth strategy, relying on domestic investors and domestic institutions. The most costly downside of the integrationist faith is that it is crowding out serious thinking and efforts along such lines.” Dani Rodrik

    Maybe the Philippines has to be divided or partitioned first like Iraq is to be partitioned.

  10. hvrds

    It would best for this country to have a leader who believes in something, anything, rather than have this meandering type of leadership that is prisoner to the the twists and turns of popular public opinion.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/31/AR2006103101311.html

    “The problem of American democracy is (of course) democracy.”

    “In many ways, the election doesn’t matter, and all the hoopla is an exercise in delusional hype. We could blame the prospect of divided government or a bipartisan leadership vacuum; both might promote paralysis. But the deeper cause is public opinion. As Bryce saw, our politicians are slaves to public opinion. Superficially, this should be reassuring. Democracy is working, because public attitudes remain the dominant influence — not “big money” or “special interests,” as many believe.”

    “But it is not reassuring. The trouble is that public opinion is often ignorant, confused and contradictory; and so the policies it produces are often ignorant, confused and contradictory — which means they’re ineffective. The Catch-22 of American democracy is this: A government that mirrors public opinion offends public opinion by failing to do what it promises. People then conclude that the system has “failed.” Robert J. Samuelson

  11. jackryan68

    “Positive regionalism” will not happen unless Congress (especially the Lower House) learns to respect, by allocating funds, to local/regional development priorities emanating bottom-up.

    The RDCs will remain paper tigers unless Congressmen start attending its meetings and participate in how the regional plans and priorities are identified. But they don’t: they’d rather wait for the RDC plans reach the House through the proposed national budget and go for the kill — in Manila, away from the very constituents they are supposed to serve.

    Which leads me to what I believe is an aberration: our Congressman are elected locally, but their basic and baser instincts is to play to the national, Manila-centered gallery. This identity crisis needs to be addressed.

    A practical solution, I believe, is contained in my previous post on the Regional Block Allocation System that the national leadership (through the DBM) will insist as fundamental budgeting policy of its annual appropriation bill with Congress. http://nagueno.blogspot.com/2006/08/if-gma-were-really-sincere-about.html

  12. mlq3

    shaman, unfortunately, for the group i was in, the best that we could arrive at was:

    1. based on the (suprising, to some) openness of the anakbayan representative to engage in dialogue with those who’d previously thought dialogue was futile (particularly the bankers and some private sector people), continuing the process of dialogue, but not under the auspices of government. government-sponsored “summits” tend to limit those who participate and engender a lack of trust among participants.

    2. having recognized that a regional persective might help bridge the gap between local and national, use dialogue as the way forward to catch up with that gap.

    3. keep raising the issue in media and provide the information that media on it’s own might not have the inclination or the means to bring into focus.

    hvrds-

    my assumption was twofold. that it took the chinese 30 years to reverse the damage of the cultural revolution and the twenty years since tiananmen to accelerate science, technology (and industrial espionage) so as to flood the coasts with cash and keep what were the restive students, etc. happy with materialism. so what did i get wrong?

  13. mlq3

    hvrds -an additional question. my understanding of the problem with the great leap forward was its obsession with steel production at the expense of food. the cultural revolution wiped out an entire generation’s capacity for intellectual and scientific work. hasn’t the past few decades also resulted in a lack of an integrated approach so that we’re neither agriculturally productive and self-sufficient, have lost whatever rudimenary industrial capacity we once had, and gutted our educational infrastructure so even our capacity to export high-earning labor is now endangered?

  14. thepublicthing

    Manolo, rebuilding is not the political agenda of anyone as of right now. I think our national situation is undergoing a kind of feudalistic system of governance; perhaps for a young democracy like ours, as human nature may play part of it all, we are looking to a trend of what shall come to pass. Either to a more destructive path or ot an orderly existence to bring decades of political stability and economic prosperity, we will be commpelled to embrace a transition where it will be weakened by conflicts dominated by powerful ruling classes, both in local and national level. As a result, and when a system of government that exercises a dictatorship and held power by wealth that comes from throwing average people into poverty and hunger, it will confront all men in that transition.

  15. Shaman of Malilipot

    In a way, the import-substitution industrialization program of the 1950s was sort of a “great leap forward” that could not be sustained because the bulk of the population, who were in the agricultural sector, did not have the purchasing power to support the industrial sector. The first priority of the post-1946 Government, as what Chiang-Kai-Shek did in Taiwan, should have been to institute a genuine land reform program (land to the tillers + credit support for farm inputs + marketing cooperatives) to attain food sufficiency and convert the rural population into a viable market for manufactured goods. Had we done it early on, our industries that would come later would have flourished and gained strength to compete globally. Our land reform program was not only late, but it was a joke. No wonder, then, that, as Manolo has said, we are not “agriculturally productive and self-sufficient” and we “have lost whatever rudimentary industrial capacity we once had.”

  16. Dominique

    Hi, Manolo,

    Damaging as Marcos’ rule may have been to the country, our neighbors didn’t fare much better during that same period. Dictators and military rule seem to have been the norm more than the exception during those years.

  17. UP student

    This sentence is very appealing in its slogans : “Flush with cash, local governments should invest their surpluses in their neighbors, to build up strong regional economies”.
    (a) “flush with cash???” — Paranaque or any other municipality flush with cash can always fund scholarships (and if they are really barren for ideas, they pay down their debts);
    (b) “invest in their neighbors” : is probably contra to legal requirements — in other words, the local-government funds is restricted to be spent only on approved (namely local) projects.

  18. UP student

    The operative phrase should probably be “…local governments should invest (portion of their funds) ALONG WITH their neighbors to build up strong regional economies”. Any local government should be able to identify two or three projects that benefit them but which (because of costs, access- and other issues) can be made to happen only in cooperative with other LGU’s. Needed is cooperation/coordination at the regional level, not “expropriation of baranggay X’s excess funds” to give to baranggay-Y.

  19. Cabagis

    mlq3,

    What you discussed is actually quite refreshing.

    I agree with you that the national government needs input into this issue but so can WE.

    Here’s an idea – although there are a lot of variables and measures to take into account when comparing the relative success of one local government versus another, there must be some CORE TRUTHs that are applicable in all cases.

    If we can discover these core truths, the national can enact to force feed them down to ALL local governments. Those that adopt the spirit of these core truths quickly maybe gifted with greater autonomy to run their own affairs or receive additional monies to fast track the improvement of key infrastructures.

    I’m all for cooperation and being neighbourly but competition is a proven incentive to progress.

    I’m sure this goes on now but it helps for the rest of us to think out loud anyway.

  20. UP student

    The 3 themes I was trying to convey are (a) expropriatation from the “rich” is too glib a solution for complex problems; (2) wrong to believe that the local yokels are naive and myopic.

  21. Carl

    It is encouraging to note that the line of reasoning is now becoming much more positive and that constructive proposals are being presented.

    I think jackryan68 makes a point re local government laws and their actual implementation. The contradictions are too glaring when it is put into practice by trapos. Meanwhile, Shaman of Malilipot and hvrds draw attention to the fact that our attempts to leapfrog into industrialization without going into the process of agricultural development have been counterproductive. By neglecting our agricultural sector, we failed to establish a rural mass market base which could have jumpstarted our industrial sector. In our rush to emulate the First World, we only ended up falling all over ourselves.

  22. john marzan

    i used to eat out a lot. mcdo, pizza hut, wendy’s… not anymore.

  23. UP student

    China is a good country to analyze in regards economic growth. People interested in “command economy” where the central government determines what is good for all the people and then executes the allocation of resources , click here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_economy

  24. john marzan

    The scorched-earth governance we have now is precisely one of the big problems and it’s what makes me impatient in the face of those who insist “the economy is improving!” (for some) and “the best is yet to come!” (for whom?) and “let’s move on.”

    or “ZERO Unemployment Rate!”

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=1057#comment-101024

  25. supremo

    The Executive branch of the government specifically the departments must be restructured to make regionalism work. Cabinet positions should be by REGION and several national Departments must be combined and replaced by region-based Departments. For example, 17 Regional Department of Human Services headed by 17 different Cabinet Secretaries can gobble up the following national departments Health, Housing, Labor, Social Welfare and Development, Education and CHED. The result will be a bigger Cabinet with less clueless members. Imagine if you are the Mayor of LALA city in Mindanao. You don’t have to go to Manila to seek approval for your public housing project to a clueless Housing Secretary. This setup will work pretty well in Metro Manila too. Imagine Bayani Fernando heading a Department of Human Services for NCR instead of a toothless Metro Manila Development Authority. This change will not involve a constitutional amendment but only an act of Congress.

  26. UP student

    NOTE: Mao is recognized by a majority to have brought China’s economy to devastation. China, where the rule is “rule of the ruler” and less “rule of law”, Mao used his authority to mobilize the Red Guards to perpetuate himself and destabilize both his enemies and the system in general.
    It is Deng Xiaoping who will be remembered mostly for leading a remarkably successful economic reform program which has greatly improved the material welfare of the majority of the Chinese people. Two elements were fundamental to the success of Deng’s economic reform program: “incentive compatibility” and leadership authority. “Incentive compatibility” refers to the degree to which a policy provides benefits to agents, in order to induce them to take desired actions. Deng initiated and implemented reform programs in such a way that the majority of the population, including those who seemed to be potential losers, benefited from and were therefore supportive of the reform. Supposedly, the major losers in any reforms that aim to create a market economic system are the incumbent bureaucrats (the counterpart for Philippine situation will be oligarchs and the trapos). Resistance from these bureaucrats is why reforms have been so difficult in Eastern Europe and Russia. In China, however, Deng-guided reforms co-opted the bureaucrats, by allowing them to sponsor semi-private businesses with entrepreneurs and to obtain, thereby, a last chance to turn their remaining bureaucratic power into personal economic benefit. The Chinese military, through the same mechanism, has also benefited from and supported Deng’s economic program. This mechanism of incentive compatibility has frequently been accompanied by corruption, which has provoked popular discontent and can be seen as a price of Deng’s reform program.

    Deng’s “leadership authority” stemmed from his patriarchal status and personal authority and made his economic programs much easier to implement. Deng had unassailable revolutionary credentials. His tenacity, leadership and political skills were evidenced in the number of times that he was brought down by cruel internal fights in the Communist Party; each time he bounced back triumphantly, and regained political power.

  27. jm

    MLQIII,
    Great four-pointer, may I humbly share a two-cent point?

    As you envision:
    “the positive and creative force is the regional approach which brings the national to terms with the local”
    But,
    “first, what regional approach exists is hampered by the national priorities being dictated not by development, but the pork barrel”
    Suggesting a change in the lower house, you asked:
    “would substituting governors for congressmen to serve as a periodically-summoned but not permantly-constituted lower house be an amendment or revision? (I’m so glad at how clearly and accurately you describe the idea.)

    Will ‘regionalizing’ the pork barrel bring improvement, better regional development?

    May I humbly suggest the following:
    The Legislative Branch
    The Upper House: 24 nationally elected senators.
    The Lower House: 15 Regional Representatives, Sectoral Representatives, Representatives of provincial councils.

    – Regional Representatives are regionally elected to be the regional representative in the lower house, a regional congressman. (Not more than 24 seats)
    – Sectoral Representatives are nationally elected as party list representatives. One seat per sector: disabled, youth, senior citizens, farmers, fishermen, urban poor, indigenous people, ecology conservation advocate, consumer welfare advocate, health care advocate.( Not more than 12 seats)
    – City/Provincial Legislative Council Representatives- Councilman with the highest vote or elected by city/prov councilmen from among themselves. (Not more than 150 seats)

    The Speaker of the House shall be elected from among the Regional representatives by all members of the lower house. The Regional and sectoral representatives shall be permanently convened while Congress is in session and shall serve as the hub of the lower house. All members are convened at the openning and closing of session and periodically, as needed, to deliberate and vote on bills and resolutions.

    Rationalization of the legislature by devolving the legislative system solves the problem of absentism and lack of quorum, besides big cost cutting and avoiding redundancy of local/district legislation, it will also improve the quality of legislation by improving legislator-constituency interaction and consultation.

    The need for regional representation in the legislative branch, imho, is best served in this model than having Senators elected by region. A core group of representatives with national and regional mandates in a dynamically convened lower house is needed while Congress is in session to function as a hub representing the house that is in session but whose local representatives are devolved or locally in session.

    (Above is draft of an idea just to suggest the concept, details can be presented at the next opportunity. A corresponding dynamic model in the executive branch will complete the over-all model that is more in harmony with our geography, pertinent to our political culture and responsive to our current national situation.)

  28. jm

    Carl,
    Thanks for fanning the refreshing air of hopeful deliberation.
    Though I grieve:
    “By neglecting our agricultural sector, we failed to establish a rural mass market base”
    Agricultural development must be the priority over industrialization. Call for a green revolution.

  29. supremo

    I suggest a free for all online constitutional convention. Maybe MLQ3 can setup something in his blog.

  30. jm

    supremo, mlq3 had suggested a wiki-concon, great idea!

  31. manuelbuencamino

    jm,

    why even have congressmen? Just make the governors assume their role. Let’s say for two or three weeks every year governors get together and prepare a budget. Their proposed budget, which will of course have “localized” features, will then be submitted to a nationally elected body, the Senate for example, which will then “nationalize” the budget. The executive will spend the budget as appropriated by the governors and the Senate.

    This way we get rid of the extra layer of pork known as the Batasan which is really just a redundancy because the governor ,who is actually the one running a province and who gets feedback from the provincial assembly members, is really the one in the better position, relative to a congressman, to know what’s best for his province. In short, your governor is your congressman. The senator is elected nationally because we need legislation that has a national scope. Sectoral representatives, who represent the marginalized sectors, will sit as senators because marginalized sectors cut acrosss regional, provincial boundaries.

    Not only do we get get rid of an expensive redundancy in our system, we also strengthen local autonomy by giving governors more power and control over their fate and without sacrificing national unity which is what I fear all these ideas about electing senators regionally will do.

    What about tax measures? Local taxes is up to every province and national taxes will be up to the Senate in consultation with governors.

    The executive will be just that. He will not have any power over the purse which is the root of all corruption.

  32. manuelbuencamino

    Jm,

    ask any provincial governor if they need a congressman once they get the power to appropriate and tax. Governors hate congressmen because that extra 70 million could go directly to the province instead of through the pockets of his congressman. And realize that most provinces have more than one congressman so multiply 70 million by the number of congressmen in a district amd you see how much money is being wasted on a debating and kotong assembly. Besides provincial development becomes fragmented because congressmen depending on party affiliations, political ambitions etc. will go into projects that may not really contribute or gel with the overall plans of a governor.

  33. mlq3

    a wiki concon would be great and not require bilions of pesos. i’m still stumped on how to integrate one in this blog.

  34. jm

    mb,

    As I understand, the governor is with the executve branch while I suggest a regional repesentative in the legislature. Will a governor, a local executive be crossing over to the legislative branch, usurping a function of the provincial legislative council? To keep the separation clear, down the line, national to local.
    The choice is between Governors or Representatives of City/Provincial Councils. As mentioned the Regional Congressmen functions as part of the core or hub as the present district representatives are substituted by reprentatives of city/provincial legislative councils. So the cross-over by the governor to the house imho render the model constitutinally disharmonized.

  35. camry

    The idea of Jm and manuelbuencamino will save a lot of money that can be allocated to improve public facilities, but, if the same “trapos” will occupy those posts, I am sure we go back to zero. EDSA I is 20 years ago. RP could have improved by now, but, what we see is too much politics & corruption is everywhere. One of the best things that EDSA has benefited the Filipinos is more freedom of the press which is presently threthened by the numerous cases filed against several of the famous columnists.

  36. supremo

    I’ll try to setup a wiki concon

  37. jm

    mb,

    re “why even have congressmen? Just make the governors assume their role. Let’s say for two or three weeks every year governors get together and prepare a budget.”

    Agree. No need for a Congressman but how about a representative from the provincial legislative council to takeover his functions instead of the governor?

    Let’s refer to the Local Gov’t code:
    “CHAPTER 3. – LOCAL LEGISLATION

    SECTION 48. Local Legislative Power. – Local legislative power shall be exercised by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the province; the Sangguniang Panlungsod for the city; the Sangguniang bayan for the municipality; and the Sangguniang Barangay for the Barangay.

    SECTION 49. Presiding Officer. – (a) The vice-governor shall be the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan; the city vice-mayor, of the Sangguniang Panlungsod; the municipal vice-mayor, of the Sangguniang bayan; and the Punong Barangay, of the Sangguniang Barangay. The presiding officer shall vote only to break a tie.

    (b) In the event of the inability of the regular Presiding officer to preside at a Sanggunian session, the members present and constituting a quorum shall elect from among themselves a temporary presiding officer. He shall certify within ten (10) days from the passage of ordinances enacted and resolutions adopted by the Sanggunian in the session over which he temporarily presided.”

  38. manuelbuencamino

    jm,

    under our current system the governor is under the executive branch. But a governor becomes a legislator only to pass a budget and not to pass laws for the entire country as the Batasan does now. National laws can be taken care of by a nationally elected body which will include sectoral representatives because marginalized sectors cut across provincial boundaries.

    Let’s assume it’s the same trapos who will become governors. Well, that’s the problem of local voters. We can take comfor in the fact that local dynasties can be defeated. Grace Padaca is proof.

    If you study what congressmen do you will see that their primary function is to act as full-time district agents in Manila. They are there to make sure their district’s pork is released on time and in full. Other than that, there is really no use for them.

    Now if we remove the discretionary power of Malacanang over budget disbursement there will be no need for agents. A national budget once enacted will be released according to the priorities and schedule set by the governors and the Senate.We can even have budgets that contain spending features that span more than one year, which is good for planning and all that.

    My basic idea is we need more efficiency and more local autonomy. So we eliminate an expensive and utterly corrupt redundancy and we clip the powers of Imperial Manila. Let the president execute the laws.

    Of course the president as chief executive needs to be consulted in budget making. But he should not be allowed to reprogram budgets according to prevailing political winds. Once a budget is passed, after consultations among governors, senators and Malacanan, that’s it.

    Just floating an idea. We don’t have to copy any existing system as long as we have one that works and guarantees checks and balances and separation of powers

  39. supremo

    Off topic but maybe useful to the bloggers/commenters

    “Put your Blogger blog right into your Wikispaces wiki to create a whole Internet experience. Create a community with your Wikispaces wiki, add your Blogger blog to it and let your readers see the person behind the wiki. By putting your Wikispaces wiki together with your Blogger blog you will create a great personal Web site.

    The first thing you need to do to add your Blogger blog to your Wikispaces wiki is go to and log into your Wikispaces wiki.

    Click on the “Settings” link in the menu at the top of your Wikispaces wiki page.

    Down at the bottom of the settings you will see a link that says “Click here to integrate a Blogger or TypePad blog”.”

  40. Cabagis

    mlq3,

    On the point about getting rid of the Congress, we still need an elected national assembly to help the President draw-up legislation that affects all of us.

    The notion they only exist to broker their district’s pork is cynical.

    If we want to make a difference, we do not need to make a quantum leap of faith and throw out the baby with the bath water.

    Let’s simply focus on those things we admire about local governments we think are successful and think up ways that can be packaged so it can be replicated in other municipalities or provinces.

  41. UP student

    hvrds said…”Filipina call girls in Singapore and HongKong are giving Russian, Eastern European and Chinese professionals a run for their money.” Is this true?
    This opens up a possibility —- that on one of the Philippines’ tourist islands, to legalize prostitution. The PAGCOR business-model has created jobs and tax-revenue. Extending the “gambling-is-okay”-model into prostitution will mean the Filipino, not the Hongkong-based/Singapore-based pimp, who gets the talent-scout management fee.

  42. UP student

    FOOTNOTE: The Legalization of voluntary prostitution is agreed upon by all the signatories of the UNITED NATIONS Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The appropriate text is:
    Article 11
    1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
    (c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;

    The Philippines signed the UN-CEDAW 15 July 1980.

  43. Carl

    Cabagis said: “If we want to make a difference, we do not need to make a quantum leap of faith and throw out the baby with the bath water.”

    That is what revolutionary governments usually do . . . and why they often fail. The Paris communes, Mao’s failed programs, the gang of four, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, etc., are some examples. That is why it is important to be very objective when formulating policies. It is also important to bear in mind that some flexibility may be necessary, since 100% of objectives may not be attained and a bit of leeway for some compromises may be necessary. However, the main objectives should be pursued relentlessly and it should be always be for the good of the majority – – – not just a sector, a region or a political faction.

    The urge to loot the spoils or to exact retribution (specially along the lines of politics, race or class) is very difficult to resist. It is also very convenient to make a wholesale condemnation of past governments and ignore some of the things that worked. For example, to demonize Marcos and say that one would be “the opposite of Marcos” only would pigheadedly paint oneself into a corner and limit lots of options.

    On the other hand, we have examples of pragmatic, balanced leadership which pursued objectives without capitulating to pressure from either side, such as the cases of Deng Xiao Ping, the Spanish government after Franco, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel’s “Velvet Revolution”, Lula of Brazil, etc. Although not perhaps perfect, at least these governments had achievements that benefited the majority.

  44. UP student

    Leadership from Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
    —FDR said: “What do the people of America want more than anything else? Two things: Work; work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with work. And with work, a reasonable measure of security—security for themselves, and for their wives and children. Work and security … are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. Throughout the nation, men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the government of the last years, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth. …
    —F.D.R. said: “Every man has a right to his own property, which means a right to be assured, to the fullest extent attainable, in the safety of his savings….
    —Acknowledging that “changes in ethics alone” are not enough, he said: “This Nation asks for action, and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem. … It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”
    —“We are definitely in an era of building, the best kind of building—the building of great projects for the benefit of the public, and with the definite objective of building human happiness.’ F.D.R.’s plan foresaw “multi-purpose dams” which provided flood control, river navigation, and hydroelectricity at the same time, plus production of fertilizer. In addition, Roosevelt wanted the electricity to be produced—and sold—at low cost; thereby undercutting the monopolies—a policy whose efficiency he had already proven as Governor of New York.

  45. The Ca t

    mlq3 did not screw up his history if he counted 30 years from 1976 to 2006.

    The fact is the Cultural Revolution was declared by Mao to have ended in 1969 because by 1970, he reestablished ties with the WEST.

    Deng Xiao Peng disbanded the communes in 1959 and not in late 70’s. This was after the failure of the Great Leap Forward which brought famine killing millions of people in China. The communist leaders planned to marginalize Mao after abandoning his ideas. This caused Mao to introduce Cultural Revolution in 1966.

    When Deng took over after Mao’s death 1976 after a power struggle among the leaders, he steered the country’s progress by shifting from development to export led-growth economy.

  46. The Ca t

    Below is the partial list of the governors in Luzon. What do they have in common?

    Many of them come from political dynasties. Many of them have businesses. So can we say that they run to serve or they just run for the position to perpetuate the political clout of the family or protect their business interests?

    Do you expect them to really work for their constituents when in fact they are not residents of the region/province?

    If they cease their connection with their businesses the moment they launch their candidacies, just like in the US, then I would not doubt their sincerity to serve.

    1. Laoag- Bongbong Marcos-Marcos dynasty
    2. Ilocos Sur-Luis Chavit Singson- dynasty
    3. Batanes-Victor Gato
    4. La Union- Victor Ortega
    5. Nueva Viscata Luisa Cuaresma
    6. Cagayan Province- Edgar Lara
    7. Abra-Vicente Valera-
    8. Isabela- Gracia Padaca
    9. Pangasinan-Victor Agbayani-dynasty
    10. Nueva Ecija-Luisa Cuarema
    11. Quirino-Pedro Bacani
    12. Ifugao-Benjamin Capleman
    13. Kalinga -Dominador Belac
    14. –Mt. Province-Maximo Dalog
    15. Bataan- Enrigue Garcia-dynasty
    16. Tarlac-Jose Yap-dynasty
    17. Bulacan-Josefina dela Cruz-business
    18. –Zambales-Vicente Magsaysay-dynasty
    19. Nueva Ecija-Tomas Joson, Jr.-dynasty
    20. Quezon –Bellaflor Castillo-dynasty
    21. Batangas-Armando Sanchez-dynasty
    22. Quezon-Wilfrido Enverga-dynasty
    23. Cavite-Erineo Maliksi-dynasty
    24. Metro Manila-Casimiro Ynares
    many more…

  47. FILIBUSTERO

    LET US SUPPORT AND VOTE FOR THE OPPOSITIONS COMPLETE SLATE, ENSURE MORE THAN 1/3 OF OPPOSITION CONGRESSMEN TO WIN THIS 2007. LET’S PUT AN END TO THE REIGN OF THE EVIL GLORIA !!!

  48. jm

    mb,

    Giving the local chief exec, the governor, the Congressman’s function is giving up check and balance.I would rather that the provincial council as a body and through a representative from among them play the role of the Congressman in formulating the budget. I would also prefer that another councilman be the one to preside over the council instead of the vice goveror or vice mayor. ( The cases in Pasay and Makati could be avoided if the city councils function more effectively as a check and balance on the mayors instead of being merely a rubber stamp councils. Separation of powers on all levels must be maintained as an effective check and balance principle.)

    Ca t,
    Would the regional approach to social, economic and political development help in dismantling dynasties? How would what we can call ‘progressive regionalism’ be from a governor’s perspective? Can a Regional legislative representative with a seat in the lower house be a counter balance to the executive powers governors?

  49. Karl

    HVRDS,

    You have highlighted that China and India has been growing despite state land ownership and trade restrictions being on top of the list.
    Europe is worried that all their euros might end up in China and so with the US , worried that most of its dollars might end up there as well.
    That trumps any state land ownership and trade restriction;
    The state may own the land but they know what do do with it,and obvously the most restricted trade restriction is overshadowed by the the direct investments there….
    Toyota might not be exported to China from japan,but eventually Toyota does not need to be exported to them,it will be built there. The luxury european cars may have their day still,but watch out for the Volks,which is enjoying the consumer driven economy……and I have not even mentioned India.

  50. Karl

    Now for our dear country the philippines…

    Sorry, to say this but the attemp to emulate Mao was far from reality because all the money collected from rich and poor went to the Netherlands or to someone elses pocket.

    No country evelopment happened things only got worse,by extorting money from the poor leaving no money left to bet for jueteng(joke),leading to other bad things,because no matter how hard we try we could not get things right, we could have been another china or india,but lo and behold all the multinationals left for Thailand,Vietnam or somehwere else,now we still have the BPOS but what will happen when the Chinese learn the americann way in a wink,then good bye to Competitive adcvantage,ENTIRELY!

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