BOO CHANCO: ATE GLO'S INAUGURAL MUST INSPIRE US
MANILA, June 30 , 2004 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - Alex Magno, fellow STAR columnist and a close adviser to Ate Glo, said it best. The international investment community, Alex wrote last Saturday, will closely observe Ate Glo’s inaugural speech, "scanning it for indications she is willing to put her leadership on the line for reforms even as a grossly irresponsible opposition is gnawing at her mandate."
Not only that, Alex continued that the State of the Nation address Ate Glo will deliver before Congress in late July, will also be "closely scanned for indications that her administration is willing to bite the bullet to avert the further decline of our economy even as the leftist groups mount noisy demonstrations demanding wrong-headed alternatives."
How I wish Ate Glo listened to Alex in crafting her inaugural speech for today. Actually, Ate Glo can disregard the "irresponsible opposition" and the leftists. They aren’t interested in saving our democratic institutions and the Republic itself, as much as grabbing political power. Ate Glo should concentrate on what she can do now: To lead, to inspire and do what must be done to address the crisis upon us.
I realize, of course, that Alex is but one voice in a cacophony of voices trying to get the attention of Ate Glo within the ruling coalition. Alex must compete within a zoo of vested interests represented by traditional politicians, a group where Ate Glo is one of the prominent members.
I am afraid that in the end, Ate Glo will end up delivering a forgettable speech full of rhetorical clichés and with the usual populist promises, like her so-called six (or is it now 10?) point program. She will try to pacify the angry supporters of FPJ among the masa by reiterating the election campaign promises she made, as if she were still Ate Glo the candidate, rather than the newly elected President of the Republic.
I would not be surprised if the crisis we now face will be glossed over by a President who may not feel she has the moral authority to ask the citizenry for sacrifices in the face of a most serious fiscal deficit problem. She, after all, aggravated the problem, even if we grant that she inherited a substantial part of it. Judging from the response of STAR readers to a question posed in the InBox section of this paper about their willingness to make sacrifices to save this country, there is near unanimity in a refusal to give more sacrifices until after the politicians do their share.
What we have is a cynical, frustrated and increasingly angry citizenry. Our politicians may say that Pinoys are resilient and will quietly bear difficulties. But like anything else, the patience of the Pinoy has its limits. And we are most probably approaching the limits now. Or if not, the sacrifices that will be forced upon us by forces beyond our control, from rising oil prices to the impact of globalization, will cause us to reach the breaking point sooner.
If Ate Glo knows what is good for her and for the country, she will start off her inaugural with a sincere mea culpa. That sets the tone for reconciliation. Surely, she does not believe that she had been blameless. It is wrong to think the elections wiped the slate clean, as she suggested in an interview with Korina Sanchez. She has failed us in more ways than she wants to imagine.
She must say sorry for making a number of lousy appointments during her three-year watch. She must say sorry for being blindly populist, specially with regard to Napocor even if she can justify herself by saying she was only trying to help the harassed Pinoys so she can win re-election and, thereafter, do what is right. She must say sorry for not doing enough to rein in the bloated and corrupt bureaucracy.
Then she must give a frank assessment of the mess the country is in. As Babe Romualdez, another STAR columnist puts it, four babies are born every minute and we have to face a debt payment obligation of P1.7-billion every 24 hours. The public sector debt was estimated by Neda Chief Romy Neri at 126.2 percent of GNP, meaning the country does not earn enough to cover our debts. Thus far, we are making do by exporting our labor and borrowing heavily. These stop gap measures cannot go on forever.
Our ability to export labor depends on the need for their services abroad as well as on the turn of violent events in the Middle East. It was pathetic to watch Romy Neri assert in a recent ANC interview that they had done very well in creating jobs, except that more people are entering the labor force than the jobs they are creating. Isn’t that an admission of failure?
As for borrowing, we are very close to the limits beyond which the international financial community would be very afraid to touch us. Besides, as a former NEDA chief pointed out, "our government’s fiscal situation is in such a great big mess, such that 81 percent of projected 2004 revenues–that means four out of every five pesos of revenues our government will collect this year–will have to go to debt service, for both interest and amortization of the principal."
Ate Glo must appeal for understanding and support because she must put into effect belt tightening measures that some sectors may see as harsh, like drastically cutting the size of the bureaucracy to save on a pretty large outlay for salaries and benefits. She must appeal to members of Congress to let go of many of their perks and privileges, including their upkeep as well as their pork barrel. Ate Glo must appeal to and convince all government officials to set the example for austere living and working.
She must be able to offer real solutions, not political paybacks or symbolic solutions. For instance, the plan to transfer the various department head offices to the regions is a waste of time and money, both of which we don’t have plenty of. Moving Cito Lorenzo’s office to Mindanao won’t enhance the country’s agricultural development. Nor will Agrarian Reform be more of a success if its head office is in Iloilo. Let us go to the meat, not the sauce in our programs. But move Congress to Baghdad. That would be worth the expense.
Also important is the ability of both speeches to rally the public behind her leadership. This she can do by presenting to us a broad image of where she wants to take us, how she plans to take us there and how long it would take. She has to convince the middle class, the professionals and the small entrepreneurs that she will now be more of the economist than the politician. Otherwise, more Pinoys, the ones whose skills and resources we need, will protest with their feet, giving up on their country, at least for the meantime.
She has to be seen as sincere in offering the olive branch of peace to the opposition. This sharp division among our people is a formula for disaster. Even if FPJ concedes, his natural constituency still retains legitimate heartaches about the social injustices that have been perpetuated for too long now. She will have to be the catalyst that would make it possible for all sectors of society to see themselves as primarily Filipinos who must be concerned for the nation‚s survival.
The best inaugural speech is one that is very simply written, very honest, very candid and very inspiring, not one of those filled with oratorical pomposity. It must also not sound too technocratic. There should only be enough numbers as is necessary to drive home an important point. It must be very realistic about where we are, what would become of us if we remain divided and how time is running out. Her vision for us must come out clearly.
She should avoid the temptation to use literary devices, like the ill-fated paper boats, that do not contribute to a better understanding of the one message everyone must realize at the end of her discourse: that we are in deep shit and the more we throw it on each other, the more we spread shit around us without getting us out of the muck. The only message we should expect from our leader during this difficult time is, it’s time to get out of the shit hole.
Alex Magno, warned in his column yesterday that "from tomorrow, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will have no excuse for inferior governance." Will Ate Glo measure up? We can only wait and see.
Learning From Mistakes
Dr. Ernie E thinks even God learns from His mistakes. Ate Glo should take heart and learn from hers.
Grandpa and granddaughter were sitting talking when she asked, "Did God make you, Grandpa?"
"Yes, God made me," the grandfather answered.
A few minutes later, the little girl asked him, "Did God make me too?"
"Yes, He did," the older man answered.
For a few minutes, the little girl seemed to be studying her grandpa, as well as her own reflection in the mirror, while her grandfather wondered what was running through her mind. At last she spoke up.
"You know, Grandpa," she said, "God’s doing a lot better job lately."
Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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