MANILA, July 26, 2005
 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - I wasn’t in a very good mood Sunday evening because Studio 23 skipped showing the comedy "Two and a half men". I was down to just watching the "Friends" spin-off "Joey". Luckily the "Joey" episode was funny enough to relax me and so I had the energy to risk my psychological equanimity by tuning in to ANC to check who’s the political clown being interviewed.

Well, Pia Hontiveros was talking to Neric Acosta, one of the more capable and intellectual members of the House of Representatives and my good friend, Joey Salceda. That was not so bad, I thought, I might even gain some insights from the discussion. I was not disappointed.

The new idea that evening came from Joey. The congressman from Albay advanced the proposition that contrary to conventional wisdom, it is the economy that would save Ate Glo. Just before the congressmen went on the air, Pia was interviewing UP economist Ernie Pernia and he said the political turmoil wouldn’t have been so bad if the economy were healthier.

Joey advanced his "firewall" theory. It is based on how the market has reacted to all the political noise in recent weeks. Despite initial jitters, Joey observed that the peso did not collapse to P60 to the dollar, the Phisix recovered quickly and the T-bill rate is allowing government to borrow at the lowest cost ever at about five percent.

The market, Joey said, is reacting very well because the middle class has exhibited political maturity by not simply pouring out into the streets. Investors have also learned to discount our political posturing and used the occasion as a good buying opportunity, as the more jittery foreign funds fled.

Joey opined that if the economy holds out for the next nine months, Ate Glo may be home free. But he also said, the politics of the situation must not deteriorate during the period or it could be curtains for her too. In the economic front, the big "ifs" are the escalating world oil prices and the fate of the EVAT before the Supreme Court. In the political front, the impeachment case could be the defining issue.

Neric is no match to Joey when the former stock market strategist gets very enthusiastic about economic issues that are his forte. Yet, I thought Joey was glossing over the fact that the "positive" market data he is citing masks how the economy is at a standstill in a region where growth is the thing. The low T-bill rate may be music to the ears of National Treasurer Omar Cruz but it shows a level of desperation too on the part of some investors.

Given that the inflation rate is at a high level of about eight percent, many people and many financial institutions are content to lose money by going into a "safekeeping" mode. They are not making the kind of investment that creates jobs and moves the economy forward. They are making the temporary decision of parking their money in T-bills at five percent, hoping that the situation clears up soon. I don’t think they will wait too long or will they give Joey his nine months before capital flight ensues.

I think it is too early to say, as Joey would have us believe, that we have become like Italy where the business sector has learned to ignore the politicians. Joey’s "firewall" that supposedly separates politics from the economy, may just be an illusion for Ate Glo’s apologists like Bobi Tiglao and Ric Saludo. If it is there at all, Microsoft must have made it. It is too porous for comfort.

But Joey is right when he said that confidence building measures would help Ate Glo get back enough political brownie points to rescue her from the precipice. Joey said that he proposed a number of "plain vanilla" measures that would project the message that the government is functioning and effectively addressing issues that matter most to people.

Joey’s "plain vanilla" proposals are along the lines of what we have been saying in this column we ought to do, like... allowing Bayani Fernando to do what is necessary to take care of traffic on Metro Manila streets, supporting Obet Pagdanganan’s effort to bring low cost medicines to our barangays, collecting garbage, mitigating rising prices of energy and food, etc. Helping the victims of troubled pre-need firms is also part of Joey’s "plain vanilla" proposals, even as he made clear that any help from government excludes bail out of pre need plan owners who mismanaged their firms or made bad decisions.

What I found most interesting in Joey’s proposals is a recommendation to shift from Ate Glo’s "photo op" oriented management style. Joey correctly explained in the paper he emailed me, that a communications plan is secondary and merely supportive. "It is policy, not personality, that could put closure to political issues… Blair-like policy recalibration and program execution can not be substituted by cosmetic makeover, image ‘rebonding’… It is like going to a John Roberts Powers school, instead of UP NCPAG."

Finally, Joey has this theory of a "born again" Ate Glo. "It is probable," Joey says, "that the President would have been so chastened by the spate of degradation exercises and would have been cleansed by the impeachment process that she would get a second wind – What does not kill you makes you stronger. The pressure to perform is at its extreme."

Under normal conditions with normal personalities, that should happen. But I say, don’t bet on it Joey. I am skeptical she could be what she couldn’t make herself to be, all these past four years in office.

In fact, Joey can just dream on. I saw nothing of the "born again" Ate Glo that Joey was rhapsodizing about last Monday when she delivered her SONA. Nor did we hear any of the hard working "plain vanilla" proposals designed to win the people’s confidence.

I suspect Joey isn’t that influential with Ate Glo because he makes sense. Remember he recommended a host of confidence building measures with the Hyatt Ten which includes firing Mike A’s boys among other things which Ate Glo reneged on. I am afraid Joey’s "born again" Ate Glo dream isn’t going to happen. I hope I am wrong. The Hyatt group may be right. She could really be incapable of reform.

Little things

I just got a copy of a small book entitled "12 little things to help our country" from the author himself, as we walked out of our chapel after Sunday Mass. Alexander Lacson, the author of the book, is about 40-years-old, a graduate of the UP College of Law who also took up post graduate studies at Harvard Law School, is your typical Pinoy middle class professional who has made the conscious decision to stay here.

He recalled that some years ago, he and his wife Pia had a discussion on whether they should stay or migrate abroad for the good of their children. They asked themselves if the country would be better off in 20 years. If the answer was yes, they would stay. If no, they would migrate.

They confessed they couldn’t answer that question one way or the other. They realized the answer was within them. The country would improve if they did something about it. It would not, if they did nothing at all. The answer lies on the people, on all of us.

So the Lacsons decided to stay and have, since then, been consciously doing little things that should help make this country a little better place to be in. I didn’t ask them if they are disappointed at the results thus far, but Mr. Lacson looked enthusiastic enough.

Indeed, he must be enthusiastic for him to invest time and money in writing this book of little things to do. You have to buy the book to find out what the little things are, but I tell you, they are all so simple and everyday things. The Lacsons have truly lighted a candle instead of cursing the darkness. His book impressed even Tita Cory who wrote in the Foreword she is glad Lacson is urging us to use and harness People Power to help build our nation during normal times.

Lacson got his inspiration from Malcolm Gladwell, cited by Time Magazine as one of the world 100 influential people. Gladwell says "do not underestimate the power of little things." He also quotes Charles Simons who said "life is made up of little things. Greatness follows if we learn to be great in little things."

Well… check out Alex Lacson’s book which should be out soon. In the meantime, do your little thing too everyday. And pray that the Little Thing in Malacańang eventually finds greatness in the "plain vanilla" little things Joey Salceda lined up for her to do.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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