Thursday, October 1, 2015

Are Elections Derailing Our Long Term Development?

Infrastructure development is a key cog in economic progress. At least, that's what we are taught. If you think about it, what kind of an investor won't take into account the traffic situation of an area in determining where to place a business? No sane businessman would willingly deal with constant water shortages or power outages, right? These are things that even a normal, high school kid would know. But why is it that the government constantly fail to address looming or current infrastructure problems?

I've written about traffic and one of possible steps that could be taken to lessen it on this blog. But recently, traffic is not the only infrastructure concern popping up on TV news broadcasts.

Lately, a problem with water supply is being felt by our friends under Maynilad. But the government has assured that they're on top of it. Fears of hoarding are apparently unbounded as the air force is ready for cloud seeding operations and a "water czar" will be ready to quench our thirst in the coming months. 

Cloud seeding and forming special agencies to help with the water problem is all well and good. The same can be said about the HPG manning EDSA, truck bans being halted to prevent port congestion and the Interruptible Load Program to lower electricity demands. But why did we have to come to this? Why hasn't the government been planning for the EL NiƱo? It's not like this is the first time it happened. Why did we have to wait until now to address the traffic problem? LTO should have known and alerted the president or whoever of the increasing number of vehicles, right? Shouldn't the DOE have an expected power demand data sheet or something?

Why did we have to come to this?

It is easy to blame the present administration for our problem with infrastructure. I mean, they are the ones in charge. But to say it is all Noynoy and his stooges' fault is not enough. 

The Philippines has not been the best when it comes to devising and implementing long term plans. It's not this administration's fault that a person from Bulacan needs to get a job in the Metro to gain "decent" salary. It's urban planners of past generations that gave us this setting. The power crisis we had last summer may not have been an issue had the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant been running. But of course, Cory and succeeding presidents allowed that plant to rot. The blame is not solely on this administration. But of course, they are not free of responsibility.

One of the most noticeable trait of our politics is how our leaders refuse to acknowledge the great things being handed down to them by their predecessors. This trait is not exclusive to the national level as I'm sure all of us have noticed how projects in our towns are stopped once a new mayor comes in. This behavior is due to the need for politicians to hog the glory and credit. 

Voters attach a certain project or policy to an individual politician. A good example of this is how Marcos supporters point to the expressways to legitimize the dictator's rule or how the Aquinos brought democracy back to the Philippines. But aside from being too simplistic, this behavior can be a deterrent to progress.. 

The North Rail Project that the Arroyo administration tried to initiate may have proved valuable to us. But since there were anomalies in the project, it's been thrown to the back burner by its successor. The same happened with the Nuclear Power Plant. Politicians are discouraged to look through the ideas of their predecessors because they don't want their names to be attached to these ideas because if it ends up being good, they have to share the credit. And if it doesn't end up well, they get all the blame. This lack of cooperation within succeeding leaders is why our development on all aspects has not caught up with our neighbors'.

"Ipagpapatuloy ko ang Tuwid na Daan"

Ever since the fall of Marcos, presidents have usually been succeeded by the opposition or by someone who they did not endorse. The only presidential winner who had his predecessor's endorsement was FVR.

From 1986 to the present, the older generation have said that life was better in the 50's or 60's. The Martial Law era may have been a major cause of that as people like me maintain it had a negative effect on our development. But at the same time, why haven't we been able to at least return to that period of optimism? Maybe we have now. But why did it take us so long? Was the Marcos era that devastating or have the quality of leadership regressed? Remember that that time of supposed prosperity came a decade or two after World War II. It's been three decades since the supposed slump of the Marcos administration. Even with the help of the Americans, I can't see Martial Law having been worse than a war.

Maybe the ever-present call for change has done more bad than good? Maybe it's because of how we understand "change". News programs keep saying change starts with us. "Ako ang simula" has been the saying in TV Patrol since 2010. But what do we change? Some think that merely changing the leaders is the thing. Some say the ideology needs to be changed like how a Duterte federal government, tighter leash style is needed. Some say the way voters think needs to change. Whatever the case may be, some sort of change will occur in 2016. Whether it be a change for the better or a drastic enough change is the question.

As of writing, three major candidates have officially declared their candidacy for president. Grace Poe has said that she will rule with her own version of "Tuwid na Daan". Mar Roxas has said he will continue Aquino's "Tuwid na Daan". Binay on the other hand has criticized this "Tuwid na Daan". While all these have been happening, we can only assume Duterte is riding his bike around Davao like the apparent bad-ass he is. (It's official; Duterte has joined the presidential election along with Miriam Defensor-Santiago)

Change is a coming folks. Like a storm heading our way, we can't stop it. I just wonder how Aquino's successor behaves with regards to things Aquino's administration started. If long term projects don't get awarded to bidders by March, will they get another chance with the next administration? Long term projects like the Manila Flood Control Plan may not reach the deadline. If no bidders are awarded for projects like this, will they be forgotten by the next administration? Will Aquino's high approval rating affect the decision?

The lack of long term planning is one of the reasons why we are still under the "developing country" label. It does sure take a lot of time to develop. And with another sort of change coming this 2016, we can only imagine what that change would mean to our "development".


  1. I think the problem with the government is that kada palit ng mga tao, palit systema and regulations din. We can't move forward kasi every few years stop and start something new tayo. I hope those who will be elected can set aside personal interests and do what is right objectively. Still easier said than done though.

    1. Yun talaga e. Personal kasi ang pulitika dito. Sa US for example, ObamaCare will be remembered as a policy of the Democrats even if it's Obama's name on it. Dito, politicians switch parties so often that the parties are not the one's getting the credit or blame. Instead of voting for politicians because they represent an ideal, we vote for them because of who they are. With that, politicians need to make sure that before spending the budget, it's their names connected to it and brilliant ideas by their rivals are forgotten. I doubt it's gonna change anytime soon... sana lang mali ako... hehe