We Filipinos love opportunities. That opportunities arise out of crisis is the proven management principle. How else can we explain our ability to create crisis after crisis?
These days, it is no longer about water rationing. We were told that when the rains came, all would be well. The monsoon is pouring at dusk but where is thy water? Years before, we were told that splitting and awarding Metro Manila between two private concessionaries (both run by family-owned conglomerates) would solve the inefficiencies and disruption of a water system run by government. The price of water has dramatically improved.
I initially thought that water-filling stations were making a killing selling drinkable, available, and more-expensive-than-gasoline water. But first there must be water to purify. Restaurants, hotels, and factories all need water to operate at a decent standard if at all — to drink and to clean and to brew, to wash, to cool, and to rejuvenate. My Dad in the 1990s used to say, “It is okay not to have electricity, but not water.”
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (but actually controlled by China) which runs our country’s power supply issues a power level alert to be prepared for rotating brownouts. Is this the power shortage we grew up with all over again, this time foisted on millennials to savor? We are asked to sign up for advisories via SMS or e-mail. We are to be reminded of our internet speed, data prices, and service reliability crisis in our telecommunications. Regardless of any improvement, any mobile user will tell you he is not happy with his provider of which there are only two.
If there are only two providers for an essential service, it is called a duopoly. It acts and reacts like a monopoly. Their two characteristics that go hand in hand are bad service and high prices.
Our transport crisis is running out of superlatives. How to describe the many crises? It used to be a funny source for jokes, then it is said to be hazardous to health and costly for companies. The solution was for not-so-emergency powers, then more number or coding schemes, additional yellow lines, blue lines, contact or no contact policy, Highway Patrol Group to the rescue — or not — moving of terminals and banning of this and that.
Only look at the daily queues that are reaching Guinness World Record length and the faces of the commuters and weep like there is no tomorrow. For all the injuries and deaths on the road that are no longer accidental but intentional, life ends today.
At least the rice crisis is gone, inflation lowered, and streets safer. Our economic growth rate and prospects are being recognized and lauded by the ratings agencies, international lenders, and ourselves.
The biggest crisis is the one in governance. Our institutions are infested with incompetent or inexperienced officials and recycled, tainted appointees. I can support the “whiff of corruption” standard to weed out corrupt public offenders, but it should be consistently applied. Any organization is only as good as the people in it, whether in the private or public sector.
What makes it particularly challenging is that for public organizations, there is a monopoly of service. A Filipino can only get a passport from the Department of Foreign Affairs, a clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation, business permits from local government units and nowhere else. And we know what happens when there is a monopoly without transparency or accountability.
A Filipino can only get justice from the justice system. It is a monopoly of state power — the right to investigate, prosecute, convict, jail, and reform criminals. These days, justice is also served or peddled in the streets. There are the other means of force and violence without responsibility.
But how do we solve a crisis? Crisis is best prevented by making the right decisions at the right time to readily and steadily solve day-to-day problems before they explode. To solve a crisis requires the right persons to do the job. And it is a chicken-and-egg situation because if the right team was in place in the beginning, we will not be facing crisis after crisis. This is a malaise that goes beyond administrations or generations.
Hence is it a government of crisis, a country for crises, and it is governance by crisis. The irony is that these are a result of negligence, inaction, bureaucratic mindsets, and corruption — the very issues governments exist to solve.
I remember the old adage during the campaign for Independence on our preference for a government run like hell by Filipinos. The idea is that at least it is our very own hot place. The 21st century definition of a crisis — it is a government run by Filipinos. I guess we got what we asked for. We Filipino need to use opportunities.