If I Were King for Just One Day

Indulge me, it’s a Friday.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what things I would do to fix this country, assuming I was voted or appointed Supreme Leader of the Philippines.  Hmm, where to start?

1) Run the country like a corporation –  Start with a mission statement, hire the right people, establish long terms goals and set clear milestones and short term targets, review performance vs. targets.

2) Change form of govt to federal parliamentary system. Enough said about this.

3) Develop other major economic centers such as Cebu and Davao to decongest Metro Manila.  Too much of GNP is still centered on Luzon / Metro Manila.

4) Institute compulsory national service at final grades of high school, and college – HS and College students have option to do either military training or civil service/community work.  Key point is you can’t do service in your region; people from Luzon have to go to South (Viz-Min) and vice versa.  No student can graduate without completing this requirement.

5) Revise the tax code – average personal and income tax rates down to 15-20%.

6) Liberalize Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules – scrap 60/40 rule.  Enough said about this.

7) Prioritize infrastructure – especially mass transport, roads, bridges, airports.  Form more private-public partnerships.

8) Develop military capability with focus based on coastal protection – i.e. small boats, frigates, missile carriers.

9) Establish a national industrial strategy – which sectors to target.  Off the top of my head, IT , EPC, and shipbuilding seem to be natural competitive advantages.  Weapons manufacture may be another one.  Build more vocational schools and institutes to act as feeders for the targeted industries.

10) Have a Ministry of Information (Propaganda) – to promote cultural change, love of country, cleanliness etc.  This complements the national service requirement.

11) Have the press and media form a self regulatory body that clamps down on “paid” journalism, erroneous, misleading or malicious headlines and stories.  Have a government body that issues licenses and has power of suspending or revoking licenses.  Have it police errant media practitioners that do not follow guidelines.

12) Promote family planning.

13) Build more parks and playgrounds.  Increase the green space ratio in urban areas.

Ok, I realize now that most of these action points are actually modeled after Singapore, but hey, why not?  Things clearly work over there.  If you are my age, you may also recognize that many of these steps were taken by Marcos in his “New Society” movement in the 70’s.  Go figure.  The guy had some good ideas, but the corruption and human rights abuses got in the way.

So, that is what I would do if I were Supreme Leader.  If you have any other ideas, post some comments.

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16 thoughts on “If I Were King for Just One Day

  1. Excellent, Charles, excellent. New to me is number 10, Ministry of Information, as an engine of social change, and I really like that. I also like a lot of your other suggestions including the investment in small, flexible military systems, regulation of media, and an industrialization strategy. Number 13, I would expand to a comprehensive National Land Use law to replace having each city or municipality chopping up the Philippines to the satisfaction of the local landlords. I’d also mandate an upgrade of Real Estate recording and taxation powers, automating that, so that land starts getting properly titled and taxed. I do think that number 7, investment in infrastructure, is being done pretty aggressively now. The nation is just way behind from the lack of such investments in prior administrations.

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  2. Yes, my brother-in-law told me about the Ministry of Information which existed in Marcos’s time. They had a lot of catchy phrases and jingles. The thing is I saw a lot of that stuff in Singapore, when I was living there, and although people question the efficacy of such blatant social engineering, I do believe it sinks in and, at the very least, does not hurt, no? The Philippines needs a lot of things and some would say propaganda is a bad word, smacking of cultural revolution, but I think a sense of commonality and nationhood could be enriched and fortified with more public messaging and leadership from the government.

    Regulation of media is dicey, sure to bring out some outraged, rah rah democracy types. But really. It is a zoo out there, something has to be done if only to protect journalists from themselves. And everybody decries what they see in the movies and on television, with all the ass twerking, sex, and loud hosts humiliating poor and elderly people. I am going to sound like an old fogey…but somebody has to safeguard the youth! Tell them life is not a dance contest.

    Good suggestion on the Land Use Law. I take that to mean it would improve proper zoning and urban planning.

    So let’s do it Joe, you and me, we can turn this ship around. 🙂

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    • Ah, I don’t have that kind of aspiration or influence, and I actually think the nation, as a conglomerate of institutions and individuals, is pretty good at steering itself, as long as the President is of earnest intent and good brain, as is the case of President Aquino. It is democracy, so it is messy by definition. I only expect to put some ideas into the conversations had about town. Those that help will prosper, and those that don’t will die.

      Any candidate for President would prosper by thinking about your proposed steps and choosing one or two to anchor a campaign on.

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    • @Charles, I thought you might find this article interesting. It recites some of the steps being taken to move the Philippines toward more constructive and competitive practices. It is a part of the management process of the Aquino Administration that most people don’t know about because it makes for very boring news reporting. But “metrics” are becoming the standard for driving toward improved performance.

      http://opinion.inquirer.net/86606/public-private-collaboration

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      • Thanks Joe, this is good stuff. (Personally, one wonders at the pace that these good things transpired. Streamline business incorporation process and metrics for LGUs? These should have been decided and rolled out within a month. But Ah, baby steps). You know, people not knowing about the positive is precisely one of the main weaknesses of the Aquino admin — the total inability to communicate , include, and inspire Filipinos.

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      • Well, I disagree. The communication program is actually thorough and excellent, but the audience (as things are filtered through the media) is not particularly receptive. It wants blood and gore and people at one another’s throats. I have no trouble finding the positive, but people hereabouts are too complacent within the ream of their own limited knowledge to find it. I’d put you in that category, to, actually. You are quick to condemn even when presented with information that shows your prior misconceptions missed a few things.

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      • Oh, didnt think I was condemning so much as giving my limited observation,as a regional economic analyst , on things that can be done a lot better. Furthermore I believe I am among the majority in this view.

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      • Put another way, you don’t blame yourself for not having accurate knowledge, but insist on blaming Aquino. That’s the way many Filipinos do it, too, actually. Self justification over accuracy and fairness.

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      • Well, unless you are actually part of the administration and privy to the secret grand intentions in Philippines ‘s leaders’ hearts, I dont see how anyone would get this “positive information”. Cmon even you would admit how chaotic and incoherent the Malacanang press spokesperson(s) are. It is a very basic thing, to establish a competent public information and relations department.

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      • You flatter me too much, Joe. Alas, wanting better and not being easily satisfied does not make one an idealist. I think I am very much the realist, and my comparison of Aquino’s performance is based on what I see from leaders in the region. Many Filipinos, unfortunately, do not read anything outside the local newspapers and are totally unaware of what leaders can do, for example in India and Indonesia, where leaders have spelled out clear strategies for growth and development.

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      • I agree that you are in the majority, as it is easy to see the shortcomings of Philippine society and practices. Filipinos also look for culprits rather than solutions. The Mamasapano hearings a perfect case in point. My own adopted position is to emphasize the positive being done because much of the negative is deeply rooted in social mores or wasted prior investments (infrastructure) and it is unreasonable to hang those two albatrosses around the necks of those who are indeed doing things differently and better. There is a LOT of good work being done. And some bad (Abaya). I personally don’t like dwelling on the negative as if that were the whole picture. It’s, oh, I dunno . . . uninspiring.

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      • There is no arguing your success as a blogger Joe. You certainly have found your like-minded constituency. I’m sure I am not the first person to have a different view, and certainly maintain an open mind to your angle of inspiration, so long as the thesis put forth does not violate my sense of sanity.

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  3. Question: Wouldn’t federalizing the country be antithetical to our desire to implement intrusive nanny state a la Singapore style social engineering? Otherwise, you’ll have a host of mini-fiefdoms doing as they please.

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  4. Hi Leo, many of my wishlist / to-do items are actually from the Singapore model. People can say what they want about Singapore, but there is no arguing with success. Their model works and it seems to me that was where Marcos was headed except he failed in execution and character. Ultimately, he was no Lee Kuan Yew. The Philippines has to grapple with its concept of democracy, which is largely borrowed from the US. It has to ask what works and what does not, and not just adopt a whole framework and mindset that does not fit a developing country in Asia. For example with regards to “intrusion” – are Filipinos willing to give up some freedoms in exchange for a largely crime-free country? Social engineering – would Filipinos complain about anti-littering campaigns and higher car prices – if this in turn produced a clean country and the higher car prices financed an extensive and efficient public transport system? My sense is that Filipinos are ready to make these trade-offs and change tack, if only the proper bold leaders can be identified and voted in.

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