Friday, 21 September 2012

Government is wasting PHL’s inner strengths

Business Mirror

JUJITSU is a Japanese martial art developed around the principle of using an attacker’s strength against him.

In his column “Clouds On The Horizon” (September 18, BusinessMirror) Sen. Manny Villar described the many challenges that the country and administration’s policy-makers are facing. He concluded by saying, “The Philippines should not only prepare for the worst, but also work to sustain its performance in the first quarter. This would not be easy. It will require determination and hard work to post gains, inch by inch, to reach the peak of the economic hill. And it is time, now more than ever, for the Philippines to draw on its inner strengths.”

The numerous obstacles that must be managed are internal and external. However, as the senator pointed out, they are relatively clear and straightforward. So why are the solutions so elusive?

On Tuesday the President said, “his administration is working diligently to come up with “creative solutions” so that all challenges may be addressed in the shortest possible time.”

Imagine this roundtable discussion. “The airport here in Manila is a mess. The runways should be longer. And we need more runways. The location is hazardous in a heavily populated area. Road access to the airport is a nightmare. The domestic terminal cannot handle the number of passengers. The international terminal is old, inefficient, over capacity and tourists hate it. Any suggestions?”

“Well, if tourists hate it, let’s build a new terminal or even two.”

Now listen to this discussion. “The airport here in Manila is a mess. For a variety of reasons, it is severely limiting the company’s ability to maximize profits. Any suggestions?”

“Well, if the current airport is hurting profits, let’s build a new airport.”

The first conversation shows the “creative solutions” of the government. The second shows why the private sector is successful.

What caught my attention in Senator Villar’s column was “And it is time, now more than ever, for the Philippines to draw on its inner strengths.”

The Philippines has some incredible strengths. But it seems that the government is using those strengths against the country like a deranged Ju-jitsu master.

Looking at the way the government operates, it might as well be 1898. With the speed at which the government moves, it is as if they are waiting for approval from the colonial governor-general to come by clipper ship.

The PHL is one of the most highly mineralized places on the planet, yet mining’s contribution to employment and economic activity is lower than it was 30 years ago.

The Mining Act was passed in 1995, 17 years ago. Multiple governments worked to rationalize the industry. The current administration said that it needed a year to put order to the mining industry to benefit all and answer the concerns about this business. Then it took nearly two years. And now we are told it will definitely be done by 2016. Is there a reason why “creative solutions” from the PHL government take a generation to create?

The PHL should be a major global tourist destination given its people and natural features. The government is making a major thrust on increasing tourism. For years we have heard how the PHL was going to become a major medical tourism destination, or was it dental tourism, maybe it was eco-tourism. Why wasn’t the government concentrating on “Fun Tourism?” But that’s ok because now we have a new slogan. The Department of Tourism projects 4.5 million visitors this year. Thailand gets that many in three months. Why?

Because the PHL is a difficult tourist destination and few really like coming here. From ABS-CBN reporting on the most recent survey: “The reputation of these two Southeast Asian nations [the PHL and Indonesia] is impeded by poor infrastructure, fears over safety, concern about corruption and regular word of mouth accounts of poor visitor experiences.” Indonesia I can understand since Muslim terrorists bomb hotels in the capital city.

What major improvements has the government made in the last 10 years to make PHL more “tourist friendly?” The government always has many project ideas and complains about not having money. How about borrowing some of that $80 billion that the Bangko Sentral is sitting on? And this is real money, not the funny money that the US government is borrowing from the Federal Reserve.

If as Senator Villar says, there are clouds on the horizon, then the PHL needs a government that knows how to make good quality umbrellas. The PHL is unfortunate to have had a succession of policy-makers that have been unable to advantageously use the strengths of this country and its people. And it is time for the Philippines to finally draw on its inner strengths.

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