Engineers in my time wore slide rules like a six shooter pistols. They were quick draws with intricate calculations that are today flashed out by computer. The modern computer was designed by an engineer with a mind for application, comfort, speed, result.
See, that is the thing about engineers. They are both creative and applied. They have to understand the idea and they have to know how to put it into structure. That structure may be steal beams or large oil pipes or electronic wires or composite airplane parts.
The Philippines needs three skilled engineers: an Engineer in Chief, a Social Engineer, and a Competency Engineer. Men or women who understands that the Philippines is limited by shortcomings that most people don't see, or ignore. It needs solutions and structure, not criticisms, not small acts that don't correct the problem, not more bandaids.
The Congress is a fine institution. It is just incompetent at getting the Philippines up to speed in anything that matters. The President is a fine man. He is just incompetent at finding a way to get from desire to reality, where desire is a booming economy and reality is poverty and unnecessary deaths. Government agencies like Customs and Immigration and Foreign Affairs and Tourism and Trade are fine organizations, but they are incompetent at getting high value production and world class result.
Some people in government are starting to hone in on the problem. Senator Pimentel III was close when he urged President Aquino to appoint the right people to agencies that deal with disasters. He said: "We need these men by whose decisions and actions lives are saved. The worst thing is to have high-level officials merely monitoring and reporting the scenario. That's the role of the media."
Perhaps the good Senator should be the Engineer in Chief, the guy who understands that problems are generally systemic, not transactional.
The rain was an act of God. The situation on the ground, the cut trees, the houses on riverbanks, were deeds of mankind, a system built on year after year of ineffectual work. And thievery.
The flood was caused by huge rain, perhaps because of global warming. Maybe we need competency in preparing for more intense storms and rising seas and changing micro climates.
The flood damage was intensified because forests had been clear-cut, robbing the hills of their staying power. This was done because people in power cheated or were not competent. Going even deeper as to "why", one can see that these are chronic problems within a government of poorly paid people, most of whom have little opportunity to improve their condition. "Career" is not a word you hear much about in the Philippines, especially among young people who know the plum jobs go to people with connections.
The job of the Engineer in Chief is to identify when and how problems arise, at the root.
If the problems are social, or cultural . . . such as the way "loss of face" gets in the way of objective problem-solving, because people are more interested in winning (saving face) than in good results . . . then the Social Engineer needs to be summoned. He is likely to recommend supplements to the education curriculum or public service campaigns to enlighten people.
If the failure is competency, then the Competency Engineer needs to be summoned. The DENR can't seem to stop the clear-cutting of trees. But that is the job. Why are they failing?
Define the job. Train or get the best people to do the job. Stop filling jobs with wives and cousins and friends and people owed favors, or who have the power to offer favors for cash.
President Aquino understands part way. He said: “But the problem is many are still violating (the logging ba). So we have a fact-finding team that will determine the violators and we will file cases and hold them accountable."
Punishment of the negligent does not fix the problem, though, does it? It is just a part of the excuse-making and blaming that avoids the real problem.
What is fascinating to me is knowing that the problem is two-fold but can be moved forward with only one solution. A solution you never hear about from legislators or the Administration or government agencies.
- Today the culture is steeped in cheating and corruption because it is the only way people can grow richer. People need to see opportunity to get wealthy by playing it straight. That is why a Fair Employment Act is so critically important. To build opportunity into the system. To establish "career" as a real word in the Philippines.
- Incompetent people are lodged in important jobs. A Fair Employment law that bans hiring and promoting on any basis but capability can fix this. It will take a little time, but the incompetent people will soon be shown the door.
- Define the job precisely and succinctly, including measurable objectives.
- Track performance.
- Fire the people who are not measuring up.
- Train and hire people who can get the job done well.
You won't fix the root problem by now and then jailing someone who got caught cheating.
The root problem is lack of opportunities for enrichment earned honestly. The poor structure is an entire culture built on favor, not competence. One law can change this.