I've been working on a more rigorous way to evaluate President Aquino's job performance. In the first article, I identified seven areas of responsibility:
- Global engagement
- Health and security
- Wealth building
- Social cohesion
- Timeline architecture
In the second article and the third article, I evaluated the first four areas of responsibility. In this write-up, I'll examine "Wealth building" and "Social cohesion". These concepts are somewhat unique so I'll explain why each is important.
Amendment of Health and security"
Before I do that, however, I must append a revision to the prior discussion on "Health and security". A very important one. I include the Judiciary in this category, as odd as that may seem, for it is the resource for the correction of a whole host of damages. For the imprisonment of those who harm us. For the injured to get repair in civil actions. For the mechanism that OUGHT to be driving the Philippines to safe practices. Safe toys. Safe employment practices. Removal of obscenity from the airwaves.
The Judiciary in the Philippines, as much as court workers cry for respect and independence, is a mess. It deserves being meddled with aggressively. To that end, I give President Aquino high marks for being unsatisfied with Chief Justice Corona. I won't change the overall score on "Health and security" because I think there are other steps that could be taken by the President to advocate for and build a stronger Judiciary.
This is like the economy with a specific purpose attached, to develop Philippine wealth. Not worry too much about jobs; they will flow from wealth, and they will pay more, too. Not worry too much about debt; that is the means to wealth, called leverage. Not to worry too much about inflation; if we get real wealth into the Philippines it will take care of itself. We WILL worry about two social factors affecting wealth. One of them is overabundant population growth which does not create people who are "investments" but people who are drains on resources for a lifetime because we can't get enough jobs for them, and we have to school them and later on provide social services for the indigent. The other is management of scarce resources. We must increase our wealth while being good stewards who recognize that land, fish, trees, oil, and minerals are not unlimited.
The upside is great because today the Philippines competes poorly. In terms of cheap labor availability, superb location in Asia, wonderful tourist destinations, the only way is up. Once the Philippines begins to compete like a wholesome grown-up, the sky is the limit.
How is President Aquino doing?
- Finances are stable and investment ratings are up, so money is flowing nicely to the Philippines. Anti-corruption efforts have stopped the multi-billion peso raids on public money. Investment grade ratings are within reach. High score for stabilizing Philippine finances and giving investors confidence that it is an honest economy. More people and businesses are taking positive notice of the Philippines.
- Laws still hold back investors. Foreign citizens cannot own companies outright or buy land. There is no manufacturing base because it takes a large financial nut to make bolts. Mr. Aquino advocates public/private partnerships which provide modest opportunities for overseas partners to participate in growing the Philippines. But it is not enough. Immigration policy discourages naturalized citizenship. The nation is birthing 1.7 million new babies per year while barring investors who want to come here to make money on the back of GROWTH. It's backward, this priority on poverty while denying the means to build wealth.
- "Determined effort" to reduce poverty is what esteemed applied economist Jeffrey Sachs says is needed if the Philippines is to participate fairly in Asia's boom. Reference link. It is possible to see the current give-away of cash as a band-aid, but it is not a structural change for the better. Tourism, on the other hand, appears to be taking off. Manila as a gambling Mecca? Perhaps. Fruits and coconuts are sound. Rice is heading for surplus next year. There are some twinklings of good things here.
- We can see bursts of sensitivity about the nation's scarce and abused resources - when a flash flood aggravated by illegal logging kills hundreds, or when boatloads of stolen coral or rare turtles are found - but there is no national drive for caretaking of the nation. It may be bubbling under the surface. It needs to come to the top. A consistent, relentless effort to take care of ourselves by taking care of others better.
- Whither manufacturing? Whither agribusiness? Whither managed fishing? Also, too much of the nation's well-being is riding on the backs of its overseas workers.
Wealth-building score 7.5. Assign 7.5 points to the President's overall score.
How, exactly, does the Philippines fit together socially? Are its institutions constructive? Are values? It would be wrong to assign the president "blame" for values long in the making, but it would NOT be wrong to assign him the expectation that he would recognize the deficiencies that exist, and have ideas about correcting them. Education goes into this box, for it is in the schools that good values and behaviors are taught. And the skills are taught that bind citizens together as a productive nation.
What are the values that underpin Philippine democracy? Secularism? If so, then a lot of power is granted to the Catholic and Muslim faiths, and protestant faiths that are growing rapidly. Fair play? If so, there seems to be a lot of cheating. Thoughtfulness toward neighbors? If so, then why all the noise and trash and wild dogs? Hard work? Yes, for sure. Innovation? Hmmmmmm. A determined drive to be constructive and productive? Hmmmmmm. Why the sensitivity and envy and blames and excuses rather than candor and confidence?
- Corruption exists because many Filipinos accept cheating as an appropriate value. Small-scale corruption is related to poverty, and it is related to social values, the bent notions of right and wrong. Large scale corruption is related to greed. The President's effort in this area is highly visible, which it needs to be.
- Education is not doing much to instill values like aspiration and innovation, courtesy and confidence. 45 kids per classroom. With mobs like that, it is difficult for teachers to keep their heads above water, much less inspire inspiration. As long as the model is the same as it was in 1950, education is not doing what it ought to be doing, and the President's failure to recognize this is noticeable. The President's stated goal of raising educational standards is good. But the action to do it seems missing in action. Going K to 12 is excellent. Now about that curriculum . . . now about that internet . . .
- Equality is not front and center as a value. Women are too much considered birthing machines or homemakers. White is too highly respected. Religious institutions have too much say in secular values. Equality in the job market does not exist; it favors friends and family over competence. How can "productivity" become a mainstream drive over passive favoritism in that environment? Favoritism blocks the ability of talented people to rise on their own merits, a horrible discrimination against competence. There is no evidence that the President sees the connection, and he appears comfortable with his favorites.
- One area I think is neglected because it is so esoteric is the failure of so many to take responsibility for their acts. To blame others, to make excuses, to play the victim. It is hard to inspire good works if people are so slippery as to avoid any accountability. The impeachment of Chief Justice Corona has shined a spotlight on transparency and honesty through the financial tool "SALN". That is a huge step forward. One stops the slipperyness of excuse-making if goals are transparent and measureable and assigned to specific people. The Secretary of Tourism gets it. Maybe it is creeping into other areas, too.
- Pride can be good or bad, and I think President Aquino has instilled a lot of good pride, something missing for a great many years. This is a highly important social foundation. There is still a lot of bad pride, pride that hangs its hat on the achievements of starlets and boxers, rather than productivity. But the pride-o-meter is up with President Aquino.
Social cohesion score 7.5. Assign 7.5 points to the President's overall score. Weakness in education and failure to emphasize competence in the workplace are the big dings.