Wish list

Peter Wallace

October 14, 2021 12:00am


The “presidentiables” (a lovely Taglish word) are going to promise us the moon and the stars—and deliver dirt, if we don’t watch it.

But anyway, I’m going to be hopeful (a word I swore never to use again) the winner just might take some unsolicited advice, and introduce a few meaningful changes. So here are a few ideas I’d like the “presidentiables” to commit to.

The central theme of the government must be to eliminate poverty. No one should be so poor they can hardly live.

Develop a 10-point agenda and stick to it. Achieve it all by term end. Do what Finance secretary Sonny Dominguez did—hold a three-day seminar at the beginning of the term with all sectors to argue for the top 10 issues to address and fix. The 10-point agenda of President Duterte would be a good one to start with. Complete those actions that remain unfinished. That means passing the remaining tax bills, if this Congress still hasn’t. Complete the full, integrated digitization of all government services. Give people title to their land. Fix PhilHealth and provide true universal health care for all. Introduce a revolution in education. It’s at the bottom in the world, it can only improve. It must. The Fifth Industrial Revolution will demand educated workers. Force local government units to provide the family planning clinics mothers and mothers-to-be need.

The “Build, Build, Build” program must be continued. It’s one of the best things this administration has done. But don’t forget spending on the IT side of it. Everything is heading more and more, and at increasing speed, into a digital world. That means the three telcos must move quickly into 5G, and the government must ensure nationwide coverage at affordable, or at no cost where applicable, service. The next president may also wish to provide incentives to induce the IT hardware companies to manufacture here, and the software guys to establish offices in the Philippines, preferably outside Manila. Although, except for job creation, even that location will become irrelevant in the IT world.

Hire only experts to lead the 21 executive departments. Not friends, not campaign contributors, not soldiers, or lawyers, or Indian chiefs, but experts in the field. That’s what brought Singapore to the top; it can us, too. Hire people who know the subject. It’s time to get politics out of the administrative side of the government.

The next leader should hold monthly Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meetings with Congress leaders. And quarterly with the stakeholders in a particular subject. Listen to the people who are doing it, interact with them. You don’t make the best decisions sitting isolated at a desk.

Climate change, and what to do to reduce it, must be central in all government thinking. That means going green. Plant trees and plants everywhere. Tear down some buildings (post-COVID-19 they won’t be necessary) and create a central park in all cities. Modernize and green cities to reduce the need for cars. Shift to hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and nuclear for our power. Provide recharging stations for electric vehicles.

Pollution must be reduced. The Philippines accounts for 36 percent of plastic thrown into the world’s oceans and has 7 of the 10 worst polluted rivers. San Miguel Corporation is doing a great job on the Pasig, and it must be replicated. Filipinos throw their garbage everywhere. Creating a clean environment must be a module at school. Institute a cleanliness campaign.

I’d like to say eliminate corruption, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. What can happen is to digitize as many government functions as possible. That can, at least, substantially reduce theft. It would be nice if some politically-connected thieves are put in jail. And simplify activities, design bureaucratic requirements for the least that is needed. Minimize the government intervention in society; we don’t need a law to control every human activity.

Finally, put agriculture as a top priority. Food is essential to life. We can grow it here, we must—with modern methods that generate world-class productivity and at low cost. Amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) to revive plantations to help achieve that efficiency. Modernize farming and reduce middlemen intervention. And don’t forget the fishermen. We are running out of fish to eat. Fishing needs better control and protection from foreigners stealing our fish.

Above all this is to give confidence to the Filipino people of an assured better future—and provide it.

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