Policy imperatives of people power:  A meditation

AS the people’s rage on the lack of candor of the current administration on Oplan Exodus continues to intensify, it is incumbent on those who believe a change for the better is possible to deal with the question of what to do after an Edsa 2. Putting in new people with proven moral integrity and demonstrated technical competence is appropriate. But what are the new leaders to do to respond to the people’s felt needs, which, after all, are the main driving force of people power?

The emphasis on moral integrity as a requisite to leadership in a new dispensation is necessary in order to restore the people’s respect for the character of government. Public officials have been associated with graft and corruption for far too long. The national community has forgotten what honest and dedicated service is. Sadly, those at the highest levels have been the ones linked to fraud on a scale boggling the imagination. Nefarious activities must cease. National development will be broader and deeper if the billions of pesos of public funds routinely plundered are directed instead to the establishment and maintenance of infrastructure, social development programs and other public facilities.

There should also be concern for technical competence in a new dispensation to help ensure inauguration of new programs, strengthening of planning and speed in the implementation of programs. Technical incompetence is the reason for the absence of new development initiatives, the emergence of problems and glitches not anticipated, and the freezing or delay of the implementation of structures and facilities already in the pipelines. Postponements and delays cost money. Technical competence will not guarantee success but will go a long way in raising our success rate.

Notwithstanding continuing efforts to replace the old with the new, the people’s problems of poverty and inequality have remained unsolved.   What is the challenge to the leadership of any new dispensation?

Clearly, the new leadership must have an employment program to cure the poverty problem, a productivity program to deal with the income issue, and a combined industrial and fiscal program to confront the inequality problem.

From the historical record, programs on employment creation and income expansion have had measures of success, as limited as these have been. But those relating to the alleviation of income inequality have been bankrupt of achievement. This is because income-inequality issues arise from systemic defects rather than individualistic failures. To be eradicated, they require a modification of system rather than a change in people. The capitalist system generates not just high incomes but also deep inequalities of income. Why this is so is a matter that cannot be tackled with justice in a few words here.

We are not the first people to be revolted by social inequalities. Religious leaders preceded us by 300 years, social analysts by 200. Yet, inequalities have persisted to this day. According to Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twentieth First Century, these will widen as we move on to the 22nd century. Oxfam, the international non-governmental organization, says the wide inequalities are already here.

We must reject prevarication, fraud and incompetence in public service, but a new leadership must go beyond installing new faces.  It must find answers to questions that spring from the very heart of our system.

Image credits: jimbo Albano


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