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Long-term results are what matter

/ 05:03 AM November 26, 2021

We will once again elect officials for local government units (LGUs), the Congress, and the national government. The mayors, governors, as well as the vice president and president, are accountable for ensuring that local and national laws are made beneficial to all Filipinos and to the country. The senators, congressmen, board members, and councilors, meanwhile, are tasked with ensuring that any legislation crafted is for the welfare of the public.

This sounds simple and easy to do. But our elected officials are politicians, not servant leaders, with a few exceptions. Oftentimes, their personal and/or vested interests come first in crafting laws or ordinances and enforcing them, confident that their constituents and the voting public out there are dense enough to continue voting them into office. Popular personalities with mere name recall but without the requisite qualities for public office invariably rate much higher than highly qualified professionals.

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For generations, our politicians have experimented with politics and governance to their advantage. No wonder political dynasties have found roots in many parts of the country, especially among the poorest provinces. While politicians have been laughing all the way to the bank, their constituents have been finding it harder and harder to make both ends meet. This gross aberration in our political life has been going on since the beginning of the republic.

One reason for its persistence may have something to do with our culture. We are not results-oriented in assessing the performance of our elective officials. We are tantalized by mere activities or glossy output. We don’t look for or demand long term-results. We applaud whenever a governor or mayor crows about a new road, school building, health center, recreational space, or the LGU’s high revenues. This inherent weakness in our capacity to see the big picture is a big deal. Progress and prosperity can come about only if government actions and interventions have real meaningful impact on the well-being of constituents beyond the short-term and superficial.

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To illustrate the point of Filipinos not looking beyond activities and outputs: Let’s look at community lending groups (CLGs), where the default success claim of many involves loan portfolios that have soared by the millions. The expectation is that many poor families have received livelihood loans, a high repayment rate has been maintained among them, client groups have constructed their own office building, etc. However, behind the success stories are sobering realities: Most of the loan recipients incur more debts. They can no longer repay such debts from their meager income. They then borrow more from other sources with onerous interest, or mortgage or sell their remaining assets. Thus, while the CLGs are doing well financially and are deemed a success, it’s at the expense of poor borrowers.

The desired long-term result for CLGs providing livelihood loans is that such action contributes to the reduction of poverty in the areas where borrowers live. But this will come about only if the borrowers have managed to increase their income from their livelihoods, thus allowing them to withstand financial shocks in the aftermath of natural and man-made calamities or a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. One way to find out is to see if the poverty incidence has indeed gone down in the regions or provinces where CLGs are operating; that is the only time that CLGs can claim true success in their mission, with results that have long-term impact. Only with sustained, long-term output can development work claim that it has contributed to poverty reduction, which is the number one Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations.

Politicians are like CLGs. Both of them must demonstrate success based on long-term results, such as the improved well-being of the people they serve, for them to earn any bragging rights.

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Nono Felix used to work with an international nongovernment organization as monitoring and evaluation manager, covering several Asian countries.

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TAGS: community lending groups (CLGs), loan portfolios
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