Cruise control governance at a time of crisis | Inquirer Opinion
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Cruise control governance at a time of crisis

/ 05:06 AM December 08, 2022

What a mess we’re in as a nation. Our country is deeply mired in unprecedented levels of debt, and yet we strut like we’re oozing with surplus revenues that we can invest in a “wealth fund.” Our national debt has reached a whopping P13.5 trillion as of September 2022. We have annual budget deficits because our revenues are constantly lower than our expenses, making our country a perennial borrower. Yet, we preen like a wealthy nation with investible funds.

Our government leaders have monikers that are scorching antonyms of “trustworthy,” and yet we want to entrust to their discretion the pension funds that millions of our toiling masses are depending on for their retirement years. Corruption in our government is one of the major reasons cited by foreign businesspersons that’s preventing them from investing in our country.

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Our students are at the bottom of the heap in world literacy rankings, and yet we want to spend the limited time of our teachers and the inadequate budgets of our schools in “mandatory toothbrush drills.” Our children rate among the lowest in learning skills, and so many of our young are facing mental challenges due to the pandemic. We lack so many classrooms, our books are substandard, and our teachers have teaching handicaps.

We’re still clawing our way out of an extraordinary health crisis, and yet we still don’t have a health secretary even six months after the new administration assumed power. Our health workers are demoralized because, in addition to being underpaid, they have not received the promised special pay for their pandemic sacrifices.

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We’re in the middle of a serious food crisis, and yet we have an agriculture secretary who treats the position as a part-time job. We don’t even know what caused our recent sugar crisis, and our government is again in the dark as to why the prices of onions are sky-high, even if they’re cheap in other countries. Food prices have dramatically increased as shown by our very high inflation rate.

It may be true that we are registering a high gross domestic product for this year, but who among us, ordinary masses, feel that our pockets are heavier with more cash?

It’s also true that many of the problems faced by the present administration have either been inherited or caused by external factors. But the least that the Marcos Jr. administration should do is not to worsen the impact of these problems by squandering government time and resources on inanities.

From the way governance is being carried on, it looks like the current government is preoccupied with cosmetic programs that are principally aimed at burnishing the Marcos name. This is evident from the following: resurrecting the word “Maharlika” of the Marcos Sr. era as the name of the planned “wealth fund;” rehashing the “Kadiwa stores” employed by the Marcos Sr. administration to address sky-high food prices, even if these stores cater only to a very small portion of the consuming public; rebranding the martial law period as “New Society” years in school materials, and; President Marcos Jr. reenacting a photo-op at the International Rice Research Institute that recreates his father’s photo-op.

It appears that the Marcos Jr. administration has assumed a “cruise control” type of governance at a time of crisis. It will take credit for positive economic news that happen because of the natural course of events, and it will wash its hands off negative economic news by pointing to inherited or external factors. No special plans, efforts, or programs are in the offing.

Mr. Marcos has set very high public expectations of what his administration can accomplish because he has peddled the years of his father’s reign as the “golden age” of our country. The bar of expectations of success has even gotten higher because of the many serious crises that beset our country.

Mr. Marcos has been given a rare chance to prove that the tales of prosperity during his father’s reign, and which people expect to be revived in his son’s rule, were true. A bequest of power for six years may seem long but, in reality, it’s a very brief interlude that could unravel the ballyhooed “golden years” as nothing but fairy tales.

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