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Harness the youth

/ 12:09 AM February 12, 2015

Have you ever seen young people at a party? They portray the vibrancy of youth, the exuberance of a future to come, a career and life just started—and an idealism worthy of the Pope. How do we harness that into the future of the country? How do we stop them going astray, into the temptation of wealth by whatever means, legal or illegal?

Because this is where it has to start. We have indeed a lost generation, whose members have been conscripted into wanting everything for themselves regardless of how they get it. It’s good in law that you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty. But somehow this legal system never—well, almost never—seems to find anyone of importance guilty (see my column last week). Do you really think the “Napoles scammers” are innocent? Forging signatures must be a very profitable business if so.

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Pope Francis left us with a powerful message: simplicity of life, caring for the poor. Well, I appreciate the honest endeavor of his call. But I do not entirely agree. Material comforts are a nice way to enjoy life. I like having a decent car, a modern TV, good clothes, quality food. I’m not ashamed of this. I worked hard for it. I believe everyone should have these comforts, too. The Pope is bringing it down to a lowest denominator: Lift the poor out of absolute poverty. And certainly, that must be done much better than the government has done so far, but I want it a step, a giant step, further: Give all a decent life of comfortable enjoyment.

It can be done, as I’ve argued ever so endlessly, in only one way: jobs. We all must focus on creating jobs. But we can’t if the government doesn’t provide the environment to do so. I won’t invest where some idiot stops my truck getting to the port; I won’t invest where the government can’t guarantee I’ll be able to turn the lights on and start my machines every day. I won’t invest where there are no paved roads, well-maintained airports, or well-functioning rail system, to get my products and people around. I won’t invest where I have no idea what the next dictator (whatever euphemism you use, this system and culture create a dictator out of its leader) will decide is the direction of business in his tenure.

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I still can’t believe one man can bring a whole industry that can bring huge wealth to the people to its knees. President Benigno Aquino III, by a nonstroke of any pen, has destroyed the huge potential of mining in this mineral-rich country. What he has lost in wealth not just to the countryside, where it’s most needed, but also to the government can never be recovered. Whatever tweaking of taxes he accomplishes will never cover these losses.

So what will be the next leader’s pet belief that puts at risk another key sector of the economy? No one knows, so foreign investment remains at the lowest levels of all its competitive neighbors. How often have I said this, yet recognition is still not there. Continuity of policies is critical to getting new investment.

I want a clear declaration from all “presidentiables” on their stand on key issues. Will they lower income taxes and raise the value-added tax? How, in what direction? Will they actually exercise the constitutional right of eminent domain—and build roads and airports? Will they restore mining back to an important, successful sector of the economy?

Will they actively fight oppositionists and give us more than enough power? Will they support amendments to economic provisions of the Constitution to allow more job-generating investments into the country? Will they exercise the political will needed to halve the number of buses on Edsa and impose national laws’ constitutionality over mindless issuances from local government units? Will they allot the funds needed to build the necessary infrastructure? Will they set aside politics and call for the prosecution of their allies involved in the embezzlement of public funds? Will they use their political capital to implement unpopular but essential reforms?

Will they? I want answers. I want concrete responses, not motherhood statements. No, not I, job-creating investors do. The skilled and educated college graduates without a job do. The parents who need to feed 5 or 10 children do. The unemployed ex-overseas Filipino workers do. The youth looking for a bright future do.

I know it’s early days, but we’ve heard very little from possible replacements of President Aquino on where they stand. Maybe now is the beginning of when we should know, so their positions can be widely discussed.

What will they do to create jobs for young people? How will they nurture new, young leaders, and open up opportunities for these young people to move into leadership roles?

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The Church is right to put priority on helping the poor. But its focus is wrong. Help is not handouts, not a P1,400 monthly subsidy, it’s jobs. I’ve seen nothing coming from the Church that recognizes this and does something positive about it. It’s time it did, I suggest. The youth are our future, we need to nurture them—not just to survive but toward a successful life, and toward leaders that honestly care for their country. And we need the Church as a leader in instilling morality and honesty in the youth.

* * *

I have to ask: Why did a faction of the Moro community attack national policemen who were going after wanted terrorists? I hope the report that it was because they weren’t advised beforehand is wrong. The national police must have every right to enter the Bangsamoro area, for any legitimate reason. Otherwise, the peace agreement must be abrogated. Autonomy is all very well, but it must be subject to national law.

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TAGS: ‘presidentiables’, Benigno Aquino III, hope, idealism, jobs, Mamasapano, youth
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