Constituency for Reform
Check out the date in today’s paper. It’s May 9: exactly one year to Election Day. Like all elections, the 2016 polls will present to us one of those make-or-break decisions as a nation. Picking leadership at all levels—national and local—has never been more important.
Among the most commonly-asked questions these days are: What happens after this administration steps down? Will the reforms continue? I can’t profess to know the answers but here are my observations from the vantage point of the National Competitiveness Council.
Governance and leadership matter. They lead to competitiveness. Many people may not realize how much governance is measured by global competitiveness indices. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (one of the most widely-followed by analysts and the business sector), governance is captured under a section called Institutions. In this section, items such as budget reform and decision-making, the judiciary, nepotism and favoritism, law enforcement and security, corporate governance, and other measures are covered. This is measured and ranked across 145 economies worldwide. We are presently ranked 52nd.
In the World Bank-IFC’s Ease of Doing Business Report, one can argue that the entire report is really about governance because it measures the time and cost of obtaining government permits and processes which businesses have to undergo to start and run their enterprises. Call it a measure of red tape and “friction cost.” Almost 190 economies in the world are ranked here. We are presently ranked 95th.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is all about governance. The index is a composite of over a dozen different surveys on corruption and governance worldwide. We rank 85th out of 175 economies. Other reports such as the Economic Freedom Index, Global IT Report, Travel and Tourism Report, and Global Innovation Index also cover governance aspects in their analyses.
Incidentally, in all global reports where we have made the biggest gains over the last four years such as the WEF, IFC, Transparency International, and Economic Freedom Index, our performance in governance has been the strongest driver of that change. Not coincidentally, the economy, trade and investments have also expanded over this period.
If we agree that governance and leadership matter and that we want reforms to continue, we will need to do a number of things. We will need to build a Constituency for Reform. We need to create a critical mass of people who constantly demand reforms (i.e., citizens and voters) and a leadership corps who can introduce and implement that reform (i.e., candidates). We need to create an environment for the irreversibility of reform.
Over the next year, a key function will be to pick the right candidates. The major responsibility lies with the political parties. They provide us the menu of options from which to select future leaders. Good options, good leaders. Poor options, bad leaders. As voters, we cannot select outside of the options presented to us. Thus, political parties must bear the responsibility for the quality of leadership they put on the table for us to consider and select from.
Once candidates are identified, voters will have their work cut out for them. Individuals will need to do their homework on the candidates—which ones had successful track records in both performance and governance. Background checks and fact-checking will be more important than ever. Social media and the Internet will add to the research capabilities of voters, but even these cut both ways. Not everything one reads on the Internet is true, and social media users are as adept at uncovering truth as they are at false advertising.
Campaign finance will also need to be overhauled, if not by law then at least by practice. Money is the lifeblood of any campaign. Funders who want reforms to continue will need to make tough choices on who to fund and support. These decisions are vital to the success of some candidates, especially reform-minded ones with little resources to lean on.
On Election Day, it is of course important for people to vote wisely. Those vote decisions will have an impact well beyond the 6-year or 3-year terms of our elected officials. The decisions they make and the laws they pass will have an effect far longer than their terms, as it should be. The quality of those decisions will of course depend on the quality of the leadership voters put in place.
Aside from voting, I always advise people to try to get involved in poll-watching organizations like Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections) or the PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting). It’s one thing to vote, but it’s another to make sure your vote gets properly counted. Even with some form of automated counting or canvassing, it is important to witness these acts simply because too much has gone wrong somewhere in the process in many of our elections.
Finally, beyond voting, it is important to remain involved and engaged in pushing for reforms.
Often, the real and hard work of reform occurs after an election is over. It lies in the daily grind of work and interaction with leaders at all levels. To help them maintain a reform route, they will need to be helped along by a Constituency for Reform.
Be a Constituent now. We only have one year.
Guillermo M. Luz ([email protected]) is cochair of the National Competitiveness Council.
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