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Let’s tell them now

/ 01:10 AM January 07, 2016

The heartwarming tributes in this newspaper to Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, a commanding figure and truly wonderful woman who did so much for our society, brought back something that has bothered me for a long time: Why do we wait till someone has died before we say how much we admire, respect and love them? Why don’t we do it while they’re alive?

We give honor and recognition to those we love and admire after they die. They never get to hear the eulogy they deserve to hear.

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A while back we were at the 85th birthday celebration of Oscar Lopez, a wonderful occasion for a wonderful gentleman. It was a night honoring a man who has lived a life of service to others, a man who has done so much to keep his company growing and succeeding despite the setbacks imposed by various administrations. He now knows the very high regard we all have for a man whose life we can only envy. I wish him many more years with us.

The problem, of course, is: At what point in their life do we eulogize them? That’s something that can be worked out. Whatever date is decided, surely this is a more meaningful thing to do. Let them know while they are with us. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Letty was able to read all the praise she was deservedly given?

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Now for some well-deserved criticism, and I’m going to start off by being deliberately abusive. What government official idiotically decided that the on-off ramps of the Skyway at Alabang should be only one lane? No national road, or any part of it, should ever be one lane, particularly when it’s aboveground and enclosed by walls. A breakdown equates to a traffic block. But forget that. Just the sheer volume of traffic demands more lanes; just simple commonsense demands more lanes. And already, a short five years after construction, traffic is more than one lane can handle.

I believe we should demand to know the name of that idiot, or idiots, so he or she, or they, if it was a joint decision, can be fired. Let’s demand of our government competence, and appropriate penalties—in this case, firing the idiot(s). Now how do we fix it, because fix it has to happen. Let’s ask the Consunjis; they’re experts I trust when it comes to solving difficult problems.

Related to that is the E-pass, now radio frequency identification (RFID) lane. Its intent, an admirably good one used all over the world, is to provide for fast passage through a toll gate (mind you, in most countries there’s no barrier; you just drive through), yet cash customers use it, and the operator allows it, defeating the fast pass-through intent. The solution is simple. Someone offering cash at an E-pass lane is immediately directed to the side and charged double. Why regular users don’t buy an RFID pass is beyond me. The idling cost of gas far exceeds the RFID cost, let alone the time lost.

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Despite what some people may think, I’ve nothing against lawyers. I’ve got some very good friends there, and very competent lawyers they are. Lawyers are taught the intricacies of law and how to practice it. Engineers, similarly, are taught engineering and how to practice it. No engineer would presume to later get into law; he’d be totally out of his depth.

So why do lawyers accept jobs in engineering? Why does Mr. Aquino appoint them?

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Cabinet secretaries should have vast experience in management—not MBA degrees, but experience. Running a government department (or a company) is a managerial task. Secondarily, they should have education in their area of control. The head of the Department of Energy should have an electrical degree, the head of the Department of Agriculture should be an agriculturalist, and so on. They should be knowledgeable in the subject they’re in control of, and with the experience to lead effectively. It’s something I’d like the presidential contenders to commit they’ll do. They should not appoint friends or, worse, relatives. Look what a great job Public Works Secretary Babes Singson and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima have done. Both are experienced managers knowledgeable in their fields.

The president of Bosch here used to be at the factory in Germany. One day there was a visitor from Bosch America and he toured the visitor around the factory. The American stopped to ask one of the German engineers how long the unit they were producing would last. The German didn’t understand the question—didn’t, not because of the language (the translation was fine), but because of the concept. It’s just taken for granted that anything German-designed and -built will last forever. We need to instill this thinking into Philippine products if they’re to be globally competitive.

I wonder, will a Filipino engineer design like that? And before Filipino engineers get all up in arms, let me say I have huge respect for them. But the concept of design for life is not in the culture. It’s “design for cost.” And in an early-stage developing country, maybe that’s the way to go. But if we are to transition into the “second world” (is there such a thing?), let alone into the first world, we must start building to last and building to excellence.

A German machine will be of the highest quality, and last. A Chinese-built machine won’t, but it will be much cheaper. Quality costs. Or does it? The initial price is not the only cost. What it costs over the next 10, 20 years—that’s the real cost. But how few of us ever work this out. I have Bosch power tools that I bought 50 years ago. They still work.

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 E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wsallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: death, engineer, eulogy, highway, LJM, opinion, road, tribute
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