Not change, but mutation

Suppose Malacanang is really serious in abolishing or privatizing14 government agencies and controlled corporations for a start, and that will only prove that President Aquino is, indeed, serious in changing the country’s political sensibility.

He would have shown that  government wants change. It’s actually limiting governance in a bureaucracy which is cash-strapped and supposedly burden with a bloated manpower. That, in a way, can be called “reengineering,” to make business look more profitable in the eyes of new investors.

It has become a trend in the private sector that wants profits from the state.

But government needs to focus on improving service to the people. And that is where the problem begins. When the President starts reengineering the bureaucracy, like the private sector, people stand to lose their jobs and eventually contend the loss of some badly-needed subsidy to maintain sanity in the rates on public services.

I happened to chance upon Ferdinand Gaite, the president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), a national organization of government employees. He said that 20,000 government workers will initially be affected.

But that’s what our so-called technocrats want. Not all of them are “lightweights,” since according to Mr. Aquino he was able to convince some of the best and the brightest to join him in instituting major changes in the bureaucracy. That is also what the World Bank (WB) demands to continue with its generosity in granting development loans to this already debt-strapped country.

So instead of allocating P8 billion to the National Food Authority (NFA) to subsidize the farmers’ produce, government would rather leave the burden to the private sector. But that would endanger not only rice production but would eventually increase the prices of the country’s staple.

We can’t also rely anymore on government in providing mass transport. If the LRT, MRT and other public transport systems are privatized, then it will ease the government’s subsidy. Perhaps that would improve services and even the infrastructure for a better mass transport system. Again, the commuting public would have to pay more, since private corporations would not want to go into business without any profit.

Isn’t it that the bureaucracy has gone down to 1.3 million workers? At least 100,000 employees have been forced to be “retire” under the “rationalization” program during the previous administration. So the PNoy government’s actuation is not something new.

But Mr. Aquino wants innovations in running government and he is dead serious in the so-called public-private partnership to lure more foreign investors in the country to boost the country’s job employment program even if  it meant outsourcing their manpower needs.

The President can look heartless, and that would mean losing a chunk of his popularity.  Yet, he would continue to be the darling of big business and foreign capitalists, who need not show compassion to their workers as long as they generate profit.

So we might just expect that Malacanang will have to let some government agencies go and naturally lessen the manpower in the bureaucracy. That makes its more enticing for foreign investors.

But Gaite said that our bureaucracy is not really that bloated. In fact, he cited a study from the University of the Philippines (UP), which said that the bureaucracy is not as huge as it is portrayed since we only have 1.6 personnel for every 100 people.

It’s also still low compared to neighboring Malaysia, which has a ratio of 4.5 per 100 population, and 2.5 per 100 people in Thailand.

Poor Mr. Gaite. He looks so desperate that they are now gearing for “a long-running battle” to fight imminent displacement of tens of thousands of government workers. Methinks that will be a bigger burden for Malacanang since it will fuel political instability, this time from the restive rank and file in government. Joel Paredes

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