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Reboot

When I was first introduced to the personal computer decades ago, there were times when the operating system did not work properly. The remedy was simple: reboot. I turn the computer off and after a few seconds turn it on again. The operating system is “rebooted” and chances are, I get a better working experience.

I guess it is the same thing with government. We start off with a lot of excitement as a new administration takes office. But we soon realize things should function better. Some appointments are misfits and some are complete disasters.

One year should be enough time to determine what is going right, what could be done better and what requires a total rethink. The President must use this time to reboot his administration, otherwise the change he has promised will take too long to deliver, if at all.

There is a good opportunity to make better appointments by mid-May. For one thing, it is legally possible to appoint some good people who lost in the last election. One name that quickly comes to mind is Raffy Alunan.

It would be wonderful if Raffy could be appointed to his old job as DILG secretary. He is a much better choice than say, BB Marcos for that position. Raffy is more experienced in the requirements of the job and he will bring the kind of wisdom, maturity and integrity to the position that the young Marcos cannot.

Raffy is also very eager for change, reason enough why he went all out in support of Duterte in the last election. The presence of Raffy in the Cabinet will also be an important addition to a national security team that can be trusted for patriotism and competence.

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The President must also use the occasion to improve vetting of officials he appoints. I understand there are still plenty of positions to be filled.

He can also order a post facto vetting of officials he has appointed. Get the NBI, BIR and COA to provide lifestyle checks of everyone whose appointment requires his signature. He has to make sure none of his appointees carry even a whiff of corruption in their beings.

Rebooting, however, is not just about appointing new people in key positions. It is also about changing the way the President runs his day-to-day responsibilities. A good reboot should include the President demanding CSW or complete staff work before he says and does something of consequence.

Indeed, the President needs to reboot himself, reboot his way of thinking. We all know by now that the President is rather impulsive with a colorful language. That is entertaining during a campaign and may be alright for a city mayor, but could be problematic for a president.

He ought to stop saying things off the cuff. His poor staff ends up agonizing on how to explain him and still save face.

The President has to realize issues are more complicated for a president than it is for a mayor. For example, rice and food security isn’t as simple as he apparently sees it.

His good intention of helping farmers by banning imports can have politically explosive consequences. That’s because we may not have enough buffer stock to flood the market if prices start rising.

High retail rice prices will anger rice consumers and there are 100 million of us for the sake of 2.4 million farmers who are also mostly net rice buyers. If the President demanded CSW before he said a word on rice, he would have found out what I did when I asked the agri-business specialists at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

• Rice production will increase by 10 percent in the first half, a recovery from 2016.

• A 90-day buffer, with NFA holding 30 days, by July 1 was the practice in the past.

• Last July 1, 2016, the buffer was only 77 days. With no imports, rice stocks by July 1 would last for only 34 days as compared to 77 days in July 2016.

• To achieve an 80-day buffer, the country needs to import 1.5 million tons. This would cost about P30 billion at the landed cost without tariffs of $400 a ton.

• If NFA wants to maintain a 30-day buffer, it will have to import. Assuming it has 10 days from local purchases (327,000 tons rice), the additional imports will be 20 days or 654,000 tons. It will need P13 billion in funding from loans. NFA has a standing debt of about P170 billion.

• Palay (unhusked rice) prices reflect the law of supply and demand. Traders buy at higher prices than NFA.

• In the past, imports are staggered all year-round, mostly for May to July deliveries.

Indeed, a rebooted President Duterte would ask his close friend, Secretary Leoncio Evasco, before publicly firing Evasco’s undersecretary. It is a basic management principle and basic decency as well for the President to talk to Sec. Evasco first.

These public pronouncements on China without consulting the secretaries of foreign affairs and national defense, as well as the national security adviser must stop. It embarrasses not just the President but also the country. Why say something so utterly outrageous like potentially selling those disputed islands to China?

A rebooted Duterte administration should also see the President risking political capital where it matters most. It is about time the President calls in his allies in Congress and demand the passage of the tax reform bill right away… that he wants his Cabinet nominees confirmed… and the traffic emergency bill reported out and passed.

The President should let his Cabinet members know he is not impressed by fancy power point presentations on the infrastructure program. Instead, he should demand they pick out 10 of the most important projects and give him and the public monthly situation reports on the status of implementation.

The President should show impatience about project delivery that reflects the impatience of the people.

I take the position that the people have voted for Mr. Duterte to lead us up to 2022. It is our obligation to help him succeed for our country’s good.

Helping him, however, doesn’t mean continually praising him and remaining blind to his faults. On the contrary, we ought to speak up and make sure the President learns to respect contrary opinion without threatening martial law.

For now, let us encourage the President to reboot his administration. He should stop the vicious divisiveness we have now and try to unify the country so we can all live better lives. I am sure that’s also what he wants. It is just that his management style and his choice of some people must improve. Now is the time to do so. Reboot!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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