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Hard times call for hardy leadership

As the infant days of the new year come around the effects of global economic down turn are beginning to be felt in this country. Despite repeated assurance by the Administration's trumpet blowers that their impacts would be minimal, the reality of a severe survival pressure, especially on the working group, is becoming evident.

For who has not heard of jobless OFW's returning to the country? Of phased-down factory work forces? Of losing export oriented ventures? Eleven million is the current figure of Filipinos without means of livelihood. And the number is still growing because the eye of the storm is still forthcoming.

In the face of this threat, there ought to be a concerted drive to inform the people of what the real score is, what to expect in the next few months or years, and what to do. Surely our brilliant economists in the pay of Malacañang have the facts in their hands. By this time they must have come up with a blueprint on what the government should do to caution the ill effects of this global turmoil.

In fact, the President talks of a P2 billion rescue package. But since May 2010 is just a few months away some observers say this is nothing but a political gimmick. A more rational fear however is that such huge sum can be used to grease the hands of voters into choosing the administration's fair-haired fellow-whoever he or she is - as the next president. With a rock-bottom acceptance rating, such fear is well-founded. But more than distrust is the surmise of many that PGMA would move everything to ensure the election of her own anointed one. Otherwise, life after 2010 would be a hell for her and family.

Against this dire observation is the hope of some sectors, the Church particularly, that PGMA's Christian conscience would somehow guide her to do what is right. She reads the memoir of her father-former President Diosdado Macapagal - she confessed at one time. And her father's leadership banner was dogged honesty and no-nonsense public service. That's why during his watch one of his pang-masa strategies was an emergency employment program which saved millions of Filipinos from extreme poverty. Nor were there suspicions multi-billion deals, nor scams by the hundreds of millions, during his day in office. Indeed, the "Poor Boy from Lubang," as he was known, left Malacañang a poor man.

Viewed positively, the current economic calvary of the country could be an opportunity for PGMA to unveil the shining moments of her presidency. Using the awesome resources of her office and her influence on majority of the legislators, she could lead a full charge against poverty and put in place a strong development structure to counter the adverse impacts of global economic dislocations.

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Specifically, she could focus the expenditure programs of all government agencies towards labor intensive activities and do away with fund wastage. Infrastructure-related projects employing local workers should be given priority while deferring purchase of expensive equipment and machinery.

In school building construction, for example, barangay carpenters and "pajenantes" can be employed under the leadership of local officials. This would reduce labor cost considerably and if materials are purchased in bulk savings could also be realized. With the savings more classrooms can be built and more workers can be given jobs.

The president can also direct provincial and city leaders to intensify implementation of locally funded projects that employ local workers. In Cebu, for instance, Governor Gwen Garcia is in the thick of efforts towards generating employment with her massive road and bridge building initiatives. Hopefully, she could also embark on energy-related ventures such as constructing more mini hydros (there being plenty of water sources in the province), more water catchments to conserve water, and more soil erosion prevention structures. Reforesting bald mountains and replanting shore areas with mangrove and marine-friendly trees would also be in tune with these efforts, which if properly carried out would make Cebu more productive and therefore more prosperous.

Hard times, they say, call for hardy leadership. The challenge now is for the national and local leaderships to be more focused in trying to lift up the state of the average Filipino. Ambition and self-serving desires ought to be set aside and unity should be forged. Dirt-digging - there ought to be a moratorium on this. All hands should help steady the ship of state while the strong wind rages.

But will goodness and good sense rise above greed and lust for power? The next few months or years will tell us. 

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