DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 2, 2019 - 12:00am

SINGAPORE – Peeved at the constant comparisons between Singapore and the Philippines, former president Fidel Ramos commented that Singapore is just a city and should only be compared with Manila. He said that Lee Kuan Yew’s equivalent was the Mayor of Manila.

FVR missed the point. Or he probably got it but was not too happy about always being put down in comparison to counterparts in Singapore.

I am sure FVR knew it is true Singapore has better trained officials who are also highly disciplined. They also have a deeply ingrained public service attitude that puts the nation’s interest above their own.

Sure Singapore is really just a city and population wise not even a mega city the way Metro Manila is. But as we all know from experience, it is tough to run an urban area of whatever size and Singapore showed how to do it well.

FVR surely knew that Singapore’s small size aside, the almost comparable City of Manila is a mess compared to Singapore.

The late Lee Kuan Yew may have been to FVR only a mayor but he showed what good governance is about. The government LKY established in his city state is highly meritocratic compared to ours which is deadly political. And we can’t say it is all because LKY was dictatorial. Marcos was dictatorial too but he plundered quite a bit.

If we can have even just one city that runs as well as Singapore, then we can hold our head high and show the world we know how to govern. But unfortunately we have none to show.

Not even mini-cities run by our private sector, like BGC, are good enough to show off our mettle. In this case corporate greed comes in and can be as bad as political corruption.

Good governance can be taught. We have many Filipinos who have studied at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Administration but they ended up frustrated upon their return home.

One good example is Marco Sardillo who was doing great as Intramuros administrator but chose to leave when new political bosses came in. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to report to Wanda Teo either.

I don’t think we have an administration that is serious in making our NCR a good representation of what we are as a prople. Our officials should study what makes this city state work. Everything from mass transportation and mass housing have been properly addressed. We, on the other hand, haven’t even tried to begin to do anything well in our cities.

The thing with Singapore is that they did it within the 50-year timeframe from when I first visited it in 1969.  I don’t see why we have failed to produce even one city of equal size work even half as well.

FVR said, Kaya Natin Ito. But it was a slogan rather than a marching order that was followed through with strong political will. President Duterte claims to have political will but has publicly admitted he can’t do much about corruption. 

Things might have improved in telecoms from the time LKY joked about Filipinos forever waiting for a dial tone. But here too, we are far behind. We are still waiting for the speed of our broadband connections to move above the mediocre ratings we suffer.

If we want a more comparable country than a city state, Malaysia and Thailand have also overtaken us. I also visited those countries 50 years ago and we were so far ahead of them back in 1969. Now we are also starting to eat the dust of previously war torn Vietnam.

Last Sunday, I saw our fellow Filipinos sitting down near the bus stop in front of Lucky Plaza. They are working as household helpers for Singaporean families. They are on their day-off.

If our economy was better managed, they should be home looking after their own children. They earn the foreign exchange our economy needs often at the expense of the next generation growing up without parental guidance. Drugs, criminality are parts of the price we are now paying for the route we had to take. 

For those of my generation, time is running out. We are starting to feel resigned that we will leave this country to our grandchildren worse than when we were born into it.

But there is hope so long as there is life. This New Year is an election year. Let us all deliver the message that we won’t take the same old crap from our leaders. Let us make a miracle happen so that we can justifiably hold our heads high again in our region.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

Boo Chanco’s email address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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