RSA’s solution highjacked?

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

There should be both a law and a national program that requires all government officials and employees to undergo an annual and comprehensive seminar on “How To Be a Good Listener” and this should be followed by another seminar that teaches officials that “Insisting to be the Boss can be disadvantageous to your leadership”.

Five days a week, I am privileged to interview many leaders both from the private sector as well as those in government and as an interviewer and talk show host, it is primarily my job to listen. Contrary to the impression of many, the job is not about asking questions, shaking down reluctant news sources or, as some hosts mistakenly do, try to sound intelligent. By listening first and doing this on a daily basis, I have discovered that my job is like going to school, an on the job training and being paid for it all rolled into one.

Someone once asked why I seem to know so much about a variety of subjects in spite of the fact that I don’t have a Master’s degree or a PhD or various certificates. I told my friend that if you have spent over ten years doing nothing but ask questions from the top news sources and subject matter experts five days a week, it is like osmosis; you learn through exposure. The thing is, like any other job, it can get tiring or mechanical and the greatest challenge is to keep your interest and curiosity alive and maintaining the professional energy high or you will lose your audience and job sequentially. In order to insure all that, I do something that I would not recommend to anyone unless you are OK with looking or sounding stupid and probably losing your job as well. I don’t over prepare, over read or study about guests and subject matter. It’s like going on an impromptu road trip, you never know where you end. With so many interviews done on TV and Facebook nowadays mostly based on popular or highlighted issues, there is a great chance that everybody ends up asking the same questions and getting the same answers. Sometimes I do and often times I don’t. It drives my team, executive producer and probably my bosses nuts, but it’s never a boring day on Agenda!

So what’s the connection with leaders and officials and the need to learn to listen? Aside from the obvious fact, I have observed during the pandemic how so many private sector leaders and executives have gone out to float or suggest ideas and solutions but get no response from those in government. Some officials even question the sanity of people who propose out of the box, extra-ordinary solutions! But what takes the cake is months after sitting on the problem or ignoring a growing issue, you suddenly hear government officials float “a solution” that is actually an outright copy of the earlier suggestions. Take, for instance, the growing problem on EDSA. If I remember correctly, just before the government declared a general lockdown due to Covid-19, Ramon Ang a.k.a RSA of San Miguel Corporation floated the idea of constructing an elevated or second level EDSA. Ramon Ang pointed out that this would automatically double the available roadspace and can be connected with the Skyway. Unfortunately it was an idea that was too big for small minds, so it was shelved as an idea way before its time.

As the traffic problem persisted, a bunch of opinion writers nagged Ramon Ang for ideas that might be bite size for the government. RSA said and I wrote about it in this column: “One quick solution would be to build elevated bus stops in order to get commuters and buses off EDSA when loading and unloading. I have seen similar versions in the city center of The Hague in the Netherlands that were elevated and connected to a network of commercial establishments as well as train station. The elevated bus stops could be built out of steelworks, prefabricated and put up in a matter of weeks. But to no one’s surprise, it was treated as too small, impractical and low in terms of PR points…until I learned this week that a group of government officials were suggesting that elevated bus stops be built for the “Carousel Bus system.” The idea is being floated to address the negative side effects such as horrendous traffic on EDSA after most if not all the U-turn slots were closed in order to give the buses unobstructed flow through EDSA. By constructing the elevated but stops, other vehicles can now pass under the elevated platforms to do U-turns.”

RSA and most of us motorists will say it doesn’t matter who gets the credit just as long as the right solution is in place. Well, the government version is currently half right because it does not have a Ramon Ang or San Miguel Corporation that can put their money where their mouth is. A basic version of the elevated bus stops would be relatively affordable if not cheap for SMC, but they would probably build it merely in the interest of public service or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) if they still felt like it. For other big companies, it’s too small to call an investment and for small businesses, it’s too cumbersome if you have to go through biddings and qualification processes just to build a glorified tollbooth. Unfortunately the government officials mulling over the U-turn problem and elevated bus stop solution seem to be clueless where to turn for funding. If they only listened then, they would have had their platforms now! Listen and listen well, even the Bible teaches that.

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