Posted on June 05, 2016 10:34:00 PM
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) conducted a national survey with a big sample of 10,000 respondents and a series of focus group discussions (FGDs) involving different sectors of society, including the youth, the marginalized in rural and urban areas, Filipino workers overseas, government employees, etc. Deliberately, however, these activities did not cover the elderly, assuming that in the long run, to put it bluntly, they will all be dead.
In 2040, I will be 84 years old. Who knows, I and the outgoing and incoming officials of NEDA might still be around, singing “When I’m 84” instead of “When I’m 64.” In 2040, thanks to science and technology, 84 will be the new 64.
Thus I wonder why senior citizens like me were left out from the FGDs and the survey. Senior citizens can still dream. Senior citizens still have aspirations and a vision. Their vision may not be about their own welfare but certainly about their children’s children. With maturity and acceptance of mortality, senior citizens also turn to altruism and love of country, which AmBisyon unfortunately does not capture.
But all this is a quibble. At any rate, senior citizens like me can contribute and are contributing to AmBisyon. Writing about it is my contribution.
AmBisyon collects and consolidates the views and hopes of our people, obtained from FGDs and a large random sample of respondents cutting across income and social strata. What they articulate represents the sentiments, the dreams, the hope and fears of our nation.
What then do I like about AmBisyon?
First, it is bottom-up. It listens to the people. It is not a vision drawn up by the technocratic elite or by ideologues. It is the actual unified vision of our people.
Second, it is humble. It does not have a pre-conceived notion of development. It does not impose a grand model or a paradigm. It is not even a plan. And that is good. It is difficult to plan for a long-term future that has full of uncertainties. What we need to know is where we want to be, and then explore the different paths to get to our destination.
Hence, AmBisyon can be and should be the basis of development planning of succeeding administrations. Ideally the medium-term plan must have continuity but must likewise have flexibility. It is the prerogative of the incoming and future administrations to draw up the concrete plans that respond to the context of the times but at the same time get guidance from the long-term vision expressed in AmBisyon 2040.
Third, AmBisyon is therefore a guidepost. It is not prescriptive, however. Rather, based on the technical papers that are part of AmBisyon, recommendations consist of a menu of recipes. It is up to the people and the prevailing administration to determine which recipe is most appropriate at a given time. What matters is that the administration and the constituency of stakeholders must own the set of policies, be informed of the benefits and costs and trade-offs, and be accountable.
Fourth, AmBisyon is rich in information that can illumine policy and institutions. With 10,000 respondents and qualitative information from 40 FGDs, the project contains valuable information to advance different types of advocacy.
Part of the information is validating and highlighting concerns and problems that we have heard before but which we have ignored or glossed over.
For example, four out of five Filipinos want to live within the same place they work in, and a relatively small number (14%) want to work in a big city. The perception till now is that the masses want to move to imperial Manila or another big city like Cebu to get jobs.
Another critical insight: The poor value time — that every minute of their time is as precious as Manny Pangilinan’s or Henry Sy’s time. Hence, the daily corruption they encounter like paying fixers and the heavy regulations they have to comply with to get jobs or start a small business are not petty concerns at all.
While we have given much attention to addressing corruption and the high cost of doing business affecting big investors, we have tended to belittle similar problems that poor people face. These are the frequent bribes and fines exacted on them and the various barriers in the guise of local regulations that impede their economic activities.
Last but not least, AmBisyon is not gimmickry. It is not a political brand, used mainly to embellish then program of a political administration (Remember Fidel Ramos’s Philippines 2000?).
AmBisyon is a serious endeavor, one that reflects the sentiments and values of the people, one that does not impose prescriptions, and one that offers a guide to the future.
We hope the incoming Rodrigo Duterte administration as well as succeeding administrations, whatever their political stripe, will value and engage this long-term process and program.
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.