I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

No imagination

Who’s the idiot that said this 5-billion aid program called Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino was a good idea?

I’m not gonna dwell to much on the utter stupidity of a program that would give stipends of up to P1,400 monthly to the poorest families in the 20 poorest provinces simply because I know that enough people will be doing that. And most everyone will really just serve up variations on give-a-man-a-fish and all that.

So, for the record, yeah, I agree that this Ahon program is stupid because it will not solve anything; and that it will inevitably teach our people – many of whom already possessed of a mendicant mentality to begin with – to be lazy; and because Machiavelli has already pointed out that if a Prince is too generous, he will find that his people will eventually take his generosity for granted and cross over from being appreciative to just being plain greedy. In the end, he will have to tax his people more and more just to maintain his generosity, and the additional burden will just lead to people hating him. Worse, if he does decide to cut back on his largesse, he will be immediately labeled a miser, leading people to, yep-you guessed it, hate him.

But apart from all that, what really bugs me about this Ahon program is that it is a warning. It is a day-glo orange sign, written on the wall in ten-foot high letters, that this government is either running out of imagination or is setting up the most ambitious and vicious embezzlement scheme ever.

No Imagination

This was my initial reaction this morning when I first heard the news that government was gonna give dole-outs to poor families: this benighted government has lost all imagination.

Let’s face it: governance is tough. You have to constantly find ways to make ends meet. And with the world as shitty as it is – what with financial crises left and right, oil prices breaking records every day, and Dyesebel sucking big-time! – moving a finite amount of money around to meet a seemingly infinite demand for more and more of it can’t be a walk in the park. And that’s where imagination becomes incredibly important.

David Rothkopf – the guy who wrote Superclass – tells of a time when the U.S. Fed once moved quickly and unconventionally to head off a crisis in global securities markets. “There was nothing in writing, no rules, no formal process.” Essentially, “fast action was needed, and it was taken.” He called it the Fed’s “evolving crisis-management play book.” I call it imagination: the ability to find creative solutions that are effective despite being unconventional. Others – Mensa types especially – call it lateral or nonlinear thinking. However you want to call it, it’s something that this government obviously does not possess.

And that’s bad for everyone. A government that sanctions throwing money at a problem, hoping it’ll go away, betrays an outrageous lack of managerial ability. A good manager will always try to find the most efficient and effective way of using available resources be they plentiful or scant; just as a good general will not rest easy until he has achieved the most efficient and effective disposition of his forces (in the case of governments, money) against a superior enemy (poverty, in this instance).

By ignoring these fundamentals, this government demonstrates that it is willing to go for the quick fix; burning up what little money it holds in trust for the people to achieve mediocre relief for just a handful of families, and for what will inevitably be only a short time. What happens when the 5-bil runs out?

And what about cost of money?

The PIA reports:

In Pangasinan, a total of 15,053 target households will benefit from the program in the municipalities of Urbiztondo, Bolinao, Aguilar and Mabini.

In 1995, the average household size was 5. Ahon, will therefore benefit 75,265 people. In 1995, the total population of Pangasinan was 2, 178, 412. In 1995. Imagine what Pangasinan’s population must be now. Since I don’t have current figures, let’s stick with the 2million. So, if 75,265 people accounts for roughly 3 percent of Pangasinan’s 1995 population, it must represent an even smaller percentage in 2008. How’s that for getting the most bang out of your buck?

What will the dole-out to less than 3% of the population cost the other 97% in terms of public services? From where I sit, it’d be more beneficial for a whole lot more Filipinos if the whole 5-bil were to be burned up as a pre-payment for our loans. Think about it. Everyone – not just a handful of us – will stand to benefit simply because we’ll prolly get better credit ratings and, in the long run, get out of debt sooner (not by much, but sooner). So, yeah. Not to be insensitive to the plight of the poor, but the sinking 5-bil into this moneypit of a dole-out project will cost all of us and not even actually help the poor at all.

Hell, if the genius behind Ahon were working for some private company and he made an investment decision like this, he’d be out of a job in less time than it takes for a cat to lick its balls. (Won’t that be a trip? Walking into Malakanyang, right up to GMA, and telling her: “you’re fired, bitch.”) Too bad we can’t get rid of government as easily. But I think that a government that endorses this moronic decision certainly deserves the boot.

Like I said, no imagination.

Conspiracy Corner: Embezzlement?

But has the government really lost it’s imagination? Part of me feels the answer is no.

My inner Dan Brown says Ahon is really a masquerade; a way of disbursing so much cash that skimming off some of the money becomes unnoticeable. Really really basic: if you were to skim off 5 cents for every peso, your pay-off would amount to 250,000,000. And who’s gonna notice that in the books? 250-mil, on the other hand, will be noticeably effective in helping win an election, say in 2010?


Filed under: 2010 watch, musings, politics, society, , , , , , ,

13 Responses

  1. BrianB says:

    Anybody ever made a study aboutwhether Machiavelli’s policies in The Prince applies to all cultures? I hope cvj has a link for us.

    I think it’s a good pacifier since, anyway, not all Filipino poor and probably very few of them will get this largess in the end. The Prince need not worry; it’s all hot air.

  2. BrianB says:

    What am I saying? Sorry, was being too subtle. Are you serious? Machiavelli? I’ve seen Machiavelli applied with precision in an office setting and to a lesser extent by informal groups (i.e. Christian groups) but a democratic government with a constitution?

  3. rom says:

    BrianB: machiavelli enunciated basic principles which, i think, are generally applicable as fundamentals. take the argument of liberality vs. parsimony, for instance. That their is one good argument against populism – because that’s what Ahon is – an act of sheer unmitigated pandering to the people.

    while it is true that only very few people will be affected by this dole-out (which is actually one of the arguments against the dole-out in the first place), it does not follow that the negative effects of this liberality will come only from those few.

    there will be some people who will take the government to task for spending the money in such a stupid fashion; there will be those who will complain that they’re not getting anything (because they think they should); there will be those who complain because they think that they should get more; or that there are some receiving the dole-out who shouldn’t; and then there are those who will find fault because that’s what they do.

    the bottom line is this – this act of liberality will bring more bad than good for this government and by extension, for all of us, even those who receive the money. And that’s what Machiavelli ‘predicted.’

  4. cvj says:

    Sorry Brianb, i don’t know of any such study but i would agree with Rom that Machiavelli’s principles are broadly applicable. In any case, Machiavelli wrote with the Rennaissance-era Italians in mind and it has been said that Filipinos behave like Italians. I personally think the Arroyos are modeling themselves after the Medicis.

    Rom, i haven’t been following the ‘Ahon’ program that closely and i agree with you that this government lacks imagination but i believe it says a lot about our society if we allow our own people to starve just to teach them to fish.

    Maybe the right model to follow would be something like the one which enables us to blog for free. Imagine if blogger or wordpress suddenly charged for our use of their facilities.

  5. BrianB says:

    “there will be some people who will take the government to task for spending the money in such a stupid fashion; there will be those who will complain that they’re not getting anything (because they think they should); there will be those who complain because they think that they should get more; or that there are some receiving the dole-out who shouldn’t; and then there are those who will find fault because that’s what they do.”

    CVJ, ROM,

    You both don’t think the Ahon program is good for Arroyo? I still think that to say GMA missed her Machiavelli class is naive and shows a poor reading of GMA, who must have read Machiavelli while still in diapers.

    I am not keen on calling Ahon an “act of princely generosity” from a democratic official. It sounds more like Pinoy welfare to me, like that food program this president implemented early in her first term. Pinoy welfare: Like Erap gift bags and Imelda’s compassion.

  6. rom says:

    BrianB: I don’t think GMA missed Machiavelli. I think she ignored him in this case tho. And Ahon isn’t about princely generosity either – not in a strict sense anyway. When Machiavelli speaks of generosity, we shouldn’t take him literally; he’s not just referring to personal acts of liberality, he can be interpreted to refer to dole-out policies in general.

    And yes, Ahon is precisely like Erap’s gift bags. In fact, now that you mention it, that might be exactly what Ahon is about: an effort to trump or upstage Erap’s generosity.

  7. rom says:

    cvj: i don’t think the intended recipients will actually starve without the dole-out, but i get your point.

  8. shiro says:

    hmm… buying votes this early eh?

  9. rom says:

    shiro: that’s a definite possibility, luv

  10. BrianB says:

    ROM, when you say liberality, what do you mean? Besides, a lot of people are Machiavellian without having read or even heard of the man. Some people are just “wais.”

    My point is that, it will not be bad for Arroyo. There will always be complaints whatever the president’s actions are. Your point re Machiavelli is that the Ahon will transform the masses from “api” to “greedy” with a lot of expectation from the government, which in turn will be dangerous for GMA for obvious reasons. I seriously doubt it.

    ROM, a related question: do you approve of social welfare for Pinoys? Do you think this will spoil them , raise their expectations. I am the sort of person who believes in minimum wage and a minimum standard of living for everyone, even if they refuse to work. What do you believe.

  11. BrianB says:

    I mean with a lot of expectation towards what the government can do for them. Sorry about the awful syntax.

  12. rom says:

    brianb: again, i think machiavelli should be interpreted as preaching against dole-outs in general.

    As for the masses expecting a lot from the government, you think they dont already?

  13. Joe-Anna Marie V. Casidsid says:

    i am a social worker, currently affiliated in a non-profit organization. our programs are basically consisted of such ‘health and education assistance’ like the APP program. i would have to say that though it pains us – social workers to see people participate into something beneficial for themselves, just for the sake of a free soap or toothpaste (or free school uniforms and school supplies), it really is the fact. Nonetheless, we must also be wary of the orientations and perspectives where these projects are coming from.

    when you think about it, the programs, which the government is implementing – most particularly in the area of social welfare reflect the ideological stance which the state has adopted in viewing its target group to be helped. “who are the poor?” and “what makes them poor?” these are crucial questions that a service provider such as the government must be able to address in devising anti-poverty measures. clearly, app sees the poor as a segment of population helpless to meet basic human development objectives. they are educated but helpless – this seems to be the paradigm of the program.

    are the poor really that helpless?

    i believe that though direct provision of goods and services are effective means to address the most pressing problems – the way a band-aid does to a wound, it is still must be coupled with education. APP would be a good idea if in the process of providing, the state would strive to educate the people – thereby transforming “the beneficiaries” into proactive agents of change – no longer helpless but fully capable of helping themselves to elevate their own status in our society.

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