Śródmiejska Obwodnica Zachodnia (Bielsko-Biała)

Road in Poland

Three Kings Day. The smoke of New Year firecrackers has dispersed. Time to look at what could lie ahead.

Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow once defined a hierarchy of human needs. These are:

  • Physiological. Many people in the Philippines are still very poor, can hardly make ends meet. The hunger that was reported during the time of President Arroyo seems to be gone. There is the Pantawid Pamilya program which is a safety net for many, inspired by similar programs in Latin America. It is not a dole-out, but is connected to developing good habits like medical check-ups, sending children to school and more. What I do not know is if it reaches far enough into the slum areas – because desperation can lead to drugs and crime.
  • Safety. In terms of personal safety, there are those who fear crime. There have been some improvements in policing mentioned in previous articles, and attempts to improve the delivery of justice. Fear of crime may be one of the things that make Mayor Duterte popular. Never mind that his radical approach may endanger innocent people, even themselves. In terms of safety in case of illness, there is Philhealth, but the generous benefits Binay has offered in Makati seem to appeal to some. Never mind that they might not be fundable on a national scale.
  • Love and belonging. Many families are split up due to migration and work abroad. There are even people working in Metro Manila who leave their families in the provinces because they cannot afford to live with them in the city. Grace Poe with her motherhood statements might appeal to many. Never mind that her program is more like a nice movie, not at all realistic.
  • Esteem. Miriam Santiago might fulfill that need for some. Never mind that she has no strategy on how to guard the nation from its enemies. Only nationalistic bluster. And old-school talk.
  • Self-actualization. There is a very modern upper and middle class that is confident and now discovering the world, realizing its full potential and possibilities. Mar Roxas could be the symbol for most of these people. Some of them might not realize how far behind them others are. Self-actualization can become self-absorption, seeing the others only as masa or bobotante. Maslow himself saw self-transcendence as the final step. People should help others, explain things, share both opportunities and knowledge. I see Leni Robredo as very strong in this area.

Conflict and Communication

Laufwasserkraftwerk Oberföhring Isarwerk 3

Vintage hydroelectric plant

I see the present discussions in the Philippines as an expression of different needs within the population. Conflict was necessary to start some discussions, because some are not able to talk or explain well, and others are not good at listening or understanding, and almost everybody passes judgement way to quickly. Rapid change has made communication very hard – between social classes, between city and countryside, between different generations. Might be that more true communication is needed though.

But PLEASE not about candidates, candidates, candidates again. Just like some young Pinoys who had to eat chicken every day after their father had made too much for a big Filipino party said manok, manok, manok after two weeks. Informing oneself responsibly comes first. Look for a clear picture. Maybe even form groups to gather information and piece things together. Then ask government and politicians what they want to do about pressing matters. Describe problems and possible solutions. Find out who is responsive and who isn’t by communicating with them.

This is better than just yelling out on social media. I am very tired of much of the noise by now. It will not have any effect at all. Just like voting leaders with unproven or questionable capabilities is very dangerous. Or thinking any President can do it all alone or even a President-VP tandem, and voting just any Senators, Congressmen, Governors or Mayors this year. Miracles don’t exist. Successful countries did not happen overnight. Just looking a little at history will show it. Overnight successes like Saudi Arabia and Dubai may still turn out to be like one-day oil millionares.

Getting Stuff Done

Abschlussdeich Blickrichtung Südwest

Afsluitdijk in Netherlands

Based on my own experience as an IT projects veteran, and also having seen how things get done worldwide, this is what is essential:

  • Sustained effort. It took around 150 years to tame the Isar river of Munich, which used to flood the poorer areas of the city, creating canals for water management, hydroelectric plants and a dam whose water is let out BEFORE major rains come in order to be able to accomodate them and protect the city – what are weather forecasts for? But every phase delivered results.
  • Foresight. Why was the purchase of the MRT in the 1990s not used to ramp up a local industry for creating own train coaches and rails, to be able to build more lines without spending foreign currency reserves? The DOST AGT system which is already running and might be first used in Baguio considers these criteria. Considering rising sea levels, might it not make sense to build something like an Afsluitdijk for Manila Bay, between Bataan and Batangas? Even create new cities like the Dutch did over there, or double Metro Manila in size?
  • Build own expertise. Do not just follow the advice of consultants, adapt it to local needs. Build local expertise so that the role of consultants will be less in subsequent projects.
  • Communicate with stakeholders. Make websites for example that truly inform about what plans are and how they are progressing, in a way the can be easily understood by most.
  • Monitor success locally. Don’t just believe what is told. Make surprise inspections. Send anonymous testers. Ask people affected for feedback and truly listen and answer them.

Now the Philippines will need more effective managers who get things done, like Dr. Mahar Lagmay of DOST Project Noah. And political leaders who put together effective teams at all levels. Finally, voters will have to think for themselves, put together a very complex picture and decide. Or vote based on their feelings only – which doesn’t help.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 6 January 2015