OPINION: Public service – low price, high quality by VS Perdigon Jr.

It has been correctly said, and validated by observation, that public services in the Philippines are generally inefficient while private ones, efficient.

This is the justification for the acquiescence of not a few to the privatization of erstwhile public services.

However, it comes at a price.

Better quality has been touted to be the twin of expensiveness.

In the central Philippine province of Albay, however, the privatization of ALECO (Albay Electric Cooperative) though is an exception.

Under the management of San Miguel Corporation, service quality deteriorated abruptly and the price of electricity has unfortunately risen.

This is unfortunate.

Why can’t public service be efficient and cheap?

When we privatize, not only do we throw away the baby with the bath water.

We also blindly accept the man-made phenomenon of being our brother’s murderer.

It is also a failure in educating our people on values.

They learn to squeeze out the most from the weakest.

It is anathema to our Christian faith.

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Today we see the empirical result of privatization, especially where there is no real competition but connivance (in the absence of an anti-trust law like the Sherman Act in the US).

We see the expanded gap between the very rich and the very poor.

For example, while the GDP of the Philippines rose by an average of 6.1875% from 2010 to 2015 and the wealth of the top 40 richest families increased three times over the same period, the poverty incidence has barely changed.

It was 26.3% in 2009; not reported in 2010 and 2011; 25.2% in 2012; 24.9% in 2013; 25.3% in 2014 and 26.3% in 2015.

This only means that the wealth generated by the alleged prosperity in our economy goes only to the very rich and does not “trickle down” to the very poor.

According to Pope Francis, “The promise was that when the cup was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor.

But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger – nothing ever comes out for the poor.“

An increase in the poverty incidence by 1% in a population of 104 million means that 1 million more people became poor.

Contrast that to the fact that 40 families tripled their wealth!

The Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress predicted this is in June 1991:  “The (Corazon) Aquino administration established the Asset Privatization Trust in 1986 to dispose of government-owned and government-controlled properties . . . There was widespread controversy over the fairness of the divestment procedure and its potential to contribute to an even greater concentration of economic power in the hands of a few wealthy families.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Privatization and the other siblings of neoliberal economics (globalization, deregulation, liberalization, contractualization) have to be tempered with governance that has compassion for the poor, marginalized, abandoned, and their like.

A rational taxation system can support that.

It can also be made possible by reserving our natural resources to our fellow Filipinos instead of giving them away to aliens as it is being done through the Investment Incentives Act.

Our mineral resources alone at 10% potential are valued at 2 trillion dollars (5).

That translates to P982,000 for every Filipino and P4.9 million for every family! We emphasize that such wealth is only from mineral resources and at 10% potential.

What if we include our marine, forest, geothermal, and hydroelectric resources?

Other countries have only one resource, crude oil, but they are able to provide for their citizens.

In Brunei there is no income tax and medical care is free.

In the US, public service is at par with private enterprise.

It is possible to have public service at low price and high quality.

It only takes political will and genuine love of country.

It takes faithful adherence to our Christian virtue of charity. (Nov. 18, 2016)

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