We can make or break with the crisis
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2004-09-06
IT is the truly astute businessman who recognizes that big profits are to be made when there is blood on the streets. The greater the risk, the greater is the reward.

The Chinese ideogram for crisis combines two characters which mean danger and opportunity. Rightly so, as the most successful of entrepreneurs welcome crisis rather than fear it because it presents golden opportunities waiting to be harnessed. Not normally undertaken during times of plenty and smooth sailing, crisis prods the organization to:

1. To review its structure, its operations, its methods and even its corporate philosophy from a new perspective
2. To retool its ways of doing things

3. To re-gear the organization towards the new directions that the crisis has shaped for that particular field of endeavor

Most of the time, organizations find it difficult to view themselves from a new perspective. People take comfort and security in the status quo and will naturally resist change. “Don't fix what ain’t broke,” goes the reactionary line. In reality, the only time when crisis should be feared is when it overwhelms the organization beyond its coping capability.

The Philippines can make or break, depending on how the country deals with its mega-crises (debt, deficit, rising oil prices, energy). Great nations are where they are because they have weathered the severest of crises. The end of the American civil war in the mid-1800 created a stronger, globally-fit United States of America to mark the beginning of its ascent to imperial power. Germany and Japan have resurrected from the rubble of the Second World War. After its surrender, Japan has learned from its mistake in going to war. But it has remained focused in its quest for a “co-prosperity sphere in Asia” this time, achieving this using peaceful means.

The key to rising from crisis is attitude. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed and rendered helpless, and crisis will destroy you. See the new opportunities that crisis presents, resolve and reform – and the crisis will become the stepping stone to greater heights.

Fortunately for us, Filipinos have historically shone in crisis. We could have disintegrated after Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983 but instead we rallied around the banner of democracy and inspired the world with a peaceful model for removing dictatorships with our People Power Revolt of February 22 – 24, 1986. Normalcy, it seems, brings out the worst in us. But in crisis, we are in our best elements.

Just look at the miracles that the crises have unfolded. Three months ago, would we have hoped to see our congressmen and senators willingly give up their pork barrel allocations? Now we hear them volunteering allocation cuts ranging from 40 to 100%. Three months ago, would we have hoped to hear about cabinet officials offering to ride in downsized, more fuel efficient vehicles and reduce the security convoys tailing them? Three months ago, would we have hoped to see the better off members of society offer their jewelries to alleviate the fiscal crisis? The signs are encouraging. Crisis is once again awakening the best in us.

The election of Joseph Estrada as president in 1998 and the resulting worsening of social inequities and bureaucratic excesses triggered a time bomb awaiting its due course. A “them versus us” mentality festered between the haves and the have nots, symptoms of a class war emerging. The last elections even reinforced that attitude. But with the crises facing us now so clearly defined and unmistakable, it is no longer “them versus us”. Now we see ourselves as “all of us in one fast sinking boat”. Suddenly, we have stopped nitpicking on non-essentials. Instead, we realize that if we all did not focus on re-directing the rudder of the ship of state, we will all end up as shark food in the stormy seas.

We must just hope that the national character, which makes us rise to the occasion during times of crisis, will be matched by the political leadership with selfless dedication and wise decisions. For starters:

1. All plans for a Con Ass, Con Con (Con Job as I prefer to call it) must be stopped because this will only cause more friction and division. Besides, the solutions to the crises are not addressable by constitution revision but by national resolve and unity.

2. All political factions must cease firing. Malacanang must put the stops to the marginalization of former president Fidel V. Ramos. Ronnie Puno’s initiatives in Kampi and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s PEA-Amari revival are seen as pincer movements in that direction. In-fighting between the captain and the mates must stop – at least until after the ship of state has weathered the typhoon.

3. Conspicuous consumption must stop to make way for leadership by example. Ostentatious birthday parties cloaked as fund raising affairs and like socials that approximate the lifestyles of the rich and famous will be taken as an insult by a nation that is being asked to sacrifice because of the fiscal crisis.

4. The leadership must present a road map to recovery and not just a litany of sacrifices for everyone. This road map must not only be a survival strategy, it must also be a master plan of reforms that will address the age-old problems of poverty, wealth distribution, and all the other classic precursors to national self-destruction. Incentives motivate people more than a listing of sacrifices that do not assure even a glimpse of improvement in their lives.

5. Tell the truth. The CBCP is right – this is more of a moral crisis and not just a fiscal crisis. Winston Churchill brought out the finest in the British character during the dark period following the evacuation from Dunkirk because he leveled with the British about the situation they were in and what it required from every citizen.

6. Nobody should take advantage of the crises for personal or political gain – neither the administration nor the opposition. For the administration, political gain comes with the successful weathering of the crisis. For the opposition, political gain comes from statesmanship in the event the administration fails to deliver. To use the crises for political purposes will be to return the nation to the divisions that threaten to bring us all to the brink.

7. Before the government leaders prescribe more taxes, they should first sell their non-performing assets and ensure the efficient collection of the right taxes. The president should also set the example in giving up her own P1 billion discretionary fund before she expects congressmen and senators to give up their pork barrel allocations. It is high time too that media under government sequestration like RPN-9, IBC-13, and The Journal Group of Publications are sold instead of government spending money for these media that government should not even be operating.

These are the bare minimums that our leaders owe us.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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