Government bonuses reveal counterproductive attitudes
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-12-29
During the GMA NewsTV Balitanghali edition of November 30, Lea Alviz interviewed several government employees on how they were planning to spend their P10,000 cash bonus on top of their regular bonus and 13th month pay. The reactions were varied.

Some wanted more. There were those who planned to use their bonuses to ensure a happy Christmas celebration with their family. A couple betrayed living on deficit spending by saying that their bonuses would be used to pay debts. Glaringly missing from the responses was any intention to save the bonus or use it to start a small business.

The bonuses were authorized by Administrative Order No. 3, which was signed on November 25 by President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy). P-Noy said that the bonuses were made possible by the government’s austerity measures that have kept the fiscal deficit within target.

He said: “The economy has stabilized; investors’ confidence, trust and faith in the Philippine government have been restored; plans for the effective implementation of government programs such as on education, health, poverty alleviation, and job generation are pursued under the platform of good governance,” the Administrative Order stated.

He added: “These accomplishments were achieved through the unwavering support, commitment, and collaborative efforts of all government employees from all sectors and levels of Philippine bureaucracy.”

Beneficiaries of the Administrative Order are State employees in the executive branch, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), and government financial institutions (GIFs) hired on a permanent, temporary, casual or contractual status - provided that they’ve rendered at least four months of service as of November 30.

It’s sad that through the years we see many Filipinos who have not yet learned the lessons of our successful Filipino-Chinese compatriots. Four decades ago, many of the rich Filipino-Chinese families today were poorer than the average middle class Filipino families. If you talk to many of our wealthy Filipino-Chinese friends, you’ll immediately notice a common denominator on how they succeeded in business — their productive attitude towards the money they earn and not spend.

While Juan dela Cruz is focused on a “Fiesta Mentality” — the excessive desire for partying and merrymaking — the Filipino-Chinese would make it a point to save in preparation for starting a small business. Four decades ago, you could easily spot the Filipino-Chinese by the way they dressed — plain and inexpensive. They subordinated fashion sense to business sense. From such mindsets came today’s John Gokongweis and Henry Sys.
You would often hear a Filipino remark that the bonus wasn’t enough to fund a small business and that the next best thing is to just enjoy the money — eat, drink and be merry! The Filipino-Chinese had a different attitude. If they didn’t have enough money to start a business, all the more they would apply austerity measures in order to save up to the required start-up capital. They spent less - something that extended to everybody in the family - in order to be able to save more.

Actually, it’s not just our Filipino-Chinese who live austere lives in order to meet bigger objectives. In many different business environments all over the world, the richer ones tend to spend less during the course of a day. Yes, they’d reward themselves with fancy cars and luxurious yachts eventually — but only after they’ve earned the money. In some cases, ostentatious living is undertaken for business reasons, as when the luxurious yacht becomes a venue for closing deals.

It’s typical of the Filipino-Chinese families to share their “Posterity Mindset” — the shared objective of bequeathing a viable business to their future generations - with all members of the family. While Juan dela Cruz lives for the next day’s fiesta, the Filipino-Chinese would look at four generations down the road.

To get out of this counterproductive syndrome, Filipinos must undergo soul-searching and an exhaustive examination of our values. We will never be able to get on board the money train unless we refocus our energies and resources to productive ventures. We cannot hope to change our lifestyle if our attitude does not change first.

Four decades ago, many of the rich Filipino-Chinese families today had fewer resources than the average middle class Filipino family. They did not bellyache. They worked harder. They did not promote a strike in the company that they worked for. Instead, they helped generate more revenues for their firm and in the process they earned salary upgrades and other company benefits. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, they strove for something higher.

When a Filipino-Chinese person works for another firm, it is to gain experience and to save enough money to start a business. By the 1980s, there were fewer Filipino-Chinese who worked for a company outside of that owned by their family.

When Filipinos land a job in a big outfit, they tend to plan the rest of their career working for that company. Their sights are set on sending their children to school and retiring with enough money to sustain the lifestyle they’re used to.

You will find success in a positive and productive attitude. Nothing decimates a family’s fortune faster than a bad attitude and an undisciplined craving for the goodlife.

If you’re looking for a good New Year’s resolution, consider austerity. Whatever you save today could save you tomorrow.

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