True development is possible-A A +A
Meet the Countryside
Friday, September 13, 2013
THE underlying aspiration in true development is improving the living conditions of the poor -- and that is by enabling the communities attain their fullest development and growth potentials. And, this will happen in time.
In the mid-1980s, the whole country was still reeling from the challenges of the Marcos Regime’s inability to repay its foreign debts that led to a severe economic recession. The entire government was in dire need for funds as the country was saddled with poverty; and the towns all over were like “ghost towns.” As governance was highly centralized, except the favored ones, all the local government units (LGUs) were in the same boat.
If you were the local chief executive (LCE) or governor, mayor, or barangay captain, you would have wondered then: Why you got into this terrible job which does not have the resources to perform its mandates? One has to do a balancing act – to be effective. Only the exceptionally good ones were able to put their basic infrastructure and service requirements in place. Some LGUs would also have its uniquely significant health and nutrition; and poverty reduction livelihoods programs.
In education, by working hand in hand with Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) now Department of Education (DepEd) and using the special education fund (SEF), some LGUs were able to contribute to the improvement of the quality of training in various fields and classroom facilities. In housing, some already started to distribute its acquired lands to some residents; street lights and sidewalks were put up. With no intelligence funds, some were able to affect peace and order under the concept of social protection. Some had their roads and water systems efficiently working and expanding as they have to prioritize their activities. The resources available were so scarce that every peso mattered. The LCEs have to be true leaders and change agents to perform well. And, they got re-elected on that the “legitimacy of leadership is performance.”
Then, came the time when LGUs enjoyed local autonomy as provided for by the 1986 Constitution and the 1991 Local Government Code. There evolved a system of decentralization with powers, responsibilities, and resources devolved to the LGUs. This indeed hastened local development in the initial stages. In local road construction as an example, an LGU could be more efficient; doing the P300,000 road budget of the province for only P80,000-P100,000. This made some municipalities acquire their own road construction equipment, which ended up as the provincial contractors working on the provincial roads in their own as well as the neighboring municipalities. The income significantly contributed to the coffers of the LGUs.
Another case is water pipes: The standard commission of water pipes then was 40 percent (try comparing the government’s cost re pipes bought by private entities). Well, government suppliers could not go down their bid as this was the going rate of the billions of national projects; wherein the LGU’s requirements was only by the millions. Rather than pocket the commission, the LCEs would have a choice of converting the commission into additional pipes. The LGU resources at the start of the devolution, the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), were short; and leaders made the difference in development performance. Local development indeed can be achieved, a possibility, under true and well-meaning leadership.
But, good leaders are hard to find now. As more funds are allocated to LGUs, so much money is also lost in the system in the form of “money politics.” Who can hold our leaders accountable then? At the end of the day, as he exercises general supervision, it is the President. And, only the President can make the possibility of true development a reality on time.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2013.