Lawmaker on innovating in government: Do less, do better

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Monday, May 26, 2014


CEBU - For government to be efficient, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero believes it must make itself irrelevant and allow the private sector to do its job for them.

At the closing of the Open Collaboration with East Asia New Champions (Ocean) 2014 Summit Sunday, Escudero noted that the country’s 47 public-private partnership (PPP) projects worth P376 billion compose only 16 percent of the annual budget.

He believes a bigger chunk of government activities should be performed by the private sector and that the PPP projects are just “scraps” left over for the private sector to work on, when that it can do so much more than just infrastructure projects.

One of the ongoing PPP projects is the construction of a new passenger terminal for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and its management for 25 years. The contract was recently awarded to the GMR-Megawide consortium.

Escudero said encouraging the private sector to do most of the things government is taking care of can bring about innovation and participation from everyone.

He explained that this non-traditional role of government brings out “the true essence of democracy”, as it gives each individual a role to play in running the country.

“I don’t believe that the private sector is only out to earn a buck,” he told forum participants, saying that in the end, a customer is the same as a constituent and that the private sector will want to impress its market and improve on its services.

He cited many ways the private sector can handle government services such as in the issuance of drivers’ licenses, emission testing, education, security and energy.

Spending taxes

He added that while the governments of the Philippines and China are claiming territories in the West Philippine Sea, private companies from both nations are willing to explore and exploit this area and operate a joint venture, a move that he said both governments shot down.

“I don’t see the logic. We allow the Chinese to mine in lands that are unquestionably ours but not in territories that are disputed,” he said.

Escudero went on to say that even functions of Congress can be shared by everyone, pointing out some countries in Europe allow citizens to tick off a box in their income tax returns that would allow them to choose where to appropriate 10 percent of their taxes.

He said that by allowing citizens to choose where their money goes, countries can make them participate in deciding “the most important piece of legislation.” He asked for more suggestions from participants on avenues for the private sector to handle governance.

Sunday’s plenary session was a discussion on how to ignite initiatives for innovation with private and public partnerships.

Mon Ibrahim, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communication Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), said that by introducing “next wave cities” to the information technology-business process management industry, the country spread the opportunities to other areas outside of Metro Manila.

Cedf-it model

Of 900,000 workers employed by the sector, 28 percent are outside of Metro Manila, including Cebu, which has about 143,000 directly employed by the sector.

They have also replicated what Cebu has done to encourage the industry by following the model of the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (Cedf-it) in cities in Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan Valley, Metro Ilocos and General Santos.

“Anything that ends with ‘fit’ is the grandchild of Cedf-it,” Ibrahim said in jest.

Cedf-it has joined stakeholders and the academe to address the skills requirements of the industry.

For cities are not ready for such an ecosystem, Ibrahim said, jobs can still be provided for those with skills without having a company set up in their areas.

For his part, National Competitiveness Council private sector director Guillermo Luz said they want to replicate what has been done by the IT-BPM industry for all other businesses and identify next wave cities outside of Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Luz believes that in a few years, competitiveness indicators will soon carry a heavier weight for technology and innovation, and sustainability and environment.

Motivation

Before the country slips in its rankings, Luz said it must invest in these areas to stay competitive, which is why they are looking at establishing innovation hubs in 20 cities to diversify investment and job opportunities available in the country.

The two-day summit was capped by a heavily applauded presentation by furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who narrated his climb to the international design arena by observing structures and textures of things around him.

Journalist Maria Ressa, who was asked to close the summit, said participants needed to combine the “power of passion and the courage to dare” if they want the two days of collaboration to bear fruit.

She also noted how emotions play a great part in bringing out creativity. Citing a study that showed the Filipinos as being the most emotional people in the world, Ressa said she believes those who attended the summit could build on their emotions to harness their creativity and take action.

She admitted that most people will be discouraging, but asked participants to remember their time at the summit to motivate them to be creative. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 27, 2014.

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