Merry Christmas

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Sunday, December 22, 2013


THE 7.2 magnitude earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda may have led to more subdued celebrations of Christmas 2013 because our extra cash went to relief and rehab efforts. But all this giving and lending a helping hand is after all the spirit of Christmas.

While helping, we are also inspiring others more fortunate abroad to continue giving until the whole of the Visayas can get up, hopefully stronger.

Meanwhile, the presence of volunteers from abroad is also helping the local economy. A friend in the hotel business notes the high occupancy of local hotels and pension houses. And these volunteers are now buying locally the materials they are giving in the calamity areas. They find this cheaper than shipping goods from their home countries.

This should make our Christmas merry indeed.

***

Come 2014, the national government will begin pouring billions to rehabilitate the calamity-hit areas in the Visayas and parts of Palawan. This should pump prime the economy in the months to come. My only concern is spreading the economic benefits a widely as possible among the poor. The funds should not go to the pockets of capitalist-bureaucrats.

Members of the Cebu Coalition against the Pork Barrel System, however, were dismayed by how the Commission on Audit (COA) is unprepared for this massive government expenditure.  This happened after a COA presentation during a coalition meeting.

***

Whenever somebody I know sits down to budget his salary and 13th month pay for the Christmas gifts for family and relatives, it seems he never has enough cash.  

Instead of struggling to budget whatever is left, this friend considers other options like applying for another advance. He always tells me he can figure out a way of making ends meet when the time comes. Besides, he can also tell some of his kinugos to
come back after the New Year. Haha!

His O-C wife won’t allow him because she wants him to only budget what he actually earned. When he talks of his plans of making the big sale next year, she merely dismisses him saying let’s count the chicks when the eggs are hatched. He always complains that this limits his ability to make things happen but doing so ends up in endless fights. The wife always has the seven last words.

He has found a way of dealing with her, though. He simply won’t tell her about the state of his finances whenever he could.

Financial advisers in television talk shows and those financial management books say this is not the way to do it. It is not sustainable. This is a formula for financial disaster. But many of us do. After all, this seems to be how Mayor Mike Rama manages Cebu City funds.

The tax collection for 2013 is not enough to pay the City’s payables? That’s easy. Get an advance from Filinvest. The City cannot pay the promised P4,000 for the senior citizens? Give them half and promise the balance when we can collect the advance. That should be sooner or later.

Cebu City is not bankrupt, contrary to what that has been is telling us. We can sell SRP lands to pay the City’s bills, Mayor Rama and his admirers tell us. And let’s start counting the eggs now by including this in our 2014 budget.

The City Council’s O-C majority (opposition councilors) will only approve a budget based on the actual income? Mayor Rama can always get around them. Implement projects without council approval. This will show political will to carry out projects the people want.  The more the O-C majority trims down the budget based on what Rama’s financial team can collect, the more the people mistakenly believes the O-Cs are responsible for blocking him from making things happen.

This dynamics is clear enough. But in the highly polarized political stage like Cebu City, what seems to matter is either you’re with us or you’re a political enemy. The way I see it, the sooner Cebuanos get out of this dichotomy, the sooner we can get things done.

Yes, we prevented the return of Tommy Osmena’s one-man rule last May. But Cebuanos also voted for a BOPK majority. The electorate also does not want one-man rule under Mayor Rama. Perhaps, Mayor Rama and the council majority can work together and make
things happen in 2014.

***

Businessmen should not just be the ones preparing for the Asean Community 2015. We all should, including local governments. There is no excuse for us if we are caught unprepared and this will hit our economy like a storm surge. We had years to prepare and take advantage of an Asean market. After all, the decision to implement this by 2015 was made during the Asean summit in Cebu last 2007.

This means 2014 should be panic time for preparations. We have no luxury for the kind of political dynamics Team Rama and the BOPK are presently engaged in.

(politika2013.wordpress.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 23, 2013.

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