Why VP Binay can’t make the rest of the Philippines like Makati
Why do the nation’s voters not see the progress and the promise and insist on “change”?
Legalese: Filipino voters who read the article acknowledge they do so of their own choice and hold the writer harmless from “meddling” in their independent thought process.
One of the common campaign techniques we see in politics anywhere is that candidates will promise the moon but not discuss how it will be paid for, or when exactly the landing will happen. That certainly also happens in the Philippines. Here, the promises are generally couched in terms of how the Aquino Administration has not done enough, not done it right, or done everything wrong.
Candidate Mar Roxas is considered an extension of the Aquino Administration, so he receives a lot of brickbats from the other three main candidates. Arguments are postured very much as if Roxas has actually been President for the past six years, and, for some, you might think he even caused Typhoon Yolanda. The sensationalist media love the conflict and hype the criticisms. They seldom explain the facts of Philippine progress. So you outsiders who are insulated from all the carping, and who read objective analyses, generally see Philippine progress better than the nation’s own citizens.
As an example, one of the common arguments we hear from followers of Vice President Binay, who was mayor of Makati for for two lengthy terms, is that he is a good manager because Makati is wealthy and modern.
Let’s look at the facts of Makati.
Makati is a business center. A financial hub, an office hub. A vibrant, clean retail shopping district. It is the “New Manila”. Jejomar Binay took charge of the city as a huge political payoff for his loyalty to President Cory Aquino during the nation’s uprising against President Marcos. She gifted the mayorship to Binay by appointment in 1987. Now he is running for President on the promise of making the entire Philippines as wealthy and generous as Makati.
Makati gives free birthday cakes to seniors, free health care, free education . . . a lot of free stuff. VP Binay promotes this “rich” idea when he gives away goodies in his visits to the provinces, everything from candy to rosaries, properly tagged with the Binay name.
The facts show that Makati is indeed rich. The Makati city tax base is huge. Yet the population is modest. Here are the statistics for Makati along with a few selected greater Manila cities, for comparison purposes:
Makati will generate total revenue of about P13 billion this year. The city will spend just about the same amount, with the excess revenue or loss going to the cash account, which today is around P12 billion. The revenue (or expense) per person in Makati is P24,700 per year.
Caloocan, with three times the population, has a tax base of P5 billion. The revenue (or expense) per person is P3,428.
The promise of the Binay advocates is that he will make the Philippines in the same likeness as Makati.
So what would it take to get poor, over-crowded, rundown Caloocan to rise to the majestic stature of Makati? Good jobs. Clean streets and sidewalks. Cakes for the elderly and free health care. Modern schools and parking garages.
It would require increasing the expense per person from P3,428 to P24,700, or P22,127 per person per year.
Multiply that figure by 1,489,040 residents (which is highly conservative, given that the population figures are from 2010), and we can see that the city must raise and spend P32.9 billion annually to match Makati.
Assuming quick work and no more births.
Remember, it is Caloocan that has to raise this money. It can’t come from outside, except the internal revenue allotment. Other cities are busy doing the same thing. Indeed, they are competing for investments from a limited pool of all the rich people who can afford such huge projects.
To make each Caloocan resident as well off as the residents of Makati, the city of Caloocan would have to generate 2 1/2 times as much revenue as Makati does today. The office buildings, condos, hotels and banks would have to sprout like mushrooms. Malls on ever corner.
The other cities would have to do the same thing. Greater Manila would become the new Dubai . . . without any oil to pay for things.
And a whole lot of very empty office buildings, condos and malls.
“Oh, Joe, get real! Give us a break. We foreigners aren’t stupid. We know it will take time to get there. It can’t be done in a year.”
Right I agree.
Indeed, I’ll give you that it will not be done in six years.
And therein lies the deceit of the Binay advocates.
The numbers prove the lie. Makati is one of a kind, with huge tax base and modest population. To suggest to the residents of Caloocan or any other town in the Philippines that they can have what Makati residents have is simply not true. It does not matter how capable a manager VP Binay might be. And given the lack of transparency, one might conclude . . . not such a good manager.
Other candidates are also making lavish promises.
“A seat for every rider!” (my paraphrase) says Senator Poe commenting on today’s overcrowded trains, without saying when . . . or how much she will spend to give all of Manila seats. Or how she will get the money when 30% of her budget is promised to Mindanao.
“Crime and drugs gone in 3 to 6 months!” (my paraphrase) claims Mayor Duterte.
The promises candidates are setting before the public are almost lunatic in their dimensions. They are wholly impractical. They can’t be done during the next six years. Not even close.
Only one candidate argues for a continuation of the progress being made that is recognized in most global rating indicators from anti-corruption to climate change. Only one candidate says that the Philippines is doing well . . . the view that most foreign experts seem to hold.
The work being done today includes prudent fiscal policies, building a stable, robust economy, improving tax collections, and the careful, balanced allotment of money to schools, roads, airports, local governments, defense and social services.
So if the nation’s voters choose badly, it is because the noise, the complaints, the dreams, and the promises peddled by those who can’t deliver are louder than the truth, or even common sense. And the nation’s media vendors fail to sort out fact from fiction.
Here’s my personal editorial judgment:
The ONLY PATH to a modern, progressive Philippines is continuity of recent good works.
The ONLY CHANGE should be to improve on what has been built. And to PAY FOR IT with steady, earnest economic growth and prudent tax policies.
And most certainly, the absolute worst path would be to seek the kind of change that rips the economic foundations from the nation’s future.
“Why don’t local media make clear that the promises are absurd?”, you the foreigner might ask. And I would say that it is because Philippine journalists are reactive, not contemplative. That is, they do not “think forward” because there is no profit to it. And, therefore, the Philippine population is largely reactive. And . . . without facts . . . highly gullible.