JUST musing now that I see all the construction going on every which way and virtually everywhere in this country, whether their end results will be a better quality of life. Or, will they lead to unintended consequences that will turn out less than ideal, maybe negative or worse, untenable and irremediable?
What is with all the money being spent on road works, not new roads, that may be counted as part of the massive spending. Perfectly usable and adequate roads are being torn up to re-make them exactly as they were using the same materials, the same way of construction and in no way improving traffic flow, drainage, comfort. For example, why not put an asphalt overlay on cement roads that are there and have a better ride and less wear and tear on vehicles? That would be an improvement, not the same old concrete with its rough ride.
I can cite numerous examples of very acceptable roads being re-done for what seems to be the sake of spending money. Yes, the government has been accused of underspending but why go to the extreme of spending helter-skelter for what seems to be for the sake of spending? There may be some very hidden reasons for what is happening. I can think of one, the drive to spend before the election ban against public outlays comes around. And I can guess why too, spending means contracts, which means negotiations which means a distribution of income in somewhat nefarious ways for those concerned. The public is made the excuse.
In the above instances, there is really no higher standard of living from the change, just a merry-go-round of public spending for the same old stuff and a few people richer for the exercise.
That is the government at work, seemingly not thinking things through. Someone mentioned to me today that in the Public Private Partnership (PPP), the seeming standard set by government bidding committees for public infrastructure is to get the highest bidder to the point of surrealistic sums that seem from outer space, not real even to those in the know about construction. Good for the government that puts the unbelievable floor price and who will then spend it the way it spends on the roads, wastefully. But have not government officials stopped to think that the higher their bidding returns, the higher will the private party charge the public for the infrastructure to get back their investment and the profit they demand? Where is the improvement in the quality of life there? At least for the general public who will end up paying the high cost?
And now for the rash of construction in every city as local governments unthinkingly allow every project whether suitable, viable, helpful or not for the general public. All construction by their standards is progress. Traffic generation is not considered, neither the availability of basic services like water and power. Aesthetics and appropriate location are not factors in the equation and so there is the proliferation of monster concrete buildings in totally inappropriate places dwarfing the neighborhood, changing its character and detracting from the quality of life that it had before they barged in. Is there no planning for the future, no responsibility to coming generations that will find a world of artifice with Nature virtually a memory?
In Baguio, which is the dreadful example I see each time I go there, all open spaces are being given over to construction, including traffic islands. The landscaping of the City Hall will soon have an incongruous high-rise supposedly for courts for “poor litigants” as one councilor piously said. Well, all litigants are not poor so don’t use that excuse. And poor litigants when present would prefer justice to a high-rise. The result is a cluttering of the landscape next to Burnham Park where more crowds will stand by, more traffic will be at a standstill and more people will bewail the discomfort. Hillsides are being leveled, trees and grass relegated to execution and the city is turning into a concrete jungle with gridlock as a bonus. The place is so built up that whenever the local government wants a facility, the default location is Burnham Park or the Botanical Park or soon Wright Park, hapless open spaces to be oppressed by buildings. Is this progress, is it an attraction for visitors, is it a welcome change of character of the city? If the ultimate purpose is a better lifestyle, they are following the wrong model. I doubt if the consequences have been thought through. But then there is the public money to be spent and the reasons for spending. As well as the opportunistic developers to exploit Nature to destructive ends. Environmental damage is clear. In our neighborhood, using our street fully loaded dump trucks of excavated soil of big-time Baguio contractors from their despoliation of hills and open spaces come in procession. The barangay knows no better to stop this indiscriminate dumping that will soon turn into landslides, mudflows and other unattractive features in their backyard. Environmental compliance or environmental impact studies are unheard of. Or, rather both regulatory agencies, local governments and the exploiters turn a blind eye to them.
Meanwhile, there is water shortage, and forests are being abused and watersheds are wantonly trespassed that more construction will not alleviate.
Progress cannot just be infrastructure. Yes, it needs to play a role, and it has to come with judicious and enlightened planning, its consequences thought out, its better results strived for as well as being rational, aesthetic, beneficial to the general public and responsible to future generations.
Throwing money alone to get the above results will not do, as seems to be happening here today.