Is it really just the incompetence of the rank and file in the Land Transportation Office (LTO) that prevents them from issuing license plates and driver’s licenses and makes them insist that special screws must be used to fasten the license plates onto your car, if you ever get them that is! That all vehicles have to be fitted unnecessarily with new style plates, that buses run amuck on EDSA, that private vehicles be banned there?
While the LTO’s current well-publicized woes seem to be indicators of outrageous incompetence, they are not unique. PPP schemes, purchase of equipment (helicopters) for the Armed Forces, MRT 3 maintenance and operations, issuance of water rights (no new rights issued for two years now). So many things get bogged down, or tangled up in mandatory bureaucratic processes that are supposedly designed to ensure fair play and minimize corruption opportunities.
The problem is that such nightmarish development and job-creating inhibitors do not prevent corruption nor do they ensure any form of fair play–they just serve to facilitate corruption and prevent things from happening, they prevent progress and real economic development.
To have checks and balances is okay, but to have them in an environment in which the ability of people to make their own decisions is severely limited as is their ability to utilize independent thought, and where even minor departures from the rules can lead to criticism and possibly job loss, is a recipe for paralysis. You may as well just operate like one of those really irritating telephone systems in which you just press numbers to take you through a list of questions and which in some cases even have a range of prescribed questions (none of which are what you want to know!) to things like fixing problems with the Internet or telephone. Such systems are developed to save the use of expensive labor in the advanced economies, they economize on the need to employ people. But the Philippines does not need to cut down on employment opportunities, it needs more. Such systems seem to be used here in order to ensure rigid conformity with sets of rules.
The bureaucratic procedures have the effect of negating independent thought and introduce decision-making bottlenecks. I cannot even imagine what problems may be causing the obvious dysfunctionalities within the LTO but some of them may be those on procurement procedures. Bid evaluation and award is really not something done in accordance with a checklist, it requires a bit of knowledge and experience to assess what is in fact the best proposal, and believe it or not the best proposal may not always have the lowest price.
If people are allowed to think for themselves under supervision and guided along the right path, then they will be better motivated and will eventually learn to make better decisions. Dependence on others more senior to make decisions is actively encouraged, which leads to a lack of self-confidence and perpetuates the culture of needing others to decide. It also exposes the few decision makers to potential accusations of corruption–for things which may not be real corruption but which are simply the result of incompetence in the operation of the processes, or even the myriad ambiguities in the processes and procedures themselves.
The potential of the human capital of the Philippines and thus the economic development of the nation is restricted by an enforced slavish adherence to processes and procedures as well as the growing dependence on labor-saving computer systems. Educate people properly and well and then encourage them to think for themselves and take responsibility for the decisions that they make. There are lots of people to employ who need decent jobs, please use them and make them learn to make decisions under guidance and then there will be an efficient nation powered by people not machines or micromanaging rules, only then will there be the real economic development that the vast majority of Filipinos deserve.
Thinking for everybody really does get tiring for those who are perceived to be the sort of ”people who should make decisions.” Everybody has something possibly useful to offer, if only they are encouraged to offer it!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.