By Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President
When it comes to allocating resources, I believe a local executive must be guided by his social obligation to his constituents. There should be no argument that government must place priority on addressing the concerns of the economically disadvantaged. It is the poor who depend on government, and they expect government to look after their well-being.
But the line should be drawn between looking after the people’s welfare and encouraging dependence. Government must not forget to impart to its citizens a sense of social responsibility. Citizens, on the other hand, should reciprocate government’s efforts to meet their needs, provide social services, and promote economic opportunities with a willingness to become productive members of society. Citizens must do their part by observing and respecting the law and giving something back to their community.
It is the obligation of the local government to ensure that the majority of its residents get an equal chance to receive quality services. But we cannot guarantee this in the long term if the leadership does not think strategically.
During my first year as Makati’s mayor, I realized that if we were to consistently provide quality services for our constituents, we first had to make sure that Makati remains attractive to corporations and businesses who pay taxes. This was my key insight: development that is private sector-led would allow Makati to secure its reputation and position as the country’s center of business and commerce. It would also give the local government the needed stability in revenues to provide services to all citizens, including the business community. Therefore, it was important to involve the private sector and all other stakeholders in planning the future of Makati.
It would be appropriate to state here the importance of strategic planning as an effective management tool in realizing our vision and our mission. I believe Makati was among the first, if not the first, post-EDSA local government to use management tools commonly employed by the private sector. This was where my background in the private sector came in handy. I was exposed to private sector management practices that for me were also applicable to the public sector. And one of them was the discipline of planning.
As early as 1986, I had made it a point to meet regularly with all the municipal officials. We held weekly meetings – a sort of Cabinet meeting – where we could regularly discuss and collectively decide on policy issues and other matters concerning the local government and its services. During these meetings, which we called sectoral presentations, the department head brought along the section chiefs. As a result we had a more comprehensive discussion on projects, programs, and other concerns at the basic levels.
A series of consultations in 1988 led to a decision to realign and reorganize the different departments and offices into sectors, with the aim of better program and project management and implementation.
We were also able to define the priorities of the local government in those early years, summarized by the acronym ARISE which means Action on Revenue, Infrastructure, Social Services, and Education. But again, these priorities would be hard to attain without enlisting the support of our stakeholders.
For public managers, it is imperative to harness the commitment and support of all concerned sectors during the strategic planning process. Strategic planning must be participatory in nature. And while the various stakeholders set their specific targets, these targets should be aligned with the general targets set by government. We need to achieve a unity of purpose.
For me, the greatest tragedy that befell the previous local governments of Makati was the failure to plan for the future of the community.
These administrations were not without the highly disciplined, dedicated public servants who labored behind the glare of political adulation to make things work for the people of Makati. They had commendable programs. In fact, my predecessors were implementing what during their time were considered model public education and hospitalization programs.
But without the funds (which could have been easily raised by revenue generating measures, fiscal discipline, foresight, and to a great degree, managerial competence), none of these programs were expanded or modified during their time to address the changing needs of a rapidly growing population. In the end, these programs ended as noble failures.
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