Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sense of urgency

‘Mr. Bloomberg appears to be recovering from a difficult winter, when other polls found his approval ratings to be even lower in the wake of the city’s lackluster response to a blizzard in late December . . .,’ reports the NY Times, Aug 26th.

When Hurricane Irene threatened the New York metro area, and given how Bloomberg was pilloried for failing to demonstrate a sense of urgency last winter, it was fascinating how all along the East Coast people – not just public servants – geared up. And this was especially so after folks from California thought how naïve Easterners, especially New Yorkers, were when they rushed outside as ‘an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 rumbled through Washington DC’ (and sent tremors through the region) in the afternoon on Aug 23rd. The good news: none of the glass windows from Manhattan’s skyscrapers shattered, which could have injured any of the countless people who thought they were seeking refuge out in the open. And with Hurricane Irene, even the property management of the writer’s community sent out emails spelling the ABCs of hurricane prep: “. . . Don't forget to bring in anything that can be blown away. It's expected to be a category 1 when it crosses the (Long Island) sound. Winds of at least 74 mph sustained with higher gusts. 40 mph winds could topple trees so power outages are a good possibility statewide.” And the writer and wife skipped a beat since they’re overseas.

“Rains, floods and the ensuing traffic jams, it turns out, are the great equalizer,” writes Juan Miguel Luz, associate dean, Center for Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management, Aug 19th, Philippine Daily Inquirer. (And we could add ‘nature’s wrath’ – as a great equalizer?) “Climate change will be particularly critical for the Greater Metro Manila Area because the metropolis is built on an alluvial, deltaic plain at sea level. The Philippine Imperative on Climate Change predicts that over 60 percent of the metropolis would be submerged permanently if global warming raised the sea level even by only three feet. “This is not a fearless forecast,” says Neric Acosta of PICC, “it is a reality check we must confront today.”

However we perceive climate change, the point of the article goes beyond as it concludes: “. . . Metro Manila will not only be the unlivable megacity it has become, it will destroy value for the entire country in the process.”

Is the author a prophet of doom?

What should all of this be telling us? One, the problems of a megacity goes beyond LGU jurisdictions. Two, the problems transcend short LGU terms of office (three years with two possible reelections) and presidential administrations (six years, no reelection). Three, the problems go way beyond project responses. We need to seriously re-engineer Metro Manila’s infrastructure and living/work arrangements. We need structural reform with four essential elements: Political power and authority to call the 17 cities to task when necessary; professional and technical expertise in urban planning and land-use management to plan for the entire region; financial and material resources to manage shared services effectively; and, long-term infrastructure investment funds.”

Do we have what it takes to respond to a dramatic challenge like this one? Is the sense of urgency second-nature to us? Have we been unwittingly caught in the ‘activity trap’ figuring out how a tiny pie would suffice for close to 100 million Filipinos? No wonder President Ramos talked about enlarging the pie? In the private sector, that means firing the sales manager, the marketing manager and the CEO in that order if they could not enlarge the pie. Why? Because the team could have missed the fundamentals of investment, competitiveness, revenue and margin, the dynamics of which generate sustainable profitable growth? For a nation, their absence equates to poverty? Unfortunately, until we’ve lived through the many twists and turns of the dynamics of these elements, thinking outside the box doesn’t come instinctively. Working with Eastern Europeans for 8 years, the writer has realized that the story never goes stale! Why? Education as people know it is linear?

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