Saturday, October 19, 2013

ARTICLE | Problem Solving

What does it take for a country to develop? 

This was the main question I've discussed with a good friend of mine from the UK. From a Western perspective, Asians are way behind other developed nations not because we lack resources. Asians are way behind because there are blocking issues towards progress that we refuse to acknowledge. Take Indian farmers for example. Indian farmers are so used to growing crops with 60% of produce wasted due to lack of proper refrigeration. Indian government knows this very well, but does not do anything to augment the situation. In effect, the farmers only get 40% of their harvest. Foreign investors realize that if they provide proper storage for farmers' produce then this might increase the harvest. And so refrigerated warehouses were built and true enough, the produce was stored for longer period of time, farmers are now able to sell more and get more out of their harvest. This is now bought by foreign investors at cheaper rates. So it becomes a win-win situation for the farmers and investors. But the middle men started protesting saying that this is non-traditional and should be stopped. But of course, they were only protesting because they now get little or nothing from the trading.

So we see that what is really needed right now is proper analysis of the problem and effecting solutions to solve the problems. It's theoretically easier said than done. But at least it's not impossible. Take the traffic problem in Manila for example. When the popular author Dan Brown described Manila as "gate of hell" due to unbelievable traffic and perilous streets, Filipinos were raged. But this is reality and this has to be accepted in order to resolve it. But the main question is what has the Philippine government done to fix the traffic problem? Surely, there were a number of schemes- color coding, odd even, lanes for vehicle types, traffic enforcers everywhere. What Filipino officers don't realize is that they are not solving the roots of the problem but merely reacting to the results. Instead of implementing otherwise ineffective schemes and deploying enforcers on the streets, why can't the government start investing on better public transport system such as more metro stations, better bus systems. They should also limit the number of taxi's and public utility vehicles. 

The PUV alone are by far the biggest chunk on the streets of Manila. Nothing controls their population simply because the government has been so comfortable with the idea that the PUVs will always be there to cater for the transportation needs of the people. But the number of people and PUVs have increased exponentially that streets could not accommodate them anymore. The construction of better transportation systems in the Philippines will provide alternative to the commuter. And if done properly then PUVs will gradually decrease on its own. This is why the government should look at option seriously.

Another probable alternative is to develop other major cities in the Philippines such as Quezon Province, Bicol, Cebu, Baguio, Davao, & Cagayan De Oro. It is time for the government to disburse the concentration of trading in Manila and Quezon City. The capital is overly saturated that it cannot support growth anymore. Further pressure to boom is chaotic to the cities because it attracts population. This explains the slums and crimes rapidly increasing in the metro. What needs to be done is to convince investors to do business in other major places. But this can only be possible if government will back up the investors in terms of better legal business policies, safety and optional incentives. The problem with putting up business in the Philippines is that corruption is so rampant that the government does not do anything about it. It's very difficult to open a business without knowing anybody in power. Investors will only take risks if they know that the return of investment is likely to happen.

In the process, people from other provinces will not have to flock to Manila to seek better job opportunities. They will find these jobs from other nearby cities. Manila and Quezon City will then have enough time to take care of its own business and maintain themselves. Less people, less vehicles, less traffic. Simple as that.

But to develop regional areas will not only require investors, this will demand better and more efficient laborers. And to do this, the government has to invest in education to ensure that the people are capable of the job. And to invest in education, you then have to go back again to better transportation and public security. People are constantly moving and the faster people go from one place to another, the more effective they become.

So we see that there are solutions to the problems. We just need to start acting. Enough of dreaming.

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