Achieving Excellence in 2008

Among other reasons why I am offended by the “Labanan ang Kahirapan” campaign is that it highlights a negative reality – Poverty.  It could have been more effective if the spin-doctors  capitalized on the strenghts of the Filipinos to draw cooperation and move them to action.  A case in point is this article I wrote for the GSC Digest, a quarterly publication of the LGU.

In the beginning of this year, the Honorable City Mayor of General Santos City, Pedro B. Acharon, Jr.  issued Executive Order No. 01 mandating that the year 2008 shall be the Year of Excellence. Each official and employee in all city level departments shall, in the performance of duties and functions, use the Total Quality Services program as the good governance tool in the delivery of basic public services.

This advocacy was reiterated and was given much emphasis when he delivered the Sate of the City Address.  In that report, the City Development Strategies of good governance, competitiveness, livability and bankability were discussed according to their interdependence, such that “Good governance ensures that an environment of transparency and accountability is practiced in the local government, which will strengthen the competitiveness capability of the city; Thus, making it bankable in order for social and other services programs to be implemented making the city livable.”

This interdependence among the CDS principles is further manifested into a working framework. It is highly important that each public servant in the LGU understands that the CDS is a symbiont program of the four principles.  There is a cooperative relationship between and among the cabinet clusters.  While each department have its own mandate and each cluster functions independently; their existence and efficiency does not depend on the other departments or clusters.   But the existence, efficiency and the responsiveness of the entire local government of General Santos is dependent on the cooperation, support and mutual respect each department or cluster provides the others.

The mechanism is actually very simple.

To make the city well-governed, we have to enrich pro-active consciousness. And it starts with our sensitive awareness of what is going on around us. Most notably is the acknowledgement that as government workers, we are not super heroes.  Therefore, we must engage the participation of all stakeholders in the development processes, public and private alike.

To make the city competitive, we have to produce competitive individuals.  And it starts with finding our individual strengths by way of honest evaluation of what we can and cannot do, and of what we have and do not have.  Through acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses as an organization, we acknowledge the things we are capable of doing (and doing it well!), and the things that we need to invest on, improve and enhance.  As a result, we create, for the LGU and the city, an environment that sustains productivity and encourages value creation to our products and services.

To make the city bankable, we need to inculcate collective sensible values; and it starts in our own individual endeavors.  These undertakings do not require high-end or complicated technological gadgetries, but demand the basic and inherent human virtues of trustworthiness, integrity and accountability.  If we are to encourage investors, whether local, domestic or foreign, to pour their capital with confidence, we must prove that we have the ability to provide the necessary and appropriate climate for business and economic growth.

To make the city livable, we have to create healthy communities and it starts from our own homes. The first line of defense is the family.  The basic unit of society must be empowered to be able to send their children to school, clothe them and provide for nutrition, medical and health care. While there are LGU programs instituted for these concerns, these must be mere augmentations.  Furthermore, environmental protection and preservation is a universal responsibility.  As public servants, we must serve as the exemplars of family resource management, and of cleanliness in our immediate surroundings (among other functions expected of a family!).

Raising the Benchmark

Last July 4, the city received its third Most Competitive City Award from the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.  The city greatly values this award because it is an affirmation among the business community, within and outside the city, of the efforts done by the local government to protect and promote their economic interests.

There are 6 criteria or drivers used by the policy center in determining the competitiveness of the city:

Cost of doing business – business tax burden, business regulation and procedures, presence of informal fees (a very politically correct term for bribe and other forms of corruption),  and cost of utilities (such as electricity, water, telephone and internet connections);

Dynamism of local economy – business growth and performance, access to financing assistance, and the existence of a functional public-private partnership;

Human resources and training – over-all quality of present workers, availability of competent manpower, skills enhancement programs present/available;

Infrastructure – over-all management of transportation services, reliability of utilities and environmental facilities;

Responsiveness of LGU to business needs – government regulations, investment promotion capabilities, ease and transparency  of LGU in dealings, crafting of appropriate and business-friendly legislations and quality of leadership and performance of the city administration; and

Quality of life – clean and sustainable environment, peace and order, and access to quality health care and social welfare services.

Of the 90 mid-sized cities in the country only 22 cities were ranked; 5 cities from Luzon and 2 from Mindanao were awarded most competitive mid-sized cities.

General Santos city ranked no. 1 in infrastructure.  Yet, among the most notable findings were: the reasonable cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour, very low incidence of or non-existent informal fees in LGU transactions involving permits and licenses, and the high total crime solution efficiency.

The effects of our labors will manifest next year, in 2009.  However, at mid-year of 2008 we are harvesting accolades and achievements.  The greatest challenge before us now, is to surpass these successes.  Gensan must continue its upward spiral and be the embodiment of excellence.

Magandang Gensan!