Thursday, July 10, 2008


by Bernardo Lopez
BusinessWorld, May 21, 2008
(original link here)

The GMA in the title stands for "Gloria's Management Ability." Managing an entire nation is more demanding than managing a conglomerate or a multinational. How good is GMA's GMA?

Management involves sensitivity to "processes," which, apart from objectives, are essential in ruling a nation. Many times processes are bypassed in the obsession to reach objectives. Not going through a critical process may sometimes result in undermining or losing the objective one is so eager to achieve. This is where management by process supersedes management by objective.

Let us take a specific example. The objective is to forge a trade deal with Japan, the JPEPA, which is very critical to the nation's future economic growth. In the obsession for the goal, the process of achieving it was ignored. Here is how it happened, one of the biggest management blunders today.

GMA told her boys at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to get it done. But she did not orient them to the all-important process, namely, a multisectoral consultation to make sure the deal with Japan protects our interests, not just Japan's.

The DTI boys, for fear of not getting the job done on time, immediately sat down with the Japanese and used their creative instincts toward getting not a fair deal but simply a deal, much flawed but forged within the time frame of the boss. They tapped each other's shoulders in appreciation and headed for the bar for a drink to celebrate the "good job," not aware that a monster was incubating.

Not only did the DTI boys get the deal done fast, they had it done in secret to avoid criticisms that would exceed the time limit set by the boss. Secrecy is the complete opposite of participation and transparency. It was so secret that advocacy groups could get the JPEPA document only in bits and pieces, until finally, months after it was negotiated with the Japanese panel, the Senate demanded that it be submitted for scrutiny.

Of course, how can the Senate ratify something it has not read? Instantly, the many worms within the deal emerged. In fear of the boss, and to avoid headaches, the Filipino negotiators said yes to everything the Japanese said. The result was the most lopsided trade deal in the whole of Asia. This "anti-process process" let loose a tsunami of protests from all sectors, the very people the deal was kept secret from, the very people who would be affected by the deal. GMA congratulated her boys for a job well done.

We head toward the second management blunder. Instead of admitting her mistake and conceding to the protests, GMA wanted them quelled. It was her second chance to allow the people their voice, and she failed miserably. Her obsession was the deal, not a fair deal. So her next move was to tell her boys (and girl) at the Senate to go for a Senate ratification ASAP, whether the deal was flawed or not.

Instead of conceding to a dialogue, the GMA boys let loose a barrage of rebuttals in defense of JPEPA, most of them non sequiturs and fallacies. This made the protestors angrier and more vehement in rebutting the rebuttals. The core issue of fair trade was ignored and many irrelevant issues were brought up. The focus was put on legal hurdles rather than fairness. Thus, the conflict escalated to its present state of belligerence from all sides. The pros and antis polarized, and the war is growing into something GMA may not be able to handle at this point.

And so her Senate boys and girl went into a labyrinth of legal maneuvers, side deals, preconditional deals, and so on and so forth, to get the deal done by hook or by crook. Now GMA is headed for her third and biggest management blunder - having a lopsided deal ratified conditionally, which opens up a maze of legal issues that will surely hit the courts and defer economic growth rather than fuel it. Strike three.

Instead of creating a multisectoral commission to try to make JPEPA a fair deal for us, GMA's move was to assign another agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to study it all once more. The problem is the objective, which is to simply jump over the legal hurdles, not to really get a fair deal. They still do not get it up to now - the core issue of a fair deal.

The DFA move is futile because it addresses not the core issue, but only the legal aspects. They gave a timetable of August. So the DFA will come up with a set of legal answers, hoping they have enough time before the Senate votes.

The anti-JPEPA coalitions are getting ready with more missiles against GMA. If the DTI went for a multisectoral commission early on, instead of a secret onerous deal, we would have everything ready by now. It was a management omission. Time is not that important but fairness. Even if it takes a year to address the issue of the JPEPA's fairness, that is the only way to go.

The JPEPA blunder is time and again repeated in many other aspects of GMA's managing a culturally diverse nation of robots and rebels, of goats and sheep.

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