Monday, August 26, 2013

To make government transparent

Interesting set of events today, which got me to think about 'transparency.' If the problem is that there are thieves operating in shadows who betray the core tenets of our social contract, then the solution is to remove objects which cast said shadows. To make transparent means to see everything, to the extent that this is possible. To make transparent means to install mechanisms of surveillance with which to see. To render something completely visible means to install said mechanisms at all angles, from all vantage points. This means a continuous and sustained act of looking. Are we ready for that which we wish to usher?

The palace mouthpieces keep urging us to 'be vigilant', to be on constant look-out. They urge us to do our duty and work to keep them in check. Now that everyone is angry enough that they are raring to plunge into the public sphere, that space of appearances to see and be seen, the palace is pulling the reins. Is this too much vigilance?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Friendly Reminder

The longer we hold on to the ring, the more difficult it is to let it go.

Political Obstacles to Decentralization: Evidence from Argentina and the Philippines by Kent Eaton:

Because of weak parties and individualistic behaviour by legislators, presidents of the Philippines have had a very difficult time getting their policy agendas through the legislature. Traditionally, presidents have depended on their formal authority over the release of pork barrel funds as a power resource that allows them to purchase the support of legislators for substantive policy change. As a governing tool, the effectiveness of the president's control over the release of these funds would be seriously undercut by the broad devolution of revenues and expenditures. Local governments would become much less dependent on pork barrel funds, decreasing their political leverage and utility to the president.

Given this political reality, support by President Aquino for decentralization and its passage by Congress in 1991 is politically intriguing. The key to explaining the political logic of the 1991 decentralization is the role played by different electoral incentives, beginning with the lack of electoral incentives facing President Aquino.

A non-traditional politician and political widow who was uninterested in remaining in power beyond her six-year term, Aquino was committed to the `no re-election' clause of the 1986 constitution, which was written by individuals she appointed and which included several measures that were designed to avoid repetitions of Marcos' successful attempts to perpetuate himself in power. Aquino was therefore unlike most presidents in that she was not personally threatened by the loss of power to the national government that the Code would effect. Furthermore, she considered decentralization to be the linchpin of her administration and a reform that would facilitate the transition to democracy, the main legacy of her government.