As the year 2010 draws to a close and as I get deeper into this seeming quicksand of an activity called blogging, I could not help but take stock and reflect on a lot of things. Something definitely revealing like some sort of epiphany, came up my mind after I wrote the last article “Why We Should Support The Bill Limiting Credit Card Charges.”
One cannot seem to take up a serious issue without touching on government policy. Once in a while, an advocate cannot avoid having to address things to government institutions concerned with the specific issue or issues at hand.
The original idea for this blog is to have just a somewhat clinical and detached discussions on topics of investment literacy and any of its aspects, with actual experiences on the OFW sector providing the relevance and human interest touch. Confining myself to such original idea looks impossible now.
Hence, in the coming year, this blog would likely take a bolder stance on issues of investment literacy as they relate to government policy or lack of it. Issues with government policy components are tough and sticky as what many advocates know. For government policymakers do not, as a general rule, act with benevolence but are guided by expediency and self interest.
“Every good or excellent thing stands moment to moment on the razor’s edge of danger and must be fought for,” so says billionaire Ross Perot. To paraphrase Perot, however good our ideas and suggestions may be, it stands on the edge of danger of being thrown away and forgotten in the dustbins of time. Unless such ideas do get enshrined as part of government policy. And to get enshrined, it has to be fought for.
The credit card charges issue is a good example. We may discuss till Kingdom come about how unfair the charges are, but unless the bill limiting such charges becomes a law, nothing happens.
Make careful decisions and then pull the trigger,” so says Philip McGraw. “Learn that the world could not care less for ideas without action”.
The credit card issue is probably just a lesser issue. There are a lot of other issues that are more compelling in terms of needed government policy actions.
For instance, have we ever thought that, in theory, the OFWs is really well-taken-cared of, at least in terms of the number of government institutions tasked of making things easy for him prior to his departure and during his incumbency as OFW?
There is POEA, and then there is OWWA. There are Labor Attaches and Welfare Officers in many worksites and there is the Assistance to Nationals Unit (ANU) of the Philippine Embassy. To top it all, there is the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns and this post is handled now by no less than the elected Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
I am not saying that OFWs are “actually” well-taken-cared of by these institutions but at least the government presence is very evident.
But take the case of returning OFWs. He needs a guidance on where to put his money and prevent it from getting dissipated. He needs a loan to augment his savings for a business. And because he lacks collateral, the government needs to guarantee for him.
Is there any government institution charged with taking care of his needs when he comes back? To guide him, ask for his needs and tailor government action to his needs?
No. None. Nada. There is nothing. Poor OFW, he comes back alone and the sharks are all around him and are bent on reducing him into the proverbial fool who gets parted with his money. Or to fall at the edge of the cliff through his inexperience or romantic ideas of business empowerment and other alluring traps.
I am not talking about DTI seminars for returning OFWs or savings seminar as part of PDOs. These may be useful, but such isolated and token effort are palliatives at best. They do not address the root cause of the problem of why so many returning OFWs get impoverished after just a few months and often end up worse than before they originally left abroad.
They are being taken cared of as they leave abroad and they send $ 18 billion or so in remittances that keep the economy afloat. And now as they come back, they are left alone like discarded rags, having outlived their usefulness.
For Heaven’s sake, let us have a government institution that takes care of returning OFWs so that they will not be left to fend for themselves alone. Cuddle them if need be, but please let us have an institution to take care of his “reintegration needs”.
Not POEA and not OWWA. Reintegration was never a part of their mandate and no amount of stretching of these overused institutions can do the trick.
Let us have something specific for reintegration of returning OFWs. There is even no need for new source of funds for this. Part of billions in OWWA funds can be set aside for the purpose. And this is where OWWA can really be useful: as a built-in fund source for this new institution.
I do not claim have a messianic complex. But since there is a big yawning gap of voices harping about these things, I would therefore anoint myself to play gadfly to talk or rant about these things in the year to come.
A modest attempt to shake up things and wake us up form stupor. I will therefore be touching about these things in the coming year. This is one of the likely directions this blog may take in the coming year.
To my dear readers, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!