Monday, November 26, 2007

Cronyism And Philippine Politics

Cronyism has been our country's biggest headache since time immemorial. Politics leads to creating a more profitable retirement. Politics not only gives one power but gives one a deeper pocket and a fatter wallet. Such is the case with the current dispensation. Bids and sales are awarded to close associates. Why is it that every time a multi-billion project comes up, the name Enrique Razon is not far behind?

The shelved NBN deal which is currently being investigated by the senate exposed the links between the Arroyos and Razon. The NBN controversy is yet to be resolved but a new and bigger controversy looms in the horizon. The government now wants to sell Transco, the company responsible for power transmission. Transco is one of the government's few assets which actually earn.

We should have learned from Petron's sale during the Ramos administration. Instead of preventing a birth of a cartel, the sale has led to the creation of one. If Petron was not privatized, Shell, Caltex and the rest of oil firms would not be able to dictate upon us the indiscriminate increases in fuel prices. Petron would have been a deterrent to such a cartel.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.(PSALM) was tasked to oversee the Transco bidding. It is headed by Jose Ibazeta who is a close associate of Enrique Razon, Jr. Ibazeta sat as a director for Razon's various companies. Razon is a close friend of none other than Mike Arroyo. Razon's Monte Oro consortium is one of the bidders for Transco. Razon was also Team Unity's treasurer. With Ibazeta conducting the bidding, Razon has a greater chance at outbidding(?) the three other bidders.

The winning bidder not only stands to have control over power transmission but also the telecommunications business as well. Fiber optics in the transmission cables can give clearer and broader wireless telecoms services. Just imagine the huge profit Transco can generate. The NBN can easily be provided by Transco considering its national coverage.

Its a pure and simple case of cronyism. The Arroyos are clearly building a business empire with the aid of their cronies. Dummies and fronts are nothing new to business. Its an accepted practice anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised that some time in the future, an Arroyo would be named chairman in any of the companies put up by their cronies. I wouldn't be surprised too if they end up being majority stockholders of their cronies' businesses.

The vaunted Gloria-nomics brags about growth yet why sell government assets and acquire more loans? It defies logic that despite a claimed growing economy, government has no funds to spend. Aside from irresponsible spending, buying off allies has drained the national coffers. Instead of selling off the government's nonperforming assets, why sell those which actually make money?

So it seems that the Arroyo's greed has not diminished but has grown in fact. Why settle for kickbacks when you can actually get more with the sale of government assets? So the rape of the country continues. The only time we will see the actual devastation is after Gloria steps down or is ousted. I prefer the latter, to wait for 2010 might be too late.