Are election promises made to be broken?
Now that our newly elected local government executives in the country have already assumed their respective offices as provincial governors, city mayors, and municipal mayors, it is interesting to see how they think of projects that they will implement for the good of our people and community.
When I say projects, I do not mean what many called as legacy projects or those intended mainly to perpetuate the name of the proponent, to be remembered for all times for its imposing structure, unique design, or staggering cost. Projects are not meant for legacy. They are meant for something bigger than that.
Remember that we elect our local leaders to have someone who can really think for us and do something to the myriad of problems and issues we face as a community. Do we need a new hospital or school building, an airport or seaport, an irrigation or water supply system, a landfill or drainage system, public park or gymnasium, a library or museum?
The things we need or want are numerous and together they cost not just millions but even billions of pesos. How can we finance them? Can these projects generate income to pay for their cost? Some projects do, like the new bus terminal or public market. However, others do not generate even a single peso, like the drainage system or new traffic lighting system. How do we justify undertaking them?
If a project does earn a pile of cash during its lifetime, what is its present worth? Does it exceed the present worth of the capital outlay and operating cost that it incurs in the future? What is the extent of the surplus?
Could not the funds used for the new terminal or public market be used instead in putting up a new drainage system or new traffic lighting system? The latter two may be addressing more pressing problems and bring more benefits per unit of investments than any of the first two. Then, how do we know?
If the project does pay for itself, by how much and through what means it does? Does the project contribute to the increase in wealth of our town, cities, and profits? How and by how much? Is it enough to justify using our limited resources for them?
Finally, do we know even what particular problem or issue we are addressing when we put up a project? Do we know who are going to be the main beneficiary when it is completed? Are they the same people we intended to help? Who are they? Where are they?
As we see in every election campaign period, politicians tend to promise to do this or that project, here and there. How did they identify those projects? Who identified them? Has the politician even have any idea what those projects would do to their people and the community?
Chances are elections promises are only made to be broken. It is not that the candidates intend to lie. It is just because many if not most of them do not understand what projects are and their part in the overall scheme of development and how they are identified and selected from among the numerous ideas. We do not undertake a project because we promised it in the last election. We undertake a project because, that is the best way, together with the other projects, to use our limited resources that would lead to the greatest benefits to our people and community per unit of investment.
Lacking the capacity to identify a project that is really worth investing our hard-earned taxes, it is not surprising to see around us many projects failing and abandoned to the mercy of nature and time until they are forgotten. The fact is that we implemented thousands of projects in the past, only to find our condition more depressing than before.
How do we change our ways in government, in using our funds, and in identifying projects, and in the way we prepare them to determine their feasibility and the best way to implement and run them efficiently and effectively? In the end, how do we know if the project we undertook really contributed to making our town, city, and province more livable?
Good luck to all our new local government executives.
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