I could not help but smile in finding out  that a student in my graduate class was just a toddler when I served government.  In his eyes, I must be ancient! My students have a faint recollection of how it was in the nineties during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR).  They grew up in the age of cell phones, laptops and Internet; and, in the years of poor governance.  Could this be one of the reasons why they appear nonchalance to calls for advocacies on better governance?   They did not have an opportunity to compare how it is to live with a government that listens and consults instead of being centric and autocratic.  They must think that ruling with an iron hand is normal.  And since it is normal, it must be fine.

And so, it is inevitable that  history introduces my students to public finance. It provides them with the context to appreciate the rationale and the benefits from public finance programs.

They do laugh when I tell them that it took several years to have a telephone line during my time.  And when one’s application was approved, it came with a party line who was forever on the phone.  I must have missed several phone calls, some of which may have been marriage proposals, because I was forever saying “Party line, can you get off the phone?”  

My students could not imagine a time when it took depositors hours to transact business with a bank.  I remembered fidgeting on my seat straining to hear my name being called by a teller for hours.

They take it for granted that once upon a time, people took long queues to obtain water.  I myself was once part of a long line because there was only one deep well in our town.  Today, water is abundant not only in faucets but in flooded streets.

And neither could they think of the difficulties during our “Dark Ages.”  Those were the days when you had to press “Save” in your computer lest you lose all your work because of brownouts.  There was no chance to escape the heat from the office because inhaling the fumes from generators was a more toxic alternative.

For my students, travelling by air is at their fingertips.  Prior to the pandemic, they just grabbed their backpacks and travelled to a beach during weekends.  The days when travelling by air was a luxury are long gone.  Those were the days when hordes of relatives saw us off at the airport because it was such a privilege.

Gone are the days when government had to maintain a subsidy fund for fuel.  Now,  many players have to compete by introducing better services, and at times, lower prices.

And so, together with my students, we pause to say Thank you, and Happy birthday to the President, who made liberalization and privatization work.  These reforms opened up the economy to many players and competition.  The dismantling of monopolies (albeit some have succeeded in coming back) provides consumers with freedom to choose the best product at prices they can afford.  Firms have become more customer-friendly.  I never imagined that a day would come when a bank officer would go to my office.  Banks are no longer stiff and rigid and have made banking easier that it can even be done on-line.

I also thank President FVR for freeing the sky.  Although it is uncomfortable to be in a crowded airport, I am proud that travelling by air is a choice that is open to “every Juan”.

And certainly, I thank you Mr. President, that I can text and call my friends and relatives with only a small cell phone in my hand.

(FVR turns 92 on March 18)

mguevara@synergeia.org.ph


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/03/17/the-man-who-freed-the-skies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-man-who-freed-the-skies)