Recognition Day Message

By: Profesor Leonor Magtolis Briones

Recognition Day Message, College of Social Science and Philosophy

University of the Philippines Diliman

25 April 2009

Greetings and Congratulations:

Before anything else, please allow me to greet and congratulate the University administration, Dean Zosimo Lee, department chairs, faculty members and staff of the College of Social Science and Philosophy for guiding, nurturing, mentoring and bringing the CSSP Class 2009 to this great Recognition Day.

Allow me also to greet and congratulate the parents, family members and loved ones of CSSP Class 2009 without whose financial sacrifice, inspiration and nagging this wonderful day would not have been possible.

Most important of all, warm greetings and felicitations to each and every member of CSSP Class 2009 for making it to this day. You have survived your terror professors, lazy teachers, finished your last term paper and theses, returned overdue books, and handled the delights and heartbreaks of falling in and out of love.

Public Administration and the Social Sciences

I am very honored to be invited to be Recognition Day speaker of your College primarily because I belong to the field of public administration which draws on theories and concepts from the social sciences. The multidisciplinary field of public administration emerged only during the 19th century, with Woodrow Wilson’s now famous essay, “The Study of Administration.” It is much younger than the disciplines of economics and of philosophy, history, sociology, geography, political science, anthropology and psychology which are all in the College of Social Science and Philosophy. Population management is a major area of concern in our own college and the field of linguistics continues to be relevant in comparative public administration.

The most important lesson I learned from my first professor, the eminent political scientist Dr Raul P. de Guzman was that the different social sciences are the bases of the core of public administration theory.

Our deans and icons in our own College are from the social sciences. Among others, Dean Ledivina V. Carino is from the field of Sociology; Dean Proserpina Tapales from Political Science, Dean Jose V. Endriga from the field of History; Dean Maricon Alfiler is from Philippine Studies, and our present Dean Alex Brilliantes is a political scientist. Our icons, Dr. Jose V. Abueva and Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Jr. are both political scientists.

My field of specialization is in public fiscal administration . My professor once attempted to develop a theory on “The Psychological Foundations of Public Fiscal Administration”. At that time, his fellow professors were merely amused because public finance is largely associated with economics. Now, forty years later, the idea does not seem ridiculous.

So it is with a strong sense of kinship and belonging that I join you this afternoon on your Recognition Day. Thank you for this great honor.

The World Waiting for CSSP Class 2009

Tomorrow you will formally graduate from the only university in the Philippines , in the words of its proud alumni. Of course, many of you will spend your time recovering from the rigors of the years spent in study by eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating. After a month of watching her son engage in this wonderful activity, a mother asked anxiously,”Anak, hindi ka ba maghahanap ng trabaho?” Sagot ng magaling na anak: “Hindi muna, Mama. Mag PMA muna ako.” Tanong ng shocked na ina, “Ano? Mag-aaral ka uli?” Sagot ng U.P. graduate na anak, “Ibig sabihin ng PMA, pahinga muna, anak.”

Sooner or later, the CSSP 2009 graduate has to leave the shelter of PMA and venture out into the world. You owe it to your parents. What is it like outside?

A world in the grip of triple crises

According to the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, 2009 Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippines , is attacked by triple crises: the crisis of economic recession in developed countries which is contaminating the developing world; the food crisis and fuel price volatility; and climate change.

What are the projections about the economy? From a high of 7.2% GDP growth in 2007, growth plummeted to 4.6% in 2008. The latest projection of NEDA is 4.4% growth in 2009.

However, the projections of other institutions are much lower. The International Monetary Fund is projecting a 2.25% growth (lower than the population growth rate); recently, it revised its projections to 0 growth! Standard and Poors is much lower at 2.2%; and the World Bank at 1.9% Another institution gave a very pessimistic .8% rate of growth.

Since our population growth rate shows no sign of abating, the projections of institutions other than the government show that the population will grow much faster than the growth of the economy. This is terrifying indeed.

Our economy is very dependent on overseas remittances. BSP expects it to be flat and remain at the 2008 level of $16.4 billion.

Only a week ago, the government was projecting a deficit of P177.3 billion, three times the reported deficit of P68.1 billion in 2008. This is now projected at P199 billion!

On the second crisis, which is food and oil price volatility, there is no need to throw figures at the CSSP 2009 graduate. You all know that rice prices practically doubled last year and that oil prices continue to swing wildly. Consumers swing from hope to despair each time prices move.

As for the third crisis which is climate change, our temperature continues to be unpredictable. We have 35 degree centigrade heatwaves and sudden rains and flash floods in the middle of summer. Last January, cities which are not flood-prone were suddenly inundated. Cagayan de Oro was submerged in floodwaters for several days. Thousands from the Bicol region and Samar were trapped as huge waves made crossing dangerous. For the first time in more than sixty years, Dumaguete was twice hit by raging floods within a four-week period.

Climate change has destroyed crops, brought sickness and drastically reduced food supplies in a number of provinces.

Quadruple or even quintuple crises!

I say to the 2009 CSSP graduate: we are not only plagued by triple crises. We are also afflicted with a crisis of governance.

Our country has been consistently tagged as the most corrupt country in Asia . Corruption from the lowest to the highest levels of government is now taken for granted. Our tragedy is that many Filipinos now accept corruption as part of governance. People are too tired to be outraged by the latest scandals and shenanigans of public officials.

In the meantime, our legislators appear to be blissfully unaware of the multiple crises threatening the very survival of our country and people. They are too busy trying to change the constitution even as the people have consistently rejected earlier efforts. If they shamelessly persist in their blatant machinations, the possible consequences are too terrible to contemplate.

The spectre of unemployment

I am sure many of you want to get a good paying job. Gone are the days when U.P. graduates were inundated with job offers. As of January 2009, the unemployment rate rose from last year’s 7.4% to 7.7%.

By age group, for every 10 unemployed persons, five or one-half are in the age group of 15-24 years while three are in the age group of 25-34 years. This means that possibly one-half of the unemployed are young people!

Another worrisome indicator is that 18.3% of the unemployed are college graduates.

Not all who find jobs work a full eight hours a day. The unemployment rate stands at 18.2% or 6.2 million people.

The employment market is severely affected by the crisis. The Secretary of Labor has predicted that by June, 300,000 jobs will have been lost. In the meantime, many of the 900,000 new graduates will further swell the ranks of the unemployed.

Since you are graduating only tomorrow, others who graduated last March will already have one month’s headstart in job hunting.

The government reports that it has been creating new jobs. The president claims that there are 500,000 job openings, mainly for construction workers in the Middle East . The Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program is for the building of roads, irrigation systems and school buildings. The Department of Agriculture expects to generate 53,000 jobs for construction of at least 2,000 kilometers of farm-to-market roads. The PNP is recruiting 7,000 new cops of which 3,000 are PO1 level. And the AFP intends to recruit 6,700 personnel.

The government also plans to field 50,000 “green collar workers” to do “regreening” tasks in the mountains of Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, Lanao del Sur and other areas. They will be involved in the regeneration of mangrove forests, clean up coastal areas, plant jatropha and coconut seedlings, retrofit jeepneys and tricycles, put up bicycle lanes, etc.

Any takers from CSSP Class 2009, or graduates of other colleges? These are jobs which are obviously temporary.

The role of the CSSP graduate

At a time of a deep global financial crisis, severe shortage of food and energy, threatening climate changes, entrenched corruption and political turmoil, is there a role for the CSSP graduate?

The CSSP graduate may not be the best canal digger, construction worker and road sweeper. He or she may not be the fastest planter of jatropha and coconut seedlings. He or she may not even know how to trim the hedges in the middle of the road. He or she may not tell a mangrove from a jatropha. The CSSP graduate is needed by the country.

Actually, there is a lot or work waiting for the CSSP graduate. True, there may not be enough jobs, especially for those who are trained to think and to analyze. But there is actually a great deal of work to do. The CSSP graduate can contribute to rebuilding our country.

A number of you will take up second courses or go on to graduate studies. There will be those who will go on to law, medicine and international studies. Others will prepare for the Foreign Service. Still others will take up master’s and Ph.D degrees. The rest will probably work as teachers, analysts, researchers and assistants to politicians.

Solving the present economic and financial crisis is not just a question of crafting fiscal stimulus packages. It is not just a matter of throwing money to save banks and industries. It is more than giving away money to people so they can pay their electric bills, and will have purchasing power.

More important, it is also a question of understanding the historical antecedents of this crisis so that we can learn from it and not let history repeat itself. It is also important to understand the mindless greed which drove those who already have too much wealth to lust for more and more even as economies collapse and financial systems are shaken to the core.

It is the social scientists who will help us understand the human, as well as societal dimensions of the economic crisis. Every other country thinks that a fiscal stimulus package will solve our economic problems. So why are these packages not working, including the $16.5 billion package of the Philippines ? Social science may have the answer.

The rice crisis cannot just be solved by technology alone. We have among the best rice scientists in the world but we are not producing enough to feed ourselves. We have to understand why our government prefers to import rice rather than grow it. We must know why we prefer subdivisions to rice fields. Food production is not a matter of fertilizers and seedlings alone.

Climate change is not only a theoretical possibility. It is already here. The rest of the world is already preparing for disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, and global warming. Why the bahala na attitude and how do we change it?

As for governance and corruption, we in public administration have always contended that it is not a question of implementing laws, of which we have too many. It is also a question of understanding how corruption takes place, why it takes place and what can be done to minimize it. For answers, we have to go to the social sciences. The scourge of corruption cannot be exorcised by passing a new law or even by executing thieves and criminals.

We are overwhelmed with many political dilemmas. We can’t decide whether to hold elections or not, change the constitution or not, or shift to another political system or not. Political scientists can probably help clear the air and illuminate possible alternatives.

To conclude,

As future teachers, researchers and analysts, politicians and social scientists, you have a lot of work to do. You may not get the cushy job you dream of but there is always a place in our society for those who study the history, the psychology, the culture and values underpinning our economic, social and political system.

Tomorrow, you will graduate and join the worst of all possible worlds. But as Filipinos trained in philosophy, history, politics, sociology, anthropology, geography, psychology, linguistics and population management, surely you can help making our world the best of all possible worlds!

And that is just as satisfying as digging a canal, sweeping the street, and trimming a hedge.

It is time for you to leave the university. Go. Go with our love.