18 April 2007

Opportunity cost and the ‘Big Daddy’ syndrome

My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.

LAST Thursday, a program officer of the Canada Fund paid us a visit to appraise a proposal for the rehabilitation of upland elementary schools in the city. It turned out he and Peter Sutherland, the Canadian ambassador to the Philippines, were guest of Camarines Sur Gov. LRay Villafuerte at the provincial capitol the day before.

One thing he noticed, our guest said, aside from crowds that frequented the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC), were the tourism brochures of the provincial government, the CWC in particular; there was no reference to Naga at all.

It did not make sense, he added, considering that Naga, as the closest urban center to the CWC, has the basic tourism services that CWC’s clients would need; the only other option would be Legazpi but it is too far away. The easiest individual to get bored is the tourist; give him half a day or so at the CWC and he will start looking for “action” somewhere else.

This incident I think highlights the opportunity cost that we have to bear because of a continuing political rivalry that, for so long a time, has carved up a gulf between City Hall and Capitol.

In economics, opportunity cost is the cost of something in terms of an opportunity foregone and the benefits that could be received from that opportunity. It is different from accounting cost, which has something to do with the price attached to any course of action.

Let us take tourism promotional materials as an example. They have an accounting cost, which would be the respective amounts the provincial government spent in producing its CWC brochures on the one hand, and the city government in producing its own, including their digital equivalents in their respective websites.

But in this case, the opportunity cost is bigger. It comes in the form of more visitors they could have attracted to visit both Naga and the provincial capitol if only they joined forces in cross-promoting their respective attractions, and the additional money these tourists would have spent locally and infused into the local economy. Cross-promotion is a cooperative endeavor that illustrates the value of synergy -- where the whole is greater than the sum total of its parts.

Now, why do we continue to bear this burden? It is because of a virus that mostly affects politicians, and those in the position of power, producing a condition I would call the “Big Daddy” syndrome. (This is different from the “Big Daddy” mentality that Inquirer editor John Nery wrote about to describe the continuing dependency of the Filipino on their government.) The Encarta Dictionary defines “big daddy” as: 1. somebody or something regarded with respect: somebody or something that is respected, powerful, or well known, and 2. paternalistic head: the head of an organization, especially one who exerts paternalistic control. Its most recent provenance can be traced to former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez who -- in consistently failing to win against the New York Yankees -- called their hated foes his “big daddy.”

What are its symptoms? A superiority complex, defined as “an exaggerated sense of being better than other people,” and a lack of humility, leading to an inability to put the common good above one’s personal self. As such, they cannot stand sharing the same stage with their equals, preferring instead to be king of their own little molehills.

While difficult to cure because of massive egos involved, this condition is not entirely incurable; all it needs is a good enough dose of practical statesmanship – the capability to sacrifice one’s personal gain precisely because of his impartial concern for the common good, and a healthy realization that regardless of stature, he is but a speck in the stream of time.

Applied to our context, it is bowing to the collective wisdom of the Camarines Sur electorate, who will most probably decide to distribute power equitably among our existing political houses once the dust of the coming electoral battle clears up; exploring and finding a mutually acceptable middle ground; and engaging in some key collaborative efforts that can move our province further forward.


Urbano dela Cruz said...

big daddy = feudal lord ?

Dominique said...

big daddy = godfather? (speak softly, love, and hold me warm against your heart...)

Kristian said...

kun may bagong iluluwas man na brochure an naga, mahiling ta man daw an info manungod sa CWC? sa may, willy matatapos ko na an bikol trans....palanca season na pati..

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Hi Urbano and Dom: Your equations both reminded me of this Juan Mercado quote of the late Fr. de la Costa: “Thus, for all the trappings of a national government, we are not far from the era of the barangay....And we conduct our affairs pretty much in the manner of Lapu-Lapu and Humabon.”

Kristian: I think it should.