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Bad politics hinders good performance

As the election fever starts, candidates and voters must fully realize that bad politics results in poor performance. It is therefore critical that voters elect candidates who practice good politics.

Take the case of water. Eighty percent  of all our water is used in agriculture. With poor government performance in irrigation, the result in many places will be no water, little  food, high prices, and even more poverty in our country’s poorest sector.

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I cite here a key recommendation derived  from seven water presummits approved by President Duterte. These meetings were conducted in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao by the joint legislative-executive-private sector steering committee for the National Water and  Roadmap Summit. This recommendation stated that  a return on investment (ROI) using cost-benefit analysis should be systematically used in decisions allocating the limited irrigation money for irrigation alternatives.

For each province, this approach will then guide  how budget tradeoffs  will be made: large versus small irrigation, repairs or restoration versus new construction,  irrigation for rice versus high-value crops, etc.

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In research we conducted recently at the National Irrigation Administration ( NIA), we discovered that progress is being made in this area. However,  there are times when bad politics stops NIA from delivering the good performance obtained from the proper ROI decision making on irrigation budget allocations.

Take the case of whether to spend the irrigation reservoir budget for new construction versus restoration in a specific location.  Estimates show that  it generally needs P300,000 to P1 million per hectare to build a new reservoir. But to restore a nonoperational reservoir to full effectiveness, only P80,000 to P100,000 per hectare is needed. The resulting ROI shows that restoration often  yields seven times the value of  a new reservoir for each peso spent.

This is where bad politics can come  in. Taking a narrow-minded and possibly self-serving view, some candidates insist on spending on new reservoirs instead of restoration because they can proclaim that they established new irrigation. They choose to forget the farmers who have lost their irrigation because of the nonoperation of defective reservoirs. But  even though NIA can have a better performance using the ROI approach, it is stopped from doing this. This is because NIA is required by law to implement the budget allocation which elected candidates give them.

Good politics means that elected candidates would use the ROI approach. Where restoration is called for, this would take priority over new reservoirs, with the remaining budget used for the new construction.

Climate change. At this time, it  is particularly important to make these correct decisions because of the climate change that is now upon us. Water is much more precious now. We must look at everything through a climate change lens, because the situation has changed drastically.

Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel  De Guzman, known internationally  for his global expertise and experience, has wisely reserved  the whole day of Nov. 20 during the climate change week to focus on the climate change impact on water. Both candidates and voters should be aware of climate change so that promises and the decisions can be optimized for election day.

This will mean discarding  bad for good politics, and thus enable the good performance our citizens need and deserve.

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