I recently met with a councilor, businessman, engineer, and banker over coffee.
The engineer started by saying, “All business improvements that we see in towns and cities are the dreams of entrepreneurs and investors—they are not a result of political persuasion as politicians sometimes claim.” While the businessman agreed, the councilor just smiled.
“When fast food chains decide to put up stores, it is not due to the political leader of the community—it is because they see that their business will thrive in that area,” said the businessman. “No mayor—nor councilor—can claim he is the reason for business progress in his city or town.”
The councilor gave an affirming nod.
“However, in some cities, politicians turn [out] to be businessmen,” the businessman continued.
“When business franchise owners pay courtesy calls to the town hall to tell the mayor they plan to build stores, enterprising politicos immediately take a big hand in asking that they be the franchisee,” said the banker. “Either their spouse or siblings are [on] the business registry of the franchise.”
In a previous WatchMe column published last February entitled “What’s so nice about politics?,” the same subject matter was discussed when a group gathered at a local café. During that exchange, a retired banker said, “Local government officials of towns and cities, and even the province, are the franchise holders of food chains and other franchising businesses in their territory.”
“When franchisers intend to get business permits, many local officials become interested,” he added. “It is even rumored that some politicians in this country, without shame, demand monetary returns for favoring their business interests.”
A month before that, another WatchMe column, entitled “How many would run for office if financial benefits were scrapped?,” witnessed a different gathering where a lawyer brought up the same point, noting, “[If you] observe some cities and towns, the franchise holders of famous food chains are the family members of politicians – what a shame!” During that same conversation, a priest was heard saying, “Elective officials have become entrepreneurs and capture even those food franchises in their own towns and cities.”
Nearly identical commentary was also reiterated during a separate conversation observed in the subsequent column, “When will the Comelec penalize rule violators?”
In the ongoing discussion, the engineer noted, “Urban developers acquire vast areas of land in a city for subdivisions or townships and their decisions are not persuaded by politicians, who are good for nine years and may change then.”
“Urban developments are visions for decades and political climate plays a moderate role in the plan,” he added. “It is economic in nature that these investors decide.”
The engineer continued, “Just like [in the] shipping or airline industry, politicians should be ashamed that they ask [such companies] to have their vessels or aircraft operate in their locality.”
“It is only the airline operator who [decides to operate] an international flight in a city; it is never a mayor or governor or congressman,” the businessman added. “Politicians are not investors, they are simply ‘credit-grabbers’ in this scenario.”
“I fully agree with all of you,” the councilor replied. “No offense to my fellow politicians who could simply inspire but never persuade investors to pour in millions if they do not see returns [on] their investment in a project.”
This column greets Ricky Monfort, Ado dela Rama, Doc Mike Sarabia, Renato Novero, Rex Constantino, Virgie Miñez, Reuben Tampos, Bobby Tee, William Ong, Francis Redil Villanueva, Danny Dangcalan, Ray Tabafunda, and Tony Cacho/WDJ