I USED to work in a country where the head of government was a DICTATOR. He was a dictator, because there was no limit to his length of tenure. He was basically, President for LIFE.
There were no free press, and there were almost no western business franchises there. The reason, I heard, was because they did not want western ideas like, “freedom”, or “free speech”, etc. to spread thru the thin population.
Having no western business franchises was supposed to be good, as it would generate more businesses for the local businesses, right?
Everything there was mediocre. I saw a restaurant trying to package itself as a McDonald’s, but it was pathetic, as the design just wasn’t anywhere as good as typical western or local franchises we have at home. Their equivalent to the value meals were downright laughable. No wonder it was not popular.
They had malls there, but only as good as that of, say, third-rate malls we have back home, like Harrison Plaza. And its only about half as big. This is in contrast with the malls like Megamall, Mall of Asia, Glorietta, etc. we have back home. I sometimes pity those people, as they had no clue what they were missing out.
Products like clothes, for example, were generally inferior, either being locally made, or sourced from China. I once bought some socks there, and after a few months of use, they ended up with holes in them. This in contrast with the “Darlington” and “Bio-Fresh” socks that I’ve been using for years back home. Since then, I made sure all my socks are brought from back home.
The people there are paid approximately at least twice that of ours, which is pretty good. While our Doctors and Lawyers back home live like royalty, people in those profession there were paid poorly, because the government insisted that they be so, so it can provide cheap medical and legal service to the people.
Which is not bad, except for the fact that you often see Lawyers going off to work in other industries in search of a better pay.
The people there have an advantage in having good pay, and cheap medical services, but I was pretty sure they didn’t feel like they’re living in a paradise. Most people there would rather go to other countries on vacations, because they simply see many things in other countries that they never saw in their homeland.
Take a local colleague of mine, for example. She goes to Dubai, or to Russia, or to Amsterdam regularly during winter. So when she once invited me to her house for a party, I expected her to be relatively well off. I was taken back when I saw a drab, tenement-type apartment, with faulty toilet plumbing, and exposed pipes out of the walls on her toilet.
Wouldn’t it be better for her to spend her money on improving her house, rather than spending it to escape somewhere, I thought.
Another local colleague who got assigned to work in Amsterdam vowed never to come back to the country again, and just find another work there once his contract was finished.
As they say, “Power corrupts, and absolute power, corrupts absolutely”.
The President there owned the major airline, which virtually was a monopoly, with a few token airlines nowhere near as big as the one the President owns, just to try to show that there was supposed to be no monopoly.
The airline flies planes with seats similar to those of our budget airlines like “Cebu Pacific”, but they charge much, much higher. It is not uncommon to see flights in Europe that are half, or even a third as expensive compared to the ones here for the same distance. In the end, the people lose out, because they end up being charged for a high price, for a mediocre service.
Mediocre service and equipment, while the President continued to fatten his bank account.
Businesses were controlled by a few families, likely to be cronies of the ones in power. Our Marketing Intelligence group once tried to trace back the true owners of a couple of companies involved in a bidding, and was surprised to learn it all ended up on one particular family. So whichever company won the bidding, there was still only one winner.
Expats were favorite targets for custom officials to fleece. They tried to make the process of approving expats to work in the country as bureaucratic and as difficult as possible, so when the expat makes a mistake, misses some stamps here or there, and they catch them at Immigration checks … then its payoff time.
In corruption cases like these, what could people do? Report it to the police? To the authorities? Or to the press? Nope, no such options there.
The people there were like caught in purgatory: Sure, they had some advantages, but their country is nowhere near as progressive as some of the countries in the world, and I was pretty sure they were nowhere near as satisfied with what they had. And they were stuck with the government, having such a thin population, I doubt if they could mount a popular revolt to change the government.
Despite the flaws in our society, I still prefer to live in Manila, with all the freedom we take for granted. Perhaps I’ll write separate blogs about the positive and negative side of our country later.
I had no desire to live there for good. Unless, of course, they gave me a really gorgeous broad, then maybe I’d consider it …..