An Insult to a Heritage

parisian lifeWhy would a pension fund sell into auction one of its most valuable assets, a notable art collection of Manansalas, Ocampo’s and most prized among them, Juan Luna’s  Parisian Life?

According to GSIS’s PGM Robert Vergara one of the main reason why he was considering the sell out was that, to qoute:

We do believe that art is best left to collectors as opposed to a pension fund, he said, The collection is not something that generates a return on its own.”

Bloomberg articles noted that the local currency has returned 5.1 this year, the least among the emerging economies of Southeast Asia next to Malaysia. “.. Indexes show, returns have dropped from 17 percent in 2011, 11 percent in 2012 and 8.6 percent in 2013. The yield on the 10-year government paper fell to 4.13 percent yesterday from 7.93 percent at the end of June 2010. Similar-maturity debt from Indonesia yields 8.09 percent.” 

The PGM seemed to have exhausted other means to save the tepid performance of long term debt government bonds which is why he considers selling the fund’s art collection now presently hanging at the National Museum.

Sad fact is, he believes that there is a growing affluence in the private sector of the country, maybe if it  is not so keen into government securities, it may find Juan Lunas more attractive perhaps?

Unfortunately, the PGM still follows the old school of “corporate libertarianism“. He believes in the use of GDP’s as measure of human well being and progress and that robust commodity tradings follows the “trickle down effect” which translates to better lifestyle of the ordinary people. History shows for the past decades that this dangerous viewpoint have already been argued as a myth.

Have you seen the sea of masses lining up at MRT/LRT stations all for the sake of finding space in an efficient transportation that would bring these ordinary workers on time for their  jobs? These masses work for the same corporations, who are presently not interested in government bonds and would like to sink in their monies into more profitable assets, Juan Luna’s? nyahh… maybe if you could give it at a better rate? I wonder where is the touted affluence of the private sector in that?

The monitored daily wage earner (DWE), oh for heaven sakes! not even  the DWE – the better paying middle income earner  has no other option in their payslips but pay the mandatory deductions of taxes, translating to where? Half baked deficient infrastructures, bad roads, when lizards pee flood proned highways and avenues, overburdened social and health care facilities that, if they take in another birthing mother she would be  wheeled in to the cancer care vis-a-vis organ transplant unit. Luckily, the patient does not have leukemia, and the baby is not up for organ donation, adoption maybe but that’s another story. So, they refuse her, there’s a mistake, go back to the maternity ward… yes I know, there’s no more space there.

This is when you avail yourself of the public social structures, when you go private you can demand for service, you pay of course, its a corporation.

But why would you deduct me of the taxes that is not working? Is it not the same that we are also paying for the same services at a percentage of our hard earned money? Would you define affluence extending to your middle income group?

No. the middle income earner cannot afford to be at a prizey art auction to buy a Juan Luna. He’s stuck in traffic after a long days work thinking what it would be for dinner if his wife were not again obligated for a mandatory overtime. Maybe his 13 yr old daughter knows how to cook and has something at the table by the time he gets home.

No. GDP is a floating number designating the amount of money he needs to  buy a basket of food, clothing and shelter. It has not measured his time travel from home to work on an average of 2hrs one way, on a choo choo PNR train or, the terminally ill MRT/ LRT; or the lead infested air of  public jeepney transports; or if he ever contracted Ebola, would the public hospitals be able to address his health issues?

That is where the chasm lay between the rich and the poor, the inefficiency to address the same needs for the same human beings living is same society but with such different and so wide apart resources at hand.

Corporate libertarianism is not the answer to government inefficiencies. Our people do not need to sell our heritage to ease up our “thin returns” on government bonds. Should we not follow the campaign to balance the three pillars of society?  market, civil society and government, to fight the common poverty within and among our own people.

Maybe it is time we put our people up front and center first. We cannot afford to buy a Juan Luna painting, but we and our children would appreciate the cultural enlightenment that viewing our nation’s art and identifying its rich historical background would stir up nationalism in young malleable minds. Viewing it not at a whim of a private collector, but because viewing it means each and everyone’s right to see his own heritage.

If we sold our artworks back to private collectors, you shore up the needed returns for up until when? You think giving it back to private collection makes it a part of nation building? No, the art collection in itself does generate the returns you want, or the measures you readily have sir PGM, but it has in itself a piece of our peoples history. Maybe its about time we invest on our people, on our well being, on our much needed boost in our national identity.

We need to imbue in our young, the pride of living an honest life, the intrinsic value of hard work, and that monetary values are only rewards after a long days work. GDP is the measure of ones productivity, but is not directly proportionate to the true quality of life one should be able to enjoy and what all of us should be entitled to.

Our country’s leaders would do well to have this goal in mind.  What matters most is the quality of life we live, which not only the very few can dip into, but should be available for the majority of our people.

Let us not turn into monkeys, doing somersaults for a banana named “marginal returns”.



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