Tony Samson-125


THIS IS NOT a good time for forecasters and planners. Even for the very short term, say the following day, is it possible to make plans like finally opening a restaurant for dine-in customers, even in limited numbers? Yup, some small businesses counted on that possibility when the rules of engagement, the dreaded Q status, made an about-face the evening before. (Just kidding, folks.) So, you bought inventory expecting a dine-in crowd and organized the shift of waiters? Tough luck.

This time they shifted the Q classifications to numbers, like alert levels or the Richter scale in earthquakes. Will the numbering system be fixed and well-defined? Hmm, they’ll let you know. What about the surprise “granular” classification of streets or blocks? They’ll be like surprise quizzes — no warning.

Of course, doomsayers and worst-case scenarists don’t have a problem. They seem to be thriving. More people are paying attention to them.

There will be webinars on end-of-the-world prophecies:

The economy is doomed, even after the lockdown is lifted (too late). Elections? Forget it. The system is rigged. Look who’s running them, all from one region. There may not even be the formality of lining up to vote. Investigations on corruption? Have you thought about the short attention span of the public? What about the distractions thrown to get the dogs off the scent? (I will be more active and visible in the second position than I ever was in the first.)

Can there be a planning function when the situation is so volatile? Not just unpredictable due to external factors like a pandemic or a typhoon, but even more from arbitrary rules with their twists and turns.

In science, chaos does not correspond to a state of confusion or an absence of order, as in ordinary conversation — “our politics are in chaos.” Chaos theory, as propounded by mathematicians like James Glick or meteorologists like Edward Lorenz, refers to non-linear, dynamic, and complex unfolding of events “without the precision and predictability of a Swiss watch.”

In a time of chaos, such concepts as agility, ambiguity, VUCA, and pivots become clichés.

Business sectors are now categorized as “winners” and “losers” in the pandemic. Basic needs like groceries, medicines, digital connectivity, and utilities are winners. Travel, hospitality, restaurants, retail, and beauty care are losers. Even in the winning category like healthcare, with hospitals bursting at the seams with high occupancy levels, and losses coming from rising receivables from PhilHealth.

Unpredictability and the resulting loss of planning and control functions are big obstacles to recovery. Projections are based on a set of assumptions that are expected to hold true for a certain period, longer than two weeks. The interjection of surprises in the business process is unwelcome, a good excuse to quickly exit from the scene. There are, after all, safer havens even in the region. Okay, we need capitalists who have a good appetite for risk, maybe even planning for the reopening to regular service of the airport in Afghanistan.

The excuse of government apologists is that the pandemic is not something we can control. (You never say anything good about the government’s response.) But being in the last place in handling this virus is no consolation. Other countries even in our region are already “living with the virus” through a combination of a high vaccination rates and the gradual opening of mobility, public gatherings, and tourism.

In this political period, we look for leaders that can promise predictability not of the situation, but the government’s responses to it. A leader needs to at least show some empathy in the plight of the citizens — you poor slobs, you deserve to wallow in misery. Okay, not that one.

Is it too much to expect integrity and transparency in the handling of funds meant to alleviate the suffering of the nation in these pandemic times? Maybe being singled out for name-calling and counter-investigation should be taken as a badge of honor.

We already look forward to a changing of the guard. Away with corruption and, yes, laziness. Hands-on management is not something this leadership can be accused of.

We are a hopeful nation that has seen abuses of power before. Yes, peaceful change is what we long for. We can bring this about. History is on our side… with its surprise ending for the seemingly entrenched leadership.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda