Saturday, November 26, 2005

Osaka, Japan, 2004

After posting my Hong Kong travelogue, a friend, Alvin Ang, made this note. I also noticed only today his posting. Thanks Alvin :-)

September 23, 2004

Hi Noy and friends,

Thanks for your travelogue about Hongkong.

ako naman i want to share my latest experience here in osaka, specifically toyonaka city. our city, is one of the oldest and richest city within metropolitan osaka. as one of the richest city, toyonaka has the tradition of subsidizing family services to its dwellers and many osakans liked the way things are managed here. however, from the last 3 years, the city has been experiencing huge deficits and have not been able to arrest it. one of its programs is
privatization of services that can be easily or already being offered in the private sector.

last night, i went to a parent-teacher consultation in my son's day care center with toyonaka city officials. the reason - they were "informing" us that they are going to privatize the day care center in a year's time.

just a little background on how they operate day care centers here. they have public and private day care systems. as always, the public one is subsidized and if you want your child to enter it, you have to register him from the time of birth because you have to wait at least 2 years to get a slot. i waited one year and took the available slot when the city office called me even if it means that it is far from where we live. the monthly payment is computed based on your last year's assessed income - so for just getting a monthly subsistence allowance, i am classified as a way below minimum wage earner and i pay the basic fee of around P750/month. so even if it is subsidized, those earning above the minimum Y250,000/month or roughly P125,000, pay quite a sum. besides, you have to put in a lot of justification why you need day care, since most japanese wives stay at home anyway. Apparently, they have not anticipated that the economic gloom here have stretched for more than 14 years now and hence, the necessity to have mothers to work too. also, as i understood it, the public system is better because it is connected with the national
health system. so a day care will have a stationed nurse, a monthly physical check up and an extended care facility after 6 pm. the private ones are expensive and do not have the same connection with the national health system.

from the discussions last night, with my basic understanding of japanese, i could sense that the
parents were not really concerned with how much they are to pay - but if the same service will be rendered. i was looking at how the bureaucrat was explaining the reasons for privatization. he look pathetic and too technical. he bored the mothers and fathers there, especially me because he was using a lot of technical japanese. one of the vocal mothers finally interrupted him and said - i just want to know what you plan to do after, i don't care with your explanations since i don't understand them anyway. that caused an approving uproar and the poor guy was on the defensive till i left.

as i was going home with my boys, i was thinking what if this was in the philippines. i guess those who are going to be affected will act the same way. but the big difference here is that the city office has overstretched its desire to be of service to its people that it can no longer maintain or managed the services they have offered over and above the basic ones. in our case back there, our government has very little to show what it has done to improve or enhance
basic services and is now trying to increase the burden further. as it is in many studies regarding the behavior of lower income earners, these people are willing to pay for service or goods for as long as they perceive that they get a good service. consider the water or gaas vendors along the riles - the poor are actually paying more than the formally connected water users but there is no problem with them. hence, it does not matter much who provides the service. but if government does it and cannot sustain it - then it is better off not providing the service at all as in this example here in toyonaka. creating undue expectations have already expanded the satisfaction possibilities of people, hence, it is difficult for them to let go because it will affect their future work decisions. hence, given all things equal and majority of your dwellers are renters - you see an exodus to other cities where they can maintain their
current living satisfaction levels. and fair enough, the ADB just warned that if we are pushed further to accept new taxes without seeing just gains - the exodus....

Alvin Ang

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