Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Turd world service

Last week, I requested via Singapore's tourism website some materials on the country's tourist attractions. I was planning to see Singapore for two days (as a side tour from Malaysia) and was trying to work out a time-efficient itinerary.

I filled up the online form on the website on a Sunday night. I wasn't really expecting they would take my request seriously; I even had doubts whether the online form would actually reach someone on the other end. On Tuesday night, upon arriving at home, I was dumbfounded to receive a big pouch of Singapore guidebooks, various pamphlets (of excellent glossy quality) on the city-state's parks, walking guides to Chinatown and Little India, a complete guide to cultural events for the whole year of 2005, and a map of Singapore. I've read many things about the ruthless efficiency of the Singaporean government, but I didn't know it was this efficient. Imagine if you were to request the same information from our own Department of Tourism, do you think you'll get the same efficiency? I bet the only reply you'll get is that your e-mail has bounced.

I was thinking about Singaporean efficiency because of what happened yesterday. I called the Bills and Index section of the Philippine Senate to request copies of three bills. The man on the other line told me that, no, they don't e-mail and neither fo they fax copies. If I want them, I should go to the GSIS building myself. I was so shocked that I couldn't speak. Perhaps the other man on the phone sensed my shock because he said, in a consoling tone, that, in any case, the copies are free, I only need to get there personally.

An officemate said she would try to get copies through the committee. The committee was hesitant to send at first because it said it already sent copies to some NGO people. But after some chika and cajoling and beseeching, she was able to secure a promise from the committee that it would at least try to send copies. During that same afternoon the copies did arrive--personally delivered. Not faxed nor e-mailed, but personally delivered.

I really felt sad about this. In order to get copies, must we necessarily invoke special privilege or express a special request, and appeal to the better nature of the staff at the Senate? Why can not the Bills and Index section provide copies as a matter of course to any citizen that may register a request.

What if, for example, someone from Mindanao want those copies, must he go to imperial Manila just to get them? The committee also could have simply e-mailed them. There was no need to personally deliver them at the office. It was one big waste of time for the Senate's courier.

Why can our government not be more like Singapore's in providing efficient service? Singaporeans, in general, are brighter than us, I know, but surely we could do something to become comparable if not equal. Oh, well, I should probably stop making this comparison. It just keeps making me feel wretched. Aargh.


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