Inquirer Opinion / Editorial
Editorial : Greed
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: December 27, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI has put his finger on what has eluded the grasp of political leaders and economic experts seeking to find the reason for the financial meltdown that sparked the global recession. “If people look only to their interest, our world will certainly fall apart,” the Pope said in his traditional Christmas Day message. The warning was part of his prayer for people to come together to address the world’s most pressing problems, from war and terrorism to poverty and violations of human rights and dignity.
In his “Message to the City and to the World,” the Pope prayed: “Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking, wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.” But in a world that has fallen into a deepening economic recession, it is his denunciation of human greed and selfishness that carries a strong and special resonance. For greed is the root of the economic woes now afflicting most nations all over the globe.
In the United States and most of the developed world, it was greed that brought about the collapse of major financial institutions and sent thousands of individuals to bankruptcy: The institutional greed for profits that made banks and other financial institutions overlook even the most obvious risks. The personal greed of those at the helm who continued to receive astronomical salaries and allowances and scandalous perks even as their financial houses and companies crumbled. The criminal greed of so many financial advisers and brokers like Bernard Madoff who devised various investment schemes built on nothing more than promises of quick and easy profits. The reckless greed of investors who fell easy prey to scammers, of home buyers whose incomes could not support their mortgage payments, and of consumers who bought much more than what they could afford.
It is a bit different here in the Philippines, where financial institutions have not been shaken by scandals. Instead greed is in evidence almost in everything the government touches. Wherever there is a law to be enacted or enforced, wherever a permit is needed, wherever a contract is to be awarded, wherever a signature is required, wherever a project is undertaken, greed almost invariably trumps duty, honesty and public service. Greed is what keeps Congress from giving up their pork barrel. Greed is behind the biggest scandals that have rocked the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, from Jose Pidal to the fertilizer scam to the ZTE contract.
And there is no moderating greed, especially in high places, as Romulo Neri probably knows by now. The only change, in fact, is that greed has grown and spread so that now the country is ranked among the world’s most corrupt nations.
Worse, there is no relief in sight, given the ineffectiveness of the institutions and the officials that are tasked with fighting the corruption caused by unbridled greed. We will need more than prayers to exorcise this demon that is leading the nation to perdition.
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