When I first read the headline I thought it was political correctness gone even madder (considering how much of a Catholic nation the Philippines is), but the reason for the banning of airport immigration officials from greeting visitors Merry Christmas has nothing to do with cultural sensitivity. It has to do with corruption.
As explained by the Associated Press:
It is a tradition in the Philippines for children to offer Christmas wishes to solicit gifts from godparents and relatives. The practice has been hijacked by corrupt officials who sometimes use it as code for extortion requests.
There is a worry that visitors to the Philippines will interpret the holiday greeting as a request for a bribe or tip. Officials are asked to simply provide good service and a warm smile. If this seems strange to you, consider that the Philippines, historically, has a very bad reputation for corruption.
This article at the New York Times in 2007 reports of a survey done of expat businessmen living in Asia. Out of 13 countries and territories in Asia, the survey of 1476 people gave the Philippines a score of 9.4 on the corruption scale, with zero being least corrupt. At the time of that writing, it was reported that almost 2 billion dollars (13% of the Philippines’ annual budget) is lost to corruption every year.
[Image: Ben+Sam / Flickr]