October 22, 2006

Jay S. Ramos

Falling way behind

Sometime ago this writer presented a report regarding the snail-paced efforts in boosting economic growth and poor performance of attracting investors. Apparently, the impediments were due to perennial corruption, political instability, bureaucratic inefficiency or red tape, peace and order, inconsistency of or absence of political will to implement government policies, and poor infrastructure.

Relative to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, UN-ADB’s latest assessment is that the Philippines is falling way behind. Accordingly, there is little or no progress seen in key development area. My question is NEDA people are good in presenting plans and programs for this matter and yet the results are almost nil. There must be something wrong with their ingredients or just for cosmetic purpose – don sila magaling.

Why should we rely on the UN-ADB report, well the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the UN Development Programme tracks progress towards achieving the developmental goals relating to poverty, nutrition, education, gender equality, infant mortality, maternal health, prevention of HIV and other diseases, water access, sanitation and environmental protection.

The report states that we have little progress on rural water access and rural sanitation. However, it reveals that the Philippines is said to be on the right track in attaining the 2015 goal of reducing by half the size of the population living on less than $1 a day, increasing primary enrolment, reducing HIV prevalence and improving urban sanitation.

Moreover, it pointed out that there is a need to boost primary education and basic health services - two MDG areas where the Philippines rated most poorly and would translate this into a P350B in funding (2007-2015). In all cases, funding is a significant factor in achieving the MDG’s, thus we are dead serious in need of honest- to- goodness economic managers and well behave chief executive.

Inconsistency of government policy may in part be attributed to the lack of political will exhibited by the nation’s top government officials. The current political instability certainly detracts from the capability of the government to act efficiently. The uncertain political situation has further discouraged businessman, foreign and local, from investing or initiating new initiatives and ventures.

The mood is decidedly cautious – a wait-and-see attitude is the norm. If the mood spreads to the consumer market with the resultant decrease in consumer spending, then the economy will surely slow down and plunge us into the depths of recession.

I believe GMA is trying to reach out and must act decisively to resolve our political predicament. However, will the price of cooperation erode the last vestiges of our president’s independence and render her subservient to those who helped her retain the seat of power? If so, then the business sector, conversely the economy, and the people will suffer.

Progress and prosperity silences dissension, hunger and poverty foment discord. The surest way to boost the economy is through the infusion of new capital, the influx of investment. Thus, government policies should encourage this trend, not the other way around. Our leader(s) has enunciated sound business principles (being an economist). GMA must now demonstrate the political will to enforce those policies, even in defiance of patronage politics and vested interests. For the sake of our country’s future, GMA must become a true leader.

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