With 2016 about to close, what positive prospects can Filipinos look forward to next year and the years ahead?
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, a noted economist, said Filipinos have good reasons to be optimistic based on the “significant positive gains” registered by the national economy during the first six months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
The Albay lawmaker has identified the positive economic events of 2016 under Duterte. First on his list was the “peaceful, orderly and democratic transition of power following Duterte’s landslide victory last May 2016 elections. Investors hate uncertainty,” he said.
Duterte garnered 16.6 million votes in the last elections, beating his closest rival by over six million votes, Salceda noted. “The outcome cemented the stunning populist victory, founded on his promise to eradicate crime and corruption. It brought back people’s belief in good governance, and restored investors’ confidence,” he added.
Second is Duterte’s “empowered Cabinet of solutions-driven practitioners and economic managers” that include Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
“This team of battle-tested men hauled from both government and the private sector has shown a decisive posture early on, and gives Duterte’s economic team and clarity of purpose and doable objectives,” he pointed out.
Third is the “formation of supermajorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the closest to a government of national unity,” and a viable response to Duterte’s pledge of clean government, which is the popular public clamor.
Fourth on Salceda’s list was the “demonstrated seriousness” of the President’s dynamic Cabinet, which “hit the ground running with 10 full Cabinet meetings and two Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council consultations in the first five months. This means faster and better results,” he stressed.
Fifth, the lawmaker said, are the peace talks and indefinite ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, started in the first months of the Duterte regime, compared to the years of preparation by former administrations.
Sixth is the huge business potential from Duterte’s China pivot and the forging of an independent foreign policy, all in one instance, “debunking long held myths about PH-US relations, and highlighting a promising PH-China’s partnership.”
Seventh is the Philippines’ registered fastest economic growth in Asia and the resurgence of the country’s manufacturing industry. The country posted a 7.1 percent on-year July-September hike—its most robust growth pace in three years, Salceda noted.
The figure surpassed the 6.7-percent median growth estimate of 15 economists survey by Bloomberg and matched an estimated 1.2-percent GDP rise against the previous quarter. It also stacked favorably against China’s third quarter growth rate of 6.7 percent and Vietnam’s 6.4 percent.
Eighth is the rollout of “AmBisyon Natin 2040,” the Duterte administration’s 10-point economic agenda and the preparation of 2017-2022 development plan.
“AmBisyon 2040 represents the collective long-term vision and aspirations of the Filipino people for themselves and for the country in the next 25 years,” Salceda said. “It describes the kind of life Filipinos want to live, and how the country will be by 2040. As such, it is an anchor for development planning across at least four administrations.”
The substantial improvement in peace and order with 80 percent reduction in drug volume and 39 percent drop in crime is ninth on Salceda’s list. The peace and order gains “represents a decisive effort at ridding the country of specific crime problems never given so much serious attention before.”
Tenth is the government’s commitment to deploy funds, with an 83 percent increase in infrastructure spending and improved absorptive capacity. Salceda said this thrust could drive the Philippines’ GDP to 9 percent in three years, with Duterte’s policy strengths and a blueprint for growth hinged largely on infrastructure.
“This could usher in a golden age of infrastructure,” he noted.
Based on economic forecast models developed by a group of econometricians, Salceda said the country can hit 9 percent GDP growth by 2019, with “infrastructure spending from 5 to 6 percent of GDP, funded by new taxes and tax efficiencies.”
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