“Winning the hearts and minds of the rest of the population behind a viable program for economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that still remains a distinct threat could prove to the more difficult one”
After an unsuccessful bid for the vice-presidency in 2016, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. made a spectacular political comeback this year, posting a landslide victory in the presidential race with his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, garnering just 15 million votes as against his 31 million votes.
No doubt, the new Chief Executive’s dominance in this year’s race was the inevitable outcome of support from the so-called ‘Solid North’ nurtured by his family since the 1960s as well as the Mindanao mass base of his teammate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who likewise trounced her nearest rival with plenty to spare.
Opinion surveys since October last year, when those wanting to run for president, vice president, senators and party-list representatives filed their certificates of candidacy, had already placed Marcos Jr., in the lead for the highest elective position.
The May 9 political exercise merely confirmed that his pre-election advantage was no fluke.
Marcos Jr., therefore, assumes the presidency with no less than 31 million Filipinos behind him.
We may safely assume that the rest of the electorate who voted for the other candidates have by now grudgingly accepted the reality of a Marcos Jr. presidency, with the opposition already wracking their brains for the winning strategy in the next election.
Winning the election may be the easy part.
Winning the hearts and minds of the rest of the population behind a viable program for economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that still remains a distinct threat could prove to the more difficult one.
No doubt, the country faces a multiplicity of challenges in the economic, political, social and foreign policy fronts that will test the mettle of the new administration.
Marcos Jr. showed that he has his priorities down pat by assembling a powerhouse economic team consisting of prominent economists from the University of the Philippines.
The new Finance Secretary, Benjamin Diokno, had been plucked from his previous position as head honcho of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The Economic Planning Secretary and concurrent Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority, Arsenio Balisacan, used to hold the same position in the Duterte Cabinet.
Felipe Medalla, the NEDA chief during the Ramos administration, now takes the helm of the BSP, while ex-UP President Alfredo Pascual assumes the top post in the Department of Trade and Industry.
The combined expertise of the four economists will accelerate the implementation of a broad post-pandemic economic program for the next six years that is likely to emphasize job creation, resource generation and infrastructure development.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the Marcos administration may be able to tap about P500 billion worth of investment leads in varying stages of preparations to be turned over by the agency.
Among these investment leads is tech billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite internet service project called Starlink.
Another positive development for the new administration is the recent passage of the amended Public Service Act that will allow more overseas businesses to keep full ownership of their local operations.
We’re well aware that there’s growing public clamor, especially among the public transport sector, for the new administration to suspend the excise tax on fuel products. But experts assert that while this would somehow relieve the onerous burden of higher transport costs and the resulting increase in prices of other consumer goods, it would be counter-productive in the long run as it would deprive the government of much-needed revenues that can be used for infrastructure and vital social services such as education and health.
News reports indicate that the transport sector is now in the throes of a serious crisis as many jeepney drivers have either stopped plying their trade as they can no longer earn enough to feed their families.
Motorcycle riders performing delivery services to the big online sellers on a daily basis face the same dire situation.
It appears that the Marcos administration would rather give cash assistance or “ayuda” to those adversely affected by higher prices rather than suspend excise taxes on fuel.
This could be the more pragmatic solution that will benefit those who need help the most.
In any event, we hope the new administration will give priority to helping those sectors affected by high prices.
By the same token, we expect the new set of leaders to ramp up efforts to further facilitate the ease of doing business to attract more local and foreign investments that would create more job opportunities for the labor force amid massive job losses at the height of COVID-19.
Is Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ working?
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong by Great Britain to mainland China and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
To commemorate the event, the HKSAR published a book with the theme “A New Era– Stability, Prosperity, Opportunity” that dealt with the experiences and success stories of people in the former British colony.
In the book’s foreword, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it “not only captures Hong Kong’s impressive achievements over the past two and a half decades, it also underscores everyone’s eager anticipation for a brighter future.”
The book emphasized that Hong Kong will capitalize on the opportunities presented by the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the growth of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area for better integration into China’s over-all development.
One of the book’s contributors, Laura Cha Shih May-lung, chairperson of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) and a veteran in Hong Kong’s financial sector for more than three decades, believes that Hong Kong can withstand all challenges and maintain its status as an international financial center.
“Being a relatively small economy with a population of just over 7 million, Hong Kong would not have developed into the international financial center it is now without the strong backing of the mainland’s continuous development,” she said.
“We will continue to deepen our mutual market access with the mainland and expand the scope of investment products on both sides. By so doing, we will be able to cater for the needs of our country, and benefit from our integration into the national development,” she added.
Sabrina Chao, president of the Baltic and International Maritime Council, said under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong retains the common law system and the legal commonality is one of the pros that enables Hong Kong’s maritime industry to thrive.
She called for “combining the mainland’s manpower resources with the experience of Hong Kong shipowners for new measures that tie in with the development of the GBA and also for the benefit of the long-term development of the industry.”
Victor Fung, chairman of the Fung Group, and his family have been trading in Hong Kong for over a century.
With a profound knowledge of Hong Kong’s trade development, Fung believes that closer collaboration with other cities in the GBA will enable Hong Kong to play a vital role as the global supply chain orchestrator.
Fung thinks that Hong Kong, as a member of the GBA, should take advantage of its global networks, international trade experience and well-developed service industry, and collaborate with other GBA cities to promote the development of China’s digital economy.
From another perspective, Hong Kong is seen as well on its way to finding its own model of democracy, democracy with Hong Kong characteristics, and a model of “one country, two systems.”
According to Angelo Giuliano, a Swiss financial and political analyst based in Hong Kong, “democracy is a flexible system based on key performance indicators and deliverables.
People need to understand that democracy in the SAR is a work in progress.
Maturity will come with time…In the 25th year of its return to the motherland, Hong Kong is entering a new era of opportunities where it can position itself as a key bridge between the West and the Chinese mainland, enjoying and personifying the best of both worlds.” (Email: [email protected])