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What we wish for

Today, we choose our new leader, I sure hope we choose wisely. Back in March, I wrote about the character of the leader we would wish for (“A curriculum vitae,” 03/31/22). Today, let me focus on a few of the things, we, in the business community, would expect of that leader.

It is essential that they continue to maintain and implement the commendable reforms this and previous administrations have achieved in opening up our economy and making the environment more workable for businesses to thrive. The next president must build on those reforms. The very worst thing he/she could do is to reverse any of the shifts that have brought us closer to an open, fairer, and more competitive environment. The absolute worst would be to bring anything backunder government control.

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There are still a few that could much improve business conditions sitting in Congress. The business sector has detailed them numerous times, so I won’t again here. If Congress doesn’t pass them in its last session, which I sincerely hope they do, then our next leader should use his/her influence to pass those outstanding bills rapidly (a word Congress may wish to look up) to finalize President Duterte’s reform package.

Mind you, too often I find that reforms that have been done aren’t enacted in the way promised. I’ll never forget recommending to President Duterte in his early days the need for a massive reform of the mind of the bureaucracy and its stultifying effect on the performance promised by reform that a convoluted bureaucracy doesn’t follow. He fully agreed with me — change the bureaucratic mindset — but was unable to achieve that change. Maybe our new president can.

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Digitalization is supposed to cure much of it—get the people out of the way. But when digitalization does occur, it isn’t always accompanied by a drastic simplification and speeding of the processes involved. Just a transfer from paper to screen. The Anti-Red Tape Authority has done a laudable job in this regard by streamlining many activities of business registration. Its role must be continued and strengthened with disciplinary powers. And, I would suggest, widened to cover all aspects of dealing with the government. Paper and the mindset that goes with it must disappear completely. The trees will love us. The air environment will too.

We need a general policy of the least involvement of government in human activities. For us in business that means don’t regulate or control unless there is a genuine need that has been discussed and agreed to with business and the consuming public first. Introduce a policy of talk, talk, talk. Always talk to all those that will be affected before making any change.

I have written about the frightening condition of the education of our kids (“Our future at risk,” 4/25/22). Fixing this must be at the top of the new president’s to-do list, with research into what are the underlying causes, so the correct solutions can be applied. Business and society need an educated citizenry.

A healthy, well-fed populace must rank up there equally. Agriculture Secretary William Dar has come up with a plan to achieve this and which should form the basis of actions to take, but it will need proper funding. On health, the universal health care law is a good one. Funding it fully, and putting into practice its intent must be a prime task of the next health secretary.

The Duterte-Dominguez team did well in instituting a doubling of expenditure (based on the percent of GDP) on building the infrastructure that had fallen so far behind in the past. The “Build, Build, Build” program must be continued at the same or even faster rate, this time getting the private sector more involved. The Ukraine – Russia war is likely to drain the ODA resources of most of our benefactors — as it should. Those ravaged people deserve all our support. Forget Chinese assistance, their promises remained just that for six years.

We are in the Fourth Revolution. The world is hurtling into ones and zeros at an astounding rate. Our laws and government’s attitudes must be designed for a new future. It’s a metaverse we face where the physical becomes indistinguishable from the virtual. It’s become hybrid. Where you work and what hours you work have lost all relevance. It’s all performance-based now. Employees, having tasted it, are demanding it. Businesses are seeing the benefits in their bottom lines. The government has no choice but to wade into it. Imagine if we’d ignored the Third Revolution and still manufactured each item individually, not mass production. We’d be the laughing stock of the world. Let’s not be one now.

Finally, let me bring to the fore the one thing that truly brings a country down: corruption. The advanced economies of the world became that way because they essentially eliminated corruption. The losers thrive on it. We need leadership that demands honesty from everyone else.

Will we grow at 8-10 percent? We could with the right leader, and the right policies in place and implemented.

Email: [email protected]
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