If it were me
The Duterte administration, and the ones before it, did much to open up the economy and create a more competitive environment for business. These reforms must be continued and expanded. Continuity of the changes that have been put in place by the past administrations is essential. The continuity of stability provided is essential to attracting large-scale investments, particularly from foreigners looking for a home.
In this regard, I hope Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was not serious about putting rice back under the control of the National Food Authority or re-regulating oil. These would be serious mistakes to make. In fact, Marcos Jr. should strive to get the government out of interfering in business as much as possible.
Marcos Jr. will be developing a plan for what he would like to achieve in his six-year term. I’d like to suggest to him some business-related things I think should be in his plan. So herewith is my Top 12 list for Marcos Jr. to consider. A list that I think captures what’s important on the economic side (I leave social to others more knowledgeable than me).
Whatever Marcos Jr. develops as his six-year policy and plans must be centered on three things:
Education. You must be educated to do a job, particularly in this modern information technology (IT) world where you must prioritize bringing kids into it, and making them job-ready. The president must address with utmost urgency the resolving of our worsening learning crisis. Start by fully reopening all schools.
Health. You must be healthy to do that job, so Marcos Jr. must rapidly upgrade the country’s health care system to one that keeps people healthy at an affordable cost. Prioritize building health centers in rural areas and upgrade salaries of overworked health care workers.
Agriculture. You must have food to sustain you — to do that job, to remain healthy. Developing food production into one that is world competitive and producing enough food for all must become something that’s never been before, a priority, not an afterthought. Increase the budget to at least five percent of the gross domestic product.
Let’s start with these three and add nine more.
Uphold the rule of law. A successful country is governed by law that is fair, indiscriminate, honest. It must not favor anybody and must be truly independent.
Substantially reduce corruption. A successful country does not tolerate corruption at any level, even small scale. But to achieve it, “big fish,” favored friends must go to jail. Examples must be set to put fear into others. The president must live a scrupulously honest life to set the example.
Listen to, agree with, and actively support the well-chosen core economic team. Provide expert assistance for those without the requisite expertise.
Continue the “Build, build, build” program. But shift more of it to being done by the private sector through private-public partnership arrangements. Most of our donor nations are helping the devastated Ukrainians, so foreign aid is likely to be in short supply. Focus also on building digital infrastructure to ensure fast and reliable internet connectivity in the countryside.
Move the Philippines into the IT world. Identify areas where the Philippines can be a leader, and fully support businesses that enter into it. Take all government services fully online. Expand and strengthen the role of the Anti-Red Tape Authority in digitizing, simplifying, and speeding up, not only services for businesses but all government services.
All of government, and especially Congress, must think “metaverse.” We are rapidly moving into a very changed world, a hybrid world. Where physical and virtual are merged. Our laws, our government actions, must be for this future, not the present.
Address the country’s future energy security. Coal-fired power plants must go, but only once a renewable energy alternative that is cost-competitive is available. Nuclear power should be one of the sources as France has shown and Germany wishes it had. We are a poor country where cost is critical. So, although we must strive to create a clean environment, we must do it pragmatically.
Join the world in addressing climate change. We must reduce pollutive emissions as rapidly as possible, but pragmatically. We are a very minor air polluter, so cost must remain an equally important consideration. But we are a major polluter of the world’s oceans. Number ONE in the world in dumping plastic into the seas. This must be stopped. Have a cleanliness campaign, with annual prizes for the cleanest barangay, town, city, region. It must become second nature to clean up as you go.
The Constitution. There is no question that the Constitution needs to change. The fear, as has always been the case, is that change will be oriented toward more power for existing politicians. So, start with a joint and concurrent resolution by both Houses to remove the economic restrictions. Further review of the Constitution must only be by a provably truly independent constitutional convention composed equally of delegates from all sectors of the community, with Congress having no more than two seats from each chamber.
Focusing the mind on only 12 issues to address means there’s a fair chance they might get done. And if achieved, becomes Marcos Jr.’s legacy of success. Will he do it?
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