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Christmas wish for PH

/ 01:55 AM December 26, 2015

It’s Christmas again and once more we look back at what could have been and what could be.

A Christmas wish can be for one’s self and loved ones—as is normally the case—or for others.

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Often, the wish is the same year in and year out. But we never give up. We persist, we hang on to the thought that one of these days, our dream or wish will come true. One can dream and stop there, or one can do something about it, no matter how insignificant or trivial it may seem given the odds stacked against its becoming a reality.

I do dream and make wishes, but not just for myself and my family. My dream is for my country, which at this point may seem to be a pipe dream, but it is one that I do not want to give up on. I will continue to wish for a country that, for all intents and purposes, is comparable to an advanced economy like that of Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, or Taiwan. It is possible, but we need a clearly defined plan on how to get there and make things happen, rather than just float along and hope for the best. It is possible, and it can be done. But there will have to be enough of us wishing it and working toward it.

Where are we at the moment? There are many factors—economic, political, and social—that we can use to assess where we are. But considering the space limitations, let’s just focus on the very vital few, two to be precise.

One area to focus on is infrastructure, which is key to all economic progress. It is the lifeblood of any economic development. We need sufficient and efficient infrastructure built, not to address present needs, but the needs for the next 10 to 20, or even 30, years. A subway system for Metro Manila should be seriously considered. Technological and engineering advances are already available to address the flooding situation to make this possible. Next is high-speed rail passenger dedicated lines (PDL) in Luzon, starting with the Manila-Clark Corridor, using proven Chinese technology that can do speeds of 300 to 350 kilometers per hour, eventually extending to Legazpi in the south and La Union in the north.

Fine, but where do we get the funds needed to pay for all these infrastructure investments? Can we sustain the demand for funds to make this a reality? Others might say that we need massive foreign direct investments for these projects, but I say otherwise. The funds are already here, simply waiting to be tapped and channeled to these sorely needed projects.

There is close to P1 trillion in funds just sitting in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Special Deposit Accounts. These funds should be unlocked and invested in badly needed infrastructure rather than sitting in international reserves. Introduce 20- to 30-year instruments and securities that would enable both the public and the private sectors to put these funds to productive use. Circulate the money, increase its velocity, and it will generate economic activity that would provide additional jobs and income to the people and, consequently, more taxes to the government. The Asean-integrated market will address a possible increase in prices because of the demand-supply situation that these massive projects would entail, thus avoiding price-driven cost increases.

Is the funding for these infrastructure investments sustainable, including the huge demand it would create for foreign exchange? Certainly! The remittances of overseas Filipino workers and the income from business process outsourcing are approaching the $50-billion mark annually, and are expected to continue growing. Surely these are sufficient to address the expected demand for foreign exchange that these projects would entail.

The second area that needs to be addressed is the seriously broken Philippine judicial system. We cannot fight massive corruption unless we first clean up the judiciary. In the past, it is the executive and the legislative branches that have been the focus of anticorruption activities. But as we have seen, there is no significant progress because we have failed to hit the nail on the head. That nail is the judiciary.

Our judiciary is corrupt. Many lawyers lie and cheat to obscure the truth to win their cases, and if these tricks do not work, there is still the option of buying the prosecutors, judges and justices at the right price. Massive judicial reforms are necessary to weed out the corrupt in the judicial system. Speedy resolution of corruption cases involving the people in the judiciary, in addition to plunder, should be pursued with utmost urgency. Corruption cases that take 10 to 20 years to resolve should be a thing of the past. These should be resolved within months—or a year at most—to drive home the message that the government is serious about stamping out massive corruption in the public sector.

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The government can adopt a policy of meting out a lighter sentence to guilty parties if they cooperate in the arrest of a corrupt prosecutor, judge, or justice. Better to let one guilty criminal off easy than have a corrupt judiciary continue to destroy our faith in the government.

David L. Balangue ([email protected] com.ph) chairs the Coalition Against Corruption and the National Movement for Free Elections.

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TAGS: Christmas, corruption, infrastructure, wish
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