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PH urged to shore up gains

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Local policymakers need to redouble their effort in tackling corruption and the perceived lack of the rule of law to ensure that the potency of recent economic reforms will not be diluted.

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US think tank Heritage Foundation said that by breaking up monopolies and welcoming more foreign firms, the Philippine economy would develop by a faster rate.

“There are efforts being taken to address corruption and change the culture to eliminate the … acceptance of corruption,” Heritage Foundation executive director Terry Miller told reporters from Manila.

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In an annual report released late January, the right-wing think tank based in Washington DC noted a significant improvement in the Philippines’ “economic freedom.”

Of 178 countries, the Philippines moved up to the top half at 76th place—13 notches ahead of last year’s ranking of 89th. With a score of 62.2 points out of a possible 100, the Philippines for the first time breached the global average of 60.4 points.

In the last four years alone, the country climbed 39 spots. Moreover, the Philippines ranked 13th of 42 countries in the Asia-Pacific region this year—an improvement from its regional rank of 17th last year.

The Philippines was among 12 economies that improved its score by at least 2 points from that of last year. The 11 others were Israel, Senegal, Haiti, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Maldives, Burundi, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Timor Leste, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In economically free societies, citizens sink or swim based on their own abilities, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, family connections, or any other factor unrelated to individual merit.

Miller said the Philippines performed well in several areas, particularly in dismantling protectionist measures that limited participation of foreigners in the banking sector. The country’s fiscal position has also improved, allowing government to spend more on infrastructure projects.

But he said the government should muster the political will to push for broader reforms in areas such as the judicial system, where decisions often favor those wielding more power and influence.

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“What we hope to see … are efforts to eliminate influence peddling in the judiciary, elimination of corruption in the judiciary,” he said, stressing that an individual has the right to go into a court of law and expect a fair ruling.

According to the foundation, which is a staunch advocate of conservative economic policies such as less government regulation in all industries, the Philippine Constitution needs to be amended so that other sectors—such as power, telecommunications, and media—can follow in the footsteps of the banking industry and allow more foreign participants.

Even with the Philippines’ stable macroeconomic fundamentals, Miller said, it still faces an uphill battle in competing with more open economies for long-term foreign investments that create jobs.

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TAGS: Corruption, Economic reforms, economy, Heritage Foundation, infrastructure projects, Philippine economy, Terry Miller
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