‘Filipinos must choose President who can continue reforms’
An economist has urged Filipinos to choose a president who will not only be able to “unite the nation,” but will also continue the reforms that the Aquino administration has started to implement.
Flashing the photos of presidential candidates Sen. Grace Poe, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Vice President Jejomar Binay, Inquirer columnist Cielito F. Habito said: “The president we need to choose is one who is most likely able to bring together disparate parties and contending segments of our society so we can all unite behind a true national vision and finally earn the word nation to describe us. We are very far from becoming a true nation because of our lack of oneness.”
Habito, who spoke before members of the Management Association of the Philippines on Tuesday, noted that what the country needed from the next president was a “commitment to continuing reform.”
“For sustaining the growth that has sputtered in the first half of the year, we need to ramp up infrastructure investment. This will be the single most important constraint on further growth in the years ahead. We’ve already seen the effect of traffic, slow Internet, and all of these things that impede expanding business,” said Habito, who is also former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
“We also have to ease persisting investment restrictions. We need to ease up those constitutional restraints as we are keeping foreign direct investments out,” he added.
For the inclusive side of growth, Habito stressed the need to have a concerted effort to champion the cause of the micro, small and medium sized enterprises.
He said the government should declare MSME expansion and development as the centerpiece of its economic program as this will be the key to inclusive growth.
Inclusive value chains as well as wider competition should be supported as well.
For this year, Habito said he expected the economy to grow between 5.5 percent and 6 percent, while inflation may be around 2 percent.
Unemployment rate, meanwhile, was projected to reach 6 to 6.8 percent.
What is expected to drive economic growth over the next two years include the major infrastructure projects coming on stream; reconstruction in disaster areas; new manufacturing projects; investments in anticipation of Asean Economic Community; continued remittance growth; new investments in Bangsamoro areas; lower fuel prices; and election-related spending.
Habito said the country’s gross domestic product traditionally spikes during election years. The past decade saw average GDP growth of 7 percent during election years as against the 4.5 percent average during nonelection years.
What may dampen the projected growth within the next two years, according to Habito, included the continued choke on commerce due to port and road traffic congestion in Metro Manila; anticipated severe El Niño spell; slow government spending; uncertainties in the global economy as evidenced by slowing export demand; “wait and see” attitude of investors; and lingering peace conflicts in Mindanao.
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