Looking forward to 2016
This year will be different than last year because we will soon be electing a new president. This once-every-six-years political ritual is always looked at with excited anticipation and optimism by the public.
For all its faults and imperfections, a system of government that allows its people to elect, directly or indirectly, their leaders for the next three or six years is better than other schemes of political governance. An authoritarian system with an angel on the throne would be ideal. But our experience on conjugal dictatorship [whose lingering adverse effects its heirs continue to deny] shows there is no substitute yet for a democratic system of government.
Perennial critics and sceptics aside, it cannot be denied that the national economy has improved under the Aquino administration. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the foundations for good governance have already been laid. Unless the next tenant of Malacañang declares a revolutionary government, he or she cannot reverse the gains accomplished in, among others, the anti-corruption drive, public corporate governance and financial assistance to the marginalized sectors of our society.
With the elections just four months away, the business community is on a wait-and-see mode. The presidential aspirants who are serious with their candidacies have given motherhood statements on how, if elected, they plan to maintain and accelerate the country’s growth momentum. The problem is, campaign promises are not etched in stone. Political considerations and vested interests have a nasty way of diluting, if not setting aside, commitments made during the campaign.
It is reasonable to expect though that the incoming administration will not unwind or push aside the contracts already entered into or projects awarded during the Aquino administration. For legal and moral reasons, the sanctity of contracts should be honored and respected. This is the way things are done in the civilized world, more so in a country that claims to adhere to the rule of law.
The next president has his work cut out for him with the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) last year. The AEC is the third-largest economy in Asia and seventh biggest in the world. Collectively, it has a market value of $2.6 trillion and involves over 622 million people. The Asean members have agreed to commence the implementation of the integration plans starting this year and, hopefully, complete them by 2025.
Some sectors in the business community have expressed doubts about the country’s readiness to participate in this regional economic arrangement. They have expressed apprehension that the Philippines may be swamped by the products of other Asean members to the prejudice of our domestic industries, or local companies losing out in competition with their more financially-robust counterpart in the Asean countries.
Although the country operates under the free market principle, the business community cannot be left to fend for itself in the integration process. Private capital can only do so much in this endeavor. The government has to take an active role in the undertaking. It has to put in place with dispatch all the measures needed to ensure that the country will benefit, rather than lose, from this arrangement.
Knowing the sluggish pace of Congress, not to mention the mercenary nature of our lawmakers, the executive department will have to take the initiative or lead to prepare the business community and our people for the challenges of the AEC.
It will be recalled that, in 1993, then President Fidel Ramos used his executive powers, rather than wait for Congress, to deregulate the telecommunications industry. Through two executive orders, he dismantled the PLDT monopoly and encouraged the entry of more telecommunications operators. The new president can invoke or use the wide latitude of power that the Constitution and existing laws have vested in his office to make the business community and, in general, the country, reasonably competitive in the AEC.
This is just one of the many things in the economic field that the incoming administration will have to attend to when it gets into power this year. Hopefully, this year we will not be visited by as many natural calamities that did last year. How sad to lose many of our economic gains from the ravages of nature.
All things said, we still have a lot to optimistically look forward to this year.
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