Debate on economic issues
THE FIRST presidential debate for this year’s elections drew contrasting reactions from the public.
Some were happy to see and hear the five aspirants on one stage explain their stand on some of the important issues of the day. Others felt the candidates were not given sufficient time to expound on their platforms.
Many were turned off by the commercial advertisements—48 minutes in all—aired during the two-hour program. What was originally thought of as a public service turned out to be a moneymaking venture for GMA7.
It’s doubtful though if the advertisers got their money’s worth because the lengthy break enabled basketball aficionados to intermittently watch ongoing local and foreign basketball games or attend to their personal needs without missing the candidates’ statements.
Two more presidential debates are scheduled in Cebu City and Metro Manila under the auspices of TV5 and ABS-CBN and their print media partners.
Hopefully, these sponsors will treat these events as opportunities to assist the electorate make an informed decision on their choice of the country’s next president, rather than events that can be exploited (like telenovelas) for their commercial value.
Except for Davao City Mayor Rodolfo Duterte who focused on the issues of corruption and peace and order, the rest of the candidates gave snapshots of their plans on economic development.
They promised to, among others, build more infrastructure projects in the rural areas, subsidize agricultural production, and undertake programs that will bring the fruits of economic progress to the underprivileged members of our society.
The motherhood statements prompted Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (who was a shadow of her former feisty self) to ask where the candidates will get the money to finance the costs of those plans.
She raised a significant point, but the other candidates ignored it and continued their spiels as if it were a non-issue. If the same issue had been brought up in any of the programs that the two moderators presently host, they will no doubt pursue it to its logical conclusion.
But they could not because they were under severe time constraints and so the matter was left hanging in the air.
The program format gave very little room to discuss issues other than corruption, crime, lack of infrastructure, qualities of leadership and the problems of Mindanao.
Unless the sponsors of the two other presidential debates decide differently, it is likely that, except for Mindanao’s problems, the same issues will be taken up again.
This is not to say that those issues are insignificant, but the sponsors should give serious consideration to making the candidates explain how they intend to solve the problem that underlies many of those issues—the development of our economy.
A robust economy enables the government to initiate projects and activities that can alleviate living conditions, improve the educational system, construct the needed infrastructure and maintain a bureaucracy that can efficiently and honestly attend to the people’s needs.
Except for some broad strokes, the candidates have yet to present in detail the economic programs they plan to implement to make the C, D and E sectors of our society share in the prosperity that the country is supposedly enjoying under the present administration.
Credit rating upgrades and awards for best finance minister or banking official of the year mean nothing when two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line.
If, for one reason or another, the economic issues cannot be included among the topics for discussion in the coming presidential debates, the business community should take on the responsibility to make it happen.
It’s true some of the candidates have spoken to select business organizations to present their economic programs, but these occasions were no better than “acquaintance parties” with both sides trying to be in their best behavior.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, since the speaking engagements were held during lunch hour, there had been little opportunity for the economic platforms to be closely scrutinized (or ripped apart) to test their effectiveness or viability.
By putting the candidates in one forum and asking them to examine each other’s programs, we will know who are knowledgeable with the country’s economic problems and who are merely parroting the position papers prepared by their advisers.
The country’s reputable business organizations, e.g., Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Philippine Chamber of Industries and Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines, have the standing that can forcefully persuade the five presidential candidates to stand before their members and explain their economic programs.
To avoid possible complaints of bias or business executives being labeled as for or against a candidate, the scrutiny of the candidates’ programs can be entrusted to a panel of reputable TV business commentators or financial analysts.
It would be ideal to air the presidential debate on economic issues on TV or radio to enable the public to listen in. If this is not feasible as it may eat into valuable radio or TV time, the event can be broadcast instead on live streaming or other Internet-based media platforms.
Hearing the candidates’ statements on these issues directly is a lot better than reading them in newspaper reports, which are susceptible to biased editing or misinterpretation.
The country’s economic problems are too important to be left to the president or whoever he or she appoints to handle them. For comments, please send your e-mail to [email protected]
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