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Wishful economic ‘wish list’

Hope springs eternal.

This adage may have inspired the 13 local and foreign business groups that signed a joint statement on the economic measures they want Congress to act on to improve the country’s economy and make it more competitive in the international market.

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The wish list, which contains some of the administration’s tax reform proposals, consists of Priority List A (13 measures) and Priority List B (15 measures).

Priority List A includes, among others, the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High Quality Opportunities (Trabaho bill), amendment of the 83-year-old Public Service Act, relaxation of bank secrecy and lifting of foreign investment restrictions.

Priority List B seeks the enactment of, among others, the Farm Entrepreneurship Act, Holiday Rationalization Act, National Land Use Act, National Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act and Water Regulatory Commission Act.

With President Duterte’s allies holding the majority in the two chambers of Congress, the business groups are probably hopeful their wish list (or at least some of it) stands a good chance of getting legislative approval before his term ends in 2022.

No doubt, if all the items mentioned in the wish list come to fruition within the next three years, the country’s economic development will be assured. It would be a lasting legacy of the Duterte administration to the coming generations.

Based on past experience, it is reasonable to expect some (if not all) of Priority List A to be favorably acted upon by the House of Representatives if submitted as administration bills. And with dispatch, if certified as urgent by the President.

It is common knowledge that whatever any sitting administration wants from the House it gets without a sweat. More so today when its leadership was decided in Malacañang rather than on its floor.

But the same cannot be said of the Senate where in recent years, in spite of the dominance of the President’s allies, the senators have acted independently and scrutinized the bills passed by the House before agreeing to their enactment.

Thus, of the 13 measures in Priority List A, getting six enacted into law (or two bills per year) would be a feat.

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Even then, their enactment would not be a walk in the park. Since they involve issues that relate to the Constitution and the personal interests of the lawmakers, their discussion would be intense and emotional.

Well, with regard to Priority List B, the chances of their even getting at first base in Congress are quite nil. But there’s no harm in trying. Sometimes, good luck comes in unexpected times.

If the business groups are keen on pushing for the enactment of doable items in their wish list, they have to do more than sign a joint statement or issue media releases to catch the lawmakers’ attention.

They have to work closely with the administration’s economic managers and lobby with influential congressional leaders from the committee level to the plenary.

They have to flex their muscles and use the influence that accompanies the significant role they play in the country’s economic development.

The “persuasive power” of business groups with the economic managers was evident in Mr. Duterte’s veto of the Security of Tenure bill in spite of the fact he earlier certified it as urgent.

From the looks of it, the economic managers have the President’s ear as they were able to make him backtrack on a campaign promise that contributed to his election in 2016.

Time is of the essence in the consideration by Congress of the business groups’ wish list. Three years is not a long time.

A year before the 2022 national elections, the lawmakers would be busy working on their reelection, running for another elective post, or campaigning for their presidential candidate. This means legislative work would take a back seat.

Given this scenario, the business groups’ wish list may remain what it is—a wish.

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