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Miscellaneous and non-defense topics => Filipino Potential => Topic started by: adroth on July 25, 2018, 04:23:59 PM

Title: Cesar Virata assesses Phl economic reforms, directions
Post by: adroth on July 25, 2018, 04:23:59 PM
Cesar Virata assesses Phl economic reforms, directions
CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) - Gerardo P. Sicat
(The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2017 - 12:00am

Former prime minister Cesar Virata has written a short piece entitled “The Philippines readying for a suite of changes” for the East Asia Forum, a newsletter designed to inform on international economic development matters involving the Asia Pacific region.

Although written mainly for an international audience, it is useful for all who monitor Philippine developments. What follows below is his full article.

(We are fortunate that Mr. Virata, the country’s foremost senior economic statesman, has allowed us to share his article with readers of this column. To align with this column’s style, I added a few headings.)

The new Duterte government. The 2016 mid-year general election in the Philippines delivered power to the Philippine Democratic Party-Power of the People (PDP-Laban) and a new president, Rodrigo Duterte. With the change in national leadership, the Philippine economy has continued to perform well, growing at 6.8 percent.

The new Duterte administration has focused on drastically reducing the country’s drug problem and corruption in government. It has also prioritized advancing the ongoing peace process with Communist groups and the Muslim Bangsamoro groups. Police and armed forces are also continuing to pursue the Abu Sayyaf Group, a jihadist terrorist organization.

Economic and social fronts. The Duterte administration aims to reduce poverty by liberalizing investments and focusing on agriculture, food processing and infrastructure. These reforms are aimed at increasing employment, reducing poverty in rural areas and improving infrastructure to alleviate bottlenecks across the land, sea and air transport systems.

The proposed 2017 budget allocates up to five percent of GDP for infrastructure spending. To meet this infrastructure budget, the government has filed a congressional bill granting emergency powers to the Secretary of Transportation to bypass regulatory impediments, as well as facilitate the bidding of contracts and procurement of materials and equipment.

But to pave the way for increasing infrastructure investment, the overall capacity of both public and private sector contractors needs to be revved up.

In terms of the broader economy, Duterte has signed off on a P3.35 trillion budget (approximately US$153 billion) for 2017, an 11 percent increase on the previous year’s budget expenditure.

This increase in spending is to be met by proposed tax reforms targeting up to P1 trillion in additional tax revenues by 2018-2019. But so far the tax proposals that increase the tax rate have been questioned by Congress, while tax reductions have gained support. Even if the majority of Congress becomes aligned with the PDP-Laban party, the general lack of discipline in party politics means successful reform is not guaranteed.

The government has also proposed a 10-point basic socio-economic agenda which aims to increase employment, reduce poverty, improve education and health, as well as build up infrastructure to increase efficiency and productivity. But some aspects of the agenda have not been well aligned.

With many unemployed or underemployed, stricter labor rules are being implemented to make contractual labor arrangements illegal or difficult to obtain.

Likewise, the Philippines is rich in mineral resources, but responsible mining is not being promoted. Land use policy is ill-defined, meaning that government agencies and local government units have overlapping authority structures.

Uncertainties. There are also uncertainties that have been brought by remarks made by Duterte  and various Cabinet members on the Philippines’ foreign policy and economic reform that could affect investments in certain areas.

The remarks have been neither confirmed nor denied by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) or Duterte. While this can be attributed to initial internal conflict in the Cabinet as part of the learning curve, it has promoted a degree of uneasiness and uncertainty.

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Title: Re: Cesar Virata assesses Phl economic reforms, directions
Post by: adroth on July 26, 2018, 12:17:06 AM
Before Duterte won the election, and when he was still firming up his policies, he actually sought out the advice of Cesar Virata.


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'Not an expert'

Duterte came clean in front of his audience: “I must confess, I’m a lawyer, I’m not familiar with the impact of taxation on the country.”

When it comes to economic policies, Duterte admitted he's not an authority. He later on joked that as a student he got only a grade of 84 in economics.

“We can all see that he’s not an economic expert,” said businessman Ferdinand Santos of Metro Countryside after listening to Duterte’s speech. “But he has a lot of common sense,” he added.

But both Wallace and Santos like the fact that Duterte has an ear open for advice.

Duterte told them he was “open to suggestions” and that he has set an appointment with former finance minister Cesar Virata to discuss his economic policy. UP economics professor Ernesto Pernia is among his advisers.

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