CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Who is having the last laugh now?
The joke going around the world in 1986 was that the Philippines had no money but it had a ministry of finance.
This is no longer true, the finance secretary during the Corazon Aquino administration, Jesus Estanislao, said here Saturday during observance rites of the 26th anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
The Philippines is now a creditor, rather than a debtor, nation, said Estanislao.
The biting joke about the Philippines was sprung on Estanislao when he went to Italy, Spain and other rich countries in 1986 to borrow money to revive the Philippine economy following the ouster of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Estanislao was chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines then.
“In one country, I was supposed to meet the minister of snow. I said, ‘How can you have a ministry of snow when you do not have snow?’ And an official said to me, ‘In the Philippines, you don’t have money but you have a ministry of finance,’”
“Twenty-six years ago, we had no international reserves, we couldn’t pay our debts and we kept borrowing. Now our reserves amount to $80 billion and we have lent $500 million to the [International Monetary Fund] that in turn lent the money to Spain and Italy,” he said.
Best Christmas gift
“We have become a creditor nation.”
Last December, Estanislao said he received the best Christmas gift in the form of an international banking report that listed the Philippines between the 30th and 100th strongest economies in the world.
“By 2050, the Philippines is seen to be the 16th strongest, biggest economy in the world,” Estanislao said.
“I’m here to tell you that this is possible because of what you’re doing in San Fernando,” he said, referring to the performance governance system (PGS) adopted by the city government.
In the Harvard University-designed PGS, everything, such as its vision, mission, goals and objectives, is measured. The PGS also enlists civil society and community groups in its decision-making.
Estanislao said that in a conference on democracy in South Korea earlier, the Philippines was hailed as the nation that “fired the shots in Asia,” which eventually led to the downfall of communist regimes in the 1990s.
Model of good governance
Last week, he said international experts who met with President Benigno Aquino III for a briefing on the government’s anticorruption drive advised him to keep doing what he was doing.
“The Philippines is going to be a model of good governance in the world,” said Estanislao.
He said his group, the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), was helping local governments use the PGS as a tool for improving their services and citizen participation.
Still, Estanislao said, public officials and citizens must address local issues like instituting political reforms and changing the political culture. This, he said, would help the Philippines overtake Thailand and Indonesia in terms of economic growth.
“We have to build our economy together, filter down the benefits to the barangays,” he said. “We’re all in this together is President Noynoy’s message.”