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P Noy’s first year

/ 12:09 PM July 27, 2011

Whatever the P-Noy government’s failings, it is far, far better than the one it replaced,” says Conrado de Quiros of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in his column yesterday. I agree, except that some yardstick should also measure whatever P-Noy claims as his accomplishment based on what he or his team promised  at the start of his administration.

What were his promises? Let me cite a few.

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P-Noy in his 2010 Sona started with a litany of the how money was only wasted by the previous government. He promised to stop this waste by stopping wrong projects and instituting zero budgeting. There is no question that P-Noy is already doing this. One example is the dredging project of Laguna Lake. Believing that it is too expensive with no lasting result, P-Noy shelved the project. How much is saved? Only P18 billion!

We find, though, that the despite the urgent need for the government to maintain a certain level of expenditures to support the economy, the Aquino administration had been slow in using its funds that are already programmed for spending. P-Noy did not mention this in his Sona but the report on the first-quarter GDP showed that instead of increasing, government expenditures went down by 13.9 percent in nominal terms or 17.2 percent in real terms. This happened, government people explain, because of the need to scrutinize every government expenditure item more fully to avoid waste. So be it but those doing the scrutiny better do their job fast or the economy will only suffer more for  inadequate government expenditures, especially those intended to modernize our infrastructure to attract more investors.

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Reminding that creating jobs is foremost on his agenda and would come from the growth of industries, P-Noy also promised to streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest. This is one area perhaps that still needs pushing especially that this needs the full cooperation of local government units where the investors register their businesses to operate. If this year or next year’s World Bank’s report on Doing Business will show that the Philippines has risen from its low ranking compared to our neighbors in Asia, that would be the real sign that P-Noy has accomplished his promise in this regard.

Meanwhile, P-Noy happily reported that in his first year in office, the unemployment rate went  down from 8 percent to 7.2 percent with 1.4 million workers now added to the class of the employed. However, the job creation capability of the economy may not be that strong yet as evidenced by the fact that of the 1.4 million added to the employed class from April 2010 to April this year, many were underemployed as shown by the 829,000 increase in the number of underemployed in the same period. Those fully employed increased only by around 600,000.

We have so many needs, P-Noy said in his first Sona in 2010: from education, infrastructure, health, military to police. His solution: public-private partnership. “From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary,” he said in his 2010 Sona.

What now? None of the first few much talked about PPP projects have taken off so far and this is perhaps the reason P-Noy never mentioned the PPP again in his Sona last Monday. Many were disappointed.

He promised to convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) to discuss important bills that needed to be passed. He promised to push for the Fiscal Responsibility bill that will limit the spending bills only for appropriations that have identified a source of funding. He said according to our Constitution, it is the government’s duty to ensure that the market is fair for all. Therefore, no monopolies, no cartels that kill competition. He said  we need an Anti-Trust Law to give life to these principles to uphold  small and medium scale enterprises. I do not think these were done already. All these will take more time to do, but in his last Sona, P-Noy also thanked Congress for passing laws on GOCC governance, ARMM Synchronization, Lifeline Electricity Rates Extension, Joint Power Congressional Commission Extension, Children and Infant’s Mandatory Immunization, and Women Night Workers. Well, thank you!

In his column yesterday, De Quiros also said “the ultimate test of a government’s worth is not economic performance; it is who benefits from that performance. The ultimate test of a government’s worth is not growth; it is who benefits from that growth. The ultimate test of a government’s worth is not the size of the GNP, or GDP, or whatever letters of the alphabet you like to put in to conjure magical, or fictitious, accomplishments. It is the size of the tribe that prospers beyond its wildest imagination and the number of people who suffer beyond their stoutest capacity for endurance.”

These I also agree with. I would like to add, though, that unless there is rapid, sustained, long-term economic growth, it is next to impossible to move many of our people out of poverty. However, without good governance, it is also hard to achieve rapid, sustained, long-term economic growth.

P-Noy is right,  then, in focusing on one thing—good governance and the removal of our wang-wang mentality.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, governance, Government, SONA 2011, State of the Nation
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