On Feb. 20, President Duterte and his Cabinet, acting as the board of the National Economic and Development Authority, approved the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.
The PDP targets growth of 7 percent to 8 percent per year during the six years of his presidency. It seeks to reduce poverty to 14 percent by 2022 from 21.6 percent at present, and rural poverty to 20 percent from 30 percent. Unemployment will be brought down to 3 percent from 5 percent.
Those are ambitious numbers, numbers not validated by previous performance or experience. But then Duterte is a different president and change has come. Imagine unemployment at three percent? It seems like we will have full employment by 2022. That is like saying the Duterte regime will create 12 million jobs in six years—something no president before has done.
The PDP singles out infrastructure as a key enabler of inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development.
The plan envisions government infra spending equivalent to 5.4 percent of economic output or GDP or P860 billion beginning 2017, and rising to 7 percent of GDP by 2022. Budget Secretary Ben Diokno estimates total infra spending to be P8.2 trillion in six years, something no president has spent before.
Government and the private sector must indeed pour huge amounts on infra.
Our infra statistics are outrageous. According to Neda data, among the five original Asean countries—Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, we have the poorest quality of infrastructure.
We have the most expensive electricity. Our electricity price is twice that of Singapore and three times that of Malaysia.
We have the slowest and most expensive internet service. The Philippines’ slow download speed (less than 3 mbps) is more than twice the average of the Asean Five (7 mbps) and three times the average of the entire Asia Pacific region (9 mbps).
Our broadband cost is twice that of Thailand, seven times that of Malaysia, and 12 times that of Singapore. Broadband cost as a percentage of income per capita is very high—7.53 percent, compared with .63 percent of Singapore, 1.11 percent of Malaysia, and 3.89 percent of Thailand.
We have the worst airports. The only thing that beats congestion at Naia airport is traffic at Edsa.
We have the most inadequate railway system.
In addition, 3.3 million families have no access to safe drinking water. Six million Filipinos have no toilets.
Neda cites three reasons— “corruption, insufficient competition, low credibility of institutions.” Neda is being polite. What it means is that government men allow themselves to be corrupted by utilities monopolies. And regulators are captive to these monopolies (“low credibility of institutions”).
In Metro Manila and nearby areas, there are only two major water retailers—Manila Water and Maynilad. Nationwide, there are only two telephone companies—PLDT and Globe. PLDT and Maynilad have the same owners, as do Globe and Manila Water. So two families or two oligarchies own our telephones and our water. The owner of PLDT and Maynilad also owns Meralco, the electricity distribution monopoly.
Have you ever checked your electricity and water bills? They amount to easily 25 percent of your monthly income—a ratio that is much higher than the taxes you pay government and what you pay for your children’s tuition. Now, government and education are about your future and only two families (we have 22.7 million families, by the way) hold them hostage.
Neda laments that “although infrastructure development has remained a priority of government, the overall quality of infrastructure in the country still lags behind other members of the Asean. The actual government spending fell short of the targets for 2012 and 2014 despite the increased budgetary allocation for infrastructure provision.”
Moreover, the inadequacy in the provision of infrastructure has been evident in the country’s global performance and ranking in terms of overall infrastructure quality, which is the worst among Asean-5 counterparts, winces Neda.