“Let’s stop and think before we give these politicians the power to run our country.”
With just over a month before election day, we will be bombarded with a tsunami of campaign promises from national and local candidates vowing to deliver their own solution to poverty. As responsible voters, we need to go beyond the propaganda creatively crafted to evoke a more emotional, rather than a rational response – to click “like” and not to think.
The country’s poverty problem has been as old as the re-hashed dreams of greatness vowed by presidential candidates. What analysts are seeing is that a deeply polarized electorate may be the reflection of the unfulfilled promises of our leaders to deliver prosperity to the broad population.
Some of the top developmental thinkers offered their well-studied analyses and recommendations during the latest series of forward-looking policy fora of the Stratbase ADR Institute held last week. Themed, “Bridging the Gap: Reducing Inequality in the Philippines for Inclusive Growth”, the truthful insights of the special papers launched in the event will save the next government a lot of over-thinking time and get the country back on the right track, hopefully.
Prof. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, in his paper, “Reducing Inequality in the Philippines: Rationale and Reforms”, pointed out that “inequality in its different forms, most notably in the political sphere, could derail economic growth and development by creating the conditions for impunity and severe political instability.”
Dr. Mendoza stressed that political party reform, freedom of information, dynasty regulation and campaign finance reforms as key political and governance reforms that must be prioritized.
The special paper on “Promoting an Investment-Driven Economy Through Good Governance” by Dr. Charlotte Justine Diokno-Sicat, Research Fellow, Philippine Institute for Development Studies and Vice President, Philippine Economic Society focused on the need for improved and innovative public sector governance.
Dr. Diokno-Sicat said that fiscal consolidation of the national government and strategic investments in both physical and human capital of both national and local governments is critical to encourage private sector participation at all levels.
She also points out that “Harnessing digitalization requires a whole-of-society approach and provides a major role for the private sector to contribute to or participate in sustaining economic recovery. This requires laying the foundation in infrastructure and systems, investments in human capital, financial sector, and private sector as partners.”
Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David, Stratbase ADR Institute Trustee and Program Convenor and Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship, Geologist, and Professor of the University of the Philippines in his paper “Improving the Philippine Agriculture Sector by Establishing Food Production Areas” lamented government leaders’ degradation of agriculture opting for industrialization resulting in problems in food security.
Dr. David recommends a self-contained food production area of mechanized industrial farms operating with surrounding small farms with integrated training, food processing and storage – a more feasible approach of the” one town, one product” idea of government.
Critical reforms in the education sector that must address the issues of access, completion, and employment were underscored by Mr. Christopher Tan, Chief Operating Officer of PHINMA Education and Board Member of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities. He pointed out the core market failure of providing low-cost high-quality education, the problem of completion owing to the confluence of financial, academic, and personal issues leading to dropouts among low-income students, and employment because of the focus on diplomas instead of skills needed by industries.
Mr. Francisco del Rosario, Jr., Chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia called for the transformation of the public sector before we can realize inclusive growth. He pointed out to self-serving leaders interested only invested interests, poor public services, and the immemorial problem of corruption draining our financial and natural resources for the enrichment of a few. He espoused “a government where every institution delivers, and every citizen participates and prospers.”
For his part, Stratbase ADR Institute president, Prof. Victor Andes “Dindo” Manhit stated addressing the persisting inequality in the Philippines requires a multi-stakeholder strategy where there is a better environment for investments by the private sector and public private partnerships that would generate jobs, improve livelihood income, and build comfortable lives for Filipinos in the long term.
In the next government, “We need a leader who acknowledges the important role that the private sector plays in development, especially through their investments across a wide range of sectors,” Manhit said.
In the next weeks, politicians who at least care to do so, will be trumpeting their platform of reforms to convince us voters to shade their little oval in the ballot, a power that we wield at the end of every political cycle. Before we give these politicians the power to run our country, it is our duty as citizens to scrutinize the historical facts and not be blinded by the deceivingly populist political showmanship designed to hide ugly truths.