Political stability is key to economic growth, and we as a nation have achieved this in the past 20 years despite a myriad of challenges and natural disasters.
The democratic process is working in the Philippines and has led to vibrant discussions on political and economic reforms. The smooth transition of power last week is an example of how we as a democratic country matured, notwithstanding our political differences.
My congratulations to former President Rodrigo Duterte for a job well done and to newly sworn-in President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for winning a six-year mandate to govern our country of over 110 million people.
President Duterte turned over a stable nation and a steady economy that is ready to move higher, thanks to strong macroeconomic fundamentals and unprecedented infrastructure projects that are at par with the best in the region.
Soon, we will have a subway in Metro Manila and a modern rail system from Clark to Bicol region. Even at their construction phases, these projects have already generated excitement and livelihood opportunities for thousands of people living along their routes and future passenger stations.
These are on top of the numerous roads and bridges built across the country and the public-private partnership ventures, such as the Skyway Stage 3, Nlex-Slex Connector Road, Metro Rail Transit Line 7 and the expansion of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.
These projects became possible because of the strong political will and resolute vision of President Duterte, who wanted to get things done for our nation. Amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, the government pushed through with these infrastructure projects, knowing that they would be vital to our economic recovery and job generation. Hence, we emerged stronger from the two-year pandemic, although we need to remain cautious in case of another virus surge.
Some 1.5 million jobs, per data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, have been added to the labor force in the past two years since the unemployment rate peaked at 17.6 percent at the start of Covid-19 in 2020. The Department of Public Works and Highways reported that 6.5 million jobs were generated under the “Build, Build, Build” program.
I am pleased to hear that the Marcos administration will continue the infrastructure buildup with its “Build Better More” campaign that will include digital infrastructure.
The Duterte administration left a strong regulatory environment that will sustain our economic expansion in the years to come. These include tax, education and economic reforms that aim to raise more revenues for government services, provide free tuition to millions of students and encourage more investments that will generate jobs for our young workforce.
This means the Duterte administration has wisely invested in our future, and it is evident in the investment-grade ratings bestowed on the Philippines by major credit rating agencies.
President Marcos indeed inherits a stronger, larger and more prosperous nation than any moment in our history. We are now the world’s 13th most populated nation and the 32nd biggest economy with a nominal GDP of nearly $400 billion. At the rate we are growing, the Philippines will be among the 25 biggest economies in the next three decades.
I am confident that President Marcos will sustain the solid growth achieved under the Duterte administration. This can be gleaned from his excellent choice of Cabinet secretaries, many of whom are topnotch economists and managers.
President Marcos, himself, decided to lead the Department of Agriculture to underscore the importance of the sector in national development. The farm and fisheries sector has failed to catch up with the growth of industry and services sectors over the past decades, with its contribution to the gross national income shrinking from 30 percent to less than 10 percent today.
Agriculture, however, continues to employ about a third of Filipinos and plays a crucial role in fighting inflation and strengthening food security. With President Marcos taking the helm of the DA, I hope that we will see a revival of the rural economy that will lead to stable food prices and poverty reduction.
The immediate priorities of the Marcos administration are addressing the rising inflation, boosting food production and sustaining economic growth. The appointment of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno as Finance secretary and leader of the economic team is a wise decision. Secretary Diokno is well experienced in managing public funds and keeping domestic liquidity supportive of growth.
In terms of food security, the government will have to find the delicate balance of amplifying local production and importing commodities that are in short supply in the market. We are a net importer of rice, wheat, meat and dairy products—and it would take years of farm revitalization to achieve self-sufficiency in these products. Hopefully, we can achieve it as soon as possible to mitigate our exposure to global supply risks.
The smooth transition of leadership from the Duterte to Marcos administrations and assurance of policy continuity will drive the Philippine economy to grow faster and achieve our 2022 economic growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent.
The solid economic legacy left by President Duterte and the strong trust of the people and the business community in President Marcos give the Philippines another fresh start to realize its dreams and aspirations.