IT would seem that unity is working for the country’s economic recovery, a local economist said after the President delivered his 71-minute State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Jonathan L. Ravelas, senior adviser at professional services firm Reyes Tacandong & Co., told BusinessMirror that the President’s second SONA was able to address several pain points such as education and jobs; affordable healthcare; and efforts to address inflation and strengthen the economy.
Ravelas also said it was also made clear by the President that his focus included efforts to raise revenues and reduce inflation. However, he said, these are not enough, especially given the El Niño.
“It seems the unity strategy is helping the economy turn a corner. However, challenging inflation and El Niño remains but also provided plans in mitigating these risks,” Ravelas said. “He (the President) is taking his high approval rating for a spin.”
Ravelas said it also remains to be seen whether the President’s approval ratings will be enough to sway the legislature to pass 18 measures, some of which have not been directly identified in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, the country’s medium-term socioeconomic blueprint.
Ateneo Center for Research and Development (ACERD) Associate Director Ser Percival K. Peña-Reyes told BusinessMirror the President’s SONA was a “well-articulated speech.”
Portions of the SONA that appealed to him were the discussion on inflation, food production, particularly agriculture and fisheries as well as jobs creation. Peña-Reyes was also partial to the President’s “punitive stance against smugglers and hoarders.”
“I hope we can attract more FDI for the renewable energy projects mentioned in the speech,” Peña-Reyes said. “I just wish housing would figure more prominently in our infrastructure push.”
While she agreed with some of the President’s priority bills, De La Salle University economist Maria Ella Oplas believes not all these bills are urgent and there are more important ones.
She agreed with the need to impose a motor vehicle road tax, noting too many motorcycles on the road. These are also linked to a number of deaths and accidents.
More worthy bills
Oplas said, however, that one bill meriting priority is the review of the Agri-Agra Law, which studies have already found to be ineffective. As the country’s Agriculture Chief, the President should have included it in his legislative agenda.
“Honestly, I question the urgency of the identified bills,” Oplas told this newspaper. “I believe that there are other much worthy bills thad they have to prioritize that will bring higher impact to the economy.”
Ateneo de Manila University economist Leonardo Lanzona told BusinessMirror that none of the priority measures addressed the basic concerns of the country which are inflation and jobs.
It would have been better, Lanzona said, to include “a regional based development program that allows each region to address these basic concerns individually.”
Like Oplas, Lanzona questioned whether all bills cited by the President are needed now. He was also unsure if these are enough to address the country’s needs and could be accomplished.
“What about the political reforms that will create a broader participation of people and organizations in the decisions being made in government? Good economics stem from good politics. The highly centralized system of governance with full control of the different branches of government hardly characterizes good politics,” Lanzona told BusinessMirror.
Meanwhile, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) President Benedicta Du-Baladad said the economic gains cited by the President were welcome news, but these are not the only things that matter for the country right now.
Du-Baladad cited a need to address inequality in the country. She noted that the gap between the rich and the poor is very wide as measured by a Gini coefficient —a measure of inequality—of 41 percent as of 2021.
“That translated to more than half (57 percent) of our population considered as low-income class and living in the poverty line and below. This is a heavy burden that the government has to address with urgency,” Du-Baladad said.
Nonetheless, she said MAP welcomed the government’s initiatives to address critical social development issues, such as malnutrition, low level of education, employment, providing better social services, improving health services, and digitalization for financial inclusion.
Du-Baladad said MAP is helping the government address inequality through its programs such as the Campaign against Malnutrition and Child Stunting (CAMACS) that called for multisectoral, concerted effort to ensure that the first 1,000 days of a child from inception to under 3 years of age are given access to healthy food and micronutrients.
Aligned with CAMACS, the MAP will soon craft a 5-year blueprint for shared prosperity, embodying commitments on how businesses can help lift the poor out of poverty as manifested in their dealings towards their employees, customers, suppliers, communities where they operate, the environment and other stakeholders.