Commentary: Economy gains new maturity
Roxas Ciy (21 February) -- Just like wine that tastes better as its ages, the Philippine economy has gained a "new maturity" after more than 30 years of hitting and fighting off the doldrums.
Addressing foreign correspondents during an economic briefing held recently in Metro Manila, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared that 2007 was the best year for the Philippine economy in over 30 years with economic growth at 7.3 percent, a million new jobs were created, unemployment and poverty down, the stock market up, and the peso at its highest level in eight years.
The Chief Executive enumerated the gains reaped by the country from the economic turnaround that was brought about by painful but necessary reforms and exercise of political will.
She also said that investment from abroad is pouring in and that the Philippines has been cited by the Financial Times of London as the "Offshore Destination of the Year" and by the International Data Corporation the top global outsourcing destination after India, respectively.
The billion-dollar investment club in the country includes Texas Instruments with its $1.6 billion wafer fabrication facility; two new shipyards of Korea's Hanjin costing $3.7 billion, which make us the fourth biggest shipbuilder in the world. Marubeni, Tokyo Electric and America's AES have all invested billions of dollars in our power sector. And most recently, Mittal Global joined the ranks of Intel and Proctor and Gamble, to name but a few major investors.
The strong economic growth in the 7 percent zone is also expected this year plus the confidence that as a result of the total economic overhaul, the country is well-positioned to weather a global economic slowdown.
President Arroyo pointed out that the real story for 2008 is that our macroeconomic fundamentals are stronger than ever due to tough choices on boosting revenues, cracking down on tax cheats, bringing reform to our revenue collection and modernizing our banking and financial sector. We have reformed our budget to be in balance ahead of the Medium Term Plan schedule.
Last year, she said, our deficit was only P9.4 billion, the lowest in ten years and far below our ceiling of P63 billion. Revenues were up almost 16 percent from 2006. Seven years ago, no one thought we could do it, but we have. We are continuing the pace of progress that has made our economy so strong.
It is the people of this nation whom we serve — whom our government serves — and it is to the people that we owe my allegiance and dedication to advance this nation every single day. We have weathered a global transformation together as we fight to rise above the political noise in order to uplift the poor and dispossessed who deserve a rightful place at the table of economic opportunity and social justice.
In order to enable the country to weather the slowing of the economy in North America and Europe, the President said the government has developed a program that includes: insuring continued investments in people and infrastructure; insuring that we continue to pursue anti-corruption initiatives and to cut red tape; providing targeted relief to the poorest amongst us who suffer the most from the high price of global energy.
She said the government takes the ZTE issue very seriously and she moved quickly to cancel the project after proper consultation with the government of China, the Philippines' biggest export market.
She said we want to fight corruption and would not tolerate it. The Ombudsman will carry out a review of the ZTE issue and the related allegations. The Secretary of Justice is also set to investigate those implicated who are not within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
The President said she trusts that the Ombudsman will investigate this issue thoroughly and that she will ensure a transparent process in doing so and for the Secretary of Justice to likewise be thorough and transparent in his investigation.
There is no room for corruption in the development of our country when so much remains to be done to invest in the nation, the President said. He added that it is a sad fact that the Philippines has a legacy of political corruption.
While that legacy will not be erased overnight, she said we have made tremendous strides. We have made anti-corruption one of the key areas of focus for reform in the remainder of our term.
Last year, she organized the Anti-Red Tape Task Force headed by Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila and a Procurement Transparency Group headed by Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya.
President Arroyo said the foundation of our economic renaissance is built on a vision for our nation that includes strong global engagement, tough economic reforms, and huge investments in people and infrastructure to move our nation forward. Our day in the sun will come if we redouble our efforts to achieve a moral transformation, social justice and economic equality.
The work of governance is difficult. The ability to change the status quo is an uphill fight every day. We battle to liberate every Filipino from poverty and invest in their health, education and welfare.
We will not rest until I leave office in 2010 from keeping this nation on the path of progress. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Though poverty has gone down, there are still too many poor. Though hunger has gone down, there are still too many hungry. There are still too many left out of our political processes. And there are too many cloaks themselves in easy rhetoric and lazy charges who would put personal ambition ahead of national progress.
We call on our political leaders of all parties and preferences to look to our future and ensure stability for the sake of the nation. Let us put aside partisan wrangling as candidates jockey for the presidency. Let us focus on a common agenda of growth, hope and opportunity that lifts up, rather than tears down, our nation at this important time in our history.
The economic results of 2007 show the promise of what the Philippines can and should be. Let us work together to make sure we attain this progress, uninterrupted.
I am confident and bullish on our economy, our people and our ability to join hands to move this nation forward.
President Arroyo this new maturity in our economy has brought a new confidence that forms the foundation of sustained economic growth moving forward. We are at a tipping point. I am confident that the Philippines will tip forward in pursuit of reaching the status of First World Nation within a generation.
"We should all be proud of what we have accomplished. We thank our economic managers, the leaders of industry, and most important, all the hard-working and dedicated Filipino workers leading this nation to a new beginning," she said. (PIA-JSC) [top]