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PIA Press Release

Get Real: Positive news

By Solita Collas-Monsod
Reprinted from Philippines Daily Inquirer (posted October 07, 2006)

Quezon City (8 October) -- In the meantime, let us dwell on more positive developments which are heartening enough to keep us going in the struggle to a better future.

There is the Government Infrastructure Forum that took place three days ago. Not that the forum itself was a heartening development (forums are a dime a dozen). What was heartening about this one, which expanded on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s super-regions concept, was that the government agencies involved — and the “champions” for each of the super-regions — had done their homework and had done it well. They presented a profile of the regions and the roles that each plays in the overall economic picture. They listed the projects to further enhance these roles and gave project costs. They had the schedules all worked out. And finally, they identified the sources of financing for these projects.

In other words, it seems that in this case, the government knows where it wants to go, how it is going to get there, and in what way the private sector can participate — all these couched not in motherhood statements but with specific details worked out. This is pretty impressive, because it occurs so rarely, requiring a tremendous amount of interagency cooperation.

The only major shortcoming I must point out is that there seemed to be no discussion about how they would avoid the causes of delay that have hounded government infrastructure projects, which have resulted in ruined development timetables and tremendous cost overruns, and unmet targets.

Nevertheless, what was presented at that forum speaks well of the government’s commitment to growth and development. One thing is sure: If the government does walk this walk, it will lay the foundations for a stronger and more sustainable growth path.

The second heartening development, which cannot be overemphasized, is the improving fiscal picture of the economy. The two-percentage point increase in the value-added tax, or VAT, (to 12 percent from 10 percent) at the beginning of the year is the major contributor here, and while one is not sure that the tax effort ratio will indeed improve by an additional P80 billion, as Finance Secretary Gary Teves expects (the University of the Philippines School of Economics study estimated that what was needed was closer to P120 billion), the fact is that there is now more money for developmental projects. Moreover, investor confidence seems to have returned in spades, as seen by the reduced spreads that the Philippines has to pay for its borrowings from abroad (from about seven percentage points over the base to less than two).

You want more good news? There is the drop in the inflation rate in September to 5.7 percent (core inflation: 5.3 percent). It is a heartening development, because our economic managers have kept a lid on inflation, even as our monetary authority has managed to keep interest rates down. Inflation may rise in October as a result of Typhoon “Milenyo,” but that should not detract from the improvements in price stability. Milenyo, after all, was not man-made, and it is man-made disasters that kill us. (PIA) [top]

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