by Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro
We are into the second decade of what is now called the Pacific century. Around the rim of this great ocean, hundreds of millions are lifted out of poverty by sustained rates of economic growth. Innovation and technological changes move quickly, assisted by modern governments committed to rapid social changes.
While we sit at the center of the world’s most dynamic region, the Philippines staggers behind its neighbours. Our poverty rate remains unacceptably high. Our infrastructure and logistical system remain backward. Our agriculture is stagnant. Our industry has been nearly wiped out by high power costs. Our public revenues always fall short of our needs and force us into indebtedness.
These conditions are compounded by our vulnerability to natural calamities, situated as we are on both the typhoon and volcanic belts. Global warming will inflict a heavier toll on our development and expose many of our communities to peril.
There is no simple solution to what we might call the Philippine malaise. Together, we need to devise a comprehensive plan that will magnify our strengths and diminish our weaknesses. We need to think and act strategically, ensuring the best possible future for our people. We live in a new century and a new world order. We cannot deal with the new realities using old mindsets, attacking new challenges with old ideas.
At the core of a comprehensive national response to the large challenges that confront our nation are the institutions of governance. These institutions enable us to act collectively and achieve goals we set for ourselves as a nation. Our institutions of governance are weak. Our first challenge is to make them strong, to make them reliable instruments of the national will.
We need to reinvent government, transform it from a set of outmoded institutions that inhibit our potentials into an effective mechanism that enables all of us to seize opportunities, build social wealth and protect the most vulnerable. Government must lead rather than merely administer; help our communities build up human and physical assets rather than consume resources. Our people’s trust in political leadership must be restored and their faith in the possibility of liberating government reinforced.
Central to this task is leadership that is based on merit, authority that is based on clear mandate and governance that is based on accountability. It can only be based on a democracy firmly anchored on a firm sense of civic responsibility and a government constantly aware of its duties as steward of the nation’s assets and guardian of its future.
I believe that countries can be strong only if their primary institutions are strong. The most basic institution is the family. It is the unit of trust, responsibility and caring that makes possible communities that are supportive, productive and safe. The state must reinforce families and empower communities.
We inhabit this earth by Divine Providence and share it with all its endowments. We must behave responsibly towards nature; ensure its conservation and sustainability. Future generations must not be denied the means to meet their own needs. The destruction so far wrought on the atmosphere, the seas and the forests must be reversed in our lifetime. In everything that we do, we must account for long-term consequences. We are responsible for nurturing future generations.
I believe that human dignity and well-being are best served under conditions of economic freedom. Under such conditions, innovation and productivity are unrestricted. The power of choice is ensured. Opportunity is multiplied. Efficiency is a virtue. Other freedoms that enable individuals and communities to constantly reinvent similarly become possible.
For economic freedom to be realized, the state must provide a reliable legal system that guarantees fair play and a set of policies that encourage competition, enforce contracts and reward excellence. That will be the basis for a social order that rewards skill and hard work, ensuring the best conditions for wealth creation and enabling individuals to be their best.
The most prosperous societies are also those that are most free. These are markets that are fully contestable, thereby discouraging monopolies. They are markets driven by trade, thereby encouraging real productivity. These are markets that are not distorted by subsidies and protectionist policies, therefore encouraging the best standards of efficiency. These are economic regimes where the freedom of choice of analytical consumers is paramount, therefore averting the rise of oligarchies.
I believe in the intrinsic humaneness of open societies. They enable diverse beliefs and practices to co-exist in harmony. They respect freedom of worship and the ecumenism of many faiths. They respect the lifestyle of choices of individuals and encourage the creativity of a people. They guarantee the constant regeneration of our culture and guard against the tyranny of dogma. Human rights and civil liberties can only be truly practiced in an open society.
I believe in the superiority of representative democracy as a form of government. No matter its imperfections, especially as it has evolved in this country, it is still better than all other options of rule. The failings in our practice of representative democracy, we need to remedy by improvements in the system— not by the rejection of democratic politics. There is no other means to build a better future than through the processes of accountability and consensus that representative democracy fosters.
This is the moral compass by which my leadership will be guided.
The Philippines deserves a place among the most vibrant emerging economies of the world. The country does not want for talent and resources. What we lack is the institutional capital that will enable the country to seize historic opportunities before it; a legal and policy framework that will enable us to attract a larger share of investment flows; a bureaucracy that makes doing business easier; a security capability that will finally enable us to end the last yet most protracted armed insurgencies in the world; and an educational system that will produce the highly skilled workforce that will bring us to the cutting edge of the new economy.
Over the medium term, we need to radically alter our economic and investment policies to make them more receptive and responsive to the demands of the new global economy. Bureaucratic reform has been the toughest nut to crack for all previous administrations. It is something that must be urgently done over the next few years if we are to break out from the trap of low growth.
There is no further reason for significant swathes of the country to continue to suffer from marauding insurgencies. Armed conflict has cost many of our communities immensely, not only in terms of loss of life and destruction of property but more so in terms of missed opportunities. In the areas where armed conflict happens, infrastructure could not be built, farms and enterprises have been abandoned, and investments are absent. Already impoverished by the presence of insurgent groups, the communities in the affected areas live in fear of harassment and suffer the extortion of armed gangs. These basic communities must be immediately liberated from fear, violence and poverty so that their participation will be harnessed in the governance of public programs.
Government, in the near term, must make the required strategic investments in closing the infrastructure gap and in quickly raising the quality of our educational system. The first will enhance the domestic and international commerce. The second will multiply our human capital, the driving force of our economic growth.
We are now in the process of detailing a comprehensive plan for state strategic intervention through the first two years of my presidency. One of its critical and immediate elements is a massive low cost housing particularly a medium rise in-city program that will reduce disaster risks and spark urban redevelopment. It is a plan that will require a tremendous amount of political will and public support. It will set the stage for our economy to grow at a rate at par with the most dynamic economies of our region. If we are able to sustain economic growth at about 8%, we will finally be able to reverse the tide of poverty and begin creating a dynamic, resilient and modern economy for the next generation. We will not balk at doing the tough things that need to be done.
(Source: Lakas Kampi CMD official website)