Europe-PH News

Concrete Action Sought with Groundwork Laid

June 30, 2011

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

Europe-PH News

Concrete Reforms are now expected from the government, businessmen said as they noted efforts by President Benigno S.C. Aquino III to lay the groundwork for his pledges to grow the economy and combat corruption.

Mr. Aquino, who convincingly won the elections in May 2010 on a campaign promise to end poverty by fighting corruption, marks one year in office today.

"We believe that the basis for more rapid development has been created in the first year but turning that into action will make the difference," Henry Schumacher, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines executive vice-president, told BusinessWorld yesterday.

"The same is true for fighting corruption: some progress has been made, but it will require more resolve to succeed in government and in the private sector," Mr Schumacher added.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Makati Business Club (MBC) executive director, said in a telephone interview that, "The first year of the [Aquino] presidency was mostly foundation work, cleaning up, and reviewing, but definitely in the second year we expect much more action."

"Much has been done in terms of groundwork, and a lot of agencies have been working with us in our own anticorruption drive called the Integrity Initiative," he added.

The MBC executive, however said he was somewhat disappointed with the government's delivery of justice.

"We're aware that there have been 80 cases filed by the Customs bureau, which now requires on our part close monitoring, but we have to move much faster in the second year," Mr. Perfecto said.

"One thing we always say is we want things to move forward with the catch a big fish campaign whether it's tax evasion or corruption, government or private sector official," he noted.

"We expect in the second year that ideally, someone is thrown in jail, but not just some low-ranking official but a high-profile important person, because we have to send a clear message that we're serious about this."

Similarly the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) Chairman Jesus L. Arranza said the business group was largely supportive of Mr. Aquino.  Still he said the country's chief executive needed to exercise stronger leadership.

"Members of FPI are satisfied [with his government] and the areas of disagreement are with specific departments and officials, but by and large, there are no complaints," Mr. Arranza said in a telephone interview.

"Anti-corruption projects are best done by setting a good example, and he is a successful leader in that way, but he has to become a firmer leader so that he can call for needed investigations on whoever is accused of such, whether he is a friend or foe," he added.

The businessmen said they also recognized the administration's efforts to prepare the country for growth and development.  To make the progress sustainable, however, they tressed the need to roll out infrastructure projects under the centerpiece public-private partnership (PPP) program within schedule.

"It is understandable for the new administration to be reviewing some inherited contracts, but in the second year [of his presidency] we are expecting the PPP to move forward to sustain the momentum of our growth rates," Mr. Perfecto said.

Mr. Schumacher concurred, saying "the product still needs to be improved."

Finally, they suggested that Mr. Aquino push key legislation against corruption and unfair business competition.

"We think the Whistle Blower's Bill and the Freedom of Information Act should at least be part of President Aquino's next set of priority bills," Mr. Perfecto said.

Mr. Arranza, for his part, said: "We need to fast-track amendments in the customs and tariff law through the Anti-Smuggling Bill, because we are losing P120 billion to smuggling every year."

"We also have to put more teeth to Executive Order 45 [designating the] Justice department as competition authority by having a full-blown legislation against cartels, monopolies, and oligopolies to promote a level playing field in all industries," he added.


Source: Business World; News; 30 June 2011

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