STATE economic managers and business leaders yesterday hammered out the next steps in improving the economy in terms of infrastructure, ease of doing business, and social measures.
Over 400 representatives of local and foreign business groups attended the Philippine Development Forum: Sulong Pilipinas 2017 at the EDSA Shangri-La Manila hotel in Mandaluyong City where they and government officials drafted a fresh list of recommendations that the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte can act on in the second year of his term.
In his speech at the forum, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the first Sulong Pilipinas held in Davao City in June last year yielded recommendations that — together with results of consultations with other sectors — served as inputs for the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 that was approved last February and which aims to prod economic growth to a sustained, faster pace of 7-8% in that period from 6.2% in 2010-2015 in order to drastically reduce by 2022 unemployment rate to 3-5% from 5.5% in 2016 and poverty incidence to 13-15% from 21.6% in 2015.
Crucial to that effort is a wide-ranging tax reform program that will shift the burden to those who can afford higher levies and increase revenues, in order to help fund an infrastructure development drive that will involve more than P8.4 trillion in state spending up to 2022, when Mr. Duterte ends his six-year term.
In a news conference at the end of the forum, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the “set of action programs” agreed on yesterday includes identifying “best competitive advantages” against Southeast Asian peers; further enhancing ease of doing business with the cooperation of all national government agencies and local governments; allowing new telecommunication competitors; completing the planned 34.024-kilometer Southeast Metro Manila Expressway (C6) toll road project that will run between the Skyway in the Food Terminal, Inc. area in Taguig City and Batasan Complex in Quezon City; as well as building more farm-to-market roads, cold storage and irrigation facilities in order to facilitate distribution of agricultural products and raise farmers’ incomes.
Recommendations for the social sector include expanding PhilHealth coverage, providing more free medicines and strengthening rural health units; addressing the job-skills mismatch through the joint identification of jobs needed per industry by government, industry and the academe; improving land tenure security in all areas; providing entrepreneurial education for farmers, fisherfolk and other agricultural workers; and speeding up the resolution of the conflict in Marawi City.
“This is a running list… consultations between private sectors and government should be an ongoing affair,” Mr. Dominguez said.
“On our part we will study closely these suggestions to see what specific policy actions might be taken.” — Elijah J. C. Tubayan