FVR CALLS FOR 2ND WAVE OF REFORMS TO STIMULATE ECONOMY

Manila, May 23, 2003 (MALAYA) President Fidel Ramos yesterday called on the Arroyo government to implement a second wave of reforms, such as the deregulation of more industries, to stimulate the economy.

In his keynote speech at the opening of the 24th National Employers Conference, Ramos the need for government to open up "still restricted" sectors of the economy.

Ramos said such second wave of reforms could start with the purging of the Constitution of its "protectionist provisions" such as the restrictions on foreign participation in mining, agriculture and public utilities.

Such prohibitions, he said, have "choked" the flow of capital, technology and production skills into those sectors.

".... (the charter's) protectionist provisions ... reflect an inward-looking nationalism incompatible with our age of globalization and economic interdependence," he said.

The second wave of reforms, he said, would be a follow-through of those reforms instituted under his and former President Aquino's terms such as the liberalization of telecommunication.

"Only deregulation - and the levelling of the playing field of business - will enable Philippine entrepreneurship to assert itself... The national experience has shown the effectiveness of industry specific reform to remove regulatory barriers and market distortions," he said.

Other than lifting foreign restrictions on key investment areas, Ramos also called for the demonopolization of the Philippine Ports Authority and the privatization of ownership and operation of piers in the country.

He added this should be coupled with the deregulation of shipping rates for agricultural commodities.

"the regulation of shipping rates has inhibited investment in refrigerated ships and modern technology for handling fresh food cargo," he said.

Ramos urged the government to reexamine and reform the country's tax incentives that have contributed in part to the fall of tax revenues, one of the biggest problems of this administration.

"There is also the failure of Congress to confront the all-too generous tax incentives given to the more vigorous industries - tax incentives that all need reexamination and reform," Ramos said.

The former chief executive also said government must address with urgency the concerns of investors about peace and order, labor unrest and infrastructure bottlenecks.

On labor, Ramos said unrest among its ranks is associated to a handful of employees' unions that are controlled by radical groups. "Government should not allow these radical organizations in the labor sector to use our democratic institutions to subvert the national economy," he said.

In addressing peace and order, Ramos suggested better teamwork among the police and military forces and local government units.

However, Ramos asked the employers to set aside self-interest in running their businesses by looking beyond the bottom line and having more social responsibility.

"Self interest must be uplifted with a sense of community. Without social responsibility, free enterprise can degenerate into dog-eat-dog competition," he said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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