, May 12 , 2004
 (STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes  -  We don’t know what the future holds for us. To quote from Paycheck, a movie starring Ben Affleck regarding the creation and eventual destruction of a machine that allows one to look at the future, ‘if we know our future, then there is no future, we destroy hope.’ We can only hope that the recently concluded elections will bring about some changes for the better. This is our last chance to emerge from the doldrums.

Hidden Agenda asked some business personalities what they think the new president should focus on to perk up the economy. Let’s hope that whoever wins will heed and take action.

"The priority programs we had earlier listed down for the first 100 days of the May 10 victor are capsulized in the two-pronged agenda of restoring peace and order and balancing the budget. But before we can even start, every effort should be made to mount a loud call for unity. Indeed, healing wounds among our political leaders remains a daunting task and a third party will have to take the initiative. Here again, we will have to impose on the former President, Corazon Aquino, the task of leading the process of reconciliation and unity. I likewise call on leaders of the business community to respond and join the effort. The whole world has to see a Philippines rising above the throes of adversarial and fractuous politics. Investors need to see that the hovering storm has blown over with the air of calm beckoning. Only when confidence is restored can we expect the new administration to begin the difficult task of jump-starting the economy. It will help if the new President is given a fresh start with the submission of courtesy resignations by members of the Cabinet as well as heads of other government corporations and financial institutions. The president will, of course, reserve the right to reappoint the good performers just as he or she should be given the privilege of working with a new, energized team who can truly roll up their sleeves and get things done and fast. It is in this light that the creation of a credible search group with the inclusion of the private sector may be able to assist and shepherd the new government to getting the right people for the tasks at hand. If this aspect of beginning anew were taken seriously, then part of the battle is already won."– Jose Pardo, Chairman, PCCI Council of Business Leaders

"Resolve NAIA III as soon as possible to allay concerns of foreign investors and improve first impression of tourists when they land. Push population birth control policies that work. Accelerate infrastructure projects funded by ODA funds, borrowing counterpart funds if necessary."– David Balangue, Chairman, SGV & Co.

"Form a Cabinet of the best and the brightest, persons of proven sobriety and integrity. Push for peace and order initiatives. Order all government agencies not to interfere in private businesses."– Robert Coyiuto Jr., Chairman, PGA Cars Inc.

Continue to manage fiscal deficit, look at population control issue, consider parliamentary form of government. – Lance Gokongwei, President, JG Summit Holdings

"Peace and order is essential to economic development because business needs peace of mind and security to thrive. Lawlessness and insurgency add to the cost of doing business. A credible plan to eliminate graft and corruption should be laid down and enforced vigorously. Fiscal discipline should be a paramount policy to address the growing budget deficit. Revenue collection should be enhanced, not by raising new taxes, but rather by enhancing collection efficiencies. The bloated government bureaucracy should be trimmed immediately so that cost savings can be channeled to pump priming initiatives and infrastructure development. New jobs should be created. This means that the new government should create, as soon as possible, the right investment climate that would stimulate investments by local investors as well as foreign investors. Foreign investment in media (print, broadcast and cable and satellite television) and in telecoms and natural resources should be allowed, at least to the extent of 49 percent. Foreign ownership of land, particularly those be used for commercial and industrial purposes, should be allowed. The new government should also lay down a credible blueprint to develop agriculture, to provide stable food security for the growing population. The Philippines should be restored to a state of self-sufficiency in terms of basic food items, particularly rice, corn, flour and dairy products." – Ray Espinosa, President, ePLDT

"Focus on value formation workshops on all levels, strengthen ICT, education, and teachers’ training (the most used but least trained sector). Assign presidentiables to specific programs they want to lead if they really want to help. Nationwide education for the poor especially on family and parenthood. Redefine role of media as image builders for the country and not destructive journalism. With renewed image and credibility in all sectors and with upgraded education and training and good values, foreign investors will come in, capital will be retained. Jobs creation, ICT, and tourism will push the economy."– Cynthia Romero Mamon, President, Sun Microsystems

"Whoever wins, I just hope that for once, he or she would put the people’s interest first before their own personal interests. The Filipinos have been screwed long enough by these politicians. They deserve a better life. That’s the only thing I long and pray for every single day and night of my life."– David Lim, President, Solid Group

"The challenge is not in determining what changes to make but in who are first to execute these changes. Example, if you see massive efforts on the part of the Makati Business Club in pushing intensely initiatives like the immediate approval of anti-trust laws that will affect the big family businesses and other big businesses who are members of their club, then there is hope for the policemen, customs officers, judges, local politicians, tax collectors and other civil servants to start thinking about effecting change in themselves as well. The powerful must be the first to prove that the change that is needed in our country can be started right at their companies and that their exclusive business associations are willing to inflict the change, even if it is painful at first. If these powerful families will not lead the way, don’t expect the simple Filipino to change on his own. Second, let us change the constitution slowly but effectively. Let’s present two or three major amendments at a time and let the people participate directly in the process of change. Let various informal people’s assemblies draft amendments that are important to them. These drafts will all be sent to Congress which should act as a constituent assembly and facilitate the debate. Electing 200 or 300 delegates to draft the constitution is dangerous. You can have a real powerful single family or tycoon/politician that can dominate the process." – Mel Velarde, President, Next Mobile Inc.

"The most important job of any new government is to keep and recreate new jobs that we lot to imports. Especially, we need countryside investments to create jobs or the migration to Manila slums by the uneducated will continue and the educated will in their hopelessness just seek jobs abroad. We need jobs, jobs, jobs, and livelihood."– Jose Ma. Zabaleta, Executive Director, Philippine Sugar Millers Association

"Government should focus on following problems: First, a sustained and serious campaign against graft and corruption at all government levels, particularly in tax collection agencies. This will reduce the budget deficit and enable the delivery of efficient services to the people. Second, solve the peace and order problem and stamp out criminality, i.e. kidnaping, carnaping, in order to attract investors in the country. Third, give more perks to encourage promising industries to develop. The ICT-related industries are one the most important emerging sectors. Other countries are very much focused on building up their ICT infrastructure. Fourth, the educational system should be improved to lift it in step with the needs of the times. Fifth, take steps to reduce the growth rate of the population so that the GDP can at least catch up."– Epitacio Marquez, President, Capwire

"During the last three years, government has been very supportive to agriculture, especially the sugar industry. Sugar prices stabilized and supply-demand was managed. As a result, everybody invested more. However, smuggling continues. Government should likewise be more conscious in making commitments in international trade. Agriculture should continue to be sustained. When there is income in the provinces, we create a strong local economy. Government should continue to make agriculture more profitable for the farmers and give it the needed support, especially in terms of research and development."– Jose Manuel Lopa, National President, Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations

"On top of course of the basic tenets of sound financial management, the new government should focus on those aspects which tend to enhance or improve the investment climate: peace and order tops the list, infrastructure development is another. Tourism will benefit and is another important sector which can be developed further. We have the same rich natural and cultural heritage as Thailand or Indonesia. The new government must embark on an aggressive tourism and investment promotions plan. Finally, government must address the bulging budget deficit problem.– Dennis Mendiola, CEO, Chikka Asia

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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