PRESIDENT ARROYO CREATES ECONOMIC SUPERBODY, THE  EMG

MANILA
, June 26 , 2004
 (STAR)
President Arroyo ordered yesterday the creation of an economic superbody in an attempt to calm creditors and investors amid fears of a debt crisis and runaway budget deficit.

Marking her first act as the newly elected president, Mrs. Arroyo created the three-man Economic Management Group (EMG) to act as an "image builder" working with the existing economic team.

The EMG would consist of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, former trade secretary Tomas Alcantara and Finance Undersecretary Eric Recto.

As of press time, Recto said he has not been officially informed about the EMG but he said the creation of the group was originally proposed to handle perception management among the country’s creditors, credit rating agencies and investors.

"The idea was brought up in one of the meetings that something has to be done to improve our rating and image among creditors and credit rating agencies," Recto explained. "But I had no idea that an actual group would be created."

Alcantara, Recto and Salceda are three of the closest economic advisers to Mrs. Arroyo.

Alcantara has been presidential adviser for economic affairs while Recto is emerging as the likely successor to outgoing Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong.

Salceda, on the other hand, was one of the highest-paid stock analysts in Southeast Asia before turning to politics.

The EMG was expected to combine with the economic team now composed of Amatong, Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Trade Secretary Cesar Purisima and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Rafael Carlos Buenaventura.

Recto said the EMG would likely complement the work of the economic team with the added function of image management.

Mrs. Arroyo’s specific instruction was for the EMG to focus on "improving the credit rating of the country, improve savings rate and tame the budget deficit."

These marching orders would encompass everything from economic fundamentals to budget management and banking reforms.

As of May, the Arroyo administration has accumulated a total deficit of P77 billion, only about P2 billion short of its full-semester target of P79.6 billion, leaving no room for its June expenditures.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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