(STAR) 2007 will be the year of the Filipino entrepreneur whose businesses will be the lead drivers of the economy, President Arroyo said yesterday.

In a statement, Mrs. Arroyo said the government has been laying the groundwork — including increasing investor confidence through fiscal reforms — for a conducive environment for business, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"We shall continue to breach poverty as we move forward, broadening education and health services to build minds and bodies to compete in the world and infusing resources to pull the bandwagon of grassroots enterprise," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She said: "Let 2007 be the year for the Filipino entrepreneur, building on the courage, perseverance and skills of our people."

She expressed gratitude to all Filipinos, including those overseas, as well as the foreign investment community, for standing behind the country.

The President also credited lawmakers and local officials for maintaining political stability that helped increase investor confidence in the country following the implementation of painful fiscal reforms: "Permanent political and economic stability is on the horizon, founded on a strong social payback in terms of investments, jobs, infrastructure and essential services that are lifting more families out of abject poverty."

National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chairman Domingo Panganiban said the administration will intensify its anti-poverty programs — particularly in the country’s 10 poorest provinces — and expand livelihood assistance to increase the size of the country’s entrepreneurial class.

In a press conference at Malacañang with other Cabinet officials, Panganiban said the major direct anti-poverty thrusts of the administration focus on livelihood and employment; asset reform, which includes agrarian reform; essential services, including education, health, nutrition and the provision of adequate water and electricity services; social protection, including health insurance and; empowerment.

Under the livelihood and employment segment, he said, the government — through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Agrarian Reform — has targeted nearly 500,000 clients for microfinancing.

Over 2.2 million micro-businesses nationwide were recorded, as of September this year, as recipients of government financing, DSWD Undersecretary Lualhati Pablo said.

Panganiban said the government has been meeting 75 percent of its target of one million jobs a year since 2004. This percentage could be higher, he said, as the figure refers only to those given skills training by the government and given job placements.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the administration has exceeded its target of setting up of 5,000 "Botika ng Barangay" nationwide for 2006 with 7,350 outlets set up.

Each outlet, which sells medicines at low cost, serves at least 250 poor families, he said.

As far as electrification is concerned, Panganiban said the administration is aiming to electrify 95 percent of the nation’s barangays by February next year and hit the 100-percent mark by 2008. — Paolo Romero

Index sustains gains on strong expectations for 2007 The Philippine Star 12/29/2006

Share prices jumped 2.08 percent yesterday for the bet finish in more than nine years as investor bet on continued strong gains going into 2007, dealers said.

They said Wall Street’s record performance overnight provided a strong lead, with most blue chips led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) posting strong gains.

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index rose 59.91 points to close at the day’s high of 2,943.38, off a low of 2,883.47. It was the best finish since April 18, 1997, before the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis, when the market closed at 2,944.98.

The broader all-share index rose 30.67 points to 1,843.67.

Gainers beat losers 65 to 26 with 58 stocks unchanged.

Turnover was 2.57 billion shares worth P2.16 billion.

"Those who are expecting better times ahead are taking positions now," said Rommel Macapagal of Westlink Global Equities.

"Other Asian markets are also hitting multi-year highs and the peso is gaining further strength. These factors are making investors more bullish," said Lawrence de Leon of Accord Capital Equities.

Top-traded PNOC Energy Development Corp. rose 20 centavos to P4.80.

PLDT jumped P100 to P2,450.

Conglomerate SM Investments Corp. added P17.50 to end at a record high P330. Its unit, mall operator SM Prime Holdings Inc. advanced 75 centavos to P11.25.

Food and beverage firm San Miguel Corp.’s A-shares were unchanged at P66.50 while its B-shares rose P1 to P75.

Philippine imports rose in October as chipmakers boosted purchases of raw materials for electronic products, the National Statistics Office reported yesterday.

"It’s a continuous flow" of good news, said Rico Gomez, who helps manage about $1 billion at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in Manila. "As long as the government doesn’t slide on the budget deficit, the macro economy will do well." Investors are "probably positioning for next year’s market."

Petron Corp., the country’s largest refiner, rose five centavos, or 1.2 percent, to P4.10. PNOC Energy Development Corp., a geothermal power producer, gained 20 centavos, or 4.4 percent, to P4.80.

The two companies profits may rise as much as 15 percent next year, The Philippine Star reported yesterday, citing Pedro Aquino, president of their parent Philippine National Oil Co. – AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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