MANILA, JULY 21, 2010 (MALAYA) BY ANGELA CELIS - President Aquino must translate his 88 percent trust rating into action to improve the Philippines’ standing in world competitiveness and its chance to attract investments, an official of the think tank Asian Institute of Management Policy Center said.

Leveraging on the public trust will enable Aquino to implement programs that will revise public perception on government institutions and pursue infrastructure projects despite the budget deficit, AIM Policy Center executive director Ma. Lourdes Sereno said.

"Yung 88 percent approval rating, that’s a large capital. Kung hindi yan bumaba significantly, tapos ma-translate yan into belief in institutions, may impact yan," Sereno said.

"We cannot avoid investing in more infrastructure and telling people we are investing. Hindi natin pwedeng sabihing may budget deficit," Sereno added.

At the sideline of AIM’s "State of the Philippine Competitiveness 2010" forum, Sereno said government must exert all efforts to improve the Philippines’ ranking in the annual World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) published by the Institute for Management and Development (IMD).

The Philippines ranked 39th among 58 countries, an improvement over last year’s 43rd but still putting the country in the lower half of the ranking.

The Philippines also remained the least competitive of the 13 Asia-Pacific economies covered by the study.

The yearbook lists a 327-criteria survey that serves as a key reference for investors in assessing the competitiveness of nations.

During the forum, Sereno said possible actions include investing in hard infrastructure projects to improve the country’s No. 56 ranking in the infrastructure criterion.

Success in creating infrastructure is a common factor among all high-ranking countries, she said.

Sereno said energy insecurity must also be improved.

"Especially the business sector, they must be assured na hindi madi-disrupt ang business operations nila in the future," she said.

Issues on education where the Philippines was ranked 58th should also addressed. These include the high dropout rate and pupil-teacher ratio.

Sereno said the government should adopt the proposed additional two years of basic education despite the cost. "Hindi pwedeng hindi natin i-accelerate ang spending natin sa education kasi long-term ang impact nito," she said.

While the Philippines took the 56th spot for tax evasion, and 58th in bribing and corruption, Sereno expressed confidence the new administration can improve the standing with quick and effective solutions.

"With respect to bribing and corruption, government efficiency and transparency, yung mga indicators that are affected by trust directly, may konting improvement na tayo by next year. Especially kung hindi tayo magpi-fail dun sa sinasabi na cases that are going to be filed," she said.

Sereno added that business procedures should be simplified.

The Department of Trade and Industry has tested a study conducted by the National Competitiveness Council and the Ateneo de Manila University that would minimize the steps in applying for business permits from 18 to five, but the recommendations have yet to be applied.

"Regulation should come after registration, not before that," Sereno said.

Sereno suggested that Aquino look into the competitiveness data and study the factors that affect the country’s economic growth.

"Ang gusto ko for him is to really sit down and listen to what the world is saying about us," she said.

"Tinitingnan kasi yan (WCY) ng mga investors. If they see na ang pangit naman ng indicator, mag-iisip-isip yan about whether to fly in. That’s why we cannot afford to disregard it, so that the correct image will be presented," Sereno added.

"The other countries are also improving. They don’t stop, driven sila. We must also do that, not for the sake of competing, but simply because we really have to grow enough wealth for our country," she said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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