(STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe- (PHOTO AT LEFT - President Aquino meets with World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati at Malacañang yesterday.|

A top executive of the World Bank assured President Aquino yesterday of the institution’s strong support for his administration’s good governance and anti-poverty agenda.

In a statement, WB Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati reiterated WB Group President Robert Zoellick’s support for the overall policy direction the Aquino administration is taking.

“The World Bank Group is pleased to support the President’s major policy initiatives, including clean government, better social protection, expansion of education and health care for the underserved and better infrastructure through private-public partnerships,” Indrawati said.

“And we are ready to step up our support if the government so desires.”

In a speech also yesterday, Indrawati said it’s her wish for Aquino to attain his vision of good governance.

“My sincere hope is that you can turn the vision of good governance into a reality,” she said.

“I believe the prospects for governance reforms in the Philippines are very good at this point in time. A new administration is in place with a clear mandate to improve governance,” said Indrawati in her speech during a forum on “Good Governance: From Vision to Action” at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Rockwell, Makati City.

This was Indrawati’s first visit to the Philippines as WB managing director.

Earlier, Zoellick expressed the WB’s support for Aquino in a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations High Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in New York City in September this year.

Indrawati said Aquino has clearly shown his strong political commitment to improve governance in the Philippines. “With many Filipinos believing in him, this opens up opportunities to advance reforms that will accelerate the country’s development,” the WB official said.

She noted that the Philippine economy is doing well lately, with growth rate this year at 6.2 percent.

She said that the government’s plan to improve infrastructure and to streamline business procedure and red tape should help sustain this growth.

“We are happy to support the government’s public-private partnership agenda and infrastructure program, in terms of advice as well as finance,” Indrawati said.

While praising the administration’s inroads in good governance, she said it is up to Filipinos to choose which path to take to sustain achievements.

“From the outset, though, that it would be neither appropriate nor feasible for me to make any recommendation for the specific circumstances the Philippines is in – it is up to the Filipinos to decide the appropriate strategy for improving governance in the Philippines,” she said.

“Key challenge then is to capture this positive spirit and translate it into action – to pull together a strategy to achieve the government’s vision that has clear targets and a management structure to keep reforms on track,” she pointed out.

“There is no single ‘correct’ way of organizing governance reforms, but there is no doubt in my mind that an institutional home is needed to tackle what is likely to be the most difficult challenges a government faces,” she said in her speech.

Praise for Robredo

Indrawati also acknowledged Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s accomplishment as mayor of Naga City.

She said Robredo’s achievements as local government official indicated that local government units should be given genuine autonomy but with full support from the national government.

It was Robredo who introduced Indrawati in the forum.

Indrawati also thanked the Asian Institute of Management, Makati Business Club, and the Movement for Good Governance for organizing the event and for the Ateneo de Manila University for allowing the use of its facilities as forum venue.

“This event comes at a time of renewed vigor here in the Philippines to tackle the country’s long-standing governance challenges,” she said.

“A country can move only as fast as its politics allows,” she pointed out.

“To me good governance is about fairness and equity. It means that when government officials apply laws and policies, they do so impartially, not influenced by personal relationships, likes and dislikes,” the WB official said.

“A good governance agenda, therefore, needs to reach beyond efforts to tackle corruption to build strong and sustainable institutions of the state. It also should empower citizens through transparency and participation,” she pointed out.

Indrawati is responsible for the Bank’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Indrawati is one of the three managing directors who, with Zoellick, form the WB Senior Management Team.

She also oversees the Integrity Vice Presidency and Information Systems Group, in addition to providing strategic leadership for the bank’s governance and anti-corruption activities.

Prior to joining WB, Indrawati served as Indonesia’s minister of finance. As finance chief, she was instrumental in guiding the economic policy of one of the largest countries in Southeast Asia, and one of the biggest states in the world, during the global economic crisis.

Her efforts earned her the respect of her peers across the world.

Earlier, Indrawati visited an urban poor community in Pasay City whose residents were beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the government.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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