MANILA, JULY 3, 2011 (MALAYA) After a year of cleaning up mess left behind by the Arroyo administration, it is now time for President Aquino’s administration to buckle down to work, a group of influential businessmen said.

"If Year One was a period for laying the foundations for sustained and inclusive growth, we expect the Aquino administration to take this to the next level of effective implementation in Year Two," the Makati Business Club said in a statement.

MBC said the administration’s first-year performance was better than average, and certainly above the barely passing mark of 75 percent given by the Management Association of the Philippines.

The group said the crafting of the comprehensive Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016 has set the direction that the country will take, but Year Two is the time for execution.

MBC said the administration must pursue the private-public partnership program, settle the NAIA 3 dispute and pass the Freedom of Information Bill.

"These are just some of the critical yardsticks by which the Aquino government’s performance will be measured in Year Two and onward," said Peter Perfecto, MBC executive director.

The business group said when the new government stepped in, it had to immediately address repairing the damage and unraveling "the entrenched anomalous systems that the highly corrupt Arroyo administration had left behind."

It said in addition to getting the right people in place, there was a need to clean the ranks of the bureaucracy of those who stood in the way of reform.

MBC said the President should appoint an Ombudsman with unquestioned integrity, an exceptional legal record, and the fortitude to spearhead the administration’s cornerstone anti-corruption campaign.

Still on governance, the Aquino government must be lauded for signing the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 (RA 10149), which is expected to finally put an end to the highly anomalous set-ups in government-owned and controlled corporations that the previous administration had exploited for the benefit of its cronies.

"We also welcome the decision to review contracts for infrastructure projects inherited from the Arroyo administration that have been found to be overpriced or deficient," MBC said.

MBC praised the economic gains of the Aquino government, especially in improving the fiscal situation. The government posted a fiscal surplus of P61 million in the first four months of 2011, a dramatic improvement from the P131.8 billion deficit in the same period in 2010.

Other macroeconomic indicators are also encouraging, MBC said.

Gross international reserves rose to $68.8 billion (equivalent to 10.6 months’ worth of imports) as of end-May from $48.7 billion (8.4 months of imports) at end-June 2010. The balance of payments surplus expanded 174 percent to $3.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011 from $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2010.

Approved investments rose 76 percent to P162 billion in the first quarter of 2011 from P92 billion a year ago.

What was even more striking was the P140 billion investments of Filipinos, a 211 percent jump from P45 billion in the first quarter of 2010.

The improvement in net foreign portfolio investments was just as remarkable, climbing 208 percent to $2.2 billion in January to the first two weeks of June from $699 million a year earlier, MBC said.

The agriculture sector reported a strong 4.2 percent growth performance in the first quarter, bouncing back from a 1.8 percent slump in the first quarter of 2010. The average unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in the first two quarters of this year from 7.6 percent in the same period in 2010, although the average underemployment rate increased to 19.4 percent from 18.6 percent.

"We see that the Aquino administration’s fiscal reforms and implementation of policies that promote macroeconomic stability have inspired the confidence of the international investment community," Perfecto said.

The highly successful issuances of long-term peso-denominated global bonds and the bond swap where nearly P200 billion of the country’s old debts were exchanged for new 10- and 25-year bonds were unprecedented and indicative of foreign investors’ optimism in the country’s long-term economic prospects, Perfecto said.

Moreover, the lengthening of the country’s debt profile makes it possible for the government to channel more of its limited resources to infrastructure projects, poverty-alleviating social services, and meeting the Philippines’ Millennium Development Goals targets, he added.

More recently, the upgrades of credit and sovereign ratings by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service are a further affirmation that the government is on the right track with its fiscal consolidation efforts and maintenance of macroeconomic stability, he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved