GMA  VOWS  TO  PUT  ECONOMIC  HOUSE  IN  ORDER

MANILA,  September 19, 2004
(STAR)
By Marichu Villanueva - Despite indicators pointing to a rosy outlook for the Philippine economy, the country still needs to put its "house in order" to avert a fiscal crisis.

President Arroyo appealed yesterday for "guarded" economic optimism tempered with "honesty" about the "great difficulties" the country is facing.

The President made her appeal during her address at the 50th anniversary of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FFCCII) Friday night at the Manila Hotel.

The gathering was attended by the wealthiest taipans in the country, including Philippine Airlines majority stockholder Lucio Tan, retail magnate Henry Sy and industrialist John Gokongwei.

"Whether as street sweepers or heads of business conglomerates, we can be heroes in our own way. Let us start by throwing away cynicism and being optimists for the country, even if it is guarded optimism," the President said in her address.

Mrs. Arroyo said the six percent growth in the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) for the first half of the year and the 400 percent growth in investments were reasons "to be hopeful."

But she cautioned against a return to the past, when the demands of politics forced the government into "sugarcoating the truth about the economy."

"If we are in a crisis today, it is because political sentiments have long overruled dispassionate requirements of governance. The past has caught up with us. Now I say, let the truth prevail. Let us keep our house in order," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President said the government was doing its share to put the country’s finances in order.

She said the passage of tax reform legislation by Congress will complement the non-tax revenue generation, austerity measures and campaign against corruption already being undertaken by her administration.

"I am aware that there is a wall of resistance to these measures. But beyond that wall is our country’s redemption from the yoke of poverty," Mrs. Arroyo said. "While we clean up our finances, we shall also rid society of its dregs and misfits."

In the international front, the president said her administration is taking the initiative to strengthen ties with economic powerhouses like China.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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