VIEW  FROM  THE PALACE (FOR THE WEEK ENDING APRIL 23, 2006)

MALACANANG,
APRIL 24, 2006 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) byIgnacio Bunye - Secretary Teves’ prediction of a balanced budget by 2008, before the IMF and WB officials, is not farfetched. The favorable economic outlook is backed by steady gains in revenue collection, consistent austerity measures, results in the anti- graft campaign, the rationalization of the bureaucracy and growing political and economic stability.

Related to this, I read recently an interesting analysis of the Philippine situation by William Pesek, Jr. of Bloomberg News. In his piece entitled " Where ‘Argentina of Asia’ Label No Longer Fits", Pesek states that "those angling to oust President Arroyo may be proving precisely that the Philippines, unpredictable as it is, enjoys growing political stability."

Pesek noted the observations of Luz Lorenzo, economist at ATR King Eng Securities who said: "What the world seemed to miss is that the stock market didn’t plunge, the peso did not collapse and bond yields didn’t shoot up. And people here in the Philippines didn’t panic."

Another interviewee, Franco Reyes, a call center employee, remarked: "It’s not that the President has our support, but who wants to support these people desiring to take over? They are not offering much of an alternative or better ideas, so why follow them?"

No wonder Pesek observed: "With each incarnation of People Power the numbers taking to the streets are declining."

Pesek observed that it is heartening to see a leader taking some gutsy steps. "Arroyo’s biggest success is returning a sense of fiscal sanity. The Philippines continues to swim in debt, much of it foreign, yet the budget deficit is moving in the right direction. It’s expected to fall to 2.1 percent or less of gross domestic product this year from 2.7 per cent in 2006."

Pesek concluded by saying : "The said fact is that the Philippines has yet to shake the legacy of mismanagement created by former President Ferdinand Marcos, who was brought down by People Power in 1986. Yet Arroyo’s fiscal moves and the stride in which markets took recent events show the economy is maturing."

*****

At the recent Micro Negosyo Fair at the Philippine Army Gym, President Arroyo lauded the enterprising spirit of the Filipino, or more precisely, the Filipina. Last year, through the support of various government financing agencies, NGOs and some private entities, more than P8 billion worth of financing was granted to around 1.7 million micro-entrepreneurs, 93% [or about 1.5 million] of whom are women. She singled out the spouses of military and police personnel who participated in the fair and commended them for sharing the financial responsibilities in the family while their husbands are busy battling criminals and enemies of the state.

*****

President Arroyo is really giving health concerns top priority. She spent her birthday earlier this month distributing 2,600 PhilHealth cards to residents of Quezon City and Caloocan City. The distribution was made possible by the contributions of their respective local government units, as well as private individuals and organizations.

Other health initiatives are the establishment of 5,000 Botika sa Barangay all over the country offering medicines at reduced costs and the release of P730 million in funds for half-priced medicines. This amount is part of a total P11.5 billion released in January 2006 to finance various pro-poor programs, which are intended to pump prime the economy and deliver direct benefits to our least fortunate countrymen.

*****

The recent Oriental Mindoro Investment Summit in Calapan City sent another strong message that what we need today are unity and cooperation, not the "political instability", which the Japanese Chamber of Commerce accurately described as "a major obstacle in implementing consistent industrial development policy over a long period of time". The JCCI’s recent statements reinforce what the President has been saying all along: her opponents must stop contributing to the destruction and instead contribute to the solution.

President Arroyo called Oriental Mindoro a "microcosm of the Philippines", considering that its potential for high economic growth has been largely unrealized because of long years of neglect or misallocation of resources. Today, however, like the national government, Oriental Mindoro’s priority investment areas are energy, tourism, agribusiness, infrastructure and poverty alleviation

The Summit was also an occasion for President GMA to reiterate her administration’s thrust to privatize our energy sector to free up government money to invest in the people and renew her call for Congress to pass new legislations that will decrease our reliance on oil and increase our reliance on indigenous and renewable energy.

*****

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