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A day in Congress

A visit to the Congress of the Philippines – whatever the purpose – is
both educational and amusing. At the session hall, one observes that
the activities are dull. Rep. Satur Ocampo is delivering a privileged speech, lambasting the administration’s accommodation of US troops in the country. Mr. Ocampo is cool in delivering his statement, but the message is hot.

Unfortunately, only a handful of fellow legislators are listening. Many
of the legislators are outside the hall, and they return to the session
hall only when the roll call is made. For those in the hall, they seem
bored, and this boredom is infectious.

Damaging control

Six months into the year, the government has already incurred a deficit of P119.7 billion or 92% of its P130-billion target for the whole year. This is unfortunate, as the current administration has staked its credibility on a fiscal discipline platform. Its pronouncements encourage the market to herd around expectations generated by deficit ceilings; unfortunately, breaches would then be perceived as signals of fiscal irresponsibility, leading to a weakening of capital inflows.

Philippine food security: far behind

The Human Development Report (HDR) 2002 – released by the United
Nations Development Programme on July 24, 2002 – says that the
Philippines’ performance in meeting the first “Millennium Development
Goal” of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger to be
“far behind” its national targets. This is absolutely mortifying.

‘Corporatization’ of the BIR: giving reforms a bad name

Last June 24, Internal Revenue commissioner Rene Banez presented his Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) reform program to some members of the NGO community. The title of his presentation – “The BIR Transformation: Plugging the Leaks in Tax Administration” – captures the focus of his reform agenda. It embodies a realization that defects in tax administration account for a large part of BIR’s poor revenue performance. His presentation also commits to introduce major organizational changes.

Agenda for recovery and long-run growth

A more aggressive but doable plan for recovery and for the long run
must be presented to the public. The Arroyo government must show it is wiser and more competent to achieve the goal of reducing poverty and raising the people’s well-being than previous administrations. Its short-term and long-term plans must be more ambitious and at the same time pragmatic and operational. It must have a definite focus and effective strategies.

Promoting corporate social responsibility

In his syndicated column titled “Reckonings,” Paul Krugman quoted the now-classic statement of Gordon Gekko, the cunning corporate raider in the movie Wall Street: “Greed is good. Greed works, greed is right…and greed, mark my words, will save not only Teldar paper but the other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

That statement is real-world stuff. Wisely unstated (as befits shrewd
business), such greed lies at the core of the behavior of many corporate executives who aggressively pursue super-profits for themselves and for the companies they run. Although Gekko’s line has punch and has become very quotable, its message is not new. It merely echoes a basic creed of liberal economics that the “unrestrained rivalry of egotism” is good not only for the individual but for society as well.