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The Philippines as model

An international event that the Philippine media have inadvertently
downplayed is the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The summit gathers the heads of states and governments to commit action-oriented plans that will hopefully speed up the implementation of the global agenda to reduce poverty, improve human development, and protect the environment. The summit is inclusive since leaders of civil society organizations and the business sector are participating.

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.