Is Binay good for business?

- Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Since I am writing a business column, I think it is interesting to decipher how the business community will react to a Binay presidency. We do these “what if” scenario building all the time and I am sure many business leaders are now doing their what if... what if Binay moves to Malacañang?

First of all, there may be a need to distinguish between the Makati business crowd and the ordinary business person beyond the corporate world. In the corporate business world, the major shareholders and the college educated staff are expected to share the value of good governance. It is not necessarily so.

The corruption issues against Jojo Binay in recent days are starting to make people think or rethink their positions on a Binay presidency. But unfortunately, good governance is truly important mostly among the middle class, not necessarily the taipans and captains of industry despite what they say in public.

The taipans and the big traditional business families make pragmatic bets. If they feel they need to be in the good graces of Jojo B, they will go out of their way to make sure it is so as early as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of meetings and dinners are already going on between Jojo B and the business elite.

Indeed, the bluest of the blue chips of Makati business, the Ayalas, managed to live quite profitably through the last 18 years with Jojo B. They have enough goodwill capital with the former Makati mayor to give them a head start in a Binay presidency than say, the Aboitizes.

I asked an economist colleague of mine how he thought the business community will react to a Binay presidency. Here are some of his thoughts:

“I think it depends on who businessman you ask.  I think MVP, San Miguel, and the Sys wouldn’t be unhappy.  Probably a number in MBC would be. The businessmen in the wood industry and the mining industry hate PNoy and the Daang Matuwid party. They can’t wait for PNoy to finish his term.

“The foreign investors who deal with Lilia de Lima don’t care who’s the president as long as they have Lilia.

“There’s some legitimate fear that crony capitalism will be back with a Binay presidency. However, if you examine his record in running the housing agencies, especially Pag-ibig under Darlene Berberabe, these are very professionally run. Compare that to the time under Noli de Castro.

“There’s also a good chance that under a Binay presidency, the NFA monopoly may finally be dismantled since there are no rice farmers in Makati. Both GMA and PNoy hail from rice-producing regions and they have generally been very protective of the rich rice farmers and rice cartel…”

That sounds pretty much like the seemingly pro Binay memo from a foreign investment management firm that I wrote about last Friday. If we are just talking business movers and shakers, Jojo B understands what makes them happy better than even P-Noy. He has had years of practice doing that in Makati.

Non-corporate business folks, on the other hand, will mirror the sentiments in their local communities. Most of them are small and medium scale business owners and they are probably more susceptible to a Binay pitch, just like the masa in their communities.

The Makati executives and professionals, the middle class folks who led the yellow rain on Ayala Avenue that precipitated EDSA 1 are revolted by the idea of a Binay presidency. Most of them only work in Makati so no ties bind them to Binay’s welfare state benefits. Recent headlines on corruption in Binay’s Makati only heighten their revulsion to the idea of a Binay presidency.

Curious to know how Binay interacts with the Makati Business moguls, I googled and found a speech he delivered before the MBC last year. It is clear from this speech that he knows what the MBC types want to hear. Here are snippets from that speech:

“I distinctly recall meeting with a group of businessmen early in my term, where I made one simple promise: I will focus only on governance, and I will not meddle in business. I will work to provide the atmosphere for business to grow, but you must do your share in supporting the government, by among others, paying your taxes.

“And this is what I think we should do next for the country — enhance and strengthen the economic fundamentals that we have achieved. We must continue to expand our tax base, not by higher taxes, but by improving compliance and collection; continue to reduce, lengthen and spread our maturing liabilities to avoid disruptive fiscal bumps, raise infrastructure spending from the current two percent of our GDP to a truly progressive five percent of GDP; liberalize foreign investment restrictions to make the Philippines and Philippine enterprises more globally competitive and provide the Filipino consumer cheaper and more affordable products…

“We must cure the policy and infrastructure misalignments that emerge as we cascade down our gains. In tourism for example, a true open skies policy with an aggressive airport development program has to be undertaken…

“We must take a look at the inefficiencies of the agriculture supply chain that allow as many as eight layers of middlemen to deprive the Filipino farmer the full value of their produce.”

I asked an economist in one of my e-groups what he thought of a Binay vs Mar 2016 match-up. This is his reply:

Mar will be worse than Typhoon Yolanda. A few years back when he was planning to run for the presidency, he invited some of us to a meeting in Manila Golf Club. He was trying to convince us to support his plan to eliminate the VAT on oil, the impact on public finance be damned because it will get him “pogi” points. I demurred, although I had known Mar way back.

As for Binay, I agree that these corruption allegations are serious and shouldn’t be brushed aside. I don’t condone corruption, but I can speak as a resident of Makati. 

Last year, Magallanes Village was inundated after a heavy rainfall. The village walls broke and water rushed into our village.  Our house was flooded with about three feet of water.  Outside the water was chest deep.  We had to be rescued since there was no electricity. 

I called up the barangay chairman and he sent a boat to rescue us.  We also saw Mayor Jun Jun Binay in the village with an amphibious rescue vehicle helping with the rescue operations.

Days after, the barangay contacted us and advised us to take antibiotics against the possibility of leptospirosis. We went to the barangay and were given antibiotics for free with the barangay doctor administering it on the spot.

Another time, my wife suffered an attack of vertigo while I wasn’t home. I called up the barangay chairman and he immediately dispatched an emergency team to pick up my wife. 

My former maid got sick of kidney disease.  Fortunately, she had a yellow card.  She run up a bill of half a million pesos, but she didn’t pay a single centavo.  My driver got a stroke recently.  His family brought him to OsMak and treatment was free. So too for the driver of my sister, who contracted dengue and didn’t have to pay a thing.

 Even on Saturdays, the barangay office, including the clinic, remains open to offer services to the residents. I don’t have to worry too much about my household help getting sick and I have to personally pay for their medical and other needs. 

So there. Call me uneducated, but the government works for me in my tiny village in Makati. It’s not the birthday cake, the P1,000 every six months for senior citizens, and the free movies. 

You may say that Binay has nothing to do with the prosperity of Makati. I don’t care. My wife doesn’t care. All we see is the service we are getting as residents of Makati.  At least we see some of that prosperity trickling down.  Narrow-minded, maybe, but I’m just relating to you my personal experience.

Wow! This non-Makati resident can’t help feeling envious. Hoy Bistek… sana ganyan din tayo sa kyusi!

Well, I guess it is wrong to say Binay is only a masa phenomenon. But I still think Jojo B has to respond to the corruption charges being hurled against him in a less legalistic manner. He must worry about the court of public opinion too. I am too middle class not to be scandalized by those corruption reports.

Binay must reassure us he is not a kleptocratic clone of Marcos. That 9000 percent overprice on OsMak’s autoclave is too shocking not to be fully refuted. Jojo, tell us it isn’t true!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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