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Business

Moving ahead: Prioritizing tasks on the last year

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

In his last year of office, the President’s popularity rating shows little signs of tarnish. The continued spread of pandemic infections and deaths, an economic recession, increased unemployment rates, even high poverty and hunger numbers do not seem to dent his political armor.

Surveys do tell some surprising stories, and the sooner we are sobered enough to set aside our incredulity, the better to understand the situation and move forward.

Sara Duterte, who led in popularity in the most recent Pulse Asia survey of presidential aspirants with 28 percent from respondents who were asked who they would vote if elections were held during the survey period of June 7 to 16, rides on her father’s high popularity rating. That’s telling a lot, her being a relative newbie in the political landscape.

Of course, there’s still much shifting and shuffling that’s coming up in the next few months in preparation for the May presidential elections. For sure, though, who Duterte will openly support would be able to reap a few precious points, especially in a tight race.

More vaccinations

Election maneuvering aside, the President and this current administration must make use of the next 11 months to deliver as much more as possible on promises made five years ago, and more importantly, in addressing this pandemic.

Getting vaccinations rolling at a faster pace would currently be the best bet, especially with the emergence of new strains believed more virulent and transmittable, to bring the dreaded deaths under control – and to prod economic activity back to healthier levels.

Vaccination hesitancy is slowly being eroded as more people come to accept the benefits of getting a jab over safety concerns arising from record speed vaccine development and production. If the government statements are to be believed, we have secured vaccines enough for more than 70 percent of the population.

While a still-raging pandemic necessitates continued use of face masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing, getting more office and shop floor workers vaccinated allows businesses to operate at increased efficiencies.

Next, should be getting students of allowable ages vaccinated. As a growing number of governments now point out, countries must learn to live with the virus; so far, the vaccination route seems to be a better alternative to lockdown measures.

Food security

Not at the top of priority of concerns enumerated during the President’s first State of the Nation Address in 2016 is support for agriculture. The African swine flu (ASF) pandemic, for example, has taught us that food security should be one of the pillars of our country’s push for growth and economic stability.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chains. During the period when a growing number of swine farms crucial to the supply of pork for Metro Manila had to be closed, pigs from other parts of the country could not be transported fast enough to the capital because of border controls.

A subsequent substantial rise in the price of pork resulting from the supply squeeze led to elevated inflation rates for a number of months, pork being a staple in many Filipino homes’ diet. Inflation numbers now are slowly improving with the arrival of imported pork.

Help must be extended to local hog raisers affected by the ASF infections to get back on their feet, but better biosecurity measures must be prioritized to ensure that other swine farms not contaminated by the deadly virus will remain in operation.

In other agriculture sectors, the increased attention to bringing profitability is a step in the right direction. Filipinos who till the soil or farm the seas are among the most vulnerable members of society, and the best way to bring them out of poverty is to improve their income from better agriculture methods.

Building blocks

The promise to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” was rudely blighted by this pandemic, but the groundwork for more projects has already been laid and ready to be harvested by succeeding administrations. Duterte may not be able to personally inaugurate the completion of some landmark projects during his current term, but they will for sure be completed in succeeding years.

Infrastructure building is something that takes time, and shortcuts are rare given the complexities of securing financing, finalizing engineering plans, and even clearing land for eventual groundbreaking.

While only three projects can be attributed as having been started and completed during the Duterte administration’s first five years, several dozens are now in various stages of construction and well on the way to completion.

Both the Transportation and Public Works and Highways departments are trying to feverishly resume at full speed the pace of the Build Build Build projects while trying to cope with the financial and health challenges that the pandemic has caused.

Still, the Duterte administration can be credited for an increased number of new infrastructure projects – roads, bridges, ports, utilities – now in the pipeline essential to sustaining post-pandemic economic growth.

Majority of the Filipino people’s continued support for the President is a sustaining factor that should motivate the current administration to focus on the essential tasks needed to reconnect the economy to growth.

The first four years of the Duterte government has further strengthened gains achieved by previous administrations in infrastructure, and while the pandemic has blighted progress in the fifth year, there is scope to return to better footing in the coming months before a new government takes over.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

SARA DUTERTE
Philstar
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