Why Grace Poe, Binay or Mar would be okay for economic progress

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2015 - 10:00am

I have been asked many times by business people from Bonifacio Global City, from Makati to Binondo, by tycoons, foreign investors and media about the economic prospects of the Philippines after the May 2016 presidential election. Who, they ask, would be good for the economy?

Are the various pundits correct in claiming that popular Senator Grace Poe “lacks political experience,” that populist Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay is allegedly “corrupt” and that ex-Wall Street guy and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is allegedly “inept and indecisive,” thus their election as president would derail or even imperil Philippine economic progress? I vehemently disagree!

Here are my objective and quite bullish analyses of our positive future, based on the not bad — although imperfect — economic stewardships of Ateneo economics graduate President Noynoy C. Aquino and also that of his ex-professor economics doctorate alumna ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and based on the Philippines’ positive demographic and other factors.

1. Senator Grace Poe. Based on my research, interviews with many people who know her and her family, as well as my personal encounters with her through the years, I think Senator Grace Poe is today more intellectually, emotionally and politically prepared to serve as president of the Philippines than President Noy Aquino was in May 2010.

The bright, honest and diligent Grace Poe is today more prepared to be president than similar first-term Senator Barack Obama was when he first took presidential office in the US; more so than Erap Estrada was when he won as president; more, even, than Fidel V. Ramos was when he won. I think a lot of business people know this truth in their gut; that’s why Poe is gaining wide popularity among business folk.

Look at the “politically inexperienced” Obama who won over veteran politicos Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. He has done well to arrest the economic collapse of the US, which had worsened under the nincompoop presidency of the “politically experienced” Harvard-educated ex-governor of Texas, George W. Bush.

To those who keep harping about the “lack of political experience” of Senator Grace Poe as a supposed weakness if she wins as president next year, I say this is nonsense. I believe there is no real school for being president, nothing like actually doing it; we just need to assess the character, intellectual strength and moral sense of a person to know whether she or he can be a good, rational leader.

I would compare the presidency to the phenomenon of entrepreneurship, or to swimming or riding a bicycle. A self-made billionaire taipan once told me he doesn’t think entrepreneurship can be taught well inside classrooms and using textbook cases. Similarly, I believe that the best way to really master entrepreneurship, swimming or riding a bike is to go out and run a business, throw yourself into the swimming pool, or just ride a bike! Let us assess the character, emotional and moral qualities of a person, not so-called “political experience”!

I believe Senator Grace Poe has the makings of an inspirational, reformist, compassionate and gutsy president.

2. Vice President Jojo Binay. Detractors have attacked VP Binay almost the same way the business, intellectual and middle-class elites of Bangkok have done to the action-oriented, hardworking and pro-poor ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Almost the same thing happened to ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, especially in the latter part of her term.

Critics claim that the diligent and smart Thaksin and GMA were “corrupt,” thus negative for the economy. Was GMA bad for Philippine economic growth in her governance? Actually, no. It’s mainly her “Hello Garci” controversy that almost derailed the economy. I believe that if Binay wins the 2016 election, thus having a legitimate electoral mandate — something that eluded GMA — he will preside over robust Philippine economic growth.   

I think that, despite his lack of popularity among the elite and middle class, a Binay presidency can still be good for strong Philippine economic growth due to his proven common sense, his track record of making things happen or work, plus his Erap-style and Thaksin-style of socio-economic largesse targeting the poor masses which can lead to more inclusive economic development.

Based on my research and personal encounters with him, Binay has the makings of an effective, action-oriented and pragmatic president.

3. Secretary Mar Roxas. Detractors of Mar Araneta Roxas lampoon his allegedly being “inept and indecisive,” plus they attack him for being “too elitist” and thus supposedly too removed from the needs and realities of the middle class and the masses. Critics hold up the woes of the mismanaged, congested and faulty MRT mass transport system as a symbol of his governance track record (or lack of it).

In fairness to Roxas, despite his really being from the country’s landed political aristocracy whom others decry as an “oligarchy,” I have researched him and based on my personal encounters, Mar is a decent person with good intellectual and economic preparation to be a leader. His advantages include his reputation as a pro-business technocrat.

Roxas is a former Wall Street investment banker who studied in the world-class Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, thus in terms of preparation for economic governance, some Liberal Party politicos seem correct when they claim to me that for all his shortcomings as chief of DOTC and DILG, “Mar can become a better version of President Noynoy Aquino.”

I believe Mar Roxas has the makings of a better version of President Noy Aquino by being a pro-economic growth president. 

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Next president should aim for poverty-busting, double-digit growth!

Last but not least, I recently told Harvard-educated Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president Robert G. Vergara that I believe whichever candidate wins in the 2016 president election, we’ll still be economically fine. Why? I believe our Philippine economy has already grown so big and diverse, unlike the sugar/coconuts/lumber exporter we were in the past. We’re among the world’s most dynamic Asian economies, with a large labor force and the consumer edge of young demographics. I believe no one national politician on the horizon can derail our economic growth momentum in 2016.

In fact, I believe our average growth of six percent is still slow, that we are actually under-performing based on our resources and potentials. I believe we can aspire for poverty-busting double-digit Philippine economic growth starting 2016, if we can reform our restrictive foreign investments laws in the way Vietnam has boldly done; if we can normalize our diplomatic and economic ties with China (without conceding in our territorial dispute) by learning from the ways pragmatic South Korea has worked well with China; and if we can be like our ASEAN neighbors in boosting infrastructure, social services and education investments on a massive scale! 

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 Thanks for your feedback! Email willsoonflourish@gmail.com or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

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