EDITORIAL - Remember the socioeconomic agenda
(The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

Business confidence remains up and the stock market is hitting new highs. Recent political turbulence, however, is starting to stir concern in the business community. The other day, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to focus more on project implementation and less on politics.

Last month, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines came out with the latest assessment of proposals for accelerating the country’s economic growth, with a report focusing on the implementation of President Duterte’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda. The 10 priorities were applauded when they were announced by the President at the start of his term.

In the report published by the Arangkada Philippines Project, there’s a long list of detailed proposals for accelerating growth that should keep the Duterte administration preoccupied for the next five years. The business community has remained generally bullish about the country’s economic prospects under President Duterte. This positive sentiment, however, must be sustained by stability, clear objectives and a viable plan for attaining them.

The President has been bickering with his critics both in the country and overseas since Day One, but he has made the right noises about creating a business-friendly environment nationwide. The Arangkada report includes data showing that the country is lagging behind the five other major economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in terms of numerous growth indicators. Recent developments, however, are raising concerns that efforts to implement the President’s socioeconomic agenda might take a backseat to political feuding.

The Arangkada report includes assessments and recommendations on macroeconomic policies, improving competitiveness and ease of doing business, infrastructure building, rural development including tourism and agribusiness, human capital development and reproductive health as well as promoting science, technology, manufacturing and the creative industries.

People generally acknowledge the seriousness of the drug menace and the need to fight it decisively. A low crime rate is always good for business and economic growth. The dispute stems from the approach to the problem and the abuses committed by some of those tasked to wage the war on drugs. This battle can still be recalibrated to blunt criticism, and the government can then give appropriate attention to many other pressing matters of state. There’s a 10-point socioeconomic agenda waiting to be pursued in earnest.

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