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Opinion

Presidential agendas

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

Presidential candidates with well-crafted socio-economic plans are those ready to hit the ground running with clarity of purpose. So far, candidates Robredo, Moreno, Lacson and Pacquiao have already made their socio-economic plans known. Marcos has not publicized his plan yet – not on his website nor on any form of print media. I wrote his office to ask for a copy of his leadership agenda but received nothing. I can only assume that one does not exist.

Last December, I wrote about the economic agenda of VP Robredo entitled “Hanapbuhay para sa lahat” (Jobs for all). At the heart of the Robredo plan is to create a source of livelihood for every Filipino. In one masterplan, Robredo ventures to solve the country’s core problems – poverty, unemployment and income inequality. It is a well considered agenda, given that job creation addresses both the country’s social and economic challenges.

Isko Moreno recently announced his socio-economic plan entitled “Bilis Kilos” (Move Fast). It is a 10-step agenda designed to pump-prime the economy while addressing the fundamental weaknesses of government institutions. These are its components:

First, Housing. The country has a housing backlog of 4.5 million homes. Nearly a quarter of our population is deprived of decent housing and this has caused a myriad of social problems, not the least of which are criminality, low work productivity and health concerns.

Patterned after the 70’s development model of Singapore, Moreno puts mass housing at the center of his agenda. The plan is to allocate 1.3 percent of GDP towards the sector, 16 times more than what was spent in 2020. The goal is to build 4.5 million homes over six years. This will be accompanied by reforms in urban planning and administration, the goal of which is to make our cities greener, more inclusive and more livable. The push towards housing aims to restore dignity amongst our marginalized countrymen.

Second, Education. Moreno recognizes that we are in an educational crisis. Budget appropriation for education was only 3.4 percent of GDP from 2017 to 2021, a 17 percent reduction from PNoy’s time.

Moreno aims to elevate the aptitudes of Filipino students to the level of their ASEAN peers. He commits to appropriate 4.3 percent of GDP on education, which is slightly above the level of Vietnam (4 percent). The funds will go towards expanding access to learning, improving STEM courses (science, technology engineering and mathematics) and strengthening vocational studies.

Third, Labor & Employment. Job generation must be a priority of government since unemployment spiked to 7.4 percent following the pandemic. That said, Moreno aims to hit two birds with one stone by creating jobs through the development of MSMEs.

MSMEs comprise 99.5 percent of all businesses in the country and are the source of employment for 63 percent of the workforce. Logic goes that if the number of MSMEs is made to increase, jobs will follow.

The development of MSMEs will come on the back of a four-point plan. Increase available credit to MSMEs from P1.5 billion today to P30 billion, reduce the cost of doing business, facilitate ease in doing business and help MSME’s adapt to new technologies.

Fourth, Health care. COVID has exposed the weaknesses and neglect of the health care sector. Despite the thousands of medical graduates we produce each year, there is only one doctor per 2,000 Filipinos and .06 hospital beds per 1,000 Filipinos.

Exacerbating matters is government’s neglect of mental illness. Around 6 million Filipinos suffer one or multiple forms of mental illness, with insufficient facilities to care for them.

Moreno’s solution is to increase the salaries of public health care professionals to dissuade them from leaving the country. Health care workers will be given the importance they deserve through automatic regularization and the provision of special risk allowances.

Moreno plans to bolster the public health care system by providing 1.7 beds for every 1,000 Filipinos. This would mean building more hospitals, including those that specialize in mental illness. More importantly, the corruption at PhilHealth will be solved, once and for all, by removing unqualified political appointees and replacing them with genuine professionals.

Fifth, Tourism and Creative Industries. Tourism contributes 12.5 percent of GDP and provides jobs for 5.4 million of our countrymen. Moreno intends to make the Philippines a tourism powerhouse and aspires a 300 percent increase in foreign visitors by 2028 to 24 million annually.

To this end, tourism infrastructure will be strengthened along with international promotions. There will also be thrust towards high-profile international events to boost the country’s global profile.

Creative industries include such sectors as furniture, leather goods, jewelry, homeware, toys, etc. It is a $2.25-trillion global industry for which the Philippines’ share is only $4 billion. Moreno plans to develop our creative industries by crafting a national strategy and development roadmap. It all starts with the enactment of the Creative Industries Act.

Sixth, Infrastructure. Infrastructure in the Philippines remains wanting despite Duterte’s Build Build Build. Electric power is unstable and expensive. More than half of households are deprived of water and sewerage connections. Internet connectivity is slow and only available in city centers. Local and international shipping costs are prohibitive.

Electric power will be given priority with the construction of more power plants from renewable sources. This will be complimented with the long overdue interconnection of the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao grids. As for water, the target is to attain 100 percent water access coverage by 2026.

The construction of roads and bridges will be accelerated along with the expansion of the national broadband. In the maritime sector, the outdated cabotage law will be rationalized, along with the policies that affect the shipping industry.

Next week, watch out for the next four components of Moreno’s Bilis Kilos plan. To be highlighted too will be Ping Lacson’s agenda.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook @Andrew J. Masigan and Twitter @aj_masigan

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