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Opinion

Ping Lacson’s leadership plan

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

This is a continuation of a series where I put the spotlight on each presidential candidate’s socio-economic plan. As of this writing, Robredo, Moreno, Lacson and Pacquiao have already published their respective leadership agendas. Marcos has yet to disclose his.

During the presidential forum organized by the KPB, Ping Lacson succeeded to communicate his leadership plan with clarity of thought and clarity of intention.

Lacson was wise to identify the country’s core problems at the beginning of his discourse. He singled out hunger, unemployment, education, rising debts and the aftershocks of the pandemic as the issues that need immediate attention.

He boldly declared that corruption is the single factor that has held back the nation. As much as P700 billion is lost to corruption every year under Mr. Duterte’s leadership. To this end, Lacson makes a solemn promise to lead with trustworthiness, reliability and competence.

He vows to dedicate his first 100 days in office to internal cleansing. In other words, ridding government of the inept, the corrupt and the undisciplined. Fix government first and everything will follow, he said. Lacson believes that if government is populated with competent and honest professionals, reliable leadership will follow. I cannot agree more.

To cushion the effects of the pandemic, Lacson plans to expand the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program so as to put the hungry and unemployed back on their feet.

This will be followed by the professional implementation of the Universal Healthcare Program. With a budget of P260 billion, Lacson promises to expand health care capacities to one bed for every 800 Filipino, provide one health station for every barangay and one rural health unit for every 20,000 citizens. He will increase the salaries of health care frontliners to dissuade them from leaving the country.

Agriculture will be prioritized to achieve food security and end our dependence on imports. Funds saved from curbing corruption will go towards providing seeds, fertilizers, machineries and irrigation for the farm sector. Lacson is the only candidate that appreciates the true economic and security risks of being import-dependent for food and basic commodities.

As for education, Lacson commits to build one school in every barangay, especially those in far-flung and conflict-stricken areas. He proposes free college education and a paid internship program.

He will institute budgetary reform not only to reduce our widening deficits but also to utilize the country’s resources more judiciously. Again, he is the only candidate who highlighted this need.

Lacson’s platform is not as elaborate nor as detailed as the rest. However, it addresses the country’s core problems, which is runaway corruption and incompetence. In this regard, the Lacson plan makes sense.

However, I could not help but feel that the plan is incomplete. As a soldier, police and lawmaker, I would have wanted him to be the vanguard for political reform. In my opinion, this is the missing element in his leadership plan. Lacson would be a more compelling choice if he promised to pass the anti-political dynasty bill and the anti-political turncoatism bill; re-establish the checks and balance between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government; enforce higher academic requirements for elected officials and eliminate conflicts of interest among lawmakers vis-a-vis their family businesses.

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For those who missed last week’s piece, I wrote about the first six components of Isko Moreno’s 10-point Bilis Kilos Plan, which covered housing, education, labor & employment, health care, tourism & creative industries and infrastructure. Here are the next four.

Digital Transformation. Innovation is the name of the game in the digital sphere.  Unfortunately, the Philippines spends a meager 0.16 percent of GDP on research and development while our neighbors spend 2 percent. No surprise, the Philippines is the region’s laggard in the tech start-up scene. In 2019, Filipino start-ups raised just $28.8 million in capital while Indonesian start-ups raised $3 billion.

On artificial intelligence (AI), industry experts forecast that 92 percent of business processes will be driven by AI within the next 10 years. That said, the Philippines must be a center for excellent in AI if we are to maintain our leadership in the IT-KPO space.

Moreno’s solution is a practical one. First, digital connectivity will be made available up to the remotest part of the country with a minimum speed of 1 Mbps. He commits to spend 2 percent of GDP on R&D with special emphasis on AI. Government will be an enabler of innovation by providing seed money and capacity building for tech entrepreneurs.

Agriculture. Twenty eight percent of our workforce derives their livelihood in agriculture, yet the sector contributes only 14 percent of GDP. The greater majority of farmers are engaged in subsistence farming.

Productivity is at the heart of a successful agricultural program. If farm yield improves, so will incomes. Fundamental is the passage of the Land Use Law and rationalization of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Moreno’s program calls for the adoption of technology in farming.

Good governance. New investments and increased economic activity will only be realized if there is confidence in government. Moreno promises to populate his government with honest professionals. He commits to ban fat political dynasties.

Finally, smart government. Moreno envisions a government where the people have a say in policy making. This will be done by making government accessible to the public through a digital platform. Non-sensitive information will be made transparent to all.

The Moreno plan touches on most aspects of national governance that need attention.  Lacking, however, is a push towards rebuilding our manufacturing capacities and helping existing industries climb the value chain of technology. The Bilis Kilos plan is ambitious but also wildly expensive to execute. At some point, Moreno must explain how his plan will be financed since the Duterte government has already maxed-out our borrowing capacity.

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

PING LACSON

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