Clarity in 2020

Clarity is my fervent wish for the Duterte administration and the country in 2020. Clarity, in terms of policy reform agenda and implementation by the administration to create more job and business opportunities, with emphasis on agriculture and rural development.

Let me first greet everyone a very happy new year. There is a good reason for us to celebrate the start of a new year, for it allows us to have a fresh start in life and 12 new chances to do it. May all of us and our loved ones have a happier, healthier, more peaceful, more successful and more prosperous 2020.

It is also worth noting that 2020 sounds very much like 20/20 vision. The American Optometric Association defines 20/20 vision as a term being used to express normal visual acuity, which is the clarity or sharpness of vision, when measured at a distance of 20 feet. The group says that a person with 20/20 vision can see things clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. It added that a person must be as close to 20 feet to see what a normal person vision can see at 100 feet.

Clarity is my fervent wish for the Duterte administration and the country in 2020. Clarity, in terms of policy reform agenda and implementation by the administration to create more job and business opportunities, with emphasis on agriculture and rural development. Clarity in pursuing all of the projects and programs to help lift more Filipinos out of poverty and bring economic development to all corners of the country, especially the long neglected rural communities.

With two years left out of his six-year term, President Duterte has all of the reasons to pursue such policy reform agenda, programs and projects with greater aggressiveness and eagerness. 2019 ended with him having an 87 percent approval rating, 5.9 million Filipinos lifted out of poverty, a 6.2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate measured during the third quarter of the year, and a still optimistic five to seven percent growth forecast for 2020 given by the likes of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Monetary (IMF) despite domestic and foreign economic challenges being expected. Add to that the fact that he has more allies on both chambers of Congress on top of him being supported by eight out of ten Filipinos.

I would like President Duterte and his administration to focus more on pursuing and implementing long overdue political and economic reform measures that will finally help the Philippines realize its true economic success potential, which is being hindered by the Corazon Aquino-era protectionist economic policies led by the 1987 Constitution. While lifting 5.9 million Filipinos out of poverty in 2019 can be considered a deent achievement, the Duterte administration should not rest on its laurels because there are millions more still living below the poverty line, all of whom plus the 5.9 million before them can be given more than decent living standards and livelihood sources if the country can finally break itself free from the anti-foreign direct investment (FDI) and anti-micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) "60/40" rule that limits foreign ownership of equity to only 40 percent and other protectionist economic policies that only benefited the political and economic elite, the liberals and the leftists and the foreign powers that back them. The oligarchy's control over natural monpolies such as water distribution, power generation and distribution, telecommunications, and the media can finally be broken if the protectionist economic policies are to be done away with, resulting to genuine market competition and the State finally asserting itself over control of assets that are of national and food security importance. Agricultural and rural development, food security and rural poverty alleviation goals can be realized if economic reform measures are finally implemented, resulting to the transformation of farmers and fishermen from depending on mere subsistence activities towards becoming real entrepreneurs, especially if they will be formed together into a community corporation, since there is going to be an influx of investments from and tie-ups with possible local and foreign businesses, enhanced access to local and foreign markets for their produce, enhanced access to credit and technology, and greater ability to do business networking with local and foreign farmer or fishermen counterparts.

However, the pursuit and implementation of long overdue economic reforms are going to be an exercise in futility if the current unitary presidential system will be kept. Time and again, it has been proved that the presidential system has done more harm than good to the Philippines and the Filipino people, resulting to lack of continuity and consistency in terms of policy formulation and implementation, as well as the nation being stuck with bad leadership on the national and local executive and legislative levels for years. The remaining two years of the Duterte administration should also see the Philippines eventually doing away with the presidential system in favor of the parliamentary system, and, at the same time, coming up with new rules on party formation, membership and elections, a new election system to be used on both the national and local levels, and the laying of the foundations for the gradual shift from the current unitary system towards federalism.

The period from 2020 to 2022 should be utilized well by President Duterte to build a lasting positve legacy that he and his administration will leave behind. On the other hand, the policy reform agenda, programs and projects to be launched and are currently being pursued by this administration should be continued by administrations from 2022 and beyond, which is why it is important that political reforms that ensure continuity and consistency must be implemented in 2020. Hopefully, President Duterte and his administration will see that, hence the fervent wish for clarity in 2020.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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