It’s still the Economy, stupid!

While many pundits remain pre-occupied on criticizing the government's campaign against illegal drugs, the country's economy continues to perform well, following the government's strong efforts to invest adequately on infrastructure, institute tax reform, and strengthen Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The country's recent hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits provided our government a platform to establish the Philippines’ standing as a respectable and worthy trade and investment partner. While the excruciating traffic and pageantry may have caught the public's attention, the ASEAN Summit provided President Rodrigo Duterte with the opportunity to talk to fellow regional and global leaders. The bilateral meetings conducted with various heads of state allowed the President to reassure his counterparts of the country's stability in the areas of peace and order, security, economy, and infrastructure. It will be interesting to note what type of trade and cooperation agreements were made in the forthcoming months.

While the ASEAN Summit may have set the stage for the country to continuously move-up in the competitiveness ladder, there are indications that the country is primed for more growth. The Philippines has moved up to fourth place in terms of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) based on the most recent ASEAN report on FDIs. The country emerged as the fourth largest recipient of FDIs in the region with $7.93 Billion in 2016, based on preliminary data. This puts us just behind Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Our growth in FDIs is expected to be fueled by the recent marching orders given by the President to open up more sectors of the economy to foreign investments. According to the National Economic Development Authority, steps are also being taken to ease restrictions on foreign participation in big-ticket infrastructure projects under the government's "Build-Build-Build" Program.

Despite the uproar on perceived violations of human rights, war against drugs, and fake news, the country's economy continues to progress under the Duterte administration. However, the biggest economic resource and agent remains to be our people. Our people today remain largely divided by partisanship and color. There is a need for us to put these issues aside if we are to aspire for economic development and poverty alleviation.

For example, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Bill continues to languish in the Senate. This tax reform bill is supposed to lower personal income and corporate tax rates, making our country conducive to further local and foreign investments. Despite efforts to communicate the issue with the general public through television and social media advertisements, the general public is still largely unaware that this would actually benefit them.

Regardless of color or affiliation, all parties should put themselves to task in raising greater awareness on tax reform instead of peddling fake news. Raising the ante of political pressure will prompt the Senate to pass the TRAIN Bill immediately.

At the end of the day, all political argumentations should result to something positive. If our economy was able to withstand the political noise without much fanfare, it is bound to get better if we will put our political differences aside to support the key economic reform initiatives being pushed at different levels of government.

The growth of our economy does not just benefit the red, yellow, black, blue or white. It benefits the country and its people. It benefits us all.
It’s still the economy, stupid!

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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