By Nico Pascual
Today is the day Rodrigo Duterte is being sworn in as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Today is also the day that he leaves his trappings of Davao behind to lead the country to a brighter tomorrow. But whenever a new leader assumes office, we are forced to wonder if he or she is truly up to the task. During the campaign trail, Duterte has talked loudly about his plans to stop corruption and criminal activity, but he has shed little on what he plans to do for our economy. Last June 21, he met with hundreds of businessman to entertain suggestions about what needs to be done once he assumes office.
According to Reuters, Duterte was casual when he entertained a 10-point ‘wish list’ that they complied and gave him. These were important matters — ranging from demands to cut taxes to boosting internet speed. “For now, I would say, nothing wrong with this,” he told them. “Let me dwell on governance in the light of what I have been schooled. I’m a lawyer and I never pretended to be an economist.”
But his casual attitude towards this important matter has left investors anxious, as he takes the helm of one of the fastest growing economies in the Asian region. The countries’ growth has averaging 6.2 percent in the first five years under the outgoing President Benigno Aquino.
The outgoing president Benigno Aquino was also more hands-on when it came to the economy. He deployed policies that helped our country expand faster than China and other Asian countries in the last quarter. But he still struggled with the corruption that put our country 95th among 168 countries in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perception index.
But what challenges does the Duterte Administration have to face? Well, there is a problem with leadership as Duterte himself has tasked his cabinet to focus on the economy while he continues his war on crime and corruption. Duterte’s campaign finance manager Carlos Dominguez himself said that for now they will continue to maintain Aquino’s policies while following Davao’s government model that Duterte instituted. “We will continue and maintain the current macroeconomic policies,” he mentioned in a televised briefing from Davao City.
He also mentioned that the new administration would help low income earners by lowering income taxes and social welfare payments. Dominguez also mentioned that they aim to provide more welfare assistance to marginalized people living in rural areas. In order to further economic growth, they also plan to increase spending on public infrastructure which is good news for everyone involved. This means that hopefully they improve local facilities like airports, roads, and public transport systems.
These may all be promises but all we can do is hope for the best in the years to come. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and our country needs time to achieve great things. Malayan Banking Berhad analysts summed up our economic situation in a note, as reported by Bloomberg. “Investors are probably aware that structural changes don’t happen overnight. You can’t turn Indonesia into Singapore overnight. You can’t turn the Philippines into Singapore overnight.”