We Will Invest In A Greater "Asia's Bright Star" – Mar Roxas

MANILA: "Brilliant" – Teddy Boy Locsin Jr (@teddyboylocsin). He tweeted as he watched Mar Roxas speaking during his turn at the "2016 Presidential Dialogues" sponsored by the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) on 30 March 2016 at the 5-star Fairmont Makati hotel.


"Business gives Mar Roxas rock-star welcome" – Business Inquirer (Marlon Ramos, 31 March 2016, business.inquirer.net). At the hotel's ballroom, where the forum was held, they "applauded and cheered Roxas as he arrived around noon."

"Presidential bet most qualified to sustain the country's status as a fast-rising economic star in the region" – Rappler (Katerina Francisco, 30 March 2016, rappler.com). He was "given a standing ovation and warm applause by the crowd as he outlined his economic plans."

"Mar Roxas: 'The best is yet to come'" – ABS-CBN News (Kathlyn dela Cruz, 30 March 2016, news.abs-cbn.com). He did point out that under Noynoy Aquino, once referred to as the "Sick Man of Asia," the Philippines is now called "Asia's Bright Star." And yes, Roxas said, the best is yet to come.

In his speech, Roxas referred to himself as a job applicant for the CEO of his country. He meant business. As a former investment banker, he knew where to invest the country's funds, in these 3 growth zones:

(1)     Manufacturing
(2)     Tourism
(3)     Agriculture.

Manufacturing. "We will be able to do this by attracting quality (foreign companies) that are now looking for a better site than where they are presently." For instance, he says, we have Chinese company SuperL in Porac, Pampanga; they came over 4 years ago and now they have 10,000 workers. The monthly cash that goes into the local Porac community is about P150 million. Roxas had previously promised 1 million jobs annually. "A hundred such companies, a hundred at ten thousand, is a million jobs." We will make sure that they find a hospitable climate here.

Tourism. The latest we have is 5.4 million tourists a year. Roxas believes that we could double this to 12 million tourists in the next 6 years. The plan requires the private sector to put up hotels, restaurants, and so on, while the government spends for infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports etc.

Agriculture. "Agriculture is the big elephant in the room," he says. "We all know and we all benefit from the products of agriculture. And yet, agriculture is really one of the areas with the greatest poverty all across our country." Roughly a third of Filipinos are dependent on agriculture.

And how do we invigorate the economy? Roxas says:

We will invest more in human capital. "We need to improve the quality of our education." Teacher training. And surprise! "The most important element here is Internet penetration." He cites a worldwide study that says, for every 10% Internet penetration in a country like ours, there is about 1.4% improvement of the GDP. "Simply providing access."  I say, with access, the Internet user will find ways to enrich himself intellectually, not to mention literally.

We will invest more in clean energy. "We want to move away from dirty energy such as coal and move towards renewable. That will create jobs, that will create opportunities, and that will create a better climate for all of us into the future." We will require all the city buses in Metro Manila to convert to CNG, more than 5,000 of them.

We will invest more in metro drivers. We will change the nature of compensation of the drivers – from an incentive system to a fixed wage system; then, irrespective of how many passengers he has, the driver will stay in line and not foul up traffic waiting for passengers in forbidden places.

We will invest more in countryside development. The farmers are poor because they get very little from their labors. For instance, chayote farmer Maria gets P4/kilo; this becomes P6 in town (Benguet); this becomes P12 in the city (Baguio); this becomes P50 when it gets to Manila. She will never get rich.

How do you solve a problem like Maria's? Roxas says we have to invest in scale economies. "Without scale, you cannot be competitive." Roxas explains about scale economies:

It's what gives you negotiating power, it's what gives you the power to say no to low prices. It's what gives you the power to negotiate for capital so that you can invest in your farms, you can invest in your (postharvest) facilities, you can invest in your warehouses, in your chillers, in the trucking, and so on and so forth.

There are 30 million Filipinos in the countryside in subsistence status. "If all of them or a large portion of them get some help so that they can in fact be productive, income-generating members of our economy, imagine the boom in our countryside, which will create the demand, which will create further economic activity."

We will invest more in infrastructure. "The demand for infrastructure is directly related to the growth (of) the economy." For instance, while cars are selling more, streets aren't getting wider in the urban areas. "So, the only way to build capacity is to build second-level and third-level (infrastructure)."

We will invest more in a new international airport. We need to move out of the city. The NAIA is only 440 hectares; Clark is 2,000 hectares. Figure it out: 3 parallel runways. And, if we sold NAIA, roughly $8 billion, "it pays for the entire move! It pays for the entire growth and development."

We will invest more in our judicial system. One point: To unleash the energies of the private sector, we must unlock the assets tied up in litigation: about P3 Trillion. The other point: The next President of the Philippines will appoint 10 Supreme Court justices. That is why "we should be very careful in our choices." Because, "the wrong choice might mean that black becomes white and white becomes black or red becomes blue and blue becomes red. Because they can interpret."

Towards the end of his speech, Roxas says, "You know me. We've had a long relationship, many interactions, many engagements. We have not agreed all the time." One, pre-need. Two, cheaper medicines law. Three, passenger bill of rights. "But let me say ... that it was never personal for me, and certainly not personal against you."

Finally, he says, and it's worth quoting in full:

I believe government is an enabler. Government is your ally to help you grow, to help you be productive and successful. Because your success is our economy’s success, is our people’s success. Jobs, incomes, livelihoods (are) the point of all of these, so that people can live with honor, with dignity. They have a job. They have certainty. They can plan. Things that perhaps all of us here take for granted are not givens for 90 percent of our people, if not more. And that’s what we want to do. We want to be able to build a society so that in fact, it’s not just the economy, it’s not just the business sector, but the entire people, our entire society, is able to grow, to develop, to build good, productive, meaningful lives for themselves.

Amen to all that!




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