Binay: Aquino years a lost opportunity
MANILA, Philippines – Even if the World Bank hailed the Philippines as a “rising tiger” of Asia, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Aquino administration was ineffective and incompetent in managing the Philippine economy.
The opposition's presidential bet again belittled economic growth under President Benigno Aquino III's leadership, and vowed to bring in more foreign investments and social services if he wins in the 2016 polls.
Binay outlined his economic program in a speech before the 41st Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay on Monday, October 26.
“The Aquino years can be described as a period of lost opportunity. The Philippine economy received the least among the core Asian economies in terms of investment because we were unready to receive investments. Our economic policies remain restrictive, discouraging start-ups, and the tax system is punitive for business,” Binay said.
The Vice President renewed his pitch for lowering income and corporate taxes, among the highest in the region. Aquino rejects the proposal, citing the potential loss in revenue.
“We shall ensure that the government uses taxes properly. Paying taxes in the Philippines is not fun,” Binay said, a jab at the country's tourism slogan.
The former mayor of the country's financial center Makati is one of the most experienced among the 4 presidential bets, but he faces a major corruption controversy that dented his popularity. Binay is accused of amassing wealth from overpriced Makati projects when he was local chief executive for 21 years.
Still, Binay argued that he has the executive and managerial experience to ensure inclusive growth, blasting economic progress that kept the masses poor.
Binay said lower income taxes will “restore the purchasing power of the working class” while lower corporate taxes will allow Philippine firms to be regionally competitive.
“We must improve the tax payment process to encourage small business. We will encourage more investors to do business in the Philippines if the government taxes them less, and makes it less tedious for them to pay taxes,” he said.
Binay reiterated that he was open to changing the economic provisions of the Constitution that limit foreign ownership of local companies to 40%.
The Philippines was the second fastest growing economy next to China in 2014. Yet Binay said it was not the Aquino leadership that was primarily responsible for the economic gains.
“The present administration should not claim sole credit for growth in the past years given the growth momentum. More than the rhetorical daang matuwid (straight path), reforms by previous administrations, favorable externalities were critical in growth. Growth could have been more robust if the economic management were better,” he said.
Binay called the Philippine economy a “paradox.”
“We have high GDP growth but poverty worsened. We have a property boom but the housing backlog worsened,” said Binay, the former housing czar.
He added: “Our people's food security worsened as agriculture failed. The smuggling of agricultural products became rampant. This government began importing larger portfolios of rice. We are now world's biggest importer of rice, even as we are a major producer of crop.”
'Massive infra program'
Binay said, if elected, he would implement “a massive infrastructure program.” He did not detail how he intends to fund the program.
“It will allow companies to compete regionally, unlock the potential of the agriculture sector, create jobs, and reduce poverty. Without a modern logistics network, SMEs will not thrive, wealth will become more concentrated and poverty deepened,” Binay said.
The Vice President again criticized delays in the administration's Public Private Partnership (PPP) program, calling it “Powerpoint Projection.”
“This has now become the epicenter of [the administration's] failure. Most infrastructure projects remain on the drawing boards. [It's] analysis by paralysis,” he said.
Binay vowed to improve the notorious traffic in Metro Manila but was again short on details.
“We must fix traffic congestion, create more jobs, and spur economic activity. We cannot improve on hardware without improving on software. It is society's responsibility to invest. Public education is best guarantee,” he said.
The Vice President said he supports the government's K to 12 program, which adds two years to the basic education system in the Philippines to meet global standards.
“K to 12 must be complemented by an apprenticeship program, and be attuned to the realities of the labor market. We introduced this in Makati,” he said in reference to a program of the state-run University of Makati.
Later asked by reporters why he continues to criticize the government when he sat on the Cabinet for 5 years before he resigned in June, Binay again defended his stance.
“We had our own functions, boss. My job was housing, not finance. I was part of the government, but I was in charge of the shelter sector,” he said.
'No patronage but PDAF a good concept'
Another contradiction was when Binay criticized the pork barrel system in his speech.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocated to lawmakers was meant to finance development projects but a 2013 corruption scandal showed top legislators pocketed the money through bogus NGOs. The Supreme Court struck down the PDAF as a response to the controversy.
Binay said: “Patronage can only reproduce learned helplessness. Pork barrel corrupts citizens.”
Yet in a speech last month, the Vice President said he plans to revive PDAF so lawmakers can help their constituents in times of emergency.
Asked about the inconsistency, Binay lauded the “concept” of PDAF but said the problem was implementation.
He told reporters: “Pork barrel helped many poor people. It built many hospitals. The image was just tarnished because when you say pork barrel now, it automatically means stealing, ghost projects. That's what is wrong.” – Rappler.com
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