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PH on the right track, but hurdles lie ahead

THE Philippines seems on track to economic recovery, based on plans presented recently at a forum organized by this newspaper. The event, a part of the 124th founding anniversary of The Manila Times, featured Secretary Alfredo Pascual of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Undersecretary Shereen Gail Yu-Pamintuan of the Department of Tourism (DoT). 

Mr. Pascual outlined a six-point action plan, which devotes a lot of attention to helping micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs and to creating a business-friendly environment. He also identified the industries that are vital in developing a digital economy.

Tourism Undersecretary Shereen Pamintuan and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual during The Manila Times anniversary forum on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. SCREENGRAB FROM TMT YOUTUBETourism Undersecretary Shereen Pamintuan and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual during The Manila Times anniversary forum on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. SCREENGRAB FROM TMT YOUTUBE 

“What we envision is a prosperous economy driven by competition and productivity,” he said. “We want to build dynamic industry ecosystems as the foundation for generating quality jobs, creating new products and services, improving environmental sustainability, and ensuring shared prosperity for all. This is the direction that all these efforts are headed. And this is what I hope will help define the next era of growth and development in the Philippines.”

His speech reinforces the message delivered by others in the Cabinet and by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. himself. At another event organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the President summarized his policy in saying the country is open for business.

An important sector that has reopened is tourism. Even during the campaign, he identified it as a priority, because it can generate jobs more quickly than other sectors. The presentation by Mrs. Pamintuan quoted from the President’s State of the Nation Address, where Mr. Marcos said: “Tourism is not only an important economic development tool, but the abundance of opportunities that the sector creates in terms of regular employment and even job creation at the grassroots level is undeniable.”

Mrs. Pamintuan went on to highlight DoT’s plans and programs. They, like the DTI plans presented by Mr. Pascual, help calm the anxieties spawned by the lingering Covid-19 pandemic and the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Challenges ahead

Many, including officials in government, have said “external headwinds” present the biggest hurdles to robust economic recovery. Certainly, developments from abroad, particularly the trouble in Eastern Europe, can be blamed for the most serious threats today, including inflation, foreign-exchange volatility and shortages in energy and agricultural outputs.

Even so, the Philippines is not helpless in shaping its future. For instance, the programs presented by the DTI and the DoT require coordination with many other departments. But like some enterprises, government departments tend to operate like silos, at least in the past.

Mr. Pascual did mention that in implementing key parts of the DTI’s plans, he has reached out to the Department of Information and Communication and Technology. Also, he has been in touch with people in the education sector, the Department of Science and Technology and others.

The DoT’s efforts to make the Philippines more tourist-friendly also require coordination with agencies responsible for visas, like the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration. Of course, the infrastructure needed to bolster tourism is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority.

Besides the teamwork initiated, the private sector also needs to chip in by investing in various enterprises that not only help trade and tourism, but also the economy in general. As Mr. Pascual said, the government will create the environment needed by enterprises to thrive. But the private sector is still the main engine of Philippine growth.

Unfortunately, the government has a spotty record when it comes to implementing plans, at least in the past. Plus, the Philippines continues to be weighed down by legacy issues, like corruption, red tape and poverty. And despite the calls for unity, Filipinos continue to have difficulty setting aside their political and petty differences. Many still lack the maturity to disagree with others without being disagreeable.

Then again, the country has made progress despite its imperfections. And if Filipinos support the plans of the DTI, the DoT and others in the Marcos government, perhaps the country can take leaps forward.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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