BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘The Filipino is finally seeing a leader with a big heart and whose sincerity of purpose is shown in what he says and does.’
There are two recent developments, the second may be a result of the first, that appear to be reasonable assurances that the country is on the path of growth.
The first, the ouster of the Chief Justice, is most important.
It is acknowledged that the free market system cannot work in a country where people are not free. Until the conviction of Renato Corona, no one among us could rightly say we are free.
We have been serfs to abuses of the powerful, especially in the most important of democratic institutions – the judiciary. We are an indolent people without defined goals to pursue.
Maybe that’s the reason we even make jokes of abuses by the powerful.
Hopefully, a change can come with the conviction of Renato Corona. Hopefully, Gloria Arroyo will be tried by a court that does not owe loyalty to her but only to the Constitution.
The President took a direct hand in the impeachment and trial of Renato Corona. He made no bones about his desire to have a Supreme Court independent of mind, not necessarily loyal to him.
The conviction of Renato Corona and the trial for various high crimes of the former President and Corona himself for other crimes should introduce an era of confidence in the leadership. The Filipino is finally seeing a leader with a big heart and whose sincerity of purpose is shown in what he says and does.
It might have been the conviction and forthcoming trial of the former president that led Moody’s to revise its growth forecast upwards to 4.7 percent this year.
There is truth in its observation that local and foreign investments may have an unfettered flow, largely encouraged by the perception that fairness and impartial interpretation of the Constitution and the laws will leave the Filipino free.
Thus the free market or free enterprise system may work. That is a round-about way of saying corruption may see its last days.
For the first time since President Magsaysay we have a Chief Executive people continue to look up to.
There are business leaders who correctly claim that the best the President has done for business is not doing anything at all or not much. That practically expresses appreciation for the fact that in their minds, Aquino knows that the best government is less government.
Of course, there are at least two raging controversies for which two of his cabinet members are directly blamed. One is the controversial excise tax on sin products that clearly favors a foreign company which wants to import cigarettes under a tax system patently discriminatory against local producers.
The proposal, reported out by the House ways and means committee also tends to favor the country’s biggest beer brewery at the cost of its only competitor. The report of the committee indicates that tobacco will bear the biggest brunt of 80 percent of the revised target of P30 billion. The original target was P60 billion, P30 billion from each sin product.
The other unresolved and long standing problem is why the Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to deny an environmental clearance certificate to Sagittarius Mines, a $5.9 billion gold copper project in South Cotabato which is expected to contribute 1 per cent to the gross domestic product when it starts operating in about three years.
Otherwise, the President appears to be on track in the economic development effort.
He was earlier blamed for not spending the budget for infrastructure which would have created more jobs. He was headstrong in saying that an apparatus of transparency must be set in place before massive spending of taxpayers’ money can start.
The public-private partnership program is off to a rather slow start presumably after the cobwebs of corruption were removed.
The preparedness of the banking system to support the PPP is real and apparent. For example, Banco de Oro says it will not participate in a specific project but it is ready to finance the private sector portion of it.
The brightest spot may well be the thrust of the banking system towards lending to small and medium scale enterprises and to micro or smallest of the small struggling businessmen.
Two institutions – Planters Bank and BanKo, the micro lending arm of the Ayala Group – are seeking out the small man. They encourage them to save for deposits of as low as P50.
The amounts are to be swelled by funds of the institutions to start a small business.
The banks are teaching them the basics of management and bookkeeping.
The ultimate objective is to try and make the country a nation of small savers and shopkeepers.
The resulting self-employment and the products and services the small man may produce may change the culture of high dependence on the state for dole outs.
In the longer term, the recognition by the banks of the small man as a key factor in promoting growth will result in the improvement of health care and education.
The plan of Education Secretary Armin Luistro to extend the period of primary and secondary education to 12 years may well be a sieve that may determine which ones are capable and which ones are not.
This, to our mind, should be complemented by setting up a system where the adeptness of hands and not minds, will be developed for the rising needs for automotive mechanics and auto repair, technical skills in electricity, carpentry.
People in these fields learned the trained by instinct. They can become more useful if they formally trained in schools run by government.
All of these – from the richest of the rich and from the poorest of the poor – will come to pass as a result of the demise of corruption which in turn inspires continued confidence in the leadership. The removal of the bottleneck of inequality of the application of the laws by the conviction of the Renato Corona as Chief Justice and the trial of Gloria Arroyo by an independent judiciary restores man’s self-respect and thrust in his government.
He will be moved to work if he does not see massive thievery committed at the top.
In sum, successful leadership is best accomplished by example. President Aquino is clearly on track on his “daang matuwid.”