AMID the dark prospects of our country, especially for achieving inclusive economic growth and substantially wiping out our massive poverty (which dehumanizes about half of our population), there is an area of light: the rise in our country’s competitiveness.
The co-chairman representing the private sector of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Guillermo M. Luz, sent us a personal letter cum annual report, which we believe to be accurate. This is something that one cannot easily say about similar annual reports and updates from other elements of the Philippine government, especially the Palace and the Cabinet departments. The co-chairman of the council representing the government is Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo.
2013 has been overall a good and successful year at the NCC, though, writes Mr. Luz, many challenges still remain.
“When we started our work in 2011, our goal was to move from the bottom-third of global rankings to the top-third by 2016,” says Mr. Luz who was not with the NCC when it came into existence during the Arroyo administration. “I am pleased to inform you that a great deal of progress has been made in that regard and that we have now made it into the middle-third of global tables and, in some cases, moved above the median.”
Indeed, out of eight major competitiveness reports released by national competitiveness assessors in 2013, the Philippines recorded gains “in 7 of them and held ground on one.” He rightly beams with pride that last year was “the first year this has been done. Over the course of the last three years, we have made improvements in seven global competitiveness reports, from the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index to the IFC Ease of Doing Report, IMD World Competitiveness Report, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and others. More importantly, these gains have been significant.”
True. The Philippines overtook 30 other countries in one year in the IFC Report (largest jump worldwide). Our country overtook 26 others in the World Economic Forum (Davos) report and left behind 40 countries in the Transparency International report.
“Much of these gains were the result of some new programs planned and installed over the last 12 to 18 months,” Mr. Luz explains. “For instance, we partnered with Social Weather Stations, Asia Foundation, AusAID, Integrity Initiative, Makati Business Club, and the Management Association of the Philippines to revive and continue the Annual Enterprise Survey on Corruption. This allowed us to closely track perceptions and experiences of corruption in key business areas in Metro Manila, Angeles, Calabar, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro – Iligan, and Davao City.”
These partnerships and new moves allowed NCC to do tighter monitoring of local governments and regional offices of the national government agencies.
Apparently heeding Mr. Luz’s and Sec. Gregorio’s proposal, in May 2013, President Aquino created the Task Force on Ease of Doing Business to cut red tape in the processes of starting, operating and closing businesses here.
“The result was the 30-country jump in this key measure, the biggest improvement in the world in 2013,” writes Mr. Luz.
In 2013 NCC also launched the “City/Municipality Competitiveness Index.” USAID and Project INVEST aided NCC in getting this project off the ground. It began with the formation and manning of 15 Regional Competitiveness Committees across the country. Their first task was a project to design the index and collect data in the regions. These regional committees organized, prodded agencies and personnel so that data were collected on 285 cities and municipalities. The information could then be entered and made it possible to rank localities the index to measure the local government units’ economic dynamism, infrastructure, cost of doing business, and ease of doing business.
In 2014, the cities and municipalities to be monitored and from which data, will be collected, then indexed allowing the local governments to be assessed and ranked, will be expanded from the present 286 to 550 cities and municipalities.
Local and foreign businessmen will then have a wider have basis for making decisions on where to locate their businesses, writes Mr. Luz.
“We have also worked closely with Microsoft and the World Wildlife Fund to expand the activities of the regional committees to include software applications for city management and disaster preparedness and response and climate change risk assessments,” he writes.
“On top of these new projects, we continue to run our older projects such as the Working Groups, Dialogues, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Performance Governance System, and Field Monitoring on Business Permits and Licensing Systems. We have added a new Working Group this year – Agribusinesses and Trade Logistics – and will open up a new Working Group on Manufacturing in 2014.”
NCC in 2013 received an assignment to help in the preparations for the APEC 2015 Chairmanship of the Philippines which will host the regional Summit. “Working within the APEC National Organizing Council, we will help the country prepare the logistics, sponsorship, and policy agenda for 2015. Planning commenced in February 2013 and preparations are being undertaken in 11 locations around the country—including Manila, Tagaytay, Subic, Clark, Bataan, Boracay, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Legazpi, and Davao.”
The NCC is a member of the Aquino Cabinet’s economic cluster. It also sits in important government inter-agency committees and boards. It was also been “asked to coordinate the private sector response to work closely with the government’s Rebuilding After Yolanda project.” This has made it necessary for Mr. Luz to work closely with the newly reorganized Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF). That body is the business community’s main point of coordination with the government, international aid agencies, and the NGO community in regard to recovery and reconstruction.