THEY haven’t yet ordered “damn the torpedoes!” but the economic managers of this administration are using fairytale lingo as descriptive terms in mass-communicating aspects of their highly technical jobs to grow the economy.
For Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, their jobs also entail making sure the money is there to fund not simply an expansion in domestic output, for the benefit of the richest families of this country of 103.5 million people but most especially of the working class who suffer hours and hours in their daily commute of unbearable traffic jams.
The Philippines is entering “The Golden Age of Infrastructure,” according to Secretary Diokno. Such imagery calls to mind millions of workers in shiny helmets, leather boots and newly pressed overalls marching to the construction site with their gilded shovels and pickaxes slung on their shoulders and singing Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady.
His problem, Diokno told reporters at a recent investment forum, was to make sure that the P8.2-trillion budget for infrastructure spending would be well spent down to the last peso by the line departments and bureaus in the next six years.
His is the classic problem many an economic manager would like to have: how to spend trillions of pesos on infrastructure projects.
What Mr. Diokno may be forgetting is that the various government institutions of this land are full of ferocious, hungry beasts with insatiable appetites that have been pouncing upon billions and billions of pesos allotted to infrastructure projects and whatnot with impunity.
How does the secretary intend to safeguard the country’s budget funds—tax and non-tax revenues, as well as concessional loans and official development assistance–from the ravenous beasts lying in ambush for when the money is within arms’ reach?
This is what Mr. Diokno must and should be doubly concerned with, lest his Golden Age ends in a Philippine landscape of half-built and poor-quality roads and bridges, airports and railways. Seizing the golden moment of infrastructure is one thing, but making sure the funds are safe from hungry semi-aquatic reptiles and scavengers on the prowl are of prime importance–especially when the future of a nation and its people is at stake.
In calling for a nation to seize the Cinderella moment, Mr. Pernia is not joking, even if his sense of humor remains intact. Seriously, what he means is that “it takes a whole-of-a-nation approach in realizing the ambitions and dreams of its citizens,” as what his speechwriter penned for him to say at the recently concluded AmBisyon Natin 2040 Expo. And the allegorical reference to the Charles Perrault fairy tale Cinderella (a combination of cinder and the feminine name Ella) simply means the we may never pass this way again after the stroke of midnight when Cinderella is supposed to metamorphose back into her poor servant status from the princess of the moment that captivated the heart of her Prince Charming.
Executive Order No. 5 approved and adopted AmBisyon Natin 2040 to be the basis of development planning that embraces the long-term vision and aspirations of Filipinos for themselves and the country for the next 25 years.
A vision? Yes!
Lofty ideals? By all means!
Filipinos desire a life that is solid, comfortable and peaceful, a Philippines where all citizens are free from hunger and poverty, have equal opportunities, and are enabled by a fair and just society that is governed with order and unity.
Our sympathy goes out to Mr. Pernia and his coterie in government. The task at hand is formidable, considering that wider growth is a must in the next six years because of the missteps in governance in the past. But let us leave that behind and get a bit of insight from HSBC Global Research:
“Of course, the country faces a chicken-and-egg problem: most of the competitiveness issues stem from high electricity costs and poor transport infrastructure–which is why the acceleration in infrastructure projects is such a priority.”
Hopefully, Filipinella would cross over midnight and find herself transformed permanently as the darling princess of investors and global lenders with a heart and deep pockets for an investment grade economy.