PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday called for “solidarity and coherence” among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, noting that only through such actions can the region achieve growth that will pave the way for a “better world.”
In his welcome speech for finance ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Lapu-Lapu City, Aquino shared his administration’s efforts to boost the Philippines’ growth beginning from day one of his presidency which, he said, was characterized by “tremendous challenges.”
“Regardless of the seeming magnitude of the challenge, progress can be achieved sooner rather than later—especially if we work with solidarity, coherence, and integrity. Of course, achieving this on a regional level will entail a greater amount of work, cooperation, and time; but my optimism is shaped by my experience of how a group with a unified sense of purpose can accelerate our shared journey towards prosperity,” he said.
Aquino narrated how his team “steeled” themselves against the problems that were “bequeathed” to them by his predecessor, former President and now Rep. Gloria.
“We quickly realized, however, that we had severely underestimated how much the patronage and corruption of the past had undermined our institutions. Every day, it seemed, we uncovered issues that had festered during my predecessor’s term. At that point, many of us could not help but long for the weekend, if only for a temporary respite from the problems bequeathed to us,” he told his audience.
He said that in order to achieve a turnaround, they relentlessly pursued all those who had committed wrongdoings and reformed the government’s budgeting system, among others, to ensure that taxpayers’ money are spent “prudently, conscientiously and judiciously.”
“We cut red tape and made it easier for investors to bet on the Filipino people; above all, we have massively increased our focus on social services, knowing full well that the only real growth is inclusive growth,” he added, in reference to his pilot project, the Conditional Cash Transfer Program that benefits 4.4 million households or about 20 million poor Filipinos.
This program ensures that children go to school and pregnant women undergo health checkups.
“Our resolve began to reap results much faster than expected. One look at the figures tells a complete story: From 2010 to 2014, we posted a GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate of 6.2 percent, which marks the fastest period of economic growth for our country in four decades; and we believe the macroeconomic fundamentals are in place for us to continue, if not improve on, this performance,” Aquino boasted.
He also cited the 22 positive credit rating actions the country received during his watch.
“The past five years have also seen us climb multiple global measures of competitiveness: We have gone from 85th to 52nd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, from 144th to 95th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, amongst many other indices. Naturally, the global community has taken notice that in empirical terms—and in terms of self-confidence—the Philippines is stable, able, and resilient,” the President stressed.
He commended the crafting of the Cebu Action Plan that commits finance ministers and their governments to better financial integration among APEC members; greater transparency as regards government funds and to improve and finance infrastructure that will lay the necessary foundations for continued growth.