THE Philippine economy’s “dramatic turnaround” is the highlight of the country’s economic and social transformation, President Benigno Aquino 3rd told hundreds of political and business leaders from around the world on Thursday.
Once considered the “Sick Man of Asia,” Aquino said the country now enjoys a resurging economy.
”It is evident: Our country is in the midst of a dramatic turnaround in every sector, and we are intent on continuing this trend and making certain that each and every Filipino enjoys the full dividends of progress,” he noted in his speech at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014 at the Makati Shangri-la in Makati City in Metro Manila.
He called Filipinos the country’s “greatest resource,” crediting them for “great turning points that have allowed us to achieve national redemption and progress.”
”For the past four years, through the unwavering support of our people, we have enacted reform after reform. We overhauled systems that were prone to abuse. We reformed the way we do our budget,” Aquino said.
”At the end of the day, however, we recognize that the power behind all our efforts, whether in pursuing inclusive economic growth, improving competitiveness, food security, or disaster risk management, comes not from any individual, but from our people,” he added.
The President said this was also the driving force behind his government’s resolve to pursue inclusive growth.
”This is why inclusive growth is not just a mantra for us; it is the yardstick by which we measure any government undertaking.
After all, it is a participatory public, one that is empowered, and one that gives government their trust and confidence, and a government that never misplaces that trust that ultimately makes equitable progress possible,” he added.
Aquino said the benefits were mutual, and that the relationship between the government and the people is “truly symbiotic.”
”As we empower our people to improve their lots in life, they empower us to battle the vested interests that remain in society. Ultimately, it is our countrymen who give us the confidence to continue blazing the path of reform,” he added.
The Philippine economy grew by 7.2 percent last year, registering the fastest rate of expansion in Southeast Asia, and one of the fastest in the world.
At the same time, inflation settled at only three percent last year, the lowest in six years.
”We are set to build on our momentum and become even more competitive,” the President said.
According to him, the positive developments in governance and economic fronts are also credited for helping the Philippines secure in 2013 investment grade ratings from major credit-rating agencies.
Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the Philippines’ credit rating from junk status to the minimum investment grade last year.
”We have always said that good governance is good economics, and the results of our reforms on the economic end are proving us right,” Aquino said.
”And now that they have public servants in government fully committed to harnessing their power for good, for the betterment of the nation, our country has the social and economic momentum to go from success to success, and truly make waves throughout our archipelago, in the international community, and in the vast, immeasurable ocean of history,” he added.
Aquino also cited his administration’s achievements from education to anti-corruption efforts that have seen the prosecution of some of the country’s senior leaders.
The government, he said, has equipped the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) with the resources necessary to help people acquire the skills they need to be “truly competitive” in the job market.
Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management, Aquino pointed out that only 28.5 percent of Tesda graduates were able to find work in 2006 to 2008.
But based on a 2012 Tesda study, he said, 62.4 percent of its graduates were able to find employment.
”Note that these numbers are still improving. According to our Tesda Director General Joel Villanueva, the most recent batch of trainees for the semiconductor industry has posted a 91 percent placement ratio,” the President added.
He said his administration also undertook a large-scale expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program by quadrupling its budget in four years.
The CCT program, which requires household beneficiaries to send children to school, is aimed not only at addressing short-term needs for cash of poor families but also at increasing the number of educated Filipinos who can contribute further over the long term.
He said the government is now assisting 4.3 million families, equivalent to about 22 percent of the population, that are expected to equip their children with the skills needed to become a “productive part of the workforce.”
”There is a simple idea behind all these initiatives: Our people are the be all and end all of this government, and we are not content with waiting for the benefits of growth to just trickle down the social pyramid,” Aquino added.
”This is why, from the beginning of our term, most of our efforts have been targeting the poorest of the poor… Our goal: To push them further and further away from the poverty line, and to empower them to improve their own lots in life,” he said.
The President also discussed various achievements of his government but emphasized the prosecution of senior level government officials—specifically former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona—as part of his good governance reforms.
He boasted that his administration dismantled “the culture of corruption” and said taking on those “with a misplaced sense of entitlement” was a step to improve the lives of the people.
”So, we went after every individual who committed wrongdoing, and look at the results: My predecessor is now undergoing hospital arrest as she undergoes two serious charges, with another being evaluated by the Ombudsman,” Aquino said.
”The Congress and the Senate removed a Chief Justice from office for failing to declare over 98 percent of his assets in his statement of assets and liabilities and net worth contrary to our Constitution and our laws,” he added.