IT’S the economy, stupid.” The quote has often been credited to then United States presidential candidate Bill Clinton, who was seeking to unseat President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
In truth, the catchy one-liner was crafted by Democratic Party strategist James Carville, who also helped incumbent President Barack Obama defeat Republican bet Mitt Romney in the US presidential elections earlier this year.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd can take a cue from the US experience of two decades ago.
Thus far, the chief executive can be said to be doing a good job. The Philippine economy is among the top performers in the region, and — barring any unexpected natural or man-made crisis—the prospects remain bright for the remaining three years of his six-year term.
While the pork barrel scam and the Zamboanga crisis have threatened to hurt the Aquino administration, the business community has for the most part continued to be supportive of the government.
That new wealth is being created is beyond question. Business process outsourcing, property development, and tourism are booming industries. The streets of Metro Manila and Metro Cebu are filled with brand new vehicles. Consumer spending is bringing smiles to countless owners of small, medium and large enterprises.
There are, however, two weak areas that the Philippines’ second Aquino administration has to address: millions of Filipinos remain mired in poverty because not enough jobs are being created, and the country is not able to attract foreign direct investments.
Moreover, smuggling remains rampant and the decades’ old problem of graft and corruption in government remains the bane of the private sector seeking to do business with the public sector.
When he ran for president, candidate Mr. Aquino had a message to the Filipino people. “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap [no corruption equals no poverty].” Upon his election, Mr. Aquino vowed to tread the straight and narrow path, which he calls his “daang matuwid.”
In the first half of his term, President Aquino can be credited for a job relatively well done. What he does with the economy in the second half of his term will determine whether history will judge him as a good president, or a mediocre one.
It’s the economy, Mr. President.