Comparing platforms of presidential candidates

5 Mins read

A presidential candidate’s socio-economic plan is his/her social pact with the people. It is their written commitment of projects and programs for which they can be held accountable for.

As enlightened voters, we should take the time to encourage those around us not to be swayed by social media propaganda. Rather, we must enjoin everyone to do their due diligence and vote for the candidate whose agenda best resonates with their values.

So far, I reviewed the socio-economic plans of candidates Robredo, Moreno, Lacson, and Pacquiao. I requested the Marcos camp for a copy of Marcos Jr.’s agenda as early as Dec. 15 but have received nothing. Recently, I was informed that they are still writing it even as we face the last mile of the campaign.

Manny Pacquiao’s socio-economic agenda consist of 22 areas that encompass housing, agriculture, youth development, and sports development, among others. Unfortunately, Pacquiao does not elaborate on his intentions for each, only to say that he will strengthen them. Neither did he define his targets or goals.

The more substantive socio-economic plans come from Robredo, Moreno and Lacson. Let me delve on the salient points of each.

THE ROBREDO PLANVice-President Leni Robredo was the first to make her socio-economic agenda public. Entitled “Hanapbuhay para sa lahat” (Livelihood for All), the plan contains her targets, priorities and policies, all of which geared towards providing a source of livelihood for every Filipino. In one masterplan, Robredo ventures to solve the nation’s fundamental problems — poverty, unemployment, and income inequality. It is brilliantly crafted in that it addresses our rising debt and budget deficit threats while generating wealth for individuals.

The first item on the Robredo plan is to restore trust in government. Restoring trust means leveling the playing field, eliminating corruption and reverting to rule-based governance. With confidence restored, investments will flow, jobs will be created, and quality of lives will improve.

I was particularly delighted that Robredo prioritized the reactivation of the manufacturing sector. Dutertenomics and its import dependent, debt-driven route to economic expansion is simply unsustainable. We must manufacture more, produce more, and export more. Only then can we restore the health of our national balance sheet.

Robredo vows to develop new industries to future-proof the economy. She is the only candidate who promises this. Her plan is to make the Philippines a center for next-generation IT-KPO (Information technology-Knowledge process outsourcing) services. She also identified climate resilient agriculture and maritime-related industries as paths to growth.

Policy-wise, she intends to re-activate the National Competitiveness Council to recoup our lost grounds in national competitiveness; focus on implementing the Ease in Doing Business Act; strengthen the Philippine Competition Commission; speed-up the digitalization of government; pivot back to public private partnerships (PPP) in place of official development assistance (ODAs); and develop MSMEs by helping them climb the technology value chain.

Education is a vital part in the Robredo agenda. She commits to spend 5% of GDP on education, more than double the current level. Additional budgets will go towards expanding access to learning and improving STEM courses (science, technology engineering, mathematics).

THE MORENO PLANIsko Moreno’s socio-economic plan is entitled Bilis Kilos. It is a well-considered plan designed to pump-prime the economy while addressing the fundamental weaknesses of government institutions.

Mass housing is the cornerstone of the Bilis Kilos agenda. The intention is to allocate 1.3% of GDP towards the sector, 16 times more than what was spent in 2020. The goal is to build 4.5 million homes over six years. This will be accompanied by reforms in urban planning, the goal of which is to make our cities greener, more inclusive, and livable.

In education, Moreno aims to elevate the aptitudes of Filipino students to the level of their ASEAN peers. He commits to appropriate 4.3% of GDP for expanding the reach and quality of learning. In healthcare, Moreno intends to increase the salaries of public healthcare professionals to dissuade them from leaving the country. More hospitals will be built including those that specialize in mental illness (a neglected aspect of healthcare). The goal is to achieve a ratio of 1.7 beds for every 1,000 Filipinos.

The development of MSMEs (Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises) will be achieved through a four-point plan which includes increasing available credit to entrepreneurs from P1.5 billion today to P30 billion; reduce the cost of doing business; facilitate ease in doing business and help MSMEs adopt to new technologies.

Moreno was the only one who cited tourism and creative industries in his plan. He aspires to increase the number of foreign visitors to 24 million per year by 2028. This will be done by strengthening tourism infrastructure and aggressive international promotions. He plans to host high-profile international events to boost the country’s global profile.

Creative industries include such sectors as furniture, fashion, homewares, etc. A national strategy for creative industries will be crafted to make it strong leg of the economy. All will start with the enactment of the Creative Industries Act.

On infrastructure, electric power will be given priority with the construction of more power plants from renewable sources. This will be complimented by the long overdue interconnection of the Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao grids. As for water, the target is to attain 100% water access coverage by 2026.

The construction of roads and bridges will continue along with the expansion of the national broadband.

The Moreno plan is good but one that entails massive spending. We need to know how he intends to raise the funds given that Mr. Duterte has already elevated the national debt to its maximum tolerable level.

THE LACSON PLANPing Lacson’s socio-economic plan is an interesting one. While it does not spell out his intentions for each sector of the economy, he dwells on the country’s core problems which he identifies as hunger, unemployment, education, rising debts, and the aftershocks of the pandemic. For Lacson, effective governance starts by having a competent, honest government.

If elected, Lacson will dedicate his first 100 days towards internal cleansing. In other words, ridding government of the inept, the corrupt, and the undisciplined.

To cushion the effects of the pandemic, Lacson plans to expand the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilpino Program so as to put the hungry and unemployed back on their feet. This serves two purposes — it helps those displaced by the pandemic while pump priming consumer spending from the bottom, up.

This will be followed by the professional implementation of Universal Healthcare Program. With a budget of P260 billion, Lacson promises to expand healthcare capacities to one bed for every 800 Filipino, provide one health station for every barangay, and one Rural Health Unit for every 20,000 citizens. He will also increase the salaries and benefits of frontliners and healthcare workers.

Lacson plans to reform the agricultural sector by providing subsidies for seeds, fertilizers, machinery, and irrigation. Unfortunately, he does not mention anything about migrating to technology-based farming which I think is the better route.

As for education, he promises to build one school in every barangay and proposes free college education complimented with a paid internship program.

Lacson is the only candidate that promised budget reform. The idea is to stop the corruption leakage which amounts to P700 billion a year.

These are what four of our presidential candidates have to offer in a nutshell. May we all make an informed choice.

Andrew J. Masigan is an economist

Facebook@AndrewJ. Masigan

Twitter @aj_masigan

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