President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers tolled the alarm bells by telling senators pointblank the Federal system of government may not be good for the country’s economy.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told senators during Wednesday’s Senate finance committee hearing that the Philippines’ investment grade credit ratings may “go to hell” if the shift to Federalism materializes. Lower credit ratings enable the country to borrow money at a lower interest rate.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told senators the shift might also be too costly for the government and may cause a disruption in the economy’s growth momentum.
The view expressed by the two economic managers contradicts the pro-Federalism line that such shift would hasten economic growth and bring about prosperity in the regions. And their courage to tell the senators their expert view on how Federalism will impact on the country’s economy is truly worth emulating.
Presidential subalterns, more often than not, would rather keep to themselves their personal yet expert views on certain issues if such runs counter with that of their boss. This practice is actually detrimental to the policy making process of the State. It is for this reason that the nation doffs its hat to the two economic technocrats on their stand on what Federalism would be to the economy.
Currently, the administration is aggressively pushing its Build, Build, Build program that the two apparently were part in its formulation. Undoubtedly, that program will be in jeopardy if the shift to Federalism materializes. Why? There will surely be a diminution of resources from the national government to the federal regions.
Not only resources. Even in the pursuit of programs and projects, the national government will now have to contend with what it can pursue and what should be pursued by the federal regions. This situation will certainly limit the vast powers of the present national government since most of its functions and services, programs and projects will already be devolved to the federal regions.
Fact is the regions have varying economic capacities. Shifting to a federal system of government does not automatically transform the poorer regions into becoming prosperous regions. This shift simply dreams that eventually these poorer regions are able to catch up with the more prosperous ones.
It is hoped that the federal regions with their awesome powers under the federal system would be able to draw up economic activities that will spur economic development. But this still has to depend on the current state of the regions economically and the kind of resources that they can harness to spur economic growth.
Regional federal leadership plays a vital role here also. How creative, how ingenious, how dedicated and how passionate the leadership of the federal region is will spell the difference. If the kind of politics now practiced in the country continues, it is doubtful if the federal regions will indeed achieve the economic prosperity that Federalism intends to achieve for them.
If political dynasty continues, how will it affect or impact on the march toward economic prosperity for the federal regions? Based on experience, for political dynasty to prevail, the poor had to remain poor so that their vulnerability to the importuning of their politicians is always assured.
Political dynasty thrives when the dependency of the governed on their governors is maintained. Economic-wise dependency is anathema to real development. Truth is, dependency is the root cause why patronage politics becomes the norm rather than the exception in Philippine politics.
Without dependency being dismantled economic prosperity in every federal region will remain just a dream that may even turn out to be a nightmare to the federal regions.
Shifting is easy. Achieving the objectives of that shift is another because this will involve human intervention and in this case the intervention of politicians who have never shown any interest in making the country experience real economic development by empowering the vulnerable sector to become independent from the politicians.