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A reality check for Bongbong Marcos

‘Fiscal consolidation plan’ is, of course, jargon for something that will be painful for the citizenry.

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As presumptive President Bongbong Marcos gets ready to be proclaimed and start his six-year term, a list of possible members of his Cabinet surfaced on social media.

This early, he has named presumptive Vice President Sara Duterte as Education Secretary and Benhur Abalos as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

One crucial member of a president’s team is the Finance secretary.

“When President Duterte appointed Sonny Dominguez, everybody calmed down. Dominguez was, in many ways, the ideal Finance secretary. He had a very good record in the Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos administrations… The business community felt, ‘We just don’t have an adult in the room, we have a sage, a wise man.’ The quality of your appointments will send a very good signal,” a Filipino international investment banker told a television business program recently.

The criticism on Marcos is that since he shunned the debates and avoided interviews during the campaign, Filipinos knew very little of his policies.

He ran on a campaign promise of unity, which he did not elaborate.

But then previous presidents did the same, said the investment banker. Joseph Estrada’s “Erap Para sa Mahirap” and Noynoy Aquino’s “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap” come to mind.

“Until we start demanding more, we won’t get what we ask,” added the investment banker.

A cause for concern at the moment is the country’s debt.

One newspaper’s business column said: “One matter which is not up for speculation, however, is the economic landscape that the incoming Marcos administration will have to steer the country through.

“According to a reliable source, no less than Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez is preparing to deliver an important message to the public in the next few days detailing the country’s fiscal situation and prescribing steps that will be needed to address it.

“Of particular concern to the outgoing head of the Duterte administration’s economic team is the debt that the government took on to address the impact of the pandemic over the last two years.

“We had to borrow, and this debt will have to be repaid,” said one official familiar with the situation. “And since it doesn’t look like the Philippine economy can ‘outgrow’ this debt, a fiscal consolidation plan will be needed.

“‘Fiscal consolidation plan’ is, of course, jargon for something that will be painful for the citizenry, and more often than not involves higher or more taxes, or both.”

Another problem is food security.

“Over 50 percent of food production in the Philippines is allegedly wasted on improper storage, improper handling, improper milling,” said the investment banker.

In any case, this is the banker’s personal message to Marcos:

“Now that he’s won, please enunciate policies. If he’s planning to have a better version of Duterte’s policies, say so. We don’t know what his policies are, so let’s see what his views are… Every president has cronies. Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies became bold during martial law. We’re not there.

“You have been given one of the rarest things, a real chance to make a difference, not for you, not for your family’s name (that will be taken care of automatically), but for the people.

“You have a clear mandate. You have authority. You have a whopping majority in every branch of government. Please use it intelligently and judiciously.

“For us.”

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