COVID has made us reflect on who we are as a nation. It has exposed the fissures in our governance, in our management information system, in our infrastructure and in our core beliefs.
We need to rebuild our economy on a new paradigm not based on programs or policies but based on principles of merit, integrity, work, inclusiveness, empathy and fairness. It is to these basic tenets that we must return as a community. These values will layer the policies, strategies and tactics we shall adopt.
We will choose quality of growth over quantity of growth. We will emphasize process rather than outcomes knowing that good outcomes come from good process. An economic ethos founded on ethics and humanity is what will make our economic recovery sustainable and permanent.
In this New Economy resources will be allocated by market forces not by rules dictated from the top nor by political influence. The role of Government is to set the table and provide the ambiance; not to determine the menu, nor the price, nor the seating nor who gets to order or be served first. The customers get to do this in a competitive environment.
COVID has shown the old economic model of trickle down economics, urban centric growth, unbalanced development, political/industrial alliances, centralized directives and worn and unengaged fiscal, monetary and foreign exchange policies; have created congested cities, urban poverty, environmental harm and income inequalities that threaten our health, our security and our socio-economic and political stability.
To revive the economy we must be warriors. We are in a battle against a virus and against fear. We will fail if we are timid. We must attain launch speed or we will stall and crash to the ground.
We will undertake a two-phase recovery plan (the Plan). The first phase is an immediate and massive stimulus to boost aggregate demand through direct transfers, fiscal spending on quick response, Keynesian plug-and-play initiatives, and active depreciation of the currency to make us competitive in world markets and boost incomes of our displaced OFWs. We must get the economy out of the ICU with intense medication before we ask it to eat healthy and exercise.
We will support vital industries like aviation and tourism impacted by COVID not through a dole-out but through a program that will socialize the rewards of the rescue. The Government will demand commercial returns commensurate with the risks of the undertaking.
Phase II of the Plan, the fitness phase, will focus on:
- A sustainable Balik Probinsya program that will allocate resources and opportunities to the countryside.
- Building a data base and management information system (MIS) that will allow for smarter decision making, more efficient socio-economic relief, and accountable governance.
- Fast tracking a nationwide internet rollout.
- A bottom up approach to development working with NGOs, businesses and LGUs.
- A federalized economic model that motivates local governments to compete for national budgets and private sector investments based on merit.
- Targeted support for key industries like BPOs, recreational and medical tourism, exports, value-added overseas employment and knowledge based enterprises.
- Education and environmental sustainability.
- Build-Build-Build recognizing this is a lengthy and cumbersome exercise.
I will form an Inter-agency/business/NGO task force to launch the Balik Probinsya program. The task force will prepare a sustainable plan that will identify and support education, housing, health and economic initiatives to ensure the migration to the country side is permanent. The migration should decongest our cities, naturally social distance, and redistribute wealth to a geography that supports two-thirds of the population. The program will include a complete review of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform protocols.
Data is now arguably the most important commodity in the world. It is the currency that created Silicon Valley and the Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of this world. We must build a robust MIS and data base with information and knowledge as the heart of the program. COVID has exposed how little we know of anything. As a result we are unable to defeat the virus, unable to provide vital relief to the poor without the corrupt hands of Government officials, unable to efficiently collect taxes, and unable to run our economy intelligently. Building a comprehensive information and knowledge infrastructure is now the top priority of this Government while being mindful of privacy and security. I am appointing the Dept. of Science and Technology to oversee this critical undertaking with direct line to my office and commensurate funding.
To complement our MIS I am accelerating the rollout of broadband in this country. I am establishing a National Tower Corp. to rationalize, consolidate and fast track the build of cellular towers in partnership, should they desire, with the telcos. Information highways are just as as critical as physical highways in the development of a nation. Internet is the great economic, educational and social equalizer so it must be available to every Filipino. We must inhabit the world of technology.
We have adopted a trickle down economic model that has failed. Only the intermediaries, the corrupt officials and businessmen in between, have benefited from this arrangement. The poor have not seen the fruits of taxpayer money. We are now reversing the process. We will build this economy brick by brick from the bottom up through zero-based budgeting, micro-finance initiatives, bite-sized programs in water, farm to market roads, classrooms, and re-education of workers (with pay) that will immediately impact jobs and communities. We will invite anchor businesses and their supplier eco-systems to promote jobs at the ground level.
I ask local governments to be a major partner in these new efforts in Balik Probinsya, broadband roll-outs, and bottom up economic programs. I will provide the necessary fiscal support and endorse foreign and local investors to locate in communities whose LGUs can prove good governance, strong industrial policies and security. I have asked the DOF to develop a viable municipal bond market that will allow financially responsible LGUs to access private capital on their own. This could include Government guarantees to responsible LGUs until they can stand alone on their credit. Our collateral will be a hold-out on future Budget allocations.
We will fund the New Economy with untapped sources of revenue. We will raise property taxes to reflect the large rise in urban market values. We will monetize our intangible government assets like rights of way and communication frequencies. These will no longer be available for free. We cannot charge tolls on physical highways and not charge tolls on the digital highway. Unused frequencies will be auctioned while existing allocations will be levied a royalty based on their net present value. The new paradigm is pay to play.
Recovery from our crisis requires a quantum change in our thinking. Marginal improvements and parsed support are not enough in this transition to a new world. We must when needed take the road less travelled and build our own future because there is nobody but us to do it.
I ask Business, the NGO community and the Church to partner in our mission. Government alone cannot perform the task.
I ask you, members of the Legislative branch, to join our efforts.
Lastly, I reach out to every Filipino to come together in unity and common purpose. Let us be accountable to one another. In this crisis you have done most of what I asked of you and you have borne the pain. I know that. I will make it up to you.
We have more hardship ahead of us but I will be with you all the way. I will leave no stone unturned, leave no one behind, this is my vow. The journey will be arduous and many of us will fall by the wayside but we will overcome because that is who we are as a people. We will reach the promised land together.
Thank you and Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!