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The Legislators’ Policy Roundtable (RTD) Series was inaugurated last August 9, 2007 entitled, Increasing Incomes and Direct Investment at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City. The series was organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Congressional Planning and Budget Department (CPBD) to help first-term members of the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines. The RTD is provided to assist the Congressmen/Congresswomen to identify issues and policy areas for the 14th Congress in which they could play crucial roles.
“Those who don’t find ways to increase income in rural areas have no business in Congress,” House Speaker Jose de Venecia declared during his opening remarks, and urged the present legislators to come up with specific proposals, not merely generalities.
The inaugural session focused on policy issues that affect economic growth aimed towards increasing income and poverty alleviation in the various constituencies around the country. Dr. Cielito Habito, director of the Ateneo Center for Research and Development and former NEDA economic planner during the time of Pres. Fidel Ramos, presented an overview of the current Philippine economy, stressing that economic growth remains “narrow, shallow and hollow…concentrated in a few industries…and mostly Metro Manila-based.” The Philippine economy lags behind most of its ASEAN neighbors, growing very little in the past 45 years. Dr. Habito recommended broad-based development, political and governance reforms, and stronger capital markets as possible legislative agenda for the 14th Congress.
Dr. Gilberto Llanto from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies continued with a presentation on the issue of infrastructure and development; while infrastructure remains crucial with regards to economic growth and investment, infrastructure remains inadequate in the Philippines as government expenditure remains relatively low at 0.17% (local) – 2% (national) of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The lack of regulatory bodies, local government capability to deal with the private sector on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects, policy coordination between national and local governments, and weak government fiscal capacity hinder infrastructural investment in the country. Dr. Llanto urged the creation of legislation on providing regulatory frameworks, as well as the strengthening of institutional arrangements, quality control of projects at entry, and the assurance of contract integrity.
Recommendations from the RTD were: elimination of political and judicial risk in infrastructural project bids, the improvement of public contracts and transparency, inter-branch coordination, and the inclusion of judicial checks during the bidding process.