If foreign investors and economic analysts are keeping tabs of the political intramurals for 2010, it is to look for hints of fiscal and investment policies that they might expect from the known presidential aspirants.
So far, the foreigners are groping for the hints. Most of the questions posed to the aspirants during public debates have focused on political matters, and what the aspirants plan to do with President Arroyo once she loses her immunity from prosecution.
Sen. Manny Villar, the frontrunner in recent surveys, told us last week that his economic model for progress was not the western democracies but a country that is closer to the Philippines’ level of development: India. He explained that India is an emerging democracy with all the accompanying political and social problems, it suffers from terrorism, and it’s one of the Philippines’ biggest competitors in business process outsourcing.
Villar and Sen. Mar Roxas are seen to be business-friendly, although Roxas is losing some points (but may be winning mass votes) in his campaign against Big Pharma.
Sen. Francis Escudero, though perceived to be business-friendly, suffers from the specter of cronyism because his principal patron, if he becomes the standard bearer of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, is businessman Danding Cojuangco.
Cojuangco’s estranged nephew Gilbert Teodoro is also seen to be business-friendly, but first he needs a party, and then he needs to rise from his ratings that have remained below water level.
Vice President Noli de Castro, whose ratings rival those of Villar, is tabula rasa as far as economic matters are concerned.
Many foreigners have told me that the worst prospect for the country in 2010 would be a return to power of the still popular former President Joseph Estrada. This, the foreigners said, would be a giant step backward for reforms.
The country cannot afford to continue with business as usual in 2010. While dramatic reforms are unlikely after the elections, it is possible to build the foundations for enduring change. And the way we vote and conduct the elections could determine how quickly we can get out of our current economic woes.