Belmonte: Let’s not waste our opportunities for development

TO catalyze the country’s determined push for sustainable development, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. stressed the need to act now to improve further institutional cooperation between local and national government agencies and among government, business and civil society.

“History is giving our country yet another opportunity for broad and inclusive development. Let us not waste this opportunity. Today, let us start action on what needs to be done to make our country realize its long-held aspirations for greater prosperity,” Belmonte told participants to the 38th Philippine Business Conference at the Manila Hotel.

The House leader addressed delegates to the 38th Philippine Business Conference led by conference chair Antonio Lopa, PCCI President Mike (Miguel) Varela, Alfredo Yao, PCCI Vice-Chairman, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., Honorary PCCI Chairman and members of the PCCI Board of Directors.

Also in the presence of members of the Diplomatic Corps, Belmonte noted the “huge steps” in the country’s drive to achieve higher and sustainable growth, among which are: (a) the economy grew by 6.1 % in the 1st semester; (2) gross international reserves, as of August 2012, reached US$80.8-billion which can cover about a year’s worth of import; (3) improved global competitiveness ranking from 85th to 65th;

(4) the country’s corruption perception index also improved by 10 places, from 139 in 2010 to 129 in 2012; (5) our reduced budget deficits, and kept them within targets; (6) the successive upgrades in our credit ratings; and (7) the record highs registered by our stock markets.

Belmonte, however, pointed out that with the improving investor confidence on the nation’s economy, several risks critical to the country’s long term economic prospects continue to exist.

These risks include: (1) the looming debt crisis in Europe and sluggish growth in US and Japan economies, (2) high fuel and energy costs, and (3) increased global competitiveness.

It is vital, he added, to bring in more and better investments for the nation to attain much higher and more consistent rates of growth, investments that will bring capital and technologies that will keep the country’s workers productively employed.

“We also need a bigger market to allow us to produce more and maximize the productive use of our resources,” Belmonte said.

Furthermore, Belmonte is advocating the review of certain economic provisions of the Constitution that restrict foreign investments and constrain economic progress.

“I am not proposing to change the restrictive economic provisions of our Constitution overnight. What I am suggesting is for us to take the first step towards relaxing these restrictive economic provisions by allowing Congress to enact the laws defining foreign participation and nationality requirements in strategic sectors in our economy,” Belmonte explained.

He added that “we will not relinquish our sovereignty on the preservation of our God-given resources. However, by allowing foreign participation and removing nationality requirements by legislative enactments, Congress can define and propose timely policy amendments, and can give our economy a more responsive and robust policy environment within which to flourish.”

Likewise, the Speaker told leaders of industry that Congress has in its agenda various measures to encourage the growth of both domestic and foreign investments, including statutes that promote fiscal discipline in all agencies and instrumentalities of government to curb abuses.

These measures include, among others, the timely passage of the national budget and the enactment of the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 to curb abuses, and promote accountability and efficiency in government owned and controlled corporations.

Government also is making sure that public money is used to upgrade and modernize the country’s infrastructures, enhance social services, underlining education and health, among others.

Without forgetting one vital concern, Belmonte noted the comprehensive approach in the fight against corruption that includes enhancing law enforcement, increasing prosecutorial success, and establishing a culture of transparency in government.

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