Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito wrote in his column for the Inquirer yesterday about the seven Is that we must look in choosing our future leaders. I want to reiterate his points to guide the voters on qualities they must keep in mind while voting on May 9.
The first I is integrity which necessarily hinges on transparency and accountability to the people. We have just had substantial drops in our international ranking on Transparency International’s anti- corruption index in the last six years, reaching historic lows last year with a score of 33 out of 100 and ranking 117th out of 180 countries rated.
As Habito pointed out the Philippines just dropped 32 ranks since its record best performance of 85th posted in 2014. We must stop allowing our scarce resources to fall into the wrong pockets—instead of being used for the people and to fuel the economy, by holding our officials accountable for their actions and raise business confidence to attract more job-creating investments.
Second is Institutions, including those that should be the recourse of the most disadvantaged among us but have been eroded severely over many years of bad governance. We need a leader who can restore, repair and strengthen those institutions.
The next leader should reverse the wide perception that justice is for sale; that lawmakers make more money than they make laws; that local governments act in ways that run counter to national development goals; and that our public services and facilities are designed to impose the greatest difficulty on our people.
We must fundamentally restructure our institutions, including merge-related ones (like putting transportation and public works together), and create new ones to meet priority needs (like a Department of Fisheries).
Third is inclusion. This is about ensuring that development uplifts the lives of all Filipinos in the economic, social, and environmental dimensions, and that poverty is reduced especially in the countryside.
The pandemic has significantly raised poverty incidence anew and the economy’s recovery still benefits a narrow few. Our next leader must find ways for small farms and firms to participate more actively in and benefit from the resumption of economic growth and generate enough quality jobs to bring decent work and ample incomes to our workers right here at home, without having to go overseas.
Then international relations, which must assume greater importance amidst escalating threats to our territorial sovereignty, while the region moves toward stronger economic integration. That leader must pursue diplomacy beyond politics and highlight the crucial importance of economic diplomacy in a globalized economy where economic interdependencies across borders have become critical to inclusive development and poverty reduction.
Fifth is improving investments, whether domestic, foreign, private, or public. Investments have persistently been far too inadequate to generate productive and remunerative jobs that would make foreign employment a choice, not a necessity, for Filipino workers.
We need far greater investments in agriculture/agribusiness, manufacturing, and tourism to create the jobs that millions of our unemployed best fit in. For greater competition and less concentrated economic power, we need to open our long-outdated constitutional restrictions on foreign investments in public utilities, mass media, advertising, and education.
Sixth is infrastructure, which though it was prioritized by the current Duterte administration, continues to suffer from persistent and frequent inadequacies be it in badly- congested traffic, unreliable and costly electric power, inadequate water and sanitation facilities, or slow internet speeds.
Public-private partnerships are essential to accelerating the “Build, Build, Build” program to overcome weak absorptive capacity in our main infrastructure agencies.
Lastly, the intergenerational welfare must be the underlying concern in all development efforts. Their decisions and actions today must not compromise the welfare of our children and generations of Filipinos yet to come.
Our country must be in step with the world community in the pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 to ensure a better world for all of humanity, now and in the future, Habito stated.
And may I add, aside from integrity and honesty, our future leader must be a servant leader who would take public service seriously above self.