President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s rise to the presidency has been popularly hinged on his promise of eradicating corruption and declaring war on drugs. While it can be argued that he has been making good of his election promises on these aspects, it is surely not the only thrust and focus of the administration. For a nation to prosper, a conducive climate for economic development is a necessity. His economic governance style has been dubbed “Dutertenomics,” a recently coined term associated with many things, but foremost, to usher in the “Golden Age of Infrastructure.”
Why infrastructure? Because it is the single most problematic aspect of the economy that has been thoroughly neglected, and even compounded, by past presidents. Think: How can goods be transferred from one place to another with the traffic, problematic road systems, air traffic congestion, seaport problems, and many others? And that is just one aspect of infrastructure that needs a lot of attention, to say the least.
This vision can only be achieved by a team of economic managers that will serve as Duterte’s main men. Let us take a look at the “who’s who,” the people responsible (and accountable) to the Filipino people in ensuring that in six years, all of the plans for the economy will come into fruition.
Labor and Employment: Silvestro Bello III
Formerly President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Silvestre Bello III is now the Secretary of Labor and Employment. A lawyer by profession, Bello is now in the midst of finding a solution to end contractualization—a serious problem that has crippled Filipino masses and a campaign promise made by the president during the campaign.
Trade and Industry: Ramon Lopez
“Trabaho at negosyo” is the rallying call of now Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who was formerly executive director of the entrepreneurship- advocacy group GoNegosyo. He intends to pursue further support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), so that more jobs could be created, poverty will be reduced, and inclusive growth can be achieved.
Transportation: Arthur Tugade
One of the toughest positions that has earned the boundless ire of Filipinos, especially in Metro Manila, has been given to one who seems to have enough experience to actually effect change. Arthur Tugade is part of the economic management team as Secretary of Transportation. Tugade is a corporate lawyer who seems to be cut for the job. He will be in charge of solving the traffic situation not just in Metro Manila, but in other urban areas of the country.
Agriculture: Emmanuel Piñol
A very challenging position has been given to Emmanuel Piñol, former journalist, agriculturist, and long-time governor of North Cotabato. He is now Secretary of Agriculture—a post heavily riddled with controversies in the past administrations. The agricultural sector will certainly benefit with the “Golden Age of Infrastructure,” especially because the Philippines’ vast lands are great for agriculture. Piñol has promised to give unending support to farmers to further their welfare and increase production in this sector.
Budget and Management: Benjamin Diokno
Also making a comeback in the Cabinet (after serving in the same post under President Joseph Ejercito Estrada) is Benjamin Diokno, Economics professor from the University of the Philippines and now the Secretary of Budget and Management, the other head of the president’s economic managers. He promises to raise infrastructure spending to as much as 7% of GDP, something unprecedented in recent administrations. We seem to be in good hands under an academic and tried-and- tested public servant such as Diokno, who is staunchly anti-PDAF and DAP.
Socioeconomic Planning: Ernesto Pernia
Director-General of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia is a decorated academic, being a professor emeritus of Economics from the University of the Philippines. He is also a high-ranking economist of the Asian Development Bank. His progressive stance in reproductive health and family planning has stood at odds with that of the Catholic Church, but Dr. Pernia remains unflinching. He has made it clear that population control will be one of the major priorities of this administration. With the increasing poverty rates, his role is of great significance to the economic management team.
Finance: Carlos Dominguez
The Secretary of Finance serves as one-half of the head of the president’s economic management team. This role is served by Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, a Davao- based businessman who is also the president’s childhood friend and classmate. He has been part of the Cabinets of President Corazon Aquino and President Fidel Ramos, and was formerly the CEO of Philippine Airlines. With many infrastructure developments underway, government spending and revenue generation will have to be properly monitored, and it is in Dominguez’s realm to manage this very important aspect of Dutertenomics. He is also leading the way towards reviewing the antiquated tax system of the country, and is keen on lowering income tax rates so Filipino workers can have more disposable income. – MARCO NICANOR