Business Mirror : Solid track record, no political ties: Business groups’ wish for economic team

By Business Mirror

THE country’s biggest business groups appear more inclined to see a clean slate for economic managers with no political attachments, if only to ensure delivery of results seen to jumpstart the sluggish economy.

Citing the need for presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to come up with a formidable economic team, Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) Chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. hinted at a list of merits for “bankable” experts in fields related and crucial to the economy.

According to Ortiz-Luis Jr., who is also the chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI), deciding whom to appoint as economic managers is crucial as the country tries to recover from the economic slump caused by the two-year-plus Covid-19 pandemic, the oil crisis and the war in Ukraine.

The government’s economic team includes top officials of the Department of Finance, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Agriculture (DA) the Department of Transportation (DOTR) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Ortiz-Luis Jr., Barcelon and Philippine Stock Exchange Chairman Jose Pardo are among the convenors of the Sulong Pasay, an LGU-based private-public partnership group aim to help revive the economy during and after the pandemic in Pasay City.

Asked as to whom the business community would endorse for these agencies, they said that it was never their policy to make endorsements. He, however, hinted at criteria which the next administration may consider in appointing Cabinet Secretaries, especially for a dream economic team.

High on these criteria for economic team players is appointing apolitical individuals, with remarkable track record in their fields of expertise—or somebody from within the agencies with unblemished record and known workhorse.

Sought to validate names which have been circulating in the social media, Ortiz-Luis Jr. warded off the supposed roster of Cabinet Secretaries, adding this “could just be a figment of imagination of somebody else, out of boredom.”

However, Ortiz-Luis Jr. mentioned the likes of Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Neda chief Karl Chua, DTI Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, DOE Undersecretary Benito Ranque and even Senate Energy Committee Chairman Senator Sherwin Gatchalian—names which he claimed impressed the business community.

For his part, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president George T. Barcelon said: “I would agree. We have invited Senator Sherwin Gatchalian to our forum regarding power. And of course the credit must go to the Economic team headed by the Secretary of Finance on our tax reform.”

Sought to expound on the energy portfolio, Ortiz-Luis Jr. shrugged off names closely identified to Secretary Alfonso Cusi, noting that all other Department of Energy (DOE) undersecretaries underperformed as chiefs of the DOE line agencies.

Meanwhile, Barcelon noted: “Our cost is still one of the highest in Asean. That is an issue with some foreign investors when they compare the cost of power. And then the back-up of power or pace load is very minimal. We cannot afford major repair of power service generation and we’ll be experiencing brownouts.”

The PCCI president added, “We had a workshop with the DOE and then they shared with us really marginal, and there’s distortion in the sense that power capacity is available in Mindanao and Visayas and lacking here in Luzon area but there’s no grid issue to have the power transmitted.”

Then, Barcelon added, “And the cost, we have the EPIRA law, that’s supposed to make it workable for more competition among the generation and distribution. But in certain areas like Cebu, there’s still a lot of complaints about the high cost of power.”

Closely identified with Cusi are Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) president and chief operating officer Jesus Posadas, National Electrification Administration (NEA) chief Emmanuel Janeza and National Power Corporation (Napocor) President Donato Marcos.

As for the DTI, Ortiz-Luis Jr. thinks DTI Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman could be part of the government’s economic team if only to propel the Mindanao’s trade, commerce and industry potentials.

For Barcelon’s part, he said: “Of course he’s from the south, but if he will be appointed as DTI secretary, it will be good for the country, he has been Usec for some time.”

“And we’re a team and we would look at the development of our country as a whole, so I’ve been hearing the possibility of him being appointed, but it’s not confirmed yet,” added Barcelon.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the business community is not entirely happy with the performance of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade amid reports he will be retained in his post.

Barcelon elaborated on this: “I wouldn’t say that we’re not happy, but it’s just that some of the issues that have been plaguing our traffic ever since the Duterte administration has shown little improvement. Maybe some of the plans have not been well thought out.”

He added that some people “are still complaining that they cannot get their car plate number so there’s been quite a number of issues. The bureaucracy has been added, like cars requiring public seats for babies, the annual check-up or whatnot.”

Barcelon said, “These people are having difficulty and these are added, so that’s why I said maybe those are the issues that people connect with,” added Barcelon.

However, Barcelon pointed out that “as far as the infrastructure related to transportation, although much has been promised, it’s ongoing like the subway, wherein we talk about the station 1, station 2.”

He said that, with the pandemic, “nobody can really blame them” for the delays.

Ortiz-Luis Jr., Barcelon and Philippine Stock Exchange Chairman Jose Pardo are among the convenors of the Sulong Pasay, an LGU-based private public partnership group aim to help revive the economy during and after the pandemic in Pasay City.

With a report by Andrea San Juan