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By Erika Denise L. Dizon, Special Features Writer

A shift of power was in order following the Philippines’ May 2016 national elections, where former Davao Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte and ex-solon Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo emerged winners of the presidential and vice-presidential race, respectively.

The recently concluded BusinessWorld Economic Forum last July 12, 2016 gathered leaders from various industries to address subjects concerning the economic landscape under the new administration. The whole-day event went by the theme, “Chartering Progress to 2020,” and focused on issues like regulation, disruption, regional integration, and capacity.

Tax reform a key priority

The forum’s first session came to grips with the topic of “Succession and Transition,” revolving around the question: How should companies navigate the economic terrain under the new government? Moderating the discussion was BusinessWorld editor Timothy Roy C. Medina, who was also joined by five panelists standing for different sectors including government.

One key priority of the Duterte government is to map out a tax reform plan that would benefit Filipinos from all classes, a subject that was tackled by Rustan’s Commercial Corp. President Bienvenido “Donnie” V. Tantoco III and Insular Life Chief Executive Officer Nina D. Aguas .

Representing the retail market, Mr. Tantoco believes most industries would want a simple tax system that encourages more corporations to participate. “Where we are right now is the tax rates are relatively high,” he said. Despite that, he thinks it has helped the previous administration create a better system of generating income.

Ms. Aguas, on the other hand, talked about Singapore’s efficient tax design, which the Philippines could garner lessons from. She praised it for its ease of compliance, reasonable tax rates, and pre-auditing measures to prevent room for corruption.

Getting things done faster

Touching more on the transition aspect, National Economic Development Authority chief and University of the Philippines School of Economics professor Ernesto M. Pernia asserted that the Duterte administration plans to “get things done faster” amid this period of change.

He added that the current government plans to continue the “good” macroeconomic policies of the previous cabinet and make a “big push” towards regional and rural development. Mr. Pernia also said they want to ensure that economic growth is distributed across income classes and regions.

Although gross domestic product (GDP) growth was one of the proud achievements of the past administration, he repeatedly noted that the current government wants to attain inclusive growth and give equal chances to everyone. Mr. Pernia projects GDP to boost between a range of 7% and 8% in 2017.

Aside from that, the government aims to reduce the country’s poverty incidence from 25% to 17% by the end of its administration.

Alaska Milk Corp. President and CEO Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, Jr., who spoke for the food and beverage industry, talked about the administration’s plan of bringing down food prices and how it would affect food companies and its stakeholders.

He said that the industry looks forward to seeing red tape slashed and believes that eradicating smuggling will keep a level-playing field for the private sector.

Infrastructure

On Manila’s port congestion scenario, Mr. Uytengsu said that even though it has improved significantly, there is always more room for development. When a suggestion of creating better highways came up, he said: “Continuing to invest in infrastructure is not an option; we really need it today and for the future.”

Megaworld Corp. Commercial Division First Vice-President Kevin L. Tan then answered the question of how private real estate companies could help the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, headed by Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, attain its goals.

Mr. Tan said that making government processes efficient can speed up the course of construction, which would eventually enable the private and public sector address issues on housing collectively.

Forum delegates were given a chance to ask panelists questions soon after the session ended. Highlights of the Q&A portion comprise of queries on overpopulation and a general economic development plan for the archipelago.

Erika Denise L. Dizon (@erikadzn on Twitter) finished BA Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas.

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