Paths to inclusive governance

Prof. Dindo Manhit, President, Stratbase ADR Institute

The dust has settled.

After the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of the President, which characterized the state of the nation as “sound” and which outlined his 19 legislative priorities, governance opportunities abound.

Consequently, the paths to good governance became more pronounced as the eight-point socioeconomic agenda of the Marcos Jr. administration was spelled out by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno in a post-Sona economic briefing.

For starters, prioritizing “sound fiscal management” will ensure the proper utilization of the government’s resources. Fiscal consolidation, budget modernization, and the reorganization of the bureaucracy will provide more fiscal space.

As fiscal discipline will guarantee efficiency and effectiveness, the rightsizing of the government will also show how bureaucratic problems could be resolved administratively—without the complications of partisan politics.

In the aspect of digitalizing governance, the passage of e-governance legislation and the expansion of the Freedom of Information bill will streamline the delivery of services and government processes. Making these public goods available and accessible also requires the systematic management of government data or information system.

To transform agriculture into a major contributor to the national economy, a host of issues concerning land use, agrarian reform beneficiaries, the food supply chain, farm inputs and implements, farm development, irrigation, support services, budgetary allocation, appropriate farm technology, agricultural trade and investment, and cross-sectoral and interagency support needs to be addressed and ironed out.

On this agricultural aspect—i.e., an executive order that imposes a one-year moratorium on amortizations and interest payments of land reform beneficiaries—the president sought the support of civil society.

Meanwhile, the integration of health, social protection, and education in the socioeconomic agenda is a laudable effort. This will correct the serious pandemic management missteps of the previous administration.

The Marcos Jr. administration’s socioeconomic agenda is seemingly adept to Filipinos’ gut concerns.

The government’s concern about creating jobs, “by promoting investments, improving infrastructure, and ensuring energy security; by increasing employability, expanding digital infrastructure, and encouraging R&D (research and development) and innovation; and by pursuing a green-and-blue economy and establishing livable and sustainable communities,” is thus very encouraging.

It is in this economic aspect that the role of the private sector comes into play. Specifically, the rewelcoming of the private sector and the rejuvenation of public-private partnerships are vital to the expansion, development, and innovation in the areas of infrastructure (physical and digital), agriculture, digitalization, domestic and foreign investments and trade, market competition, health, education, and energy.

In foreign relations, the 2016 arbitral ruling victory was galvanized by President Marcos Jr.’s declaration that our national interest is the primordial guide in the country’s independent foreign policy.

Altogether, the legislative priorities mentioned in the Sona and the socioeconomic agenda identify the things to be done and how they would be undertaken in this administration.

As these plans raise many social, political, and economic opportunities, it becomes apparent that the key to their accomplishment lies in the adoption and implementation of a collaborative, whole-of-society approach to governance.

Governance opportunities can be inclusive and channeled to the benefit of different sectors of society, if the execution of programs, projects, and plans through key agencies is responsive and transparent, and its implementers are held accountable.

This article was originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Commentary.

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