THE ECONOMIC platforms of top presidential candidates, except that of a labor leader, will not foster growth for the Philippines, according to think tank IBON Foundation. 

“With the outlier of Leody de Guzman, among all the leading candidates, they collectively constitute a market-friendly agenda which will continue the trajectory of economic decline over the last four decades,” IBON Executive Director Sonny Africa said during the Pandesal Forum on Tuesday, citing a research conducted by the non-profit organization.

“Even though we had a huge expansion in foreign investments over the last four decades, we are not seeing the structural reforms, meaning stronger agriculture and especially a stronger industrial economy,” Mr. Africa said. 

If anyone among the current top runners win the elections, he said, “the real reforms needed to correct so many economic and political problems will be absent from… the administration’s next policy agenda.”

The IBON assessment, based on research and interviews of the aspirants, indicates that none of them has talked about large fiscal stimulus to spur economic recovery, new ideas to address persistent agricultural and industrial backwardness, or plans to solve structural income and wealth inequalities. 

None of the candidates, Mr. Africa added, spoke of national industrialization.

“On the contrary, most of the candidates speak of foreign investment as if it’s an end in itself, and they want to bend over backwards to attract foreign investment in a race with other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries,” Mr. Africa said. 

Mr. De Guzman, meanwhile, said in another venue that if he gets elected, he will identify “questionable” loans made by previous administrations before paying the P11.9-trillion debt of the country. 

“First, pay for those that clearly benefitted the people, then have a debate on the others,” he said in Filipino during an interview with DZRJ Radyo Bandido. “We can negotiate on a lighter payment based on our competence.”

He added that they have a coalition in charge of identifying which debt, beginning from the time of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, will be set aside for scrutiny. 

University of the Philippine professor Bobby M. Tuazon, also Center for People Empowerment in Governance director for policy studies, said at the Pandesal Forum that the May national and local elections remains dominated by political dynasties. 

“The coming May 2022 elections will further entrench the country’s ruling political dynasties, while on the other hand the Filipino people will continue to be marginalized from exercising their democratic rights to governance,” he said. 

Mr. Tuazon cited that of the 12 senatorial candidates leading in surveys, eight are members of political dynasties while an overwhelming majority of the country’s 81 provinces are ruled by political families. 

This shows, he said, that Philippine elections is not a level-playing field. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan