That Boao speech

If there is one thing to be observed of the President's April 10 speech at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in Hainan China, it is that unlike his usual extemporaneous and frank talks, Duterte gave that big audience a rare organized glimpse into the various facets of his economic program.

But apart from the usual menu of the "Build Build Build" initiative and the call for a comfortable life for its citizens, the President focused what is being done.

“We are slowly making the Filipino dream a reality. As we strive to push our economy forward, we encounter challenges. But we will not be deterred. We seek to partner with responsible businesses – home-grown and foreign based – to drive the progress we envision,” he said.

Duterte admitted that his administration has ambitious goals, as he bared plans to spend five to seven percent of the country’s GDP on infrastructure.He likewise noted the target of reducing poverty from 22 percent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022.

What was new to many was how the President set the goal, and said the administration is investing on innovation, particularly on science and technology and human development.

“With greater access to technology and financing, we will apply Science, Technology and Innovation in agriculture and the service industries. We will invest in improving research and development and intensify international cooperation in this area. We are willing to learn from others,” he said.

This opens a wider door to cooperation that goes beyond mere trade. Innovation adds value to trading, pushing the impulse to improve our products and compete at a time when we ought to be able to benchmark ourselves against our ASEAN peers who have roughly the same endowments snd challenges. 

Being in Asia at this time when the continent will lead global growth is a blessing to a country that has long languished in trying to get its economy off the ground and break the manacle of debt- ridden underdevelopment punctuated by weak institutions. Foreign investors have always noted how inconsistent the Philippine policy environment has been for them. Perhaps this is no longer the case.

With a sensible tax program to temper borrowings and a strong government able to carry out its mandates, financing this growth is more realistic, earning not just the recognition of ratings agencies, but the credibility that has prompted investors to pump in a record 10 billion dollars in foreign investment inflows in 2017, almost twice as much as the last year of the previous government.

By many standards, this government appears to be more coherent.

[Photo: President Duterte, in his speech during the opening ceremony of Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2018 at the BFA International Convention Center in Boao, People’s Republic of China on April 10, 2018, invites responsible businesses to invest in the country as he assures investors that government is strengthening its policy framework for businesses to thrive. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO]