Six hours before President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address last Monday, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte rallied Congress members to give top priority to pending legislation to “stimulate the economy and create more jobs” in the final two years of the Aquino administration.
It was reported there was a “profound sense of urgency” in the joint caucus as both chambers looked at a narrow window of two years for the Aquino presidency to achieve so-called inclusive growth.
“Inclusive growth” is the slogan used by economic experts in the context of poor countries wherein corruption and inequality are so embedded in the political system and social structure that they act like barnacles in anti-poverty programs. International lenders are keen to give assistance but they’re picky with government beneficiaries. They should be transparent and accountable.
In 2011, when President Aquino was just scaling the heights of his popularity, he went to the US to discuss his reform agenda and key poverty reduction strategies with top officials of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). P-Noy had brushed up on inclusive growth for days and could have riffed from previous policy discussions of the Philippines Development Plan of 2011 to 2016 during that high-level meeting.
When I heard the news about the joint caucus, a friend of mine remarked, “Parehas na silag librong gibasa?” (Are they on the same page?), referring to the executive and legislative branches seemingly working at different directions.
Well, apparently not because policy on inclusive growth had been lying around for the past four years and Congress has not lifted a finger to ensure it.
For senators and congressmen to say that it will now attend to inclusive growth legislation to ensure the administration’s centerpiece anti-poverty measure must be terribly painful for President Aquino who relied heavily on his congress allies to help him. Imagine, he is being attacked left and right for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), hefty sums of which were given to senators and congressmen and all they could give him in return are just promises.
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The dreary weather and political situation notwithstanding, some good news from the private sector can be particularly uplifting.
I had just gathered that the University of San Carlos in collaboration with Ambit Foundation, Inc., a local non-profit organization reaped honors in a competition showcasing social entrepreneurship projects.
The USC-Ambit entry in the national Enactus competition held last July 25 to 26 in SMX Convention Center in Manila is the Guso-preneur, a sustainable seaweed farm developed by Ambit and USC students mostly from the university’s Business Administration Department who underwent training in the Enactus Entrepreneurship Institute (EEI).
Enactus is an international organization composed of students, business and academic leaders “committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and help build a better and more sustainable world”. The acronym stands for Entrepreneurship, Action and Us.
Guso-prenuer was captained by Ambit Foundation executive director Joyce Yang who rallied students behind the project in Doong and Lipayran, both seaweed farming communities in Bantayan. These villages were badly damaged by typhoon Haiyan in November.
Late last year, Joyce invited me to visit the island to see for myself Ambit’s intervention in another town called Patao. Ambit raised funds to repair some 20 fishing boats badly damaged and rendered inoperable by Haiyan.
For lack of space, I will tackle the briefer on Guso-preneur in another article but suffice it to say that while Congress has yet to roll its sleeves in pursuing inclusive growth despite the DAP, a local NGO has already waded deep in the waters of far flung islands to help thousands of people displaced by the supertyphoon.
To top it all, USC and Ambit have scaled a model for inclusive growth despite the limited time and resources. Although they just bagged the second runner-up award (University of Luzon in Dagupan City was chosen national champion in the Enactus competition) USC and Ambit deserve our praise and support.