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22/09/2011: President Aquino Underscores Accountable Governance at the World Bank

Listening to President Benigno Aquino (left photo) deliver his lecture are (right photo, r-l) World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

22 September 2011, WASHINGTON DC – In a public lecture delivered yesterday on “People Power and Accountable Governance” before a standing-room only crowd at the Black Auditorium of the World Bank’s H Building in Washington, D.C., Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed yesterday to replace the people’s disillusionment with government by “putting in place strategic interventions that promote not just growth but inclusive growth.”

He told officials and employees of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund at its annual meeting here that despite decades of trauma borne of corruption and impunity, the Filipino people still have a renewed sense of optimism that needs to be nurtured further.

“Institutions have been eroded to the point that doubt is a Filipino’s first instinct when dealing with government. Decades of trauma borne of corruption and impunity have festered and calcified, and while my people approach the future with a renewed sense of optimism, it remains a guarded optimism, a hope that is only now beginning to take the first important steps away from disillusionment,” the President said.

“My government is determined to stoke that hope by putting in place strategic interventions that promote not just growth, but inclusive growth,” he stressed.

These interventions, the President said, include increased spending on social services (health and education), expand and improve the government’s conditional cash transfer program that will provide stipends to less fortunate families, provided they keep their children in school and visit their health centers regularly, ending large scale corruption that had become a common occurrence over the past decade and implementing a zero based budgeting process that evaluates the effectiveness of government programs.

“These reforms are paying off. The savings generated by more honest and transparent budgeting have allowed us to increase spending on social services and defense without having to increase taxes this year,” the President said.

These, the President noted, have earned accolades from the international community as evidenced by the four positive rating actions over the past fifteen months, a stark contrast to the lone upgrade and six downgrades meted out to the Philippines in the nine and a half years of the previous administration.

“This, on top of the recently-released World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, in which my country posted a ten-point jump in ranking, the biggest improvement we have ever recorded in the report,” the President said.

“In my recent trip to China alone, we were able to acquire 1.2 billion dollars in new investments; and, with an estimated 11.7 billion dollars more in potential investments, this number is sure to grow,” he added.

The President pointed out that “these foreign investments, and the equally important investments coming from domestic sources, are in large part responsible for the jobs that have been created within our administration."

“There are a million new entrants to the labor force every year," he continued, "meaning that keeping our 8 percent unemployment rate from going up meant creating a million jobs every year. But we were not only able to maintain it; we improved on it by bringing it down to 7.2 percent. This does not factor in the fact that 2010 was an election year, creating an employment spike during an election period,” the President said.

“Ending corruption means not only cleaning up the system, but holding accountable those who have wronged my people. Accountability allows closure to the many sins committed against my people over the past generations. Without accountability, there will be no certainty that others will not follow in the footsteps of those who have wronged my people. Without accountability, the entrenched culture of impunity will remain, the corrupt will continue to flourish and steal, and the atmosphere of doubt and mistrust will continue to linger even as we rebuild our institutions,” he concluded.

World Bank Group (WBG) President Robert Zoellick introduced President Aquino and lauded him for “doing the hard work of democracy and economic reforms, focused on governance, transparency and accountability, and the challenging work of anti-corruption.” He also commended “the Filipino staff as the backbone of the Bank.”

A lively question-and-answer session, presided by WBG Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati, ensued.  President Aquino conveyed the need to effect “lasting changes” in the Philippines’ political and economic systems. He urged all Filipinos and not just those in government to be partners in transforming the country.

The World Bank, a key development partner of the Philippines for the past 66 years, works with the Philippine government and other stakeholders in strengthening public institutions as well as promoting transparency and accountability at the local and national levels. END