MANILA, Philippines - President-elect Benigno Aquino should make positive dramatic actions in his first 100 days in office.
"First impressions always count, we have a new president and people have very high expectations of him," Peter Wallace, president of the Wallace Business Forum, said in an interview Tuesday with ANC's Business Nightly.
"They're going to expect something from the beginning, which is why he has to set the tone from the beginning by doing some actions."
Wallace said Aquino can start with actions that can be done fairly quickly and easily.
"For example, we lost the Freedom of Information Act just at the last minute. But he doesn't need that, he only has to issue an executive order calling on all goverment agencies to release information on request, a law can follow later."
He said such swift actions demonstrate that he is a man that can get things done.
Another area that Aquino could execute immediately is to get an independent assessor to put a value on the moribund Ninoy Aquino International Airpot Terminal 3. The next step would be to go back to its project developer, Germany’s Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide (Fraport), and say this is what the terminal is worth, clearing the way for the eventual operation of the mothballed facility, said Wallace.
The NAIA terminal 3 has not been used for nearly 10 years because of the dispute over compensation claims.
"If you set a tone, people believe you can get other things done, and this builds confidence."
Wallace said the Aquino government should focus primarily on creating jobs and new businesses.
"If you got a job, you got money. A lot of kids aren't in school because their parents are too poor to put them through school."
He said that President Gloria Arroyo's cash transfer program is basically a handout which is not the proper solution.
He said that the peace issues can be resolved if people in war-torn provinces, especially in Mindanao, have jobs.
"The Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front and the National People's Army are people who do not have any other alternatives in life."
With people having such high expectations of Aquino, Wallace said support for the new administration will not easily wane even if there is little achieved in the first 100 days in office.
"Optimism won't just go away, it doesn't mean the end of his term but people will be disappointed. He can't be Superman."
Wallace said it will be a matter of whether Aquino can live up to perceptions that he can get real changes done.
"If he does some positive things in the beginning that would get people's confidence and lead them to believe where he is going, the economy takes off quicker and faster. If he doesn't it will still be better becasue there is no question that we now have a stable government."
Wallace said most businessmen are quite pleased with his choices for the Cabinet, which he said is very different from Arroyo.
"In the GMA cabinet, there were a number of good people in the wrong places," explaining that their competencies weren't put too good use because they were assigned to positions where they have little expertise.
With Aquino's mother, President Corazon Aquino, she put together good people but with very different ideologies that often led to conflicts.
"With Aquino's Cabinet, most of them know each other and have similar ideologies. He has a very strong Cabinet," said Wallace.
Deficit and Corruption
On the country's deficit which is expected to balloon to P349 billion, or about 4.2% of GDP, Wallace said this is not a big deal because other countries also have the same ratio.
He said what matters is if the money is being properly spent.
"It makes a lot of sense to continue keeping a deficit going if the money is put into education and building an environmernt for business to grow."
Wallace said Aquino should not repeat the mistake of the Arroyo government which changed rules in the middle of the game, often resulting in foreign investors fleeing to more investment-friendly countries.
He cited the Arroyo government's move to renegotiate contracts with independent power producers.
As a result, the country is moving toward a power crisis he said, with no new and significant investments in recent years in power plants.
The biggest expectation which the country has of Aquino is the issue of corruption.
"This was the number one issue in the election. The first thing he has to do is to get a good team that can aggressively go after those that are corrupt," said Wallace.
"He has a good justice secretary, but he is hampered by an Ombudsman with a fixed term that has not had a good record at all," added Wallace.
Many perceived Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to be biased in favor of Arroyo who appointed her.
Several plunder cases are set to be filed against Arroyo by her political enemies, as well as anti-corruption watchdog groups.
"The perception of corruption in the Philippines has worsened in the last nine and a half years," said Wallace.
"Aquino cannot resolve corruption in his term, but it should be lessened."