MANILA (1st UPDATE) - President Aquino trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments before a gathering of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) but not without blasting the Arroyo administration.
In a speech during the opening session of the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting of its board of governors, the President painted a contrast between his administration and his predecessor’s, saying that he came into office finding out “how deeply eroded the foundations of government had become” and when corruption had become “endemic.”
He cited instances of the past administration’s “endemic corruption,” such as the purchase of imported rice at a high cost only to let it rot in rented warehouses and the scheme of previous officials of government owned and controlled corporations receiving huge bonuses and perks. Bidding for government projects, he added, were made to favor the well-connected.
“Endemic corruption had sapped the system of its vitality; public funds ceased to be used for the public good, and found themselves in private hands, whom we are now holding accountable,” he said.
“The message for nine and a half years was: nice guys finish last. To finish first, you had to lack conscience, exhibit a certain degree of shamelessness, and be an expert at giving handshakes with one hand, while picking pockets with the other,” he added.
He said that even poverty alleviation programs were not spared, with slots for the government’s conditional cash transfer program “handed out in exchange for votes.” He said that domestic and foreign investments also went down.
“With too few jobs being generated, our people were trapped in a downward spiral: no education, no work, no chance to improve their lot in life,” he said.
He said he spent the first two years of his administration to clean the house and institute reforms to fight poverty and corruption, including running after tax evaders and corrupt officials.
“Change has set in the Philippines, and we are open for business,” he said.
He said all these restored business confidence, citing the results: six positive ratings upgrade, record-high performances of the stock market, and the oversubscription of peso-denominated bonds, among others.
“We showed our resolve that no public official, regardless of his or her position, will be beyond the reach of justice and accountability,” he said.
“All of these efforts have allowed us to reclaim our national honor; they have boosted confidence in the country, restored our citizenry's morale, and are reaping dividends on the economic front.”
Aquino identified three sectors that he believes will drive the country’s growth: agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure. He said that the government would roll out ten Public-Private Partnership projects this year, including building schools and the expansion of railway systems.
He said his administration is pushing for “inclusive growth” to provide opportunities for the poor and equitable distribution of power and wealth by investing in education, health, and social services.
More funds have been allocated to the conditional cash transfer program, which ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda earlier said has “transformed” the lives of many Filipinos.
“The government's conditional cash transfer program experienced an almost fourfold increase over the past two years, from 10 billion pesos in 2010 to 39.4 billion pesos this year,” he said.
Aquino thanked the ADB for extending its official development assistance to the Philippines amounting to $761.97 million, assuring the delegates of the proper use of the funds.
“For this, you have the gratitude of our people, and a commitment from my administration. Gone are the days when the funds you funnel to our country will end up like water leaking through a broken pail,” he said. “You will continue to see results. You will continue to see a Philippines that is finally living up to its potential. We are prepared to follow through on our commitments, and you are by all means welcome to see if we're living up to our word.”
He also thanked the ADB for choosing Manila as the venue of its meeting this year, saying it “reaffirms the newfound confidence that the international community has exhibited towards” the Philippines.