'Unfair' to blame Arroyo for low economic freedom score

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2011 11:43 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2011 08:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The head of a research center of US-based Heritage Foundation came to the Arroyo administration's defense and said it was not to blame for the Philippines' low ranking in the annual report on economic freedom.

Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, said the country is facing "institutional problems that go back a long time," and these "need to be addressed over the long term."
"It really is unfair to be too hard on the previous administration," he said.

Lohman made this statement after Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda pointed the finger at the Arroyo government for the country's poor performance in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, saying that indicators measured in the report were taken before President Benigno Aquino took over.

"Factually, it is a report on the previous years, not a report on the Aquino administration. [But] It is an opportunity for them to establish a baseline and see improvement from there, maybe in next year's report," Lohman added.

The economic freedom index, which was created by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, identified the Philippines as one of the "mostly unfree" economies in the world as it slipped from 109th to 115th place in the ranking of 179 countries.

The index scores nations on 10 broad factors of economic freedom including business, trade, monetary, fiscal, government size, property rights, investment, financial, freedom from corruption and labor.

The Philippines, just like in previous years, was particularly weak in property rights and corruption freedom, while it has performed the same in other areas, according to Lohman.

“The Philippines performs worst [in] property rights and corruption freedom. Corruption affects perception and it takes a long time to turn around perceptions. And it takes action. On property rights, that’s the judicial system, and that takes a long time to reform. There are countries all over the region that had challenge trying to change that system,” he explained.

He said the present Aquino administration must not set back efforts in addressing these issues since there is lot of room for improvement.

"They can debate here [on] how they want to address the issues."