Some candidates' platforms

. . . is the topic of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Having nothing better to do last weekend, your Trade Tripper decided to play around the Net and see what some presidential candidates have in their respective platforms regarding international trade (and the economy in general). It was annoying actually in certain instances because of the ridiculous difficulty of finding some platforms. Considering that they’re selling themselves and their visions to the Filipino people, some aspirants weirdly prefer to keep their platforms secret. Either that or they just don’t have a plan at all.

Anyway, among the presidential candidates, Manny Villar seems to have the most detailed and well-thought-out plan. At http://www.eleksyon.co.cc/manny-villars-platform/, Villar identifies the nation’s main problem as "widespread poverty and social injustice." This, I believe, is correct. Corruption isn’t really the fundamental problem and is better viewed as a symptom rather than the cause of the nation’s deterioration. Thus, the "main thrust" of his platform is "emancipating the people from poverty and injustice. Self-reliant and sustainable economic development program shall be pursued by implementing agrarian reform, increasing agricultural productivity and developing domestic industries. The problems of environmental destruction, climate change and recurring calamities shall be comprehensively addressed. High priority shall be given to education, health, housing and other basic social services." No sensible person would have a beef with that.

Regarding international trade, Villar unfortunately in one instance dabbled in the language of cuckoos: "The policy of economic liberalization and blind adherence to ’globalization’ must be reviewed." But that statement is tempered by a call for a "foreign policy based on respect for national sovereignty and ensuring mutual benefit," which is really all we could reasonably ask for. He also calls for increased trade with ASEAN countries.

Villar does make a strong pitch for the manufacturing sector and, quite gratifyingly, calls for "a program to promote patriotic awareness among consumers to use and buy locally produced goods" and that "foreign investors are welcome to invest in the Philippines as long as the national patrimony and economy is protected and not compromised."

Noynoy Aquino’s platform (http://www.noynoy.ph), on the other hand, is quite disappointing considering the "expertise" he’s supposed to have at his disposal. His "Social Contract with the Filipino People" seems like an archaic imitation of something Newt Gingrich cooked up almost two decades ago. Gingrich, however, gave something that Aquino does not: details. Nevertheless, Aquino’s "Contract" does have some heartwarming words: "An organized and widely shared rapid expansion of our economy through a government dedicated to honing and mobilizing our people’s skills and energies as well as the responsible harnessing of our natural resources." And he plans to do this by making "changes first in ourselves -- by doing the right things, by giving value to excellence and integrity and rejecting mediocrity and dishonesty, and by giving priority to others over ourselves." And Aquino declares "making education the central strategy for investing in our people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness." Which is like a basketball coach saying that his plan is for his team to "shoot the ball and play defense."

Joseph Estrada’s platform (http://www.eleksyon.co.cc/joseph-erap-estrada-platform/ and http://erap.ph/) is also bereft of details. It pushes for a "pro-poor platform," and mentions "education, research," "medical missions, render health care services," "livelihood and self-help programs." It sounds like the platform of a guy running for mayor instead of president.

But for platforms composed of sheer motherhood statements, nothing can beat the lawyers. Gilbert Teodoro (http://www.eleksyon.co.cc/gilbert-teodoros-platform/ and wants to strengthen our educational system by developing "technical skills, mathematics, and English." A recommendation sure to be popular is his plan to add "two years to the original six years of elementary." He does promise a "loan system for the less fortunate." Teodoro declares that "the country needs more innovative ideas to fuel the industry and the economy," which should make us think again of the basketball coach analogy. Although in one speech, Teodoro did indicate his focus on the local rather than global: "While the rest of the world awaits the recovery of the global economy, the local economy must be strengthened." And he proffers good government, infrastructure, education, and health as key to economic development.

Richard Gordon’s platform reads like the political manifesto that it calls itself to be (Manifesto for Change; http://www.eleksyon.co.cc/richard-dick-gordons-platform/ and http://www.dickgordon2010.com/go/). The problem is, it doesn’t really say anything in terms of concrete plans. While it commendably (albeit repeatedly) dwells on Gandhi’s oft-repeated theme (sometimes to ad nauseam levels) "be the change you want to see," does he really expect to be elected president for saying something we already know?

A president has been likened to a ship captain: he must have a clear idea of the port he wants to reach and is capable of helming the ship to reach that port. The ability to inspire is nice. But in the end we need somebody who has a concrete idea of what needs to be done and (equally as important) can actually get things done.