Thursday, 17 September 2009

More Philippine cities targeted by anti-corruption program

Michael Paolo T. Jamias

ASIA FOUNDATION plans to at least double the number of Philippine cities covered by its anti-corruption program in the next three years, its country representative said yesterday.
Steven Rood, country representative of the Asia Foundation, addressed participants yesterday, the first day of the Cities Conference on Transparency, Accountability and Competitiveness at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City.

"The Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) project is already in over a total of more than 20 cities in the Philippines," said Steven Rood, country representative of the Asia Foundation, at the sidelines of the two-day Cities Conference on Transparency, Accountability and Competitiveness at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City.

"We’re looking forward in the next electoral cycle, when we have a new administration next July, to go into cities interested in becoming more competitive — somewhere between 20 or 30 more cities," he added.

The Asia Foundation’s TAG project provides technical assistance that aim to lessen red tape, among others.

Consequent improvements in the business environment, in turn, are expected to stem the erosion of Philippine business competitiveness, as seen in the results of two global surveys released this month, said Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere A. Panadero in the same conference.

The Philippines dropped three notches to 144th out of 183 economies in the 2010 "Doing Business Report" of the International Finance Corp. (IFC), dragged by a deterioration in ease of starting a business and in paying taxes.

Similarly, the country fell to 87th out of 133 countries in the "Global Competitiveness Report" of the World Economic Forum, suffering from relatively weak market efficiency, technological readiness and innovation.

"These findings serve as a wake-up call to local government units to improve their competitiveness. [We] have to rally the cities to become champions for change," Mr. Panadero said, citing governance as a "key ingredient" for encouraging entrepreneurs and attracting foreign investors.

For his part, Jose Ma. Concepcion III, chairman of RFM Foods Corp., said city leaders should become "entrepreneurs in thinking" in order to make their jurisdictions more hospitable to a wide range of businesses, from small start-ups to multinational expansions.

Messrs. Panadero and Concepcion noted that efforts to address systemic corruption, such as the TAG project, are vital to making Philippine cities more competitive.

Mr. Rood said that, under the TAG project, cities interested in joining need only to have endorsements from both the city council and the local business chamber.

The backing of both sectors is essential, he added, due to their ability to rally support for government measures.

Asia Foundation coordinates with the United States Agency for International Development and the British Embassy in Manila for funding support for the TAG project.

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