‘Populism imperils economic reforms’


THE continuation of a populist wave in the country imperils the economic reforms put in place by the current administration, according to the dean of the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG).

During the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) webinar last week, ASOG Dean Ronald U. Mendoza said the performance of the country in the next 10 years would largely depend on the choices that voters would make in May 2022.

Mendoza said that if voters place the country in the hands of an administration that will not use the reforms introduced by the current administration and would even practice poor governance, the impact of these reforms on the economy and the country would “be for naught.”

“I have every respect for what the reformists like [Socioeconomic planning Secretary] Karl [Kendrick T. Chua] are pushing,” Mendoza said last October 28. “On the other hand, I am very concerned about the continuation of a populist wave in the country and I think populism is much, much more virulent than the pandemic.

He added that focus should be “on bringing back greater social cohesion in the country, greater political stability in the country and greater credibility in the way governance is pushed in the country.”

Mendoza said one of the important reforms that the current administration introduced was the National ID. He said through this effort, the government would be able to reform the social protection system.

He said the pandemic saw the government having a difficult time extending “ayuda” to help all those Filipinos who lost their jobs, especially during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) imposed in March to April 2020.

The ECQ, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), closed down 70 percent of the Philippine economy. It also led to the loss of 8.7 million jobs.

Chua said the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that around 40 million Filipinos have already registered for the National ID. This is only 10 million shy of the 50 million target this year.

Chua said for 2022, the target is to register another 45 million Filipinos in the National ID system. This means, if this is achieved, only Filipinos younger than 5 years old will not be registered in the PhilSys.

“These are good things. But the question is really about governance,” Mendoza said.

“I think that is what’s at stake with the May 2022 elections. So despite all these reforms if we transfer it into the hands of administrators who are not necessarily going to make use of all that ability, all of that power well, and there will be governance issues; then, of course, there is risk that all of it will be for naught,” he added.

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