Business Beat; Downgrade Doldrums

Article excerpt

Byline: Melito Salazar Jr.

Last week was not our week.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the Philippines' ratings from Category 1 to Category 2 on concerns about outdated aviation regulations, poor training programs for safety inspectors and sub-standard licensing for airframe and engine inspectors. The New York-based Freedom House, a private democracy watchdog organization relegated the Philippines together with Kenya and Bangladesh from totally free countries to partly free in their list. The Philippines received the lower rating due to a spate of political killings, specifically targeting left-wing political activists.

The 2008 Index of Economic Freedom released by the Heritage Foundation placed the Philippines at 92nd among 157 countries ranking very much behind other ASEAN countries Malaysia at 51st and Thailand at 54th. The index measured 10 "freedoms," namely, business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, and labor freedom. The Philippines scored the lowest in freedom from corruption. The Washingtonbased think tank reported that in the Philippines, "Corruption is perceived as widespread. Corruption is pervasive and long-standing. Enforcement of anticorruption laws is inconsistent, and the public perception of executive, judicial and legislative corruption remains high."

The Social Weather Station (SWS) released a survey last week which showed that 55% of Filipinos were dissatisfied with the way the government handles corruption. Only 26 percent expressed satisfaction, for a net satisfaction rating of -29 compared to last September where the government scored -16. Other areas of dissatisfaction were in the administration's campaign against inflation and hunger.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo immediately replaced Air Transportation Office (ATO) officer in charge Danilo Dimagiba, with Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza giving him a 90-day deadline to produce results that would enable the country's civil aviation system to meet world standards. With an OIC at the helm, it is not surprising that ATO did not meet the grade. A person with an acting status does not have the full powers or the clout with subordinates. One wonders whether the prevalent practice of this administration in appointing OICs and Acting Officials is responsible for the inefficiency of the bureaucracy compared to previous administrations. This is the result of prioritizing loyalty rather than productivity as a criterion for appointments and promotions. When one wants to have the flexibility to immediately change officials when they or their political backers are perceived not giving full support to the political survival of the appointing authority, then one suffers having less than professional performance.

President GMA has consistently voiced concern over the widespread killings, even creating the Melo Commission and inviting foreign observers. …