Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee has rebuked the country’s business leaders telling them pointblank to “stop scaring yourselves and start looking at the country’s economic fundamentals.” He urged them to reconsider their “unjustified hostile posture” towards President Duterte.
Addressing the Makati Business Club’s (MBC) annual General Membership Meeting last February 27 at the Makati Diamond Residences, Salceda told the business leaders: “In ten years, every controversial remark this President has spoken will have been forgotten. But the sweeping tax and economic reforms he had instituted will stay and keep the country headed towards prosperity.”
“Even his most controversial policy decisions are based on some ‘universalizable’ principles. This president is very clearly pro-growth, if we could just get our heads out of the sand and actually look at the country’s policy direction,” he told the participants in the event, considered as the most well-attended MBC membership meeting in recent history.
“For instance, on the ABS-CBN issue, it appears that businessmen are taking the President’s previously-inflexible stance to mean that he will suppress media opposition to his policies. That’s simply wrong and contrary to evidence: The CBCP, which is more ideologically opposed to the President, got its franchise enacted into law already under Duterte,” he noted.
“Moreover, it seems the ABS-CBN franchise application will soon be tackled,” he said, adding that even the contentious “water concessions will probably be extended, under the mediation of the Asian Development Bank.” He also pointed out that PhilWeb Corporation was hit not by selective policy, but by Executive Order 13, which sought to optimize revenues from gambling. “Even now that PhilWeb has been acquired by supposed Duterte ally Greggy Araneta, the license has not yet been issued by Pagcor (Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation),” he added.
The lawmaker likewise claimed that perceptions of cronyism have persisted in every administration but that compared to Marcos, the two Aquinos, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo, Duterte has only one paramount business group closely identified with him.
“By and large, the President has been making the right moves and enacting correct policies, in particular, TRAIN 1, excise taxes on sin products, CITIRA, PSA and the most significant infrastructure buildup last seen in 1954 after the war reparations, and 1974-1977 during the Marcos GOCC borrowing binge. And this time, we are doing our infra push sustainably, with debt-to-GDP in record lows,” he explained.
“I don’t understand why we are spooking ourselves. In truth, the more businessmen try to scare themselves, the bigger the opportunity becomes for businesses who keep calm and pay attention to the real policy issues. Be scared if there are issues on national macro-economic fundamentals. Actually, we’re growing at rates that cannot be scoffed at anywhere in the world. And we’re managing things despite global headwinds. As with all passing crises, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Salceda stressed.
He noted that some business analysts keep giving a ‘sell’ advice against all reason. “I say, look at the fundamentals. If it’s just OA (over-acting), which many people are (inclined to indulge in) these days, buck the market panic. Go ahead and buy,” he advised.
Salceda urged the businessmen to reconsider their “positions and reflect on whether it’s just out of a bias for a man who is not a mainstay in the usual posh hotels and the common ways of the elite. There were many Presidents sweet-talked in business meetings, but played safe on crucial pro-growth proposals. Only Duterte bets his life and all his political capital to get needed economic policies done. And he delivers.