The State of the Nation (SONA) address of the President of the Philippines yesterday was long on specifics and short on generalities. (Full text of the speech is here, sans the Powerpoint.) What it could have used was a bit more abstraction on this "mega-region" approach to public investment. As it is, it came off more like a sound-bite to organize the existing Medium Term Public Investment Plan (download here, large file).
The mega-regions are: Northern Philippines, Metro-Luzon (that is, Greater Manila), Central Philippines (Visayas), and Southern Philippines (Mindanao). The North and South specialize in agribusiness, Central in tourism, and Metro-Luzon in industry and services. (There is a fifth, the "cyber-corridor" cutting across regions. But that detracts from our story). Regional specialization is not of course exclusive (there is plenty of manufacturing in Central and South Philippines, and tourism in Metro-Luzon), but for planning purposes the designation identifies the geographic targeting of public investment. The idea is that each region has its competitive edge, which requires further strengthening through infrastructure support. The enabling environment for private enterprise would stoke economic growth in the long term.
I would have liked to hear more about agricultural development from that speech, but if everyone's baby was in there she would have talked the whole day. The approach is essentially sound - question is if the President's political base remains sufficiently resilient to push these projects through. Her last budget proposal already tanked in the Senate, without all these mega-projects.
Oh, one more thing: she mentioned some startling tidbits like:
"Even before this, Metro Manila firms paying bribes for public contracts declined from 57% in 2003 to 46% today. Congratulations, Metro Manila."
"Helping our infrastructure upgrading, is the fall in bribery for public sector contracts in Metro Cebu, from 62% of companies in 2004 to 47 today. Congratulations to Cardinal Vidal for shepherding his flock and to Metro Cebu Mayors Osmena, Ouano and Fernandez, and Metro Cebu representatives del Mar, Cuenco, Gullas and Soon-Ruiz."
So previously nearly 3 of five public contracts required bribery; now it down to a tad less than one out of two.
Speaking about the glass being half-full...