Citizen participation, strong institutions crucial to development (BusinessWorld)

Citizen participation and the strengthening of institutions are key to sustaining good governance and improving the country’s competitiveness.

Guillermo M. Luz, cochairman of the National Competitiveness Council, said that amid efforts to institutionalize transparency and accountability, much work still needs to be done in terms of public support.

"Leadership matters but we can’t leave good governance to good government alone. We have to do our share in the battle against corruption," he said at yesterday’s Philippine Transparency Forum at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

Kai Kaiser, a World Bank economist, said encouraging people to "demand for good governance" is key to ensuring "greater accountability and responsiveness from public officials and service providers".

He explained that this ranged from local to national concerns, adding that citizen watchdogs instill a deeper sense of responsibility among public servants. Peter Carey, professor at the University of Oxford, said "fear is a motivation" for officials.

Establishing a competitive environment, meanwhile, will free up the economy to attract investments, another expert said at a separate presentation at the AIM.

"The answer to moving up the Philippines in terms economic freedom is opening up sectors to competition whether foreign or domestic," James M. Roberts, research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Calixto V. Chikiamco, president of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, said a skewed industry structure had weakened local institutions.

"The political economy of the Philippines -- where much of the oligarchy control major industries like telecommunications, power and utilities -- gives incentive to weaken the state," he said.

"The few controlling companies or owners pressure and influence the government in decision making."

John D. Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce legislative committee chairman, said foreign investors were also discouraged by restrictive laws.

"Mining has been a problem as it restricts foreign involvement in the industry, while the CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) has discouraged investments in agriculture," he claimed.

The government, said Mr. Chikiamco, should amend constitutionally set limits on foreign ownership.

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