Progress report on our competitiveness programs

The next three years, from 2013 to 2016, are critical years for the Philippines. They represent the last three years of the Aquino administration—the second half of the six-year journey to completed reforms and better governance. Coming off a first half that saw the country growing from strength to strength and gaining in visibility on the global stage, the second half will bring greater attention, higher expectations, and more pressure to deliver results. It will be equally important to think about institutionalizing reforms so they become irreversible. The reforms must outlast the term of the present administration. These will be its greatest legacy. We all have a role to play in creating this legacy.

At the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), we have been fortunate to draw on the support and participation of a large number of people across government agencies, local government units, the private sector, and academe to work on our various programs. Their contributions have been significant and I am, as ever, optimistic that the efforts will yield results and our competitiveness rankings will improve.

I am presenting an update on our work by providing snapshots of three of our current programs.

Performance Governance System. One of our most successful programs has been the installation of a “balanced scorecard” system in national government agencies, LGUs, and now, government-owned and -controlled corporations. Under this system, agencies involving public works, education, defense, health, social welfare, trade, and internal revenue, the police and military, and others have tied their strategic roadmaps to specific metrics that are publicly shared inside and outside the agency. Twice a year, we coorganize a Philippine Governance Forum with the Institute for Solidarity in Asia and the Center for International Private Enterprise (from the United States) to go over balanced scorecard reports and updates using a public panel discussion format with individual agencies, LGUs, or GOCCs.

Aside from these forums, work continues on a year-round basis through Multisectoral Governance Councils that are set up with national agencies. These councils are composed of private sector and NGO representatives who meet periodically (usually quarterly) with the agency heads to review progress on the balanced scorecard. Having run this for several years now, our experience is that agencies and LGUs with deep commitment to this program have significantly improved their performance and services to the public.

Regional Competitiveness Committees. Last year, we embarked on a program to build up these committees outside Metro Manila in the hope of creating building blocks for national competitiveness. The committees are now busy collecting benchmark data to measure local competitiveness using a template of indicators. The data will enable us to fashion a good diagnostic tool for assessing their competitiveness levels and identifying areas or sectors that need improvement, and to rank cities and municipalities according to certain criteria and metrics.

The data that these committees collect from key cities and municipalities will enable them to benchmark against each other and, more importantly, to compare themselves against other cities and regions in Asean.

We have now organized 15 committees across the country. With data collection underway, we should complete the ranking and analysis by midyear. This annual exercise will now give businesses more up-to-date information on the cost and ease of doing business in major cities and municipalities—information that will hopefully provide a strong basis for making investment decisions in the regions.

Ease of Doing Business. One of our biggest challenges is to simplify and streamline our government procedures for doing business. By almost any measure, businessmen go through great lengths to transact with government—from starting a business to obtaining permits, paying taxes, going to court to collect a receivable, or to close a business. These are typically measured in terms of steps, days, and cost to go through a process and documented in a report known as the “Ease of Doing Business” Report published annually by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a unit of the World Bank.

Our current ranking is No. 138 among 185 economies in the world. After a series of videoconferences with IFC Washington and workshops with government agencies and the private sector, the NCC has worked out a game plan to make changes in key processes with the cooperation of the agencies responsible for each process.

Working closely with the IFC, government agencies, and the private sector, we have mapped out ways to streamline and simplify each process and then to eventually automate them. Teams have been formed to introduce process improvements per indicator. All teams will come together as a larger group on May 3 to present their plans and deliver their first progress reports. As these reports come out, I hope the public can help us in verifying that the government’s frontline services are indeed improving. This will allow for troubleshooting and tweaking for continuous improvement and to give credit where credit is due.

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