Can Duterte Change The Philippines From Third World To First World Country During His Term As President?

Kenneth Lim

Can Duterte change the Philippines from a third-world country to a first-world country during his term as president? This burning question dominates discussions among economists, businessmen, and even common people on the street as the electorate decides on its leader during the May 9, 2016, casting of the ballot. It is common knowledge that a whole nation's makeover was accomplished by the late Lee Kuan Yew for Singapore.

According to Rappler, presidential hopeful Rodrigo Duterte, 71, has explained what he can accomplish by easing barriers to foreign investments, allocating billions of pesos for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and creating a committee to deal with the Philippines' tax system. During a recent forum on his goals for the country, Duterte revealed how he plans to change the current economic picture.

"I will put a sizeable amount in the trade department to help MSMEs. It could be billions of pesos. But before you release the money, they (entrepreneurs) have to be educated to be sure that the money isn't wasted."

A can-do president Duterte would enable coastline change and upgrade inadequate airports to international standards wherever necessary. Good infrastructure planning would allow travelers to get from the airport to the city in a matter of minutes.

Starting with Duterte's showcase city of Davao, he can make the infrastructure right for economic growth by utilizing coastal land for a brand-new airport, a convenient expressway, and expanded port facilities for major shipping. Duterte can authorize land acquisition through a forward-thinking legal system to change current self-limiting conditions.

Singapore pursued a policy of paying for land it acquires based on prevailing value and zoning. In this scenario, the Philippine government can negotiate compensation value with landowners, but the acquisition itself would have to be officially enforced. With his legal background, Duterte can carry out positive change by making sure the land legislation is properly entrenched, so it is not affected by fickle politics.

According to the Business Mirror, Singapore has shown what a country in Southeast Asia can do to emulate, if not surpass, the economic progress achieved by Western countries. Duterte's Philippines can nurture the same positive change by pushing competitiveness indices, business-friendliness, infrastructure development, information technology, economic progress, education standards, and health-care.

According to the Kicker Daily, former north Cotabato governor Manny Piñol recently described Davao City as the microcosm of the Philippines where the sense of discipline, fear, and respect for the majesty of the law can be embraced by Filipinos elsewhere in the country. Piñol envisioned Duterte's change.

"The Philippines could be Asia's next Singapore. Rody Duterte could be the Lee Kuan Yew of our age."

The World Bank in 2013 pegged Singapore's GDP per-capita income at $55,182, one of the highest in the world, beating the United States.

Can Duterte change the per-capita income of the Philippines, which in 2015 achieved a modest $3,000?

[Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images]