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

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."
Duterte followers
Duterte followers hold final rally in Manila [Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images]During his makeover of post-colonial Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was stymied by a lack of land and the high cost of compensation for coastal land. So he passed a law saying that the government can acquire coastal land by compensating owners without taking into account the seaside premium. Similarly, Duterte faces the challenge of acquiring large tracts of land in coastal areas and moving squatters farther inland to allow for change in the right direction.

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."
Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew took pre-emptive action to guarantee the fulfillment of his vision [Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]In an analysis by The Greening of the Philippines, the drivers to Singapore's success can be used by Duterte's action group for change. They are low corporate taxes; lax business regulations; living conditions geared to attract foreign investors; security for foreigners and their families; speedy corporate registration; meritocracy giving government workers pay incentives; pragmatism in foreign policy; pursuit of peace and prosperity; equal attention to small projects as to big ones; preference for foreign investments over foreign aid; diverse dialects respected with emphasis on English as the working language; maintenance of clean water resources; affordable housing, education, healthcare and transportation; workers' savings plans; strict honesty in business and government conduct.

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]