ARSENIO M. BALISACAN
Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General
APEC 2015 Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) Chair
PRE-SRMM PRESS CONFERENCE
6 September 2015, 4:00 PM
International Media Center, Bayfront Hotel, Cebu City, Philippines
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the local, national and international press, good afternoon!
For one and a half days, beginning tomorrow, Ministers and high-level officials coming from the APEC member economies will meet at the Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) to discuss issues relating to structural reform.
A better way to appreciate the forthcoming Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) is to first understand what Structural Reform is. As you will read in the short primer that our staff provided you, structural reform is about changing government policies and regulations so that economic transactions can be done more efficiently. In particular, it aims to eliminate complex and unnecessary government regulations and processes that keep firms and individuals from pursuing the best business and job opportunities for them within the country and abroad.
Take the case of professionals seeking opportunities abroad but find that their licenses are not recognized in other countries, while some firms wanting to do business in another country face legal prohibitions. There is also the case of expiring birth certificates which means that individuals needing to submit a birth certificate will have to apply for a new one almost everytime. Or, a firm wanting to diversify its product offerings, but would have to obtain additional licenses and permits to be allowed to do so. As a result, discouraged individuals often get stuck in low-productivity jobs, earning low incomes. Many businesses remain small and informal, while even those in the mainstream are constrained from expanding their markets.
Structural reform is about removing these kinds of barriers to unleash growth potentials of individuals and firms. Removing such impediments will allow resources to move more freely so that they can be put into more productive use and help raise incomes and generate employment.
Structural reform can range from simple changes in procedures to very significant policy reforms. In the Philippines, we have implemented quite a number of them, though not as part of a comprehensive package of reforms. A simple reform is when we no longer required a urine test in getting a driver’s license. Another is the introduction of the Universal multi-purpose ID card that enables the holder to transact business in several government agencies using only one card. There is also the recently launched the Philippine Business Registry that reduced the number of days it takes to register a business, from several weeks to only 30 minutes. Removing the oil price subsidy while allowing more players into the market and strengthening the regulatory agency is one example of a very complex structural reform. Another is when government divested its interests in power distribution utilities and instead focused on transmission and regulation, so that the private sector would be encouraged to go in the power generation business. And more recently, the passage of the competition law that defined what we mean by anti-competitive behavior and also created the Competition Commission.
Tomorrow’s Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting is only the second one to be held in APEC since 2008. Back then, in Australia, the Ministers agreed on a structural reform agenda. In 2010, the APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform (ANSRR) was launched. Five years hence, Ministers from the twenty-one (21) APEC member economies will once again meet to review how much progress has been made. There will also be sharing of experiences and lessons learned in undertaking Structural Reform Another important objective of the Meeting is to develop the post-2015 agenda for the region, proposed to be named Renewed APEC Agenda on Structural Reform (RAASR).
The Meeting will be organized into five (5) themes: (1) Structural Reform for Inclusive Growth; (2) Structural Reform and Innovation; (3) Structural Reform and Services; (4) Tools for Structural Reform; and (5) New Directions for Structural Reform in APEC.
In closing, let me state that Structural Reform is crucial for the Philippines as a growing economy to maintain its growth momentum. It is a long process that we need to keep working on. We can also learn from the experiences of other economies.
With this, I hope I have provided a glimpse of what is to come on the upcoming two-day Structural Reform and Ministerial Meeting.
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