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Election automation supported PH growth

Sound macro-economic fundamentals have been lifting Philippine growth this past few years. A tame inflation that tempered interest rates, strong foreign exchange earnings through exports, investments and tourism and business process outsourcing receipts, and a good fiscal house have all combined to boost the confidence of investors.

But non-macro-economic fundamentals have also contributed to the Philippine growth story. A stable political climate, far removed from the years when a faction of the military tried to oust the elected government, is complimenting the robust economic growth.

The credibility of the 2016 national elections, made possible by the automated counting of votes, for instance, has inspired confidence among local and foreign businessmen. It has enabled the Philippines to become the regional growth leader last year and set the stage for the continuous economic expansion in the medium term.

The country’s gross domestic product expanded 6.9 percent in 2016, the fastest among the large economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is expected to sustain the rapid growth in 2017 at over 6 percent.

“The Philippines remains among the fastest growing Southeast Asian economies this year,” says the Asian Development Bank, which sees the economy growing 6.5 percent in 2017 and 6.7 percent in 2018.

The International Monetary Fund shares the same optimism, as it retained a growth forecast of 6.6 percent for the Philippines this year in its latest World Economic Outlook. The IMF expects the Philippines to continue outperforming other large economies in Asean.

“Specifically, economic activity in 2017 is projected to expand by 5.2 percent in Indonesia, 5.4 percent in Malaysia, 6.6 percent in the Philippines, 3.7 percent in Thailand and 6.3 percent in Vietnam,” the IMF says in the report.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, in a speech during the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C., said an average growth rate of 7 percent for the Philippines this year and beyond was possible and sustainable as macroeconomic fundamentals remained solid.

Supporting the expansion of the economy is the country’s vibrant democracy, which allows businesses to thrive and generate employment. The success of the automated election system in 2016, in particular, reflected the will of the people and removed the political instability that hounded the country in the past.

To many, the switch to automated elections in 2010 marked a turning point in Philippine electoral history, confirmed by opinion polls and foreign observers.

Big leap

The automated election system is a big leap toward restoring democracy in this country and is one factor that continues to fuel economic growth that is generally inclusive.

Sustaining democracy means retaining investors’ trust and confidence in the Philippines, which is now considered among the most progressive economies in Asean. Such economic gains must be preserved amid renewed attempts by some people to restore the fraud-prone manual counting of votes.

“This is why it is important that the people protect the sanctity of the election by opposing any attempt to return to the ‘dark ages of Philippine election,’” one analyst said.

The move of several quarters to revert to the manual counting of votes can be construed as an attempt to undermine democracy itself and belittle the economic gains achieved by the country after emerging from the dictatorial rule in 1986.

“It appears that resources are being released to discredit the automated elections and reverse the historic gains in our country’s democracy,” said Claudette Guevara, convenor of Democracy Watch.

The 2016 elections were characterized by a speedy transmission of votes, increased confidence in the process and even a tremendous decline in election-related violence, said Guevarra.

Last year’s polls attracted an astounding 81.95-percent turnout, the largest deployment of vote counting machines in the world and the negligible percentage of recorded glitches and feats of technical flexibility that included printing some 40 million vote receipts and the training of more than 45,000 field technicians in less than three months, Guevarra said.

The Commission on Elections transmitted 86 percent of all votes by election night, leading to the proclamation of a near-perfect 99.9 percent of all 18,000 or so elective positions 10 short days after election day.

This was also the first time in the country’s history that the electorate knew who the next president would be on the election day itself.

All these strides were attributable to that crucial and historic switch to automation, Guevarra said.

The now routine peaceful and stable transition process between the old and new administrations only serves to fortify the country’s democracy. An election that is universally hailed as one of the most successful and credible in history should not be sacrificed to favor defeated candidates.

Strong democracies are a vital foundation of a vibrant economy and progressive nation, which is proven by the country’s robust economic growth last year. Protecting these democratic gains will in fact allow the country to achieve the government’s growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent annually until 2022 or beyond.

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Topics: Macro-economic , Inflation
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