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It’s still the economy, stupid

The three presidential candidates should take a lesson from the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, who unseated George H.W. Bush with an effective message: It’s the economy, stupid.

Advancing the economy by reducing the poverty level, generating millions of jobs and increasing the purchasing power of consumers should be the focus of presidential aspirants in their campaign to woo voters in the May elections. The three candidates so far have not made a firm effort to expound on what economic program or reforms they intend to pursue when they win the election.

The war against corruption, the pursuit of the right path and similar campaign promises are devoid of substance if candidates offer no concrete and practical solutions to address the problems besetting the economy.

The current traffic mess in Metro Manila, for instance, is a reflection of the government’s failure to build an infrastructure network. The administration of President Benigno Aquino III, despite spending five years in office so far, bungled the infrastructure job after sitting on proposed projects and spending more time to deliberate on their merits.

Presidential aspirants should tell the voters how they would address the infrastructure bottleneck and pursue the construction of toll roads, bridges and railways without further delays.

The matter of high electricity rates, one of the most prohibitive in Asia, is another economic issue that presidential candidates must tackle. High electricity rates eat on the monthly budget of ordinary consumers. They also raise the cost of production and serve as a disincentive to foreign investors.

Making economic growth inclusive, meanwhile, is a challenge to the next president. The gross domestic product could rise 7 percent to 8 percent annually, but it will not be something to crow about if the gap between the rich and the poor remains wide.

The farmers, fisherfolk and the rest of the population living in the countryside will remain poor if they continue to have no access for their produce through farm-to-market roads, bridges and a reliable railway system. Raising the incomes of the less privileged is one economic agenda that presidential candidates should seriously pursue.

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