Thursday, April 04, 2013

Investing In Local Economic Development (LED): Competitive Cities On The Rise *

(1st of four parts)

* A paper presented by San Fernando City Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez, to the Plenary Session, 38th Philippine Business Conference, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on October 9, 2012 held in Manila Hotel, Manila.

While the overall Philippine economy grew in 2011 by 3.9 percent, much higher rates of expansion were registered in many of the regions outside highly urbanized Metro Manila.
The National Capital Region contributed a slightly lower 35.7 percent share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2011, with the capital’s growth rate declining to 3.5 percent compared to 7.6 percent the previous year.

Of the country’s 17 regions, seven registered growth rates last year (2011) that were higher than Metro Manila’s. For instance, Central Luzon contributed to the national economy 9.3 percent and growth rate was higher at 9.3 percent. 

Judging from those numbers, I can only conclude that the theme of this plenary session, “Investing in Local Economic Development,” is a most time one, particularly since the focus is on “Competitive Cities on the Rise”. The organizers deserve a warm applause for having come up with this theme.

What leaders should focus on:  Raise the quality of life;  Education; Employment; Corrupt-free government; Governance a shared responsibility; Leaders should be enablers, innovators, forward-looking and true.

Before I go any further, I hope you will allow me to offer a note of gratitude. This is a sentimental visit for me. I was at your Annual Business Conference last year, also at this same venue, to accept your organization’s kind awards to my City of San Fernando, the “2011 Most Business-Friendly LGU Award” and the “Hall of Fame Award”. Thank you again for honoring my city with the prestigious awards in the Level 1 category.

These awards have given us, the San Fernando city officials and rank-and-file employees, a proud and humbling experience. Some of our friends in the local business sector viewed the awards as a validation of the correctness of our development principles and strategies in our city, formerly a sleepy town that now emerged into a new boomtown in our corner of the Central Luzon region. 

I am also happy to report to you that since you gave us those awards, our city has been honored with a few other citations by reputable local and international award-giving organizations. In Seoul, our City of San Fernandeo was given the distinction as one of the world’s “most liveable cities” by the 2011 International LivCom Awards group. In Geneva early this year, I was invited by organizers of a forum on “Cities, the Laboratories of the Future” as lone participant from Southeast Asia to discuss the San Fernando example. 

And for dramatic improvements in the basic services that we provide our constituents and businesses setting up shop in our city, the Central Luzon Growth Corridor Foundation, with which some of you may be affiliated, conferred on us the Golden Eagle Award National Level for our successful streamlining of the processes in our business permits issuance.

These awards were actually the result of our efforts to provide the best level of public service that is in line with the “tuwid na daan” (or “righteous path”) enunciated by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. At the City Hall in San Fernando, I am proud to say, “under the table transactions” are now alien and rejected by our officials and employees.

23 Minutes To Approve Business Permit

These efforts at cutting the cost of doing business – and continually looking for ways to keep such cost low – represent just one of the prime drivers that helped San Fernando boost its competitiveness as a host for private investments.

San Fernando has also made significant gains in enhancing its capacity to satisfy business needs, as illustrated by our success in trimming to a record-setting and award-winning 23 minutes the period it takes us to process and approve a business permit.

As you are aware, “satisfying business needs” is another key driver for achieving competitive standards among cities. Other factors that determine whether a city is competitive or not, as pointed out by the Asian Institute of Management, include: the dynamism of the local economy that will attract more investments; infrastructure facilities; levels of human resource skills and training; and quality of life in the community.

Indeed, more and more cities are recognizing these drivers and are setting measures in place to boost their respective competitiveness. As president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, I have constantly argued that LGUs must be competitive. 

For LGUs, particularly cities, to be competitive, they have to excel in their job of providing services and support facilities to their communities, particularly to business enterprises that also want to contribute their share for the betterment of the domestic economies. (to be continued next issue) /MP

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