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Missteps

The sugar importation flip flop under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been tagged as its “first major misstep” that will test its mettle in making sound economic policy decisions, according to New York-based think tank Global Source.

In a research note dated August 25, Global Source economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie Christine Tang said the president has chosen good people in his Cabinet, valuing competence and integrity over personal ties. Additionally, he sent a signal that he is “neither populist nor beholden to anyone” with the veto of three bills, including those that benefited business groups that were reputedly major sponsors of his campaign.

The issue that worried Global Source was how the administration handled the sugar crisis, particularly the flip flopping on the importation of sugar, which goes under the microscope further as the President appointed himself Agriculture Secretary in June.

Malacañang recently recalled a Sugar Regulatory Administration order, which the agriculture secretary chairs, and was signed by the board, to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar, citing the order as “illegal.” However, after some time, the President has since agreed to import sugar at half the original volume and at the later date.

“The question is, is this decision based on sound economics or political accommodations? So far, retail prices of sugar are unchanged despite reports of large supermarkets having been persuaded to sell the product at a discount. Another worrying sign is the suspension of operation in some plants of a large multinational beverage manufacturer reportedly due to lack of sugar,” Global Source said.

“We are not quite sure what this firs major misstep means, but it is being closely watched as a possible canary in the coal mine,” it added.

The think tank noted that throughout the country’s presidential history, including the first Marcos administration, there have been tugs of war between economic technocrats and the more politically oriented advisers, driven by short term popularity, power consolidation or fund-raising agenda.

“How this administration, and thus our country, fares over its entire term, amid all the daunting economic challenges, may well depend on who the President listens to,” the researchers said.

Missteps are normal, especially when new and inexperienced management comes in. As long as those who make mistakes learn, take the right counsel, and are determined not to make the same missteps again, we should be fine.*

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