Winning Streak |

We’ve written before about the role of fate in UP’s championship race in the UAAP. (Destiny vs. Dynasty, May 23, 2022). UP maintained its winning streak as President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. tapped prominent UP graduates and professors to lead his economics team.

We introduce you to the economic leaders of the incoming administration. All five come from UP and all have distinguished careers in public service.

1. Benjamin Diokno – Finance Secretary. The current Governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) previously served as Budget Secretary from 1998 to 2001 and then again from 2016 to 2019. Diokno earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration and his master’s degree in economics from the UP. Diokno is Emeritus Professor at the UP School of Economics.

2. Felipe Medalla – Governor of BSP. The new central bank governor has been a member of the Monetary Council since 2011. Medalla served as secretary for socio-economic planning from 1998 to 2001. He was previously dean of the UP School of Economics. He completed his master’s degree in economics at UP.

3. Arsenio Balisacan – Secretary of socio-economic planning. Balisacan served as Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning from 2012 to 2016 and has served as Chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission since 2016. Like Medalla, Balisacan also served as Dean of the UP School of Economics. He graduated with a master’s degree in agricultural economics from UP Los Baños.

4. Alfredo Pascual – commercial secretary. The former president of the UP system (2011 to 2017) earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and his MBA at UP. He previously worked as Director of Private Sector and Infrastructure Finance at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

5. Amenah Pangandaman – Budget Secretary. Pangandaman is currently Deputy Governor of PASB and was previously Under Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management. She earned her Masters in Development Economics at UP.

The business community welcomes the economic team

The appointment of capable technocrats to the incoming economics team has been widely welcomed and positively received by the business community. Here are some of the statements made by prominent businessmen and economists who hailed the president-elect’s picks for economic managers.

Ramon Monzon, Chairman of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and the Philippine Dealing System (PDS): “The PSE and the PDS recognize that these individuals are knowledgeable and experienced professionals, all imbued with a spirit of service public and the most qualified to put the economy back on track on its growth trajectory.

George Barcelon, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “They are all seasoned and capable business leaders. We believe they will do good in managing our tax affairs.

Coco Alcuaz, Executive Director of Makati Business Club: “The appointment of these experienced and recognized leaders should boost the confidence of local and foreign companies, from MSMEs to big players.

Philippine Bankers Association President Antonio Moncupa Jr.: “Drs. Diokno and Medalla are outstanding economists who have the academic distinction and vast experience that transcends different jurisdictions, making them the best candidates for these roles.

Solita Monsod, economist: “It would be very difficult to find a better group of economic managers than Arsenio Balisacan, Benjamin Diokno and Felipe Medalla (all from the UP School of Economics, it should be said). All are really super qualified, all professionals, without political ambition between them, nor desire to enrich themselves or to enrich their own.

A demanding landscape

The selection of experienced technocrats as incoming economic managers is crucial as the country grapples with difficult challenges. Total debt stock stood at 12.8 trillion pesos in April, while the debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 63.5% at the end of the first quarter 22, compared to an average of 40% from 2017 to 2019. This is compounded by rising interest rates, which would increase the debt service burden. The peso weakened due to the strength of the US dollar and larger current account and fiscal deficits. The new government will have to deal with the food shortage caused by supply chain disruptions and the Russian-Ukrainian war. Energy prices remain high and this may exacerbate domestic inflation, which already reached 4.9% in April. Apart from this, tackling the looming power shortage will be integral to sustaining the country’s economic growth.

Balancing growth and fiscal responsibility

Although the next administration has yet to formally set out its economic agenda, some of the new economic officials have made statements regarding their priorities. The new Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning said: “The lesson from recent history is that if you have a robust manufacturing sector in the early stages of your development, poverty reduction is so rapid and probably sustainable. Balisacan added that since the country is in a fiscal stalemate, infrastructure spending can be sustained by bringing back public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Meanwhile, the new finance secretary said that “the focus should really be on tax administration and we need a lot of money for number one, to continue our growth momentum, and secondly, to ensure the servicing our higher level of public debt”. Diokno clarified that “as long as we continue to grow around 6-7% on a sustainable basis, we can easily exceed our debt.” Diokno said the economics team would aim to reduce the budget deficit to 3% in six years from 6.4% in 1Q22.

Businessmen and economists hailed the choices of the president-elect for his economic team. Given the scale and magnitude of global headwinds and local challenges, we hope and pray that the nation’s esteemed economic managers will succeed in their vital roles, for their success is everyone’s success.

Philequity Management is the fund manager of the leading mutual funds in the Philippines. Visit to learn more about funds managed by Philequity or to view previous articles. For any inquiries or to send comments, please call (02) 8250-8700 or E-mail [email protected].

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