November 24, 2017, 5:15 pm
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Democracy and dev’t: Do they go together?

For businessman Enrique Razon,  democracy has nothing to do with a country’s  development noting the some of the countries with the most advanced infrastructure are the ones which are not democratic.

“The countries with the best infrastructure in the world are the dictatorship. I am not saying I’m endorsing one or the other,” said Razon, chairman and chief executive officer of International Container Terminal Services Inc.. at the panel on Asean Build, Build, Build on the second day of the Asean Business and Investment Summit.

“The US is the only one which led the  democratic process and it has been able to develop its country… that’s because it is so vast and has so much resources,” said Razon whose  port operations spans developed and emerging market economies in Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

He said the European Union is well advanced in infrastructure most of which had been built hundreds of year ago when  “there weren’t democracies.”

In the case of Asean, Razon said majority of the countries are not democratic.

“Tying democracy to development… I don’t think it really works. It’s just an opinion,” Razon told a jam-packed audience in the grand ballroom of his hotel, Solaire, in Pasay City.

Razon also said the Philippines has other things to worry about other than issue of transparency

 “Transparency is a tricky thing… For us what is more important is to  achieve and reach an objective. If we focus on things like governance and transparency, we are  still not get what we need to get done,” said Razon.

When sought on his views on Asean infrastructure during the forum,  Razon said  he would rather focus on the Philippines.

“To be  blunt about it I am not concerned over what the other countries are doing. I am more concerned of the Philippines, we have a lot of things to do… a lot of catching up to do.  There are certain infrastructure projects which governments have to do and there are certain infrastructure projects which the private sector can do and participate (in),” Razon said.

In the region, Razon said some countries have experienced some issues on infrastructure; some have fallen behind, some had become very prosperous.

 “It’s hard to figure out why some succeed and why some don’t. Some countries Asean are ahead (of us) and some are behind us. (But) we have to once and for all and focus and invest in our infrastructure,” Razon said.

He noted the need for more consistency in tackling infrastructure, not just for one week every year when Asean “holds a big meeting and the remaining 51 weeks nobody is doing about it.”

“People just concentrate on their business, which is what my country has to get down on to doing, ” he said.

 Razon expressed hope the Duterte administration could change the culture of how things get done in this country, especially on the side of government agencies.

“Private sector is capable… I use the word culture..  because that’s what it is, everybody has to be in the same book on this. Until that happens, we’ll be behind…,” said Razon in explaining why the Philippines lags in Asean, ahead only of Laos and Cambodia.

For him, the most important infrastructure projects in the Philippines are the Metro Manila subway and the airports. 

In the same forum, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala emphasized the need to “overweight” development in the economic centers where the infrastructure needs to be upgraded due to the shift from rural to urban areas. 

Zobel, chief executive officer of Ayala Corp.,  said while it makes sense to spread development, urban centers still drive the economy.
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