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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Thank you, Madam President, for convening this meeting.
The Philippines aligns itself with the statements delivered this morning on behalf of the G77 and China and on behalf of the ASEAN. In addition, the Philippines wishes to stress these thoughts.
With much anticipation, this meeting has been awaited, and the presentations and interventions here today are very important to the continuing discussions for the June Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development. I suppose there are expectations that the actions being taken by Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO and the UNCTAD, as well as our contributions, will result in a clearer picture of how our own discussions in the UN would flow. We have seen a ray of hope in this regard during the Informal Thematic Dialogue on this crisis in the General Assembly and from the report of the Commission of Experts created by the PGA. I half expect that we may end this meeting with many convinced that the UN should do much more to address the crisis, while others may just as much be convinced that the UN may not be able to do more or should just do less.
Perhaps the only safe assumption we may make is that the more objective information key policymakers have about the crisis, the more objective, rational, coherent and coordinated the global response would be. However, it might also be helpful for us to recall what one of the IMFC Governors said just this last Saturday about the nature of this crisis – “It is wise to remember that crises are fundamentally unpredictable, and that sounding false alarms and repeated unspecified warnings would risk fatigue and inaction”.
There thus seems to be a sense that this world financial and economic crisis is attracting or inciting views from different perspectives. We have the economists who probably believe that it is better to let the technocrats discuss and decide appropriate policies to end the crisis. Then we have the politicians and the armchair pundits who know that this is a ‘bread and butter’ issue and who sense that the popular sentiment is against the so-called ‘experts’ whose advice or perhaps lack of it, led us to this situation. And then we have the diplomats whose task may be to let everyone have their say without upsetting the applecart. This description of the situation, however, brings us back to the fundamental question – who are the key policymakers that should be shaping and implementing these crucial decisions?
Analyzing the statements arising from the IMFC and the DC this past weekend, including that of Secretary Geithner who is often quoted in our discussions in the United Nations, it seems that our activities and the role the UN can play in resolving the crisis are not a common topic of conversation.
Indeed, while we appreciate the presence of the representatives speaking before us today, I can only hope that during our UN Conference in June, when many of our leaders will be taking time out of their busy schedules to express their concern about this crisis and stand in solidarity with the urgent measures that we need to take, the IMF Managing Director, the WB President and other key stakeholders will find it in their hearts to make the long trip from Washington or elsewhere to share the concern and signal action at the highest levels.
The Secretary General’s Note, encapsulates conclusions from all of our various UN dialogues and discussions in various other fora on the world financial and economic crisis, and lays the foundation for the argument that global concerted, coherent and coordinated action should be taken, and that developing countries are once again put in the position of having to pay most dearly for something over which they had little control or for which they were not even responsible. The UN must not only listen to the Secretary General. It must act on it now. Inaction means disaster.
I daresay that we are nearing the point where we all know the causes and implications of the crisis, and that the individual countries and those regionally organized are already taking action to alleviate the problems. However, all these actions are mostly being done to merely stanch the negative effects of the global recession and restore confidence in institutions and the economic system. The more difficult part of confronting the future so that this crisis does not happen again is still being played out. It is the destiny of the UN to be at the center of this solemn endeavor.
As this crisis unfolds, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are many layers of impact that are affecting our economies in different ways. Some are in better positions to weather the storm than others. Generally, Asia is seen to have benefited from the difficult experience of the Asian financial crisis over a decade ago, and the Asian Development Bank President is confident that the region will remain a “most dynamic center of the global economy and will be crucial to its recovery.” Regional approaches to solving this crisis will play an important role in the recovery. The policies undertaken by the ADB through its Strategy 2020, is one example of how future policy should ensure inclusive growth, environmentally sustainable development, and closer regional cooperation and integration.
The ASEAN is also well on its way to achieving this closer economic cooperation and integration by 2015. And the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is also another forum which encourages regional economic discussions to further the lowering of barriers.
These examples, however, only underscore the relative difficulty of rising above the regional models, to achieve the global promise for developing countries that the WTO has as yet failed to deliver.
It is this mixed record of failures and relative successes that endanger the present need to make fundamental changes in the way global systems are run. Resistance to change is difficult to overcome, especially when there are enough benefits to the status quo to justify not fixing anything.
At present, momentum is definitely in favor of keeping the Bretton Woods Institutions intact, albeit with calls for accelerated reform and changes which have already been discussed for many years that may perhaps be pushed more seriously in the face of this turmoil. The IMF, which will celebrate its 65 th founding anniversary this year, may take note of the warning I read this morning in the International Herald Tribune: The IMF should not make the same mistakes it made in the Asian crisis in late 1990s. On the other hand, the World Bank and the IMF may consider favorably the Philippine initiative known as the Debt-for-Equity in MDG projects. They may also consider a moratorium, even for a limited period, on the payment of interest and amortizations on the principal by heavily indebted countries. These two provide options to help the heavily indebted countries in these times of financial and economic crisis so as not to adversely affect their development.
I remain hopeful that the remaining days before the June conference will allow us to rest from rhetoric and to focus with sublime intensity on what is realistically achievable for the benefit of all the peoples of this suffering world. It would be unfortunate if we all have to suffer more in order to realize that things must change in an equitable manner. Let us hope that we will be given the opportunity to exhibit the wisdom needed to overcome the present difficulties and prevent its future recurrence.
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