VOTERS should choose a candidate for president not only for his economic views but also for his stance against corruption.

Dr. Bernardo Villegas, economic adviser for at least 40 years to the country’s various presidents, yesterday said “people should not focus on economics as the criterion for choosing presidents.”

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Corruption, he said, will turn away investors and is a perennial problem in the country.

Villegas was in Cebu to speak at the economic briefing organized by First Metro Investment Corp at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Interviewed ahead of the briefing, Villegas said: “If they see that there is no political will to fight corruption, they will turn away. I think in economics, the leading candidates, including former president (Joseph) Estrada, have all the competent advisers, so I’m not afraid. Whoever wins among these presidentiables, in terms of economics alone, will continue the policies of GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).”

Villegas was an adviser of Arroyo on infrastructure and said the next president would just continue her projects, especially those on infrastructure, like the Nautical Highway.

“They will not undo that (infrastructure). It’s very clear already that in terms of economic policy, things just have to be sustained,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Agriculture

Villegas said all the candidates will likely focus on agricultural development, take advantage of the growth in tourism, and emphasize the quality of education.

“The difference would be in the way they will fight corruption,” he said.

Villegas said the first challenge for the country this year is the holding of the May elections.

“The challenge is to have a peaceful and honest election. If you are able to do that, then definitely, we’ll have a brighter second semester. If it’s problematic, the second semester will be very uncertain,” he said.

In his presentation, Villegas cited “sunrise” industries for the Philippines this year as agribusiness, mining, transport, telecommunications, tourism and infrastructure.

Other sunrise industries include automotive, consumer goods, information technology, logistics and retailing, health care, education, construction, food, fashion and entertainment.

Threats

However, the country’s economy is being threatened by political uncertainty related to the upcoming polls, a slowdown in consumer spending on non-basic goods and services, industry sectors on a slowdown in 2009 and 2010 such as electronics, a slowdown in exports, a higher government deficit, a higher trade deficit, and the damage done by super typhoons.

Villegas pointed out, though, that many opportunities are still in store for the Philippines.

He pointed to positive indicators like election-related spending, the increase in overseas Filipino workers’ remittances, the increase in the number of domestic travelers, the increase in the number of business process outsourcing companies, the demand for medical tourism and retirement houses, and pump-priming through infrastructure spending.