Unpacking Duterte's Mixed Legacy on Economic Reforms

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The Duterte administration (2016–2022) rode into office on the back of the previous governments’ economic reform momentum that, in 2013, eventually culminated in the country’s first ever investment grade rating since the 1986 EDSA revolution. This paper reviews the data and evidence on the economic performance, efforts to institutionalize development, and the backdrop of economic governance that make up the Duterte administration’s economic reform legacy. The Duterte administration’s economic strategy was largely underpinned by the expansion of a public infrastructure program and funded by additional public revenues from a tax reform program intended to further accelerate the country’s growth path. Notwithstanding several key laws, several reforms were widely criticized for falling short in addressing key inequity, governance, and policy implementation issues in the country. The weakening of the rule of law under the Duterte administration also presents an ironic backdrop from which to appreciate his administration’s legislative and institutional reforms. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep weaknesses in the Philippines’ economic model. While some structural challenges preceded the Duterte administration, its pandemic handling was nevertheless criticized as exacerbating the pandemic’s social and economic costs. Taken as a whole, the Duterte administration leaves behind a very mixed economic reform legacy.