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PHILIPPINE President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s decision to head the Agriculture department might have been ill-advised, a foreign think tank said on Thursday, noting that the sector could end up “having to endure unhelpful flip-flopping.”

While the move might be bold, “some look at this as a looming first fumble,” GlobalSource Partners, Inc. said in a note sent to BusinessWorld, citing views from insiders.

“By not providing for a buffer, i.e., a person he can fire if things fall apart, the president-elect may end up regretting this boldness, especially since the risks are manifold, from procurement to unexpected outcomes,” it said.

Victor D. Rodriguez, Mr. Marcos’ incoming executive secretary, did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

On the other hand, GlobalSource said some see the move as a timely way of using his political capital “for what will likely be many unpopular decisions.”

The think tank said Mr. Marcos’ popularity could allow him to act as a referee between those who lobby for liberal trade policies and those who have a protectionist stance.

“We note that his sister, a senator, is one of the louder critics of the current administration’s resort to importation to address food shortages,” it said.

Popularity concerns “have a way of being shifted to the fiscal area,” the group said, citing Mr. Marcos’ campaign promise of lowering the price of rice to P20 a kilo, which the outgoing Agriculture chief said would cost the government about P123 billion yearly.

“People who know the sector well believe that his reform success depends on who his point person will be, i.e., his senior undersecretary,” GlobalSource said.

“But at the end of the day, we cannot also dismiss what this decision may be about, i.e., the president-elect’s failure to find a suitable candidate prepared to take on a difficult job at a difficult time,” it said. “In which case, we hope for the sake of the macro economy that he finds the right man soonest.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza



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