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Only the ‘good news’ 2

In my last column, I discussed a number of contradictions behind the good news presented during BS Aquino’s State-of-the-Nation Address the other Monday. Perhaps similarly having observed too much of these inconsistencies, Vice President Jejomar Binay gave his own assessment of the true state of the nation, emphasizing there can be no true prosperity for Filipinos if the country’s leaders have never really experienced what it is like to be poor and hungry and therefore remain detached and insensitive to the needs of the people.

In his message, the VP underscored the failure of this administration in its promise to provide jobs, bring down poverty and curtail corruption. Although Malacanang has issued statements belittling the statements of the VP, who can really argue against the sordid reality that after five years under the Tuwid na Daan (and the “kung walang corrupt walang mahirap” mantra) the country’s institutions remained steeply mired in corruption and majority of Filipinos remain jobless and poor. These have indirectly contributed to higher crime rates and more Filipinos becoming victims of poverty, human trafficking, illegal recruiters, drug syndicates and other social maladies.

For this reason, Malacanang should not be harping too much on the fact that it exceeded the previous administration’s economic achievements. BS Aquino and his advisers should remember that during the Arroyo administration, there was a world-wide recession that affected the global economy. Yet according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), comparatively among the Philippine leaders from 1986 to present, the best average economic performance was posted under the Arroyo administration.  Under GMA, the country posted an 8.4-percent quarterly growth in the first quarter of 2010 (0.6 percentage points higher than Aquino’s high of 7.8 percent) and an even higher growth rate—8.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010 – during her last three months in office – the best quarterly economic growth ever in a generation, according to Tony Lopez. He adds that GMA actually “saved the Philippines from a crippling global recession in 2008 with an 1.1 percent economic growth in 2009—one of only four countries in the world able to score positive growth following the worst slowdown in 80 years…”

Moreover, the Arroyo administration was credited by international bodies for ably steering the Philippine economy through the worldwide recession. Arroyo’s prudent management of the national government debt and the passage of legislation in support of financial market development, strong focus on tax reforms like the reformed VAT have all contributed to the strong fiscal performance of the country, and resulted in the country’s recent credit outlook upgrades. Even Fitch’s upgrade in March 2013 noted that it was due to the GMA administration’s “improvements in fiscal management…that made general government debt dynamics more resilient to shocks.”

Yet under the current administration, despite several credit ratings and high GDP growth, the poverty index, unemployment, and hunger remain high. According to IBON 2014 figures, there were approximately 4.5 million unemployed and 7.3 million underemployed Filipinos. Collectively, this means that 11.5 million Filipinos (over ¼ of the labor force) unemployed or looking for more work.   Moreover, the country’s unemployment rate –using either IBON’s adjusted estimate of 10.4 percent or the official rate of 7.0 percent – is still the worst in Asia.   Quoting from the same source, government’s 2014 poverty figures data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) show that some 56 million Filipinos live off around P100 or less a day while some 66 million Filipinos live off around P125 or less a day. Data also show that the poor has approximately increased by some 2.5 million to 25.8 million poor in 2014. This is despite P178 billion being spent on the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the conditional cash transfer scheme over the period 2010-2014. In stark contrast, the wealth of the 10 richest Filipinos more than tripled from P630 billion in 2010 to P2.2 trillion in 2015.  This is a 250-percent increase under this administration. In short, the rich have gotten richer while the poor have gotten more destitute. This is what you get when your leader was born with a cacique mentality.

At the end of the day, what will really move the economy and improve the lives of our people are competence, knowledge, hard work and leadership that will guarantee performance and delivery of basic services.

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