Economic realities bite


MANILA — We don’t hear much about the state of the world economy these days. What we normally read are slightly optimistic projections and supposed signs of recovery. But we are being bombarded with political news: the Obama-Romney debates, the civil war in Syria, bombings in Iraq, among others. When we do get bits and pieces of news about the state of the world economy now and then, it is hardly cause for optimism.

However, the sorry state of world economy could no longer be concealed. Current US President Barack Obama lost his first debate against Republican contender Mitt Romney because the topic was regarding the US economy. Romney reportedly ticked off bleak economic facts while Obama attacked his rival’s alternatives. In the end, Obama lost the debate not due to Romney’s doing or his alternative policy prescriptions but because of Obama’s failed promises of uplifting the lives of ordinary Americans who are being battered by the crisis and the worsening unemployment situation. Now, the bright star of the 2008 US presidential elections Barack Obama is in a neck-to-neck race with Mitt Romney, the candidate of the much-hated Republican Party then, which was personified by George W. Bush.

Recently, there were some news about the world economic situation. published a report written by Penny Macrae for Agence France-Presse with the title World faces ‘dangerous’ economic cocktail: OECD describing how the world’s advanced capitalist countries under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are confronting a combination of low, weakening economic growth amid high unemployment. The reported quoted OECD chief Angel Gurria as saying that “You have a problem of high unemployment especially among the youth — growing inequalities and low growth — and in some cases contracting growth.”

Some 50 million are reportedly unemployed in OECD member countries, 15 million more than when the crisis imploded in 2008.

Europe is still struggling with its sovereign debt crisis. The unemployment in Greece and Spain are at a historic high of 25.1 percent and 24.6 percent respectively. The gap between the rich and poor are reportedly at its widest in 30 years. Neither is the situation in the US any better. According to a report by Martin Crutsinger of Associated Press with the title Federal Reserve officials warn of looming economic crisis, which was published by Huff Post July 11, 2012, a low average of 75,000 jobs per month were added from April-June 2012 and unemployment remains at 8.2 percent. This is why welfare claims increased by 32 percent in four years while jobless claims are again at a historic high. In the meantime, the projection for growth for 2012 was again lowered to 1.9 to 2.4 percent. Another report, this time published by, written by Scott Malone of Reuters Sales stumbles raise fresh worry for corporate America revealed that 54.3 percent of the top 70 companies in the US missed their revenue targets amid a slowing world economy. It reported that “corporate America’s year-long streak of profit growth could be nearing an end as CEOs run out of costs to cut and customers are increasingly wary about spending.”

No amount of tweaking of economic data and definitions of employment and unemployment could conceal this bleak scenario. And the alarming unemployment situation and the weakening growth are bound to get worse as the options for pump priming, even for the advanced capitalist countries, are very limited because of ballooning government debts and deficits.

Of course, what is being called as a “dangerous cocktail” of weak growth and high unemployment amid high inflation is not new to the world economy. It first hit the world during the 1970s and this crisis was never solved. It was only delayed by speculation and debt-driven growth of the late 1980s on to the 1990s, which burst into the “high tech bubble” or the speculative growth in information technology and the computer industry, and telecommunications and cell phones in the year 2000, and the housing crisis and implosion of mortgage-backed securities in 2008. Now the world is in a much worse situation than it was in the 1970s.

There appears to be no end to the crisis, not even another temporary relief from it. This is why the US is so aggressive in its plans to “rebalance” its forces toward Asia-Pacific, with its big consumer market.

If the Aquino government gives assurances that the Philippines is immune to this crisis and we are better off than our neighbors, it is definitely lying. The Philippine is so dependent on foreign trade and investments. The Aquino government’s frantic efforts at mitigating the impact of the crisis on its operations and its subservience to the policy dictates of the advanced capitalist countries – to shift the burden of the crisis to us who belong to the oppressed peoples of the world – could explain why it is hell-bent on increasing taxes and fees for government services, and in privatizing government owned and controlled corporations such as the LRT, MRT, and even hospitals such as the Philippine Heart Center, the National Kidney Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, among others, as well as public schools and colleges. This is also the reason why it is not making any effort to put a stop to the impunity in human rights violations, even trying to curtail civil liberties with laws such as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and is reneging on its promise for transparent governance.

However, there is hope and this emanates not from governments but from the people. The broad people’s protest, which garnered support from the international community, against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is an indication that the Filipino people would not take attacks on their rights sitting down. Nor are the peoples of the world embracing attacks on their rights and livelihood. In the US, Walmart workers conducted their first ever strike in the supermarket chain’s history. And this is not the first such strike to happen in recent years in the US. It could be remembered that even Starbucks was hit by a strike in several countries. In Canada, two large unions the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), and the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) merged to form a 300,000-strong union that cuts across 22 sectors all over Canada. This is the response of Canadian workers to the dwindling number of unionized workers in the country.

It is from these struggles where hope emanates. These struggles would pressure governments to give in to peoples’ demands for relief from the crisis. If not, they would have to face the people’s wrath and engage social movements in a seesaw battle for the rights, interests, and welfare of the working people. These struggles could even intensify and result in the emergence of an alternative social order.

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