By BENJIE OLIVEROS
While the furor over the expose’ of the existence of the Aquino administration’s pork barrel creation the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s bellicose attitude in defending it, shattered its self-proclaimed image as an anti-corruption crusader, its “daang matuwid” (righteous path) slogan imploded with the Mamasapano fiasco and President Aquino’s failed attempts at escaping accountability for the costly and fatal blunder.
Now, the only thing that the Aquino administration could boast of and cling to is its supposed accomplishments in achieving economic growth. Or is there basis for it?
Last January 23, Ibon Foundation released its comprehensive and incisive analysis of the Philippine economy in 2014.
The important points raised by Ibon Foundation are the following:
1. Economic growth, primarily driven in recent years by public and private construction and real estate, is showing signs of slowing down. Its other sources of growth such as business process outsourcing (BPO), trade, tourism and remittances from overseas Filipinos are likewise slowing down. According to Ibon Foundation, “The slowdown will have the effect of making the pattern of economic growth under the Aquino administration broadly similar to those of recent administrations – growth picking up at the start of the term, peaking somewhere mid-term, and then slowing as the end of the term approaches.”
2. Moreover, while these sectors of the economy fueled the growth in recent years, it never built a solid foundation for long-term growth, which could be achieved by developing local industries and domestic productive capacity. Instead the country remains as a source of cheap labor and cheap raw materials while being a captive market for foreign goods and services.
3. The jobs crisis continues despite claims by the Aquino government of an improving employment situation. Ibon estimates reveal that the unemployment rate remains within historical highs of 10-12 % since 2000 or at an average of 11.0% over the last 15 years. The government claims an unemployment rate of 6.8% and an underemployment rate of 18.4%. It claims to have generated 1.02 million jobs. However, part time work accounted for 90% or 918,000 of the total jobs created; 605,000 or 60% are jobs with less than 20 hours per week. Also 699,000 or 68% of employment created was in the informal sector or unpaid family work.
4. While the government declares that family poverty incidence is at 19.7%, with its low poverty threshold of P56 per day, sixty six million or 68% of Filipinos live on P125 or less per day.
5. On the other side of the income spectrum, according to studies by Ibon Foundation, the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos rose to $72.2 billion in 2014. The net income of the Top 1,000 firms amounted to P1, 013.4 billion ($22.59 billion) in 2013, while the net income of the 306 Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed firms already reached P311.6 billion ($6.946 billion) by mid-2014.
6. Meanwhile, the government continues to pursue the same privatization and deregulation policies that have caused a spike in prices and rates of basic products, services and utilities. For example, the country has the most expensive power rates in Asia. Since the privatization of water utilities in 1997, the rates have increased by 559% for the concessionaire Maynilad and by 859% for Manila Water. The government also recently implemented large increases in the fares for the country’s commuter train systems MRT and LRT. The impending privatization of other essential services such as government hospitals, like in the case of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, would result in unaffordable rates for the poor majority.
Sadly, except for the announcements regarding fare and rate increases, these important points that have a bearing on the lives of majority of Filipinos are hardly reported by corporate media conglomerates.
First, because media conglomerates are themselves run by corporate interests. Second, because of the blinders created by governments, academic institutions and the media, which emanates from their blind faith to the free-market theory. And this is true the world over.
The free-market theory, which is at the core of capitalism, is the basis for the privatization, deregulation and liberalization policies being pursued by governments, including the Aquino government. And it is being projected as gospel truth even if it has caused the crisis that has imploded with regularity and increasing frequency through the years, the latest of which was in 2007-2008 and has not yet abated since. These are still being pursued and accepted as the one and only truth in economic theory despite the widening and increasingly scandalous social inequities, the widespread poverty and hunger, the wars and violence that emanates from it.
It is actually an ideology but is not being called as such because it gives capitalism and free-market theory a bad and ugly image and deviates from its projection as the sole truth in economics. For governments, the academe and media, capitalism and the free market theory is not an ideology but communism is.
Now take off the blinders and analyze the economic situation in the country, and the world for that matter, then what is left for the Aquino government to brag about? Isn’t this what the much-hated Arroyo administration, and all other past administrations in the country, also boasted about?