WHILE we hear the clapping of hands following reports that the Philippines can be expected to lead growth across major Asian economies, except India, up to 2019, a similar report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that the country nevertheless stands to suffer the worst unemployment in Southeast Asia.
Accordingly, certain signs in the world output, such as the partial recovery in crude oil prices and the so-called expansionary fiscal policy of the United States augur favorably for the Philippines as an emerging market economy. This means that we shall have favorable external environment for our exports, OFW remittances, and business process outsourcing (BPOs). The IMF says that while forecast for Philippine gross domestic product was placed at 6.7% this year and 6.8% in 2019, these fell short of the 7%-8% growth goal set by President Duterte up to his final term in 2022. Reports, however, said these figures are better off than those of other major Asian economies, except for India which picked up 7.4% growth in 2018, to rise to 7.8% in 2019.
But given this relatively bright forecast of our economy, joblessness, or the lack of opportunities for employment, continues to put a blot on the Philippines’ growth lead.
In the latest “Ulat ng Bayan” survey conducted by Pulse Asia for the period March 23 to 28, it was revealed that almost half of our population believe salary increase is the most urgent issue that the government needs to address. This is immediately followed by price control on basic commodities, and reducing poverty. Meanwhile, 45 percent think it should be about controlling inflation.
The survey also revealed that urgent national concerns included poverty reduction with 35 percent and job creation with 32 percent. Only a small percentage of the respondents considered territorial defense (6%,) anti-terrorism efforts (4%,) and charter change (3%) as immediate.
From the results of the survey, the pollster concluded that Filipinos are more concerned about economic issues than political controversies. So why not let Mocha Uson, one of the President’s spokespersons, talk more about economics? Sensibly?
Meanwhile, a local shopper says that the same amount she has budgeted for his weekly grocery has lost its power to buy more items, unlike when it was in the time of President Noynoy Aquino. “My shopping basket seems to contain less and less during the past weeks and months since the Tax Reform Law was introduced by the Duterte administration.” But what surprises her is that more and more people are buying new cars, and restaurants have not run out of customers at any time. What she observes, too, is that there are lesser public works projects especially those implemented by local government units and the district engineering offices. In Naga City, for example, she wants more new roads to be constructed and the paving of old ones, especially those in old subdivisions that seemed to have been deleted from the city map. In the province, especially in remote areas, signs of want and poverty are glaringly evident – malnourished children, pale pregnant mothers, and men lying idly waiting for nothing.
It seems indeed that we are living in paradox – more flashy cars passing by blighted houses, more shoppers over increasing number of jobless men and women. The government vows to end drugs and kills men and children in the process. The government wants to empower its people but its minions are flooding us with fake news. We arm and train our police and coastguards to guard our famous beach resort against those who live in that island. There seems to be an awkward balance that stunts us from moving on and thinking what is best for our country for our people to survive. Many of our senators and cabinet ministers whose titles connote ‘honor and wisdom’ are downright idiots and stupid. Maybe we should all start a revolution from within ourselves, from among us. Do transform ourselves as warriors against inequality, idiocy and want. There will be no good government where its people are indolent and coward to fight for what is fair, just and true. And for what is ours.