How are we doing. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has criticized the present administration lately as a “politics of division”. The Aquino administration, in the other hand, claiming to be making strides, hit back at her as a “huge failure”. Except for, I should say, its overly zealous campaign against alleged anomalies of the past administration, I think, the Aquino administration is no more than threading along on the paths left by the PGMA administration i.e. Build Operate and/or Transfer schemes for public works, Tourism development, Cash Transfer for the destitute, others. Carry overs of the Arroyo administration, furtherance or expanding some of them, actually. Tourism seems to be one good prospect.
But are we really making stride at everything as claimed? I think this has become a boring claim by everyone since President Marcos. Where Filipinos are, today, tells it loud.
GDP and the Simple Man in the Street.
Gross Domestic Product [GDP] is one system indicator that a government relies on to tell itself of the country’s progress. It is a language usually understandable only to the business sector. It is usually expressed in amount of money and converted to percentage, say a GDP of 3.2% [annual] growth. And what does that in turn mean? Actually, nothing except to give people a near idea how the country is doing compared with its neighbors. Sometimes we hear politicians prate about them. But figures are not really conclusive unless we are comparing countries that have exactly same external-internal conditions. But this is going a-side.
So, let’s say there was P95.00 then that now is P150.00. It shows a gain of P55.00 or roughly a 58% of [accumulated] gain. It might be considered good for the business sector. What is presented there as gain is more of a result of inflation – value on production was re-adjusted. It does not necessarily mean that the business has grown. It does not also automatically mean that business has become more profitable which is another thing independent.
But there must be growth of businesses as the population grows so we can say that the country is really doing good. Growth of businesses means more employment. And growth of businesses has to surpass growth of population so it can be said that the whole nation is making a stride forward. This is within what they mean by Positive economic growth. That will mean pushing against an existing huge backlog in employment for one thing.
[The figures in term of money given as example represent 1 kg of chicken then [P95.00] and 1 kg of chicken now [P150.00]. While it showed a gain [P55.00]. I kg then and I kg now, actually, is zero growth. What was presented as a 58% gain is actually inflation figure. It has to be 1 kg then and 1 plus [1+] kg now, to have really grown. If production was 1 unit then that now is 1.1 unit, then 0.1 unit or 10% is the real growth. What was P95.00 then must now show P165.00, which is actually 58% inflation plus 10% growth. The gross production that is P165.00 is actually inflation plus growth.]
Whatever in reality, what are perceived as gains cannot be felt or understood by people in the streets. Sometimes there is actually a feeling of retrogression. As when one breadwinner had 3 mouths to feed then, but now he has four or five. Or, when a bread-winner belongs to a sector that is short-changed at every round of unending readjustments because of inflation, as happening in countries where states lean or lean heavily on the side of the business class who are themselves also hard pressed by world trade and competition. The buying power of the wage earners in such places is shrinking. While the business class might be progressing, the wage earners will be seeing retrogression. But we are going a-side.
Figures will have been expressed better based on volume of production i.e. metric tons, other units; or showing both volume and value of production to compare them then and now. Otherwise partial figures [showing only value] are actually some misleading. The national figure is a summary of them. And a summary is possible only using a common denominator – value. The amount in money can be awesome. It somehow projects progress. But there are people who cannot feel it. They don’t understand why.
One direct indicator, a short cut showing the state of national economy, is employment figure. A claim of economic growth is actually false when there is a decline in employment. [Again, in there, figures might be tricky but we are going a-side.]
I think another, and real-hard indicator, is the 8 million overseas Filipino workers [OFW]. I was in Guam in 1991 when overseas Korean workers started going home, many of them cutting contracts. I guess it was a feeling of missing new-found-friends that made me think they were wasting opportunity that, as a Filipino earning 10 times more in there, was how I saw things.
That there was a growing need for employment in Korea, that the differential in pay was narrowing, and that they have no more reason to be away from family – those are what I learned from them. How true. People will do with less if they can have them near their loved ones.
[SOKOR economic stride was awesome. Today, a few hundred thousand Filipinos are in Korea doing work. Korean corporations like Hanil and Hanjin are in the Philippines directly providing tens of thousand jobs for Filipinos not to mention secondary opportunities they have generated.]
For business to go abroad may mean expansion or growth. But for workers going abroad to find work does not speak well of local economy.
Problems are not solved overnight. But at least we should see a reversal of the trend of Filipinos going abroad to find work, to claim our country’s economy is really doing good.
Yes, how do we do. There are sleeping issues not up yet because of the impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. How long can this administration keep economic issues at bay or how long before economic issues will come to play remains to be seen.
Or maybe some of them already do. Discontent can assume any form. It can ride even on unrelated issues.
Scaring away graft and corruption might be good for this administration. But that alone is not enough. People have seen the best of PGMA’s economic programs and policies. Ok, maybe same things, same everything, but different players equals different results. Frankly, I find it hard to be optimistic.