(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 27, 2016 - 12:00am
Noynoy Aquino’s Presidency is to end in days, but he has not learned the first lesson in popular economics. That is, that glowing figures mean nothing to the hungry man.
He trumpets a “better-than-forecast” economic growth in the first quarter of 2016. At 6.9 percent, Philippine GDP supposedly was the best in the region. China had 6.7 percent, Vietnam 5.5, Indonesia 4.9, and Malaysia 4.2.
Yet, as Ibon Research points up, unemployment is also the worst in Asia. Joblessness means poverty. “Makakain ba namin ‘yang mga numero (Will those numbers feed us)?” the miserable folk would ask.
About 2.6 million were without work in 2015, 6.5 percent of the labor force. The figure excludes Leyte-Samar, still reeling due to scanty rehab from super typhoon that struck three years ago.
Most of the jobless are in the rural areas. P-Noy’s very figures show that, despite the supposed spectacular GDP growth, agriculture slid 4.4 percent in the past four quarters. One-third of the workforce is in agriculture, and more than half of poor families are in farming.
Two-thirds of the jobless are males. In this gender-discriminating land, that also means the more numerous working females are underpaid and overworked. Total underemployment in 2015 was 18.5 percent, or 7.2 million warm bodies.
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Three-fourths of the workless are youths aged 15-24, and below middle age at 25-34. They are at the prime of their lives but cannot rise. No wonder they formed the age bloc that mostly voted for change that Rody Duterte symbolizes.
* * *P-Noy’s wrong policies caused the joblessness and inequitable incomes. Unjust taxation, crony capitalism, and unbridled borrowings favored the rich and propertied. The poor became poorer, while the middle class suffered under-productivity due to lack of infrastructures.
The 50 richest Filipinos’ net worth of $74 billion in 2014 was a staggering 20 percent of the country’s GDP, the Freedom from Debt Coalition noted. No wonder that 50 percent of Filipinos, 11.2 million families, rated themselves poor as of the Social Weather Station polls of December 2015.
P-Noy kept borrowing, mostly for feeding programs, but stinted on infrastructure works that would have spurred jobs and businesses. Of the government’s total debts of P6.4 trillion, P4.8 trillion was incurred under P-Noy in 2011-2015.
Supposedly it was smart to borrow new money at present low rates to pay off old debts that had higher interest. Yet more likely it was for secret commissions. P-Noy’s finance men are married to the very bankers who make stupendous bonuses from collecting early and then re-lending to the government.
Only on paper was the P4.8-trillion debt supposed to improve sea and airports, and build new railways. In 2015 P-Noy kept P780 billion new borrowings in the bank. Taxpayers are footing the interest on the government loans, but got no transport facilities in return.
Whatever few deals that P-Noy’s men granted in transportation only went to business cronies and Liberal Party-mates. Those are the only ones who exclusively enjoy the 6.9 percent economic growth. P-Noy’s policy has even been to keep the crooked transport officials.
Economists calculate that, for every P150 billion in government spending, GDP kicks up one percentage point. Had P-Noy spent the P780 billion, the economy would have grown five percentage points higher. More Filipinos would have been employed directly and indirectly from the infrastructure works.
But that was not to be. Instead, hunger worsened in the rural areas. P-Noy’s agriculture managers were too busy racketeering in rice and vegetables. They withheld farm aid to those worst hit by El Niño drought. In Kidapawan they even rained bullets on hungry farmers begging for food and seedlings.
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