Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 16 May 23 - 29, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Remittances Needed to Pay Foreign Debt, Offset Deficit
government’s appeal to Middle East-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to
ignore the offer to work in Iraq in exchange for a higher pay may appear to be
done in good faith. However, why is there no temporary ban on the deployment of
OFWs there given the danger of working in the war-torn country?
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
country’s continued dependence on OFW remittances may be seen in the
Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) recent call on the workers to
ignore the offer to work in Iraq.
week, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas appealed to Middle East-based OFWs not
to accept the $800-monthly salary offer to work in Iraq, particularly as
drivers. A worker in the Middle East normally gets $500 monthly. According to
Sto. Tomas, “the biggest risk for our workers would be the roadside
bombings…We know the pay is good but please do not do it.”
the surface, the administration has the best interest in mind in issuing the
call. However, the danger posed by just simply going to Iraq would have prompted
the government to temporarily disallow the deployment of OFWs in the war-torn
country, as well as pull out the Filipino troops currently stationed there.
a Filipino family that needs to survive amid the high cost of living, $800
monthly translates to a gross income of PhP44,704 (based on an exchange rate of
P55.88 per US dollar). This is almost equivalent to the monthly salary of the
Philippine President (i.e., P50,000 or $894.77). While a worker may be literally
committing suicide in taking on the job in Iraq, he or she is forced to do so
given the need to provide for the family left in the Philippines.
administration is also in the same rut as it engages in the never-ending
deployment of Filipinos abroad for much-needed dollars to pay for the
country’s foreign debt and offset the growing budget deficit.
the start of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001, the foreign
debt was pegged at $51.9 billion. As of 2003, the country’s foreign debt
amounted to $57.4 billion.
foreign debt could actually reach $62.8 billion if the following were included:
inter-company accounts of Philippine branches of foreign banks, $2.0
billion; private sector loans without Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)
approval/registration, $1.9 billion; and private sector obligations under
capital lease agreement, $1.4 billion.
accumulation of debt is partly due to the growing budget deficit which reached
P199.9 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2003. The administration still expects the
deficit to continue this year. For the first three months of 2004, the budget
deficit stood at P56.8 billion ($1.0 billion).
deficit in 2003 was mainly due to the administration’s poor revenue
collection. In 2003, its revenues of P626.6 billion ($11.2 billion) were not
enough to cover the expenditures which reached P826.5 billion ($14.8 billion).
Incidentally, the interest payments for the country’s domestic and foreign
debt constituted 27 percent of total expenses.
this financial bind, the remittances of OFWs become a veritable source of
income. In 2001, OFW remittances totaled $6.0 billion. Due to the continuous
deployment of OFWs in recent years, the remittances reached $7.2 billion in
2003. This represents a 19 percent increase from the time Macapagal-Arroyo
statistics provide the answer as to why the administration only goes to the
extent of discouraging workers from doing what they are wont to do just to
provide for their families. Indeed, the situation of force majeure for
those forced to eke out a living abroad works well for the cash-strapped
the appeal of the labor secretary, one cannot be blamed for speculating that
this administration actually hopes that workers will bite the $800 monthly
salary offer since this means more remittances in the years to come.
That is, if the workers survive… Bulatlat.com