Hunger and Poverty, Dissatisfaction, and Absence of Justice Reveal the True State of the Nation

So much for the much-touted 7.2 percent GDP growth and the government’s illusions or false claims regarding the country moving towards “First World status”. If there is real growth and the fundamentals of the economy are strong then how can GDP growth plunge from a high of 7.2 percent in 2007 to 5.18 percent in the first quarter of 2008? Manifesting the deteriorating condition of the economy, fixed capital formation slowed down to 6.55 percent during the first quarter of 2008 from 10.3 percent during the same period last year. Exports even declined, registering a negative growth rate.

The GDP growth of 5.18 percent came mainly from the services sector; but the share of agriculture to GDP declined further from 17.89 percent to 17.17 percent and that of manufacturing from 21 to 20 percent. This is not surprising as the country could not even produce its own rice needs because of the backwardness of agricultural production where only 2 percent of rice farms are mechanized. In manufacturing, on the other hand, data from IBON foundation reveals that, because of globalization, an average of 553 enterprises are closing down and another 2,322 are retrenching workers every year since 2001. This amounts to 163 workers being displaced every day.

When the country’s economic growth was supposed to be at its highest in 2007, 10.829 million Filipinos were either unemployed or underemployed. There were actually 2.17 million more unemployed and underemployed Filipinos in 2007 compared to 2001. Most employed Filipinos, according to IBON Foundation, are in low quality, low-paying jobs. In fact, 48 percent are in private households, unpaid family labor, and in self-employed odd jobs.

The widespread hunger and poverty, the deteriorating state of the economy, the unresolved issue of legitimacy of the presidency, and the numerous corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo family, have kept the government in a constant state of instability. But instead of effectively addressing these issues, the Arroyo government, in its desperate efforts to cling to power, has corrupted almost all institutions where the Filipino people can seek redress and justice. It has established full control over the House of Representatives with the maneuvering of the Arroyo sons to remove Jose de Venecia from the Speakership. To maintain its hold over the Lower House and the local government, it has dangled the pork barrel and bribed congressmen and local officials with cash gifts. It has neutralized the Senate by stonewalling the latter’s investigations. It has bought the loyalty of the chain of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and gave them a free hand in repressing the people and killing and forcibly abducting activists.

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