The efforts of the Arroyo government to address the impact of the combination of the world economic crisis and the crisis of Philippine society are too little, too inconsequential, and too late. The extent of the crisis requires nothing less than a radical restructuring of the economy of the country; and only the Filipino people, who are suffering the brunt of the crisis, would have the political will to do so.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
The impact of the world economic crisis on the weak and backward Philippine economy is already being felt. This despite the false claims and illusion of the Arroyo government that the economy remains strong and would be able to weather the crisis.
Retrenchments of local workers in export industries and of overseas Filipino workers have been spreading. There has been no news yet regarding retrenchments of Filipino immigrants in the US, but for sure, Filipinos with relatives in the US, which is just about everyone, must have heard from a relative or two who have been retrenched.
Worse, while the world is reeling from a recession and consequently, a glut in the market caused by dampened demand for commodities such as oil, gas and petroleum products, the Philippines is experiencing a shortage in LPG and a spike in its prices, and an increase in prices of coffee, milk, and canned goods. While governments of advanced capitalist countries are talking about protecting their industries and reserving jobs for their citizens, the Arroyo government is unflinchingly moving towards greater liberalization by pushing for Charter Change to remove restrictions on foreign ownership of land and in fields of investments for non-Filipino owned corporations.
In response to the LPG shortage, it is running after small LPG dealers, which are merely distributors, while sparing big oil companies. Instead of creating jobs, it is trying to hard-sell Filipino workers abroad.
The Arroyo government has been creating much hype about a supposed P300 billion ($6,316,321,374 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.496) stimulus package that would purportedly be spent on infrastructure projects such as repair and rehabilitation of roads, hospitals, school buildings, irrigation facilities. It would also include tax rebates for corporations.
There is nothing new to this. Infrastructure projects sprout like mushrooms whenever elections draw nearer. ‘Commissions’ from infrastructure projects are perhaps one of the biggest sources of campaign funds. Is it any wonder why our ‘Honorable Representatives’ readily absolved the three contractors banned by the World Bank (WB) for engaging in “corrupt and fraudulent practices”? Does it surprise anybody at all that E.C. De Luna Construction Company, one of the construction companies banned by the World Bank still has 26 government projects worth P3.8 billion ($80,006,737) and CM Pancho Construction Corporation, another banned company, has a project with the WB-funded National Roads Improvement and Management Program? Was anybody shocked that the name of Jose Miguel Arroyo, the president’s husband, was linked to the three banned companies, especially E.C. De Luna Construction Company? Even more damning is the statement of a witness from a Japanese company, which implicated Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the payoffs. The Arroyo family and the banned contractors must be salivating over the thought of the stimulus package fattening their bank accounts.