By Pat Rey Lara
In all honesty, I find Economics boring. From GNP to Inflation, the terms give me a headache. Some people are lucky enough to get along with Economics and unfortunately, not me. Just consider me as a confused and curious teenager trying to figure out or somehow understand how economics and politics work together.
A week ago, my co-interns and I had the chance to have an input on Economics with Mr. Sonny Africa, research head of IBON Foundation. He discussed to us the current situation of the Philippine economy and politics.
Usually in school textbooks, just like what Mr. Africa said, writers tend to misinform readers by saying that Economics has got nothing to do with Politics.
The truth is the state of the economy reflects the state of the government a country has.
Here are some of the points, or rather truths, Mr. Africa delightedly shared with us:
A.) A democratic process with no democratic results
Last May 2010, the people of the Philippines got to exercise their right to vote for the next leader of our country. His Excellency President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III won the presidential race along with Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Of course, many are hoping something good or better will happen under the new administration because former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo left, uh, lots of memorable things and that left the new –elected president the burden of cleaning up the mess. Although, some are doubtful about the capabilities of the new president and people who are close to me prefer that another candidate should have won the position because of the new president’s lack of experience.
Bu I am being optimistic. I just thought to myself that maybe we should just give him a chance. President Noynoy kinda won my heart when he said he wouldn’t allow wang-wangs ever again. Yet, as Mr. Aquino proceeded to be the new leader of our country, somehow I can see that there are some things that he did that turned me off.
First is the August 23, 2010 Manila hostage-taking crisis. That’s when I started asking, “Nasaan si Noynoy?”
Second are his choices for his cabinet especially the Economic Group. I completely forgot that the Cojuangco- Aquinos are one of the powerful political dynasties here in the Philippines; not only a political dynasty but also influential businesspeople too. I don’t know if it is a coincidence or whatever, but don’t you think that the people behind his Economy group, people like Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim (former president of the Makati Business Club), Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo (former executive of SM Investments Corporation) and among others, are the ones who helped him, financially, to win the elections? And the way to repay them is to give them positions in the government? I don’t know.
One thing I realized that most of the people in the economic team are not pro-people but pro-foreign corporations and pro-business. I sure hope they are not using their newly-obtained power to increase their wealth.
B.) Economic policy stresses
No agrarian reform. Do people have forgotten the Hacienda Luisita? It is still not resolved. Why did you vote for Aquino again?
Also, our government is so foreign-driven. Everything is about foreign investments; foreign companies flooding in our country. But… why are there problems of unemployment? Why do companies lay-off their employees? Why do some private companies not allow wage increases when they are earning money quite well? Also, why do you need to privatize public utilities and services like water? Isn’t water for everyone?
In addition, our country is more caring to foreign investors rather than our own. Our government gives these foreign companies regulatory risk guarantees. You know, with that huge amounts of financial help, you could have assisted our local businesspeople and provide more jobs.
Instead, our government is obsessed with the labor export policy, OFWs and Migration. Our main exports are human beings and for me, it’s like prostitution. Well, it’s no problem for them since with Labor Export Policy the government earns trillions of pesos in forced migration.
Workers here in the Philippines are no different to OFWs. Our workers here are like slaves in their own country.
The idea of it is like merely a fantasy to me.
Mr. Africa told us that progressive countries did not do the “Free Market”-thingy for them to be progressive. Because globalization is supposed to be mutually beneficial to countries, right? Philippines have not received any benefit from our foreign investors. They are getting wealthier and better while us Filipinos are trying to make ends meet with the minimum wage of P420 (that’s in Metro Manila, what about the provinces?)
What the country needs is Economic NationalismWe should support our own products and manufactured goods.
D.) The P46 Full Course Filipino Meal
This point is the best of all I have heard from the talk with Mr. Africa.
Did you know that with P46 you can have a full course meal? With dessert?
Well, excuse me but… what the-?
Yes, according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB), you can really have your everyday meal with P46. I, myself, cannot believe it. According to them, with P46, you can have rice, monggo with malunggay as your viand and as for dessert, latundan.
Well, of course, since you only have P46 that comes with the cheap quality of rice, vegetables and fruits.
So, while private companies and the government indulge themselves with festive banquets almost like every day is Christmas, at the same time, minimum wage earners who are asking for a wage hike are dealing with rice, monggo and latundan for the rest of their lives.
Until now, it keeps me wondering how minimum wage earners survive for a day, with the so-called P46 meal.
In conclusion, despite the truths I have written above, I see optimism as well. There is always time for change. I suppose if the government would only open its eyes for the truth or might as well let them experience the P46 Filipino meal, they would also see that, yeah, you have foreign investors, money is flooding in, but your people are still hungry and in need of help. They are suffering, in their own country, under the people who are not even Filipinos. I guess much worse is that you are Filipinos yourselves and making your own kababayans a slave.*coughhaciendaluisitacough*
You might also comment that I’m a kid and I don’t understand what is happening. Yes, I’m a kid. Yes, I do not understand a thing about Economics. I do not work but I see how my parents work as hard as they can to provide food on the table, three times a day, for my siblings and me. It pains me to see them, knowing that my parents are working hard and not earning what they deserve. They don’t know that I cried at some point because I want to graduate immediately and work as early as possible because I want to help them. It’s not a joke raising three kids (two in college, one in high school) in a country like this. Maybe in the future, I will go to another country and work because I have no choice. Now that it hurts me to know that my family is having difficulties living here and in addition to that, I will have to abandon them and miss them greatly.
This has not happened yet but, right now, many kids like me have been suffering in this situation where their mothers cannot make it to their birthdays and fathers who cannot attend their school graduation.