By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Here is another data that shows that there is something terribly wrong with the economy and the economic program of the Aquino government, which is merely a reprise of the program of the previous administration.
A report WHERE DID GROWTH GO: Philippines’ elite swallow country’s new wealth – economists written by Cecil Morella of Agence France-Presse (AFP), published by interaksyon.com, pointed out that while the growth rate under President Benigno Aquino III is one of the highest, at 6.6 percent in 2012, the rich-poor divide in the country is the highest in Asia.
“I think it’s obvious to everyone that something is structurally wrong. The oligarchy has too much control of the country’s resources,” Cielito Habito, who served as Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority under the Ramos administration, was quoted as saying in the interaksyon.com report.
Habito added that in 2011, the richest 40 Filipino families accounted for 76 percent of the country’s GDP. He further cited that in Thailand the top 40 accounted for 33.7 percent of wealth growth, 5.6 percent for Malaysia, and just 2.8 percent for Japan.
Henry Sy and Lucio Tan, the wealthiest in the country, were reportedly worth $13.6 billion combined, according to Forbes magazine’s 2012 list.
This is scandalous if we are to consider that in December 2011, a Social Weather Stations survey revealed that 22.5 percent, or 4.5 million Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger; the total number of unemployed and underemployed reached 11.5 million; and some 65 million Filipinos were struggling to survive on around P104 ($2.5) or much less per day. The AFP report also revealed that in 2009, around 25 million people lived on $1 or less per day.
If you think this is bad enough, in 2012, the total number of unemployed and underemployed increased further to 11.58 million and, according to Ibon Foundation, “the labor force has contracted, with the labor force participation rate going down from 66.3 percent in October 2011 to 63.9 percent in October 2012 despite an increase in the potential labor force (population 15 years and over) from 62.2 million to 63.3 million.” This is, it said, the first time this happened since 2008.
And while a million people lost their jobs in 2012, the combined net incomes of listed firms, in the Philippine Stock Exchange, grew by 18 percent to P377.12 billion ($9.198 billion) from January to September 2012 compared to the same period last year.
Also, according to data from the Ibon Foundation, big business never had it any better. From 2010-2011, the top 1,000 corporations gained an average annual income of P780.02 billion ($19 billion) compared to an average of P421 billion ($10.26 billion) annually during the previous administration. The profitability of big business under the Aquino administration is also higher at an average of 11.1 percent annually.
Thus, it is not surprising that a Yahoo News report Pinoy billionaire circle grows this year written by Kim Arveen Patria revealed that the number of Filipino billionaires increased to 11 in the Forbes 2013 list from six in 2012.
And while the combined income of the two wealthiest Filipinos – Henry Sy and Lucio Tan – was $13.6 billion in 2012, Henry Sy’s net worth alone in 2013 amounted to $13.2 billion, from $9.1 billion in 2012. Sy, according to the report, jumped from being 116th in the global list of Forbes magazine in 2012 to 68th. Lucio Tan’s net worth of $5 billion earned him the 248th spot from being 314th in 2012.
Enrique Razon, Jr., whose name became synonymous with wealth and power during the previous Arroyo administration and was reportedly a close ally of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, became the country’s third biggest billionaire with $4.9 billion, rising to the 258th spot from 683rd in 2012.?
The 11 Filipino billionaires reportedly have a combined wealth of $37.85 billion or P1.54 trillion.
And what is the Aquino government doing about it? More of the same policies, including the dole out program Conditional Cash Transfer, which does not address the structural roots of the worsening inequalities.
So it appears that it really is a straight path toward greater profits and wealth for big business, both foreign and local, and rich families under the Aquino government. As for the poor, it is a downward spiral as wages are kept low; the urban poor, peasants and indigenous peoples are displaced from their homes and their land; and prices are kept high to ensure the profits of big business. And protests from the people are met by harassments and attacks on their rights, disguised as “peace and development.”
What is happening in the country exposes the folly of the “trickle down” effect of neoliberal economics, to which the Aquino government religiously adheres to. So much for the straight path and the declaration that the masses are President Aquino’s “boss.”