“Building inclusive economies, building a better world” is the theme of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to be held in Manila this November. Inclusive growth has also been the rallying call of the Aquino administration. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals from 2015 to 2030 dedicated several goals to address poverty and social inequities:
SDG 1 No poverty
SDG 2 Zero hunger
SDG 5 Gender Equality
SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 Reduced inequalities
This is well and good; but only if there are concrete, effective measures to address poverty and social inequities. However, the prescriptions of the APEC, International Monetary Fund-World Bank( IMF-WB), the European Union, and the US are all the same: more liberalization of trade and investments, more deregulation of the economy, and complete privatization of remaining government services. These policy formulations are based on the belief that “what is good for business is good for the economy, and what is good for the economy is good for the people.”
Those who fall into the cracks are provided with dole outs euphemistically called as conditional cash transfers (CCT). The word ‘conditional’ is supposed to make it less of a dole out. But if we are going to use as basis the saying “Give a man fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” itis much like giving a man fish then telling him “next time before I give you fish, you better show proof that you fished in those damn polluted waters, where I dumped my toxic wastes. And by the way, don’t throw your trash there, it is already bad enough as it is.”
So what is the result of four and a half decades of neoliberal economics?
Here are some data cited by alternative website Counterpunch in its article “The wreckage in sight we fail to see” by Joseph Natoli:
the richest 1 percent in the US holds 38 percent of the wealth “and they are redistributing it ever more to their advantage”
In the last 10 years, the income of the richest 1 percent increased by 70 percent while those at the bottom remained the same
The richest 10 percent own 76 percent of all wealth in the US while the bottom 40 percent are mired in debt
In the Philippines, progressive think tank Ibon cited the following data in its 2014 year ended report:
66 million Filipinos or 68 percent of the population live on P125 ($2.70) or less per day
the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos rose to US$72.3 billion in 2014 from US$ 64.2 billion the year before; in 2010, their net worth was at US$27.8 billion, a 160 percent increase in four years
the net income of the top 1,000 corporations amounted to P1.013.4 billion (US$22 billion) in 2013
Despite the fact that the Aquino government and its predecessors have religiously been pushing for these neoliberal policies, “unemployment rates have stayed at a record sustained high of between around 10-12% since 2000 or at an average of 11.0% over the last 15 years” (Ibon). The jobs being created are mainly part time work (90 percent in 2014) and more and more in the informal sector (68 percent in 2014). To make matters worse, the remaining, few salary and wage work are increasingly being contractualized, under flexible labor schemes of the government to attract more foreign investments.. Contractual workers are the most exploited: having no union, no security of tenure, low wages, no benefits, and with some under piece-rate, job order systems.
So what do these tell us?
Inclusive growth under the neoliberal regime is a fallacy, and greater liberalization, deregulation, and privatization would result in more poverty and worsening social inequities. More people would fall into, not just cracks, but in the bottomless pit of hunger and poverty.