Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 30 August 31 - September 6, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Economics of Discontent
reflect continued hardship in the country. If the government fails to make the
quality of life better for poor Filipinos, these may end up as quantifiable
evidence for civil unrest.
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
Reyes’ resignation as defense secretary last Aug. 29 overshadowed the
government’s euphoria over the 3.2 percent growth in the gross domestic
product (GDP) during the second quarter of the year. The ongoing word war
between Sen. Panfilo Lacson and the Arroyo administration over the alleged
corruption of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband, Mike Arroyo, did
not help any to project the so-called strength of the Philippine economy amid
week, Romulo Virola, secretary general of the National Statistical Coordination
Board (NSCB), said “(n)otwithstanding the SARS epidemic, the war in Iraq and
the peace and order problem in our country, the Philippine economy remained
resilient as it continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace, in the second
to same period last year, the local output or GDP grew by 4.5 percent.
Coincidentally, the same growth rate was registered in the first quarter of
2003. GDP refers to the total value of goods and services created within a
economists interviewed by Reuters did not share the government’s euphoria.
According to a Reuters report (Aug. 28), “the economy faces stern challenges
in coming months amid growing political uncertainty after last month's failed
mutiny and allegations of corruption against President Arroyo's husband.”
there is no clear sign that the political offensive against the administration
will stop, the economic crisis is likely to worsen and will become the basis for
traditional opposition camp is expected to intensify its accusations against
administration officials as the May 2004 national and local elections are just
eight months away. As a result, political tensions are likely to heighten, along
with the possibility of yet another uprising.
the political drama unfolds, the economic instability brought about by adherence
to globalization gets sidetracked, to the point where people are already
acclimatized to the state of affairs.
instance, the reported decrease in the number of deployed overseas Filipino
workers (OFWs) was largely ignored even if the implications are dire for a
government that depends on external sources to overcome the ballooning budget
deficit and foreign debt.
from the labor department showed that only 577,952 registered Filipino workers
were deployed from Jan. 1 to Aug. 20 compared to 608,525 in the same period in
2002. On the average, the number of
Filipino workers sent abroad every day fell from an average of 2,000 in 2002 to
only 1,887 this year.
government claimed that the fear of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS),
the Iraq war and a wage cut imposed by the Hong Kong government on its foreign
workers in April were the reasons for the reduced deployment of OFWs.
are currently seven million Filipinos working abroad, and they remit about $8
billion yearly. The government targets one million Filipinos to be deployed
overseas this year mainly as a major source for dollar remittances.
The low deployment of OFWs could affect remittances in the long run, however. No less than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) stressed that in the past, “the increase in OFW remittances reflected in part the increase in the number of Filipinos leaving to work abroad.”
is a situation that government cannot afford given the precarious state of,
among others, the country’s deficits in the balance of payments (BOP) and
budget, as well as the foreign debt.
of the first quarter of 2003, the BOP deficit stands at $502 million, and it is
expected that it will reach $1.13 billion by yearend. The BOP refers to the
amount of dollars the country has, computed by deducting the outflow from the
inflow of dollars.
the other hand, the budget deficit amounted to P210.74 billion in 2002 and is
projected at P178 billion to P185 billion by the end of 2003. This simply means
that just like in the past, the government’s revenues are not enough to meet
if these are not enough, the foreign debt is pegged at $53.87 billion as of
are just a few indicators to show the ominous signs of the times and the
intensification of the social crisis if continued dependence on external sources
like OFW remittances remains.
far as wages and cost of living are concerned, poor Filipinos continue to be
minimum wage in Metro Manila currently amounts to only P280 (or $5.09, based on
an exchange rate of P55.02 per US dollar). The prescribed family living wage in
the same region, however, is P558 ($10.14) as of June 2003.
family living wage is the amount of money a family of six needs to fulfill food
and non-food requirements, as well as provide for 10 percent savings.
other regions, the minimum wage ranges from P140 or $2.54 (Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao or ARMM) to P237 or $4.31 (Southern Tagalog). The family living
wage as of June 2003, on the other hand, ranges from P366 or $6.65 (Eastern
Visayas) to P716 or $13.01 (ARMM).
These are glaring statistics of hardship in the country. If the government fails to make the quality of life better for poor Filipinos, these may end up as quantifiable evidence for civil unrest. Bulatlat.com