KASAMA Vol. 11 No. 2 / AprilMayJune 1997 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network
Republic of the Philippines not yet out of the woods
For several months now, the Ramos government has incessantly bragged about the country's rising GNP. It has been busy proclaiming that the Philippines is definitely out of the rut and is finally moving up in the world "a tiger cub" about to join the ranks of the real economic tigers.
President Ramos has even gone as far as to host this costly APEC party, an occasion to impress some heads of states, their bodyguards and the drove of excited foreign journalists.
All these, Ramos says, is the result of following the economic program under Philippines 2000.
But we dare say this country still is not out of the woods. If it were, then government would have no need to wall off or demolish the homes of some 150,000 urban poor families with such ruthless efficiency. For all his brash rhetoric, the President is embarrassed by this nation's poor.
Fact is, we've seen better days that is, better GNP growth rates under previous administrations and those didn't last. Recent government data tell us this time is no different. The 7.7 percent growth rate posted in the 2nd quarter of this year was largely spurred by the hard-earned dollars and yens of overseas workers. It is no big wonder then that our countrymen who endure shabby and abusive treatment from their employers are hailed as the nation's new heroes. After all, net factor income from abroad was the single biggest contributor to growth in the first half of 1996.
Also, in stark contrast to the celebrated growth, the gross domestic product is shrinking. Our domestic economy remains fundamentally weak. The GNP growth has not generated significant employment for honest men and women. In short, the majority of Filipinos remain as they are: poor and jobless.
Scrutinizing further the nature of growth raises fears rather than assures us of an economically happy future. For example, the country's growth has been largely buoyed up by volatile financial investments rather than by solid and long-term investments. It has not been buttressed by key fiscal reforms (e.g. efficient tax system and equitable tax structure, debt reform, and a responsive and responsible public spending) that would have ensured a more stable fiscal situation in the coming years.
This puts into question government pronouncements that our industries can now compete in the global economy. This tiger cub has a yawning trade deficit, something which shouldnt be happening if we have really become that good. Add to that the disturbing news that a number of manufacturing companies have recently closed down as a direct consequence of GATT. Even our much touted primary industries (electronics and garments) aren't performing that well.
Government is skating on thin ice and our people are paying dearly for it. But we will even have to pay a greater price once the ice breaks, or in other words, when this boom eventually goes bust. Government is lying when it says that this growth has benefited everyone. There has been very little progress in reducing unemployment and poverty. Government is lying when it says that this growth is sustainable. All indications point that it is not.
If government wants growth to be sustainable, it must first make it equitable. Real development can only be attained when resources and power are shared fairly among the people.
LIDY B. NACPIL
Secretary-General, Freedom From Debt
Coalition, #34 Matiaga St., Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon
Tel: 921 4381 or 433 5537
Reprinted from: the December 6, 1996 Letters page of The Philippine Star.