A small gas/service station that the government has put up for public bidding to serve a corner of the Clark Special Economic Zone (Clark) is, from our usual reckoning, an investment opportunity for the SMEs. It is a business concern that runs smack into the investment capacity of enterprises just above the level of mom and pop operators. And you would expect the giant corporations, in the spirit of noblesse oblige, not to grab that SME-scale business.
After all, the really rich and their fat corporations own and control most things in our country. Corporate profits have reached dizzying levels. And our wealthy are being assiduously tracked down by Forbes for its list of the world’s super rich. And, definitely, they can spare some of the investment opportunities to others who are less entrenched and less connected. Spreading opportunities around helps strengthen the democratic institutions and helps build a strong middle class.
Moderation is a virtue that ennobles the broader society.
But sadly, this is not the case. Look at the list of those interested to build and run that gas station and it will make you tear up. The top bidders belong to the country’s Top 100 corporations. You have to ask two questions. What drives these giant corporations to own—covet rather—almost every piece of government-initiated economic opportunity in our country? Who is abetting this conscienceless, reckless form of plutocracy and greed?
Easy to answer. The current economic environment, that investments and growth must be pursued at all cost, is the driver. The abettor of these grab-anything-that-the-state-bids out, the chief enabler of plutocracy, is President Aquino.
To be fair, President Aquino may not be even aware that he is the chief enabler of plutocracy. Whether or not he is aware of this sad fact this is the harsh truth: The tenders being solicited by the government for the barely two-hectare gas station for Clark (which, of all places, will be based in a corner of Concepcion, Tarlac, the hometown of the Aquinos) dramatically magnify two things:
• This is the first time in contemporary history that the mega corporations have the full impetus to grab everything that the government puts up for public bidding.
• President Aquino, seemingly oblivious of the great divide between the wealthy few and the impoverished majority, is responsible for driving the super rich to gobble up everything that the government is bidding out. To further expand their wealth and weaken the center.
We won’t quote the findings of the Economist newsmagazine on rising plutocracy in the country. The Manila Times (we should own up this one) has taken the lead in the expose of runaway plutocracy under the Aquino administration.
You may want answers to these questions. Why is Mr. Aquino, an honest man, allowing the super rich to own every piece of business in the country? After all, he does not shake down the rich and does not get commissions from government-initiated business opportunities. Why has he assumed, willingly and unequivocally, the role of godfather of “trickle-up” growth?
Is he not even aware that inequality, especially the rise of the “patrimonial rich,” is the main issue that roils the developed world right now? And not aware that leaders, from Pope Francis to President Obama, have made the yawning gap between the have and the have-nots, the defining issue of our time? And that the economic research has found out, with empirics that are hard to refute, that much of the globe is returning to the “Gilded Age.” Take note that even the International Monetary Fund has urged world leaders to take dramatic steps help bridge the huge divide between the world’s rich and the world’s poor.
He is our leader. He is supposed to know the dynamics of the global conversation and the harsh realities in his own country. Why is he ignoring the fact that his leadership has been the number one cheerleader and abettor of plutocracy?
The blame can put placed squarely on President Aquino’s heartless technocracy. And supreme belief in a discredited economic orthodoxy, that surging growth lifts all lives. But then, how can you deny this fundamental fact—the wealth of one Filipino dollar billionaire is way, way above the total of the state-funded social safety net programs.
That the wealth of one billionaire is over and above the five-year allocation for the more than 100 state colleges and universities.
The super rich gets everything in the country. The PPP, lest we forget, is tailored for the big players. A small gas station put up for bidding by government will be grabbed by the big players too.
The poor gets to work at slave pay. Those who do not get the chance to work have to sell body organs to survive.
Every world leader who can read data has been reading and rereading the magnum opus of Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century.
It is about three things:
• Growth does not boost the lives of the people below
• Inequality does not decline even during advanced stages of economic growth
• The solutions to this cancer that saps the strength of democracy are political
The terrifying literature of the magnum opus alone should push President Aquino to cease being the enabler of plutocracy and the chief promoter of “trickle-up “ economic policies.