For the past several weeks, some macro-economic figures have come to light, and they are bothersome to say the least.
For one, the country’s unemployment figures – 7.3% as of end-2013, from 7% the previous year — have obviously gone from bad to worse despite the steady growth of the Philippines’ gross domestic product in the last few years. This leaves some three million workers out of jobs, and counting.
For another, the tax collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue as well as the Bureau of Customs for the current fiscal year have fallen below targets, by their own admission. Despite year-on-year increases, there are still too many private companies and individuals who pay less than what they should.
Also, the country’s gross international reserves have been diminished, indicative of the outward flight of hot money, or funds from global investors that are easily pulled out of the country. The Philippines’ dollar reserves are now at their lowest level since June of 2012.
True, overseas Filipino workers continue to prop up the country’s foreign currency reserves, but this also indicates that the country’s best and brightest minds (and able bodies) are mostly based abroad. They thus play a greater role in the development of their host countries rather than their motherland.
These figures do not lie. In fact, the figures come from government sources such as the National Economic and Development Authority, which we must accept as gospel truth.
It is therefore surprising that some government officials perceive The Manila Times as an anti-government, or at least anti-administration newspaper. We are not.
We prefer to look at our focusing on negative economic news in a positive light. They indicate what the government has not been doing right, and point out the direction that the Aquino administration should be taking.
There can be no national development without low, single digit unemployment and underemployment rates. For the record, underemployment is still hovering around 20%. This means that one out of five Filipinos are only working part-time. It is such a shame that so many workers go underutilized.
The direction that the government must take in this area is clear enough—boost employment in both the private and public sectors, with a greater focus on the former.
Creating emergency public sector jobs must be treated as a last resort, because the workers will be receiving their compensation from the government’s tax take.
We are not downplaying the achievements of the administration. Far from it. But whatever growth the country has attained during the Aquino era remains meaningless to the millions of Filipinos who are either jobless, or do not work enough. We can even add the unknown millions who do not receive proper compensation and benefits, as dictated by the country’s labor laws.
For this, and any other administration, The Times can only pray for the best. In the President’s mind, his administration may have already accomplished much. But the reality is that much more needs to be done.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd still has two more years to do more than the little he has done for the Filipino people these past almost four years.
The ball, Mr. President, remains in your hands.