‘Exclusive club of the rich’

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Emeterio Sd. Perez

Emeterio Sd. Perez

AS the end of 2016 nears, there is no need to review the status of listed companies, in particular why they are not at the same time public. Their ownership will remain concentrated in the hands of a few of the richest Filipinos who control the economy.

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The poor will remain poor because the wealthiest among the rich and famous dictate the direction of the economy.

Over the last four years that I have been writing Due Dililigencer for The Manila Times, a number of readers have posted comments on the articles I had written. I reviewed them and found one that I think deserves a full column.

I am one with the reader on her thoughts about the economy that is still controlled by what the critics of the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos had described as oligarchs. Unluckily for Filipinos, the word, as a description of the takeover kings, was not a monopoly of the rich and famous during the 21-year Marcos regime; oligarchy even worsened during the reign of Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino from 1986 to 1992.

A reader writes

Back on July 15, 2013, more than six months after Due Diligencer began the lonely campaign for regulatory authorities to strictly enforce the 10-percent minimum public ownership rule, The Manila Times received a reaction from a regular reader, who identified herself as Gloria M. Kuizon of Novaliches, Quezon City.
Commenting on Due Diligencer’s “Listed companies profiting from buying back own shares,” she wrote:

“Until most of the blue-chip companies in the Philippines comply with the 10 percent public ownership of their stock, the country’s stock market will remain a club controlled by the elite and the few foreigners who want to make money on the bourse’s being one of the active places in the world.

“But even if public ownership does increase, it will still not mean our economy has become democratic. It will still be an oligopoly, for less than 1 percent of the population can afford to play in the stock exchange.

“Meanwhile more than 30 percent of the population live below the poverty line and another 30 percent are just barely able to survive, so they are also almost dirt-poor.

“And also meanwhile, congressmen and senators, as well as a great many officials of the Executive department under President Aquino, have pork barrel and unaudited intelligence funds that they misuse or pocket. They spend these funds for their own enrichment, sometimes for property abroad.”

Dirty politics
From the tone of her letter, Ms. Kuizon seems to have given up hope on the poorest of the poor among this country’s more than 100-million-strong population. Her sentiments ring true today because the government remains populated by some politicians who pretend to be pro-poor but are in fact doing the opposite.

She is correct in her assessment that the number of public investors on listed companies may increase, which, however, “would still not mean our economy has become democratic.” Her analysis speaks well of most of the Filipinos who are too poor to express their frustration over the government’s persistent neglect of them.

Of course, blaming the government may not solve the ills that pervade the dirty politics that is perceived by the powers who engage in it to be the rule rather than the exception. Having been elected into office, even if by cheating, many of them resort to corruption to recoup the personal investment they had spent in wooing the people’s votes through their false pretenses and promises.

The question why most Filipinos remain poor will continue to haunt us, but never the conscienceless politicians. The thoughts of ordinary Filipinos, who are apolitical and thus would never make it to Congress, would never be heard, having been overshadowed by press releases emanating from the offices of politicians, written for them by their staff of writers.

esdperez@gmail.com

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