Business headlines these past months have been heralding economic gains being achieved by our country. This has happened despite the chaos in the political scene created by the discovery of the magnitude of corruption in government that has severely wounded the nation.
How the economy achieved 7.2 percent growth in 2013, how it elevated itself from junk to investment grade in the eyes of global ratings agencies Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, and inspired forecasts from an international think tank that the ‘pussycat’ economy of Asia has transformed itself into the next Association of Southeast Asian Nations tiger—is probably the kind of stuff urban legends are made of.
This is the Philippine economic miracle. President Aquino and his Cabinet members boast of these achievements as their own.
The truth is that previous presidents, especially Gloria M. Arroyo, all contributed to the happy state in gross national product and foreign reserves terms of our economy. The Philippine economy first bounced back with a steep 7.6 percent growth in 2010, the highest in 30 years. We, in The Manila Times, can’t really understand how some Filipino commentators and, it seems, ALL foreign economic commentaries about the Philippines pay kudos to President Benigno Aquino for having started serious governance reforms in our country when, in fact, more and graver acts of malfeasance and theft of public money are being done these days!
And we Filipinos must not delude ourselves into believing that our country has become a star in world growth and economic activities because we have performed extremely well and have become vastly more productive than we have ever been. We shine because most of the world has dimmed. We are among the hopes of a brighter world economy because we are growing astonishingly—from our relatively low state—faster even than the former star, China, while richer neighbors like First-World country Singapore are now growing at a humbler rate like the European countries and the United States.
WEF is, indeed, a boon
In any case, the holding of the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) here, at a time when (and probably with the help of the international economic leaders that are behind WEF) our country’s credit rating is excellent, can only help boost our economy even more. Already, the foreign direct investment (FDI) locating here has risen much higher than in previous years. That the WEF is being held in Manila now will surely make still-undecided investors to bring their millions here.
Before we ourselves forget, we will now remind our Filipino readers that the 23rd World Economic Forum is “on East Asia.” Therefore it is not only about the Philippines, which the strangely parochial fellow Filipinos have almost exclusively focused on as evidenced by the reports this WEF has been getting.
And let it not be forgotten by us Filipinos that the theme of this conference is “Leveraging Growth for Equitable Progress.”
The Philippine condition is a perfect laboratory for this theme. The high growth rate of our economy that has made it a sort of star in the global economic firmament is precisely one that has not translated into equitable progress for the majority of our population.
It has been terrific growth in statistical terms but terrible in terms of job creation and poverty-reduction.
Our economic leaders in both the government and private sectors must learn to leverage growth and at last produce a regime of equitable progress in our country.
May this WEF cause our leaders to feel a sense of life-and-death urgency in achieving a more inclusive and, therefore, equitable prosperity in our country. For the truth is that we Filipinos—except the very small fraction of the population who enjoy wealth, health, property ownership and good jobs—are mostly in a supine state.
Our poor fellow Filipinos, see the stars—and can only sigh when they hear that our country has become a global economic-growth star—because they are dying.