The ‘Ampaw administration’ takes on jobs, infrastructure

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Ben D. Kritz

Ben D. Kritz

Addressing an audience of highschool girls last week, President B.S. Aquino 3rd provided the cottage industry of his critics another of those priceless gems of unintentional irony he has a gift for creating, when he suggested that the country avoid electing an “ampaw” to replace him after his term ends in 2016.

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“Ampaw” means “rice puff”—a sweet snack that looks appealing but is mostly made of air – and it would be a clever metaphor, if it weren’t being used by one whose administration is so perfectly described by it.

Prioritizing volume over substance has long been a habit of the Aquino Administration, and nothing epitomizes the policy better than the approaches taken towards the two most troublesome economic issues weighing down the country’s development: employment and infrastructure, or more to the point, the country’s persistent shortage of those things.

Chief Malacañang Talking Person Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. took the point for the Administration last Tuesday to respond to the largely unsurprising news that the January unemployment rate increased significantly—the official peg at 7.5 percent is four-tenths of a percent higher than January 2012, and a full percentage point higher than the most recent previous Labor Force Survey conducted in October 2013. Coloma explained away the problem as an anticipated result of the country’s many calamities toward the end of 2013, particularly the devastating Typhoon Yolanda, but promptly sabotaged his own post hoc argument by also pointing out that workforce growth outpaced job growth by about 0.4 percent, which translates to 141,500 new unemployed workers.

That the figure just about precisely matches the year-on-year increase in unemployment is not a coincidence; due to the extreme difficulties in conducting the Labor Force Survey in the Yolanda-devastated areas, the National Statistics Office (NSO) excluded much of Region VIII, which omitted data that would have skewed the unemployment percentage sharply upwards. As The Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao pointed out in his column last Friday (“Aquino government clueless over PH unemployment problem,” March 14), an impact of the typhoon that most economic observers would expect to see, a downturn in service sector employment (such as hotels and restaurants) as a result of a dip in tourism and other discretionary spending, did not happen.

The inconvenient fact is that the January unemployment rate is due to systemic rather than circumstantial causes, but that hasn’t stopped the Ampaw Administration from forging ahead with a strategy to curb unemployment based on a specious assumption to the contrary. According to Coloma, the government strategy will work in two directions: “One, [to]promote employment opportunities in places of refuge. We will take note that those mislocated (sic) were part of a migration wave from places of calamity to places of refuge, or to the towns and provinces adjacent to the disaster areas; and two, [to]facilitate employability by assisting job applicants in reconstructing pre-employment documents,” Coloma said.

In essence, the view of the Administration is that unemployment is due to “misplaced” persons adding to the jobless statistics of areas not affected by Typhoon Yolanda, and therefore job creation in those areas should be encouraged to take up the slack, but that the shortage of jobs is not as serious as it seems to be, since a considerable number of typhoon victims are only unemployed because they lost the extensive stack of personal documents an applicant is required to provide before he or she can be hired for even the most menial of jobs.

The most obvious flaw in this brilliant, multifaceted initiative is that it completely ignores the imbalance between labor force growth and job growth; outside of the typhoon-affected areas, more workers than jobs were created, meaning that “misplaced” persons are only adding pressure to labor markets where the supply of workers outstrips demand for them. “Promoting employment opportunities” (which in some respects implies the Administration believes jobs already exist) is fine, but it is not clear that the government understands the scale of the task. Just to keep the unemployment rate at its “normal” level – approximately 7 percent, the official rate at which the Philippines’ unemployment has been stuck for at least the last eight years – at least 566,000 jobs plus a number of jobs equal to the actual number of displaced workers (a figure for which there is no reliable estimate) must be created.

Another disturbing aspect of the government’s perspective is that it downplays, if not dismisses entirely, the importance of the recovery and reconstruction effort in the typhoon-affected areas. The logical solution to the problem of “misplaced” persons adding to unemployment woes in other parts of the country would be to accelerate economic recovery in the affected provinces, which would also have the added benefit of creating some jobs, at least temporarily, for unemployed workers from other parts of the country. Focusing on “providing employment opportunities” in areas where people displaced from the Leyte and Samar provinces might have gone only suggests the government has given up on the reconstruction, a suspicion that recent disturbing news stories, such as reports of tons of rotting, undistributed food aid being hastily buried, do little to dispel.

And for that matter, no confidence can be placed in the government’s ability to carry out the one relatively simple positive step outlined by Coloma, helping typhoon victims to replace their personal legal documents, in light of the incredibly stupid and potentially calamitous oversight by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in failing to procure a timely resupply of the all-important Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book (SIRB), or “Seaman’s Book,” putting the ability of tens of thousands of Filipino seamen to travel freely and report for work at serious risk. The Philippines’ well-deserved reputation as the world’s number-one supplier of skilled sailors is the one exceptional bright spot in the country’s labor export economy, and for the government to allow the livelihood of roughly 460,000 men and women along with the enormous contribution they make to the economy in general to be put in jeopardy, because someone in a line agency was incapable of filling out a purchase order and making a phone call to the printing shop, is beyond appalling.

Making confident sweeping generalizations about an issue, and then being incapable of doing the most basic related clerical work, is as good a definition of “ampaw” as any. President Aquino was quite right to suggest that voters should avoid that in the next election; any more like him, and the country might not be able to survive it.

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6 Comments

  1. “Government don’t want a population capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people smart enough to run machines and dumb enough to passively accept their situation”. – George Carlin

    We always Export our Best People (OFW w/c are hard-working, productive, highly skilled & intellectual) and forever relied on their dollar remittances to fuel our economy. Those left behind (lazy & AMPAW) are tasked/voted to lead our nation and others are appointed to vital positions in the government.

    Because Philippines main Export commodity are OFW (modern day form of slavery), RH Bill will never be implemented to maintain a continuous supply of cheap/quality labor and organ donor to the world.

    AMPAW clearly point to himself so why call him His Excellence if he is not?

    PNoy have shown indications of his incompetence @start of his term (Manila Bus Tragedy). Every year PNoy administration is always struggling to cope with problems of Natural Disasters (Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda). His Incompetence continue to spread (viral) to his cabinet & appointees and maybe up to his successor because PNoy now has majority control of our Congress (Senators/Congressman), Supreme Court, Comelec, Media, etc.) and survey firm.

    We only vote/chose leaders based on popularity or those who portray being good (facade only) than those with real intellect who really excel. To be President, you need to be an opposition & always accuse your predecessor as being corrupt/bad to gain people support and stay in position/power.

    Religion also has a tendency to spoil Leaders or Role models in many ways – relying purely on God”s blessing. Hence, an easy life results to false public service due to no effort/work = Lazy & Idle Mind (incompetence : lack if vision/poor logic/no-sense of observation/lack of imagination & creativity). Anti-intellectual Attitude is a road block to the progress of our Nation.

    In a Goon (Mafia) Society like the Philippines – people will simply group together to gain majority, to rule over minority and abuse that power. Thus, people (including Leaders) simply join a Group for protection, to be stronger and to be spoiled in many ways = lazy & idle mind or anti-intellectual attitude (incompetence). If you are unique in such a way (intellectually-superior for example) people will ostracize and criticize you because you are not “one of them” no matter how truthful/nice and how much contribution one can do for our nation.

    The Goon concept applies to Religions, Politics/Government, Media, Showbiz, Sports, public or private sectors. And conflicts will happen if the common interest of a certain group clashes with another group.

    Majority of our President/Leaders (in Government or Congress) are ff.: a. Lawyers-whose nature of work are disputes of legal matters (negative).

    b. Popular Actors/celebrity – whose nature of work is movies/TV/media.
    We need Leaders from other professions like the ff.:
    a. Architects/Engineers – whose nature of is to Create/Build (positive)
    b. Doctors – (Dr. Mahathir) who cured & made Malaysia a very healthy (wealthy) nation.

    Corruption in my definition is the product of an IDLE or LAZY Mind (AMPAW) selfishness/greed and materialism because corrupt people/Leaders do not realize the consequence of pocketing public funds or receiving bribes. Money should be circulated around to create more business opportunities, employment, expenditures and to fuel the economy.

    Jessie J “PRICE TAG”
    “It’s not about the money, money, money. We just wanna make the world dance.”

  2. victor m. hernandez on

    A shortage of unemployment and infrastructure: apparently a constant shortage in Philippine economic development.The causes of unemployment are many, one of these is increasingly more people who are of no skills, or many are schooled in particularly popular course, i.e. nursing. We have many nurses, but unemployed, not because their is lack of demand for nurses but because salaries for nurses in the Philippines is below what the nurses expect, and much lower salary than they can get if they are employed abroad. To cite only one example. In essence, there is a mismatch of supply and demand for employment. In any case, there are industries that need more workers, one of these is the Business Process Outsourcing. There is a shortage of supply, for various reasons, foremost of which is skills and competence, but for as long as the aspiring workers is trainable he/she can be hired. How about infrastructure: Definitely, since government has shortage of money, it cannot do many infrastructure projects that the economy require, that’s is why there is the Private-Public Partrnership Program, presumably because the private sector has the more money to invest, and the government either borrows or just grant a franchise to the private sector for a long period of time. The Philippines is rich, but the Pilipinos are poor. We are rich in natural resources, which needs to be developed to create jobs and tax revenues. Overall, we need good policies to bring in or encourage investors to develop our resources so that we can employ as many as possible. To support this to be sustainable, we also need to invest in human capital – educate our people; education for skills, competence and good citizenship. There is much work to be done, and everyone needs to help.

  3. Ang problema Presidential Form of Government. Ano ba kalidad ng mga botante natin? 70 – 90% kung hindi corrupt, moron or simply stupid. See, majority stupid, corrupt, morons Filipino voters ang may say sa kinabukasan ng bansa! Walang katiyakan na ang mahahalal maayos. Laging ganun na lang ba laging hindi sigurado??

  4. I totally agree. At the rate this government is neglecting the only reason for its existence, i.e. public service, it wouldn’t be long before all basic services break down and chaos and mayhem prevail…

  5. I totally agree! At the rate this government is neglecting the only reason for its existence, i.e., public service, it wouldn’t be long before basic services in this country break down and chaos and mayhem prevail…

  6. Our high unemployment rate is the result of our government policies since the regime of Cory Aquino. No hard working governments but all lazy ones. Result? Billions of pesos losses to GOCC’s (Napocor as one example), rampant graft and corruption and smuggling. Why lazy? Because our government wants the private companies to do the work for them like the power industries, water industries and now our prime hospitals are next. Why high unemployment rate? Because government does not support farmers needs in agriculture, agrarian reform failure, private companies in prime utility industries tend to minimize labor costs for profits, lack of government support to local manufacturers, minimal infrastructure programs and most skilled and professionals are abroad and the remaining filipinos could hardly apply for jobs. Whose faults are these? Its our greedy politicians who concerns only for more wealth and power. Is there hope in the near future? No, if we continue to bring those political dynasts in our government. But we know who were the leaders in Singapore and South Korea that sparked and ignited their progress. Those leaders did militaristic rule but they are not greedy instead they profess love of people and country.