The excessive amount of time and effort being spent by public officials on inconsequential matters—case in point, the Metro Manila Development Authority–Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board rift—could place the Philippine economy on a slippery slope downwards to a big black hole.
The country’s economic growth dropped to 5.7 percent in the first quarter of 2014, slower than the revised 6.3 percent target. It’s the slowest expansion in over two years.
This dismal economic performance is indeed unfortunate considering that PNoy inherited a high 8.9 percent GDP rate from his predecessor in June 2010. Sadly, it has been downhill ever since. At present, our growth rate makes us one of the slowest-growing economy in Southeast Asia. We also have the second-worst incidence of poverty in the region.
According to economists from the Ateneo De Manila University (AdMu) in a briefing last Friday, the increase in commodity prices and slowdown in government spending are expected to cut the country’s 2014 economic growth to around 6.2-6.4 percent.
Former Socio Economic Planning Secretary-General Cielito Habito added that the only way for the country’s average growth to hit 7 percent this year is if the government significantly increases its spending.
The spending mainly includes those that will be made to finance the reconstruction efforts in the Typhoon-Yolanda affected areas in Central Philippines.
This is not the time for us to be distracted from taking up the more urgent measures that are necessary to help regain lost economic ground.
In the past, analysts blamed the economic slowdown on the Aquino administration’s sluggish infrastructure development program and the decline in foreign investments.
To be fair, there are other external factors as well. These include the debt and economic problems of the euro zone, weak recovery of the US economy and supply chain disruptions.
It is plain to see that there is a lot of work to be done to counter these negative developments abroad, which are affecting the Philippine economy.
The job requires all hands on deck, from the country’s economic managers to the legislators in Congress who must collectively roll up their sleeves and create the policies to pump-prime the economy.
There are more critical issues that are crying out to be addressed.
For instance, has anything been done to rein in the spiraling cost of oil products? The price of liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, a staple cooking item in every Filipino household, is constantly increasing.
Because of the increase in oil prices, transport groups are growing restive and agitating for fare hikes. If granted, this could set off a chain reaction that would raise the prices of other basic commodities; labor groups are sure to follow with their own call for an increase in the daily minimum wage.
Our point is simply that there are a lot more pressing problems that need the attention of our national leaders. The recent MMDA-LTFRB telenovela is hardly making a dent in alleviating the plight of the poor.
Of course this is just a snapshot of the general sentiment of the public.
We hope those who were elected and appointed into public office would step back and reflect on the repercussions of their bitter wrangling.
They might want to ask themselves these questions:
Will their constant debate end the sufferings of those who are still living in tent cities in Central Visayas almost nine months after Typhoon Yolanda? Or the earthquake victims in Bohol and Guihulngan, Negros Oriental?
Will it bring food and safe drinking water for the victims of these calamities?
Will it help build classrooms for the children who are holding classes out in the open due to damage to school buildings and facilities?
Will it feed the estimated 4 million families who went hungry in the second quarter of 2014 according to the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations ?
Is it important to OFWs who are forced to leave their families chasing after jobs abroad?
At this point, we seriously doubt if any legislative work is being done by our senators and congressmen to craft the important laws, which will improve the lives of our countrymen.
Likewise, the executive department seems to have all eyes on persecuting their political enemies.
How about instituting safety nets for those who will be affected by the imminent Asean integration as well as by the tepid global economy for a change?
We hope that by this time next year, the big news would center on the improved—and inclusive—economic growth outlook for the Philippines, and not on political annihilation.
Mr. President, Mr. Senator, Mr. Congressman, Mr. Secretary, is there anybody minding the economic front? Time to hunker down and get cracking!