AS the elite of the world met in Davos for their yearly networking and schmoozing ritual, the charity institution Oxfam released a report that essentially exposed the hollowness and superficiality of such meet and greet exercise of the global movers and shakers. The sights and scenes of snobbish insularity in a snow-capped playground of the world’s elite – far removed from the stark realities outlined the Oxfam report — were utterly surreal.
The gist of the Oxfam report is this: Next year, the richest 1 percent are likely to control half of the global wealth. Oxfam said that the world’s wealthiest people —some 80 superrich—own $1.9 trillion worth of wealth, which is roughly what is owned by 3.5 billion people at the bottom half of the wealth and income strata. It is safe to say that many of the people that are stuck in that 3.5 billion category are Filipinos in the slum colonies and the blighted rural areas.
The Oxfam released in early 2014 a report that was essentially a repeat of the report it released last week. But the tone of the recent report was more stark and more urgent. It said :
“ Between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of the billionaires. However, since 2010, it has been decreasing over that time.”
Oh no. What was 2010 to us? Just retelling what 2010 was to us pushes one into fits of depression.
2010 was the year we elected Mr. Aquino as President on the great expectation that his government would be one of justice and economic fairness. And that any gain from his good governance would result in broadly-shared prosperity. He is the son and namesake of Ninoy Aquino and why would he be different? After the mass arrest of the Huk leaders, Ninoy quietly saw to it their kids went to college or found decent jobs, some, would you believe, were sent to medical school. Truth to tell, Ninoy was loved in our area because of his quiet deeds for the helpless and vulnerable, those looking for jobs, those in a quest for a better life, those seeking justice – not the spellbinding oratory on the stump.
To our great remorse, the weak and the poor and the vulnerable have been non-existent to his son and namesake.
Whether he likes it or not, Mr. BS Aquino has been complicit in making the Oxfam report come true, a vigorous participant in drawing the architecture of a vastly unequal world. Over the past four years, he has been an “all- business President” and that is true in the literal and figurative sense. His supreme belief in free and unhampered markets has led to the inevitable – income from capital gobbling up the bulk of the gains, with very little left to labor.
The massive infrastructure build-up, under Mr. Aquino’s specific instructions, was pursued via the PPP, or public private partnership, which guarantees that all the contracts in building roads and bridges, airports and seaports, and those 20th century integrated transport terminals, will be the exclusive domain of the giant, diversified conglomerates.
Labor, historically, has been the shafted party under the PPP experiments in Europe, the ANZUS and elsewhere as everything is skewed in favor of the private parties partnering with the public sector. That is also true in the Philippine context.
Mr. Aquino’s pro-business, pro-rich agenda has expunged labor and wage issues from the national debates. Or we can look it this way : Over the past four years, no administration bill has tackled the possibility of bringing back a minimum wage (one that is decent enough) that is applicable nationally. Congress’ last significant law on labor – in this sad and exploitative country of ours – was about contractual labor, or how to promote this kind of labor and its attendant assault on the dignity of the working man.
Contractual employment on a massive scale eviscerated the trade unions along with the middle class.
The regime of stagnant and slave wages and dead-end jobs flourished alongside the emergence of a new kind of rich under Mr. Aquino. These are the dollar billionaires rich enough to buy small and insignificant countries. The control of the superrich over the national economy has so reached a farcical level that their giant malls now retail sago at gulaman and turon sa saba.
Such unprecedented sponsorship of Social Darwinism has found its full blossoming under Mr. Aquino’s administration.
Aided by a clueless media (the culture of media under Mr. Aquino has been to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted ), President Aquino was able to give the impression that he has a “ bloated” cash transfer program, which totals P65 billion this year. The truth is this is just two percent plus of the P2.6 trillion national budget. Do you know of any other leader who is supremely satisfied with a two percent allocation to ease the most dehumanizing problem in the country and elsewhere?
The Oxfam report is now a global issue. Will its findings merit the attention of Mr. Aquino? Will he reverse gears and reorder the economic structures to help bridge the great chasm? Can the nightmarish reality of a truly unequal world penetrate the free market, growth-at-all-cost universe of Mr. Aquino.
If many say “ No,” they have a basis. The poor and the vulnerable, whose lives all governments should try to uplift with utmost vigor and seriousness, have been invisible to the Aquino government. Meanwhile, the State of the Union recently delivered by the president of the most powerful country in the world, talked of the “R” word, the one dreaded by Mr. Aquino. R stands for Redistribution.