NOT ONLY TO HIS CLOSE ADVISERS (On Why Joblessness Continues to Rise)

President Aquino’s “What’s Wrong"  admonition to his Cabinet yesterday on why unemployment persists at a high rate , even rising to 27.5 percent in the last quarter of 2013 ( SWS, December 2013 ), - belying the claims of “ inclusive growth“,  should make him realize that he is listening to just one kind of voice in the economy –  that of the apostles of privatization and liberalization who dominate his Cabinet like Purisima,  Almendras, Balisacan and Abad.

There is another voice, often heard in the streets and the academe, at times given scanty space in so-called consultations with government but, that had none of the President’s ears.  This voice has long been opposed to putting into the hands of big corporations and big banks, as well as international financing institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the power to chart the direction of our national economy and determine the welfare of our people.  Instead, they have long called for the building of our economy on the basis of our homegrown strength – rebuilding our industries again, to implement land reform and modernize our agriculture, to fulfill our domestic needs and set up a platform to take advantage of global trade and investments that will boost our economy, make it climate resilient and to raise the living standards or our working people.

The Philippines is clearly in need of a national policy agenda that is truly progressive, people-centered in character and rights-based in orientation.  And our country is actually teeming with many brilliant and sincere individuals who have such a correct way of viewing our developmental needs and more importantly, are definitely willing to help at no cost to our collective future at all.

We have senior economists like Dr.  Sixto Roxas and Dr. Manuel “Butch Montes“, who have had excellent preparations in the academe plus essential experience honed in government and/or international institutions like the United Nations.  Dr. Roxas has participated in a number of NEDA consultations on crafting the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and has written lots of critical pieces lately on economic strategy, but nobody in government listens to him.  Dr. Montes had a long stint with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs after years  as a professor in the UP School of Economics.  Now, he is in the South Centre, a Geneva-based policy think tank for Third World governments.  We also have the likes of Dr. Joseph Lim,  then UP professor now Ateneo professor of economics, and Dr. Liling Briones, former National Treasurer, an expert in public finance, together with many others from UP and Ateneo.  And of course, there is Dr. Walden Bello, who is an internationally known political economist.  He is currently a representative of Akbayan and was a former president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC).  But Malacanang has never paid any attention to these top caliber minds nor to what they have been saying for a long time now.

Aside from these experts, a number of nationally established non-government networks, institutions and organizations, plus the hundreds of national and local people’s organizations, including our own FDC and Kilusang Makabayang Ekonomya ( KME ),  have long come up with paradigm and economic policy alternatives to our country’s many structural problems.  Key among these predicaments are wide inequalities, poverty, joblessness and cheap labor, climate vulnerability, and debt-dependence for which they figuratively and literally banged the gates of Malacanang and Congress repeatedly, but to no avail.

Thus far, nothing has registered in the President’s mind coming from the preeminent thoughts of these “bosses“, as he likes to call them.  In fact, even the limited institutional engagements between the Government and the people’s organizations and NGOs inside the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) are proving to be nothing of a priority at all to President Aquino and his sycophantic-majority cabinet.  Ashamedly, ever since his assumption to office almost four years ago, he has never bothered to convene a single en banc session of the NAPC.  And yet, this is supposed to be the Philippine Government’s premier national agency tasked to help provide our country with long term solutions to our centuries-old dilemma of systemic mass poverty. 

What’s Wrong, Mr. President?  Look closer, the people around you whose minds and hearts are long captured by the big foreign capitalists and the big local oligarchs who are willing partners and tools.  Listen and read closely,  the ideas that alone see print and be heard in the corridors of power, that you yourself might have internalized :  that the private sector is the main engine of growth, not our people, not even their government; that the way to progress is foreign loans, foreign investments and foreign technology, not the people’s equity, ingenuity and hard work.

February 12, 2014

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