Lingering Issues

Lingering Issues

“The happiest Asians around.”

This is what Flipinos are often called perhaps owing to the fun-loving and hospitable nature of the people, but definitely not the state of the economy. Despite the growth of democracy in the Philippines, the economy remains in a critical condition.

A recent survey by Pulse Asia (Philippine Star, June 26, 2002) shows that one out of five Filipinos would like to seek better lives in other countries, given the chance. Philippine leaders and economic managers are constantly changing faces; yet, it is a truism that changing even a President really cannot do much to influence the economy in the modern age. An unfortunate behavior on the part of a President (recall the Estrada scandals) really is economically insignificant compared to the devastation that the yearly natural disasters visit to the country, or to the global financial crisis that began in 1997.

There are, however, several matters that can adversely influence any economic development program and the perceptions of potential foreign investors in the country.

  • corruption – government losses due to corruption has been estimated to hover around 20% of the national budget (Doronila, 1999); corruption in the country is said to have reached the systemic level
    (Photo: Phil.Center for Investigative Journalism, 2000)

  • peace and order – the fact that the country has been used as a base of international terrorist has dampened once again the business atmosphere
    (Photo: BBC News, 1999)
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  • loss of natural resources – the rapid conversation of lands for residential and commercial purposes coupled with natural disasters (the Philippines was declared the most disaster-prone country in the world in 2000 by a Brussels-based research center) and armed military operations have contributed to the insufficiency of the country’s agricultural output

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  • human resource competitiveness – skills training is urgently needed for the growing population, many of whom are out of school; as people are the most numerous resources found in the country, the government should put in place an industry-related national training program

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These are important issues that must only be left in the hands of the Philippine government. These are issues that ordinary Filipinos need to resolve upon themselves to act upon and change. Recalling Secretary Solita Monsod’s words: Filipinos, at least those in (some) provinces, are doing something right, because we are managing to maximize the choices that are available to us given our incomes, or to minimize the negative consequences to human development of our income poverty,” ordinary folks need to be able to ponder their strengths, weaknesses and choices, and act decisively on a matter that can never be left alone to elected leaders.