By ALAN JAZMINES
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
The Benigno S. Aquino III regime is self-congratulatory about government statistics portraying an unusually high (6.6%) growth rate of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2012 building up from to 6.3% in the first half to 7.1% in the later part of the year. The regime is even more titillated that with such a showing, the World Bank’s Country Director Motoo Konishi now all of a sudden calls the Philippines a “rising tiger”. The regime attributes such “good grades” as a result of its promotion of the “straight road” and of “good governance”.
Closer and more objective and truthful analysis and presentation of data, however, reveal that the supposed “outstanding growth rate” of the country’s GDP, the mass of the people have all the more been suffering amidst many prettifying cover-ups,and the country’s economic base have only been continuing to get worse and worse especially at the ground level.
Given the prevailing semi-colonial, semi-feudal, pre-industrial and backward agrarian economy, the Philippines has for a long time been Asia’s socio-economic laggard. The Asian Development Bank has for a long time now been pointing this out, and the OECD Development Center confirms that this has not at all change despite the present delusionary “good grades”.
The OECD Development Center also notes that poverty incidence in the Philippines remains the highest among the ASEAN’s five founding members (including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore), with about 25 million or one fourth of the population in the Philippines living below the world’s poverty threshold of $1/day or P45/day. In the first place, last year’s supposed growth should better be referred to as a mirage, as its 6.6% was computed from a low base — the 3% dismal growth rate of the country’s economy the year before.
Such “growth” of 6.6% in the whole of 2012 (and even 7.1% in the latter part of the year) did not show real industrial growth, even if for the first time in many years a significant “boost” was supposed to have come from the industrial sector. Bulk of the supposed “industrial growth” was in construction, jumping by an additional 24.3% from a year earlier, due largely to the rush of late in construction activities — principally in the raising of new buildings and “property booms” due to the surge of call center and other business process outsourcing (BPO) activities being set up in the country, and in the rise in sales of condominium units boosted principally by the massive inflow of remittances from the now more than 12 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose total remittances sent through banks (and not including those sent via other means) have now reached $21 billion a year and have already become the third largest in the world after China and Mexico.
A third major source of supposed “growth” in the last decade or so — the re-export (after some labor-intensive processing locally) of semi-conductors and other electronic semi manufacturers — have for the last several years amounted to more than $25 billion annually, and consisted more than 60% of the country’s export.
All these sources of supposed “growth”, however, are characterized by the mere exploitation of cheap labor of Filipinos, whether locally or abroad. The windfalls of the benefits from the exploitation of such surplus cheap labor, especially in terms of returns to capital and in terms of economic development and growth, are harvested not by those who perform the cheap labor but their foreign and local exploiters.
The most that the performers of cheap labor get are crumbs from the table of their imperialist and comprador exploiters, that in the case of the Philippines span from increases in consumer purchases and services, especially of luxuries (including more purchases of massively dumped imported or multinational-patented commercial products to the likes of condominium units). Thus, the big rise in commerce and services plus sales of condominium units, over more solid industrial and agricultural production for the benefits of the masses, have been leading the Philippine economy since the surge of exports of surplus cheap labor, influx of BPOs and re-export of semi-processed electronic parts.
The irony in all this is more clearly seen in the fact that while all such “growth” based on the exploitation of the country’s surplus cheap labor is building up in the trillions, just a few people are benefiting from the country’s wealth, while more and more the multitude are being dumped to suffer on the wayside.
This is most notably marked in the continuous rise of unemployment and underemployment (i.e., disguised unemployment) which have already be fallen more than 12 million ( more than 30%) of the available workforce. Ironically, when the country’s GDP supposedly grew by 7.1% in the later part of the year, unemployment increased all the more by 900,000.
Without the huge export of labor overseas, the employment and underemployment rates would practically double, or even be a lot more.
With such overly large unemployment and underemployment, Philippine labor has become cheaper and cheaper, and even more expendable. The legal minimum wage is less than half the value of the about P1,000 daily wage required for a family of six to be able to live decently. The actual average wage of a workers is actually even worth much less in present terms, and becoming more less due to the rising prices of essential commodities.
It is because of all this and more (including the widespread and increasing landlessness and joblessness of the great majority in the countryside) that the mass of the people are getting poorer and poorer, while the elite of the country and their foreign masters are fast getting richer and richer.
This has been shown quite concretely and starkly shown in the data former national economic planning chief Cielito Habito has come out with: the country’s 40 richest families’ aggregate wealth was reported by Forbes Asia to have rises by $13 billion in 2010-2011 — equivalent (in value) to 76.5% of the growth then of the whole country’s GDP (which nominally rose then by $17 billion). Habito went on to compare this to Malaysia, where the equivalent number of richest families reported by Forbes Asia amassed a rise in aggregate wealth equivalent to only 5.6% of the country’s GDP growth, and to Japan, where the figure was only 2.8%. — pointing out that income inequality in our country is much, much worse than that of other countries in the continent. Clearly, the Philippines big comprador, big bureaucrat and big landlord elite and their imperialist masters have been exploiting the people with more and more greed and disdain, more and more miserable.
What “rising tiger” are the World Bank and the Benigno S. Aquino III regime now talking about?
Drastic fundamental overhaul of the entire bankrupt, unjust, exploitative, rotten and moribund semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling
system in the country will have to be made to reverse the worsening socio-economic crisis that has long been overly burdening the Filipino people.
This article was written by Alan Jazmines, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and a member of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms.
Since mid-2011, the committee should have been meeting with its counterpart from the side of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) for the second round of the formal NDFP-GPH peace talks, that is supposed to center on socio-economic reforms. The meetings, however, have not taken place because of Jazmines’ arrest at the very eve of the first round of the formal NDFP-GPH peace talks on 14 February 2011 and his continued detention since then, and the continued detention of more than a dozen other NDFP peace consultants.
The NDFP-GPH Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is supposed to protect peace consultants of both parties from surveillance, arrest, detention and other antagonistic acts that would prevent or deter in any way their effective participation and work in the peace process. The NDFP demands that, for the formal peace talks to be able to resume and proceed with the substantive agenda, the GPH is obliged to respect and comply first with the JASIG and other NDFP-GPH peace agreements.