Wake Up, Philippines!

Unprepared for crisis

Posted in Calamity and Disaster by Erineus on February 3, 2009

“The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe that they can fool all of the people all of the time.”
– Franklin Adams

UNLIKE in a parliamentary form of government where elections, since there are no fixed term limits, can be called at anytime and at short notice whenever a government in power falls into disrepute, and suffers defeat and disgrace from “a vote of no confidence,” we here in the Philippines have been preparing for the 2010 presidential elections since 2008 to an obsessive degree, and unmindful of the enveloping global economic crisis.

This country seems unprepared for any kind of crisis from economic to natural disasters either because of excessive preoccupation with the 2010 elections, or “last-two-minutes,” scramble, as it were, for deal-making, or project initiation, or presidential appointments, dollar salting, commission-taking, or self-serving legislative fiats, in view of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s imminent exit from office in just over a year’s time, notwithstanding desperate efforts to ram through Constitutional changes to coincide with the 2010 elections that would provide an excuse to postpone elections, and extend elected officials’ tenure of office, including the President’s, until further notice, so to speak, albeit now unacceptable and too late in the day.

First, nobody seems to be minding the “company store” either because our political leaders are too busy preparing for the obscenely expensive forthcoming elections, or the beneficial recipients of presidential blessings and patronage are also busy feathering their nests for the “political winter” when they will be the ones outside looking in.

In the meantime, for example, the Department of Labor and Employment seems ineptly unprepared to quantitatively forecast the spiraling unemployment trends that will follow the global banking industry meltdown and industrial and international trade shrinkage worldwide.

The 50,000 job vacancies that the DoLE is drooling about are unrealistic to say the least not only because the most needy of Filipinos do not qualify for these jobs but also because the openings are mismatched jobs of tailor-made specifications.

In short, there are no intelligent contingency plans for the increasing numbers of laid-off workers on the domestic front from industries to service to agriculture, and no contingencies for the redeployment and relocation of returning OFWs whose contracts may not be renewed that fast.

Second, what plans do we have to arrest the depreciation of the peso against other foreign currencies when remittances from OFWs and export shortfalls start impacting on our Gross International Reserves (GIR), savings from OFWs turn into dissavings, and the OFWs come marching home?

What measure are there to further curb smuggling, and improve collections from the BIR and the Bureau of Customs?

Third, while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is on the right track by pursuing high-level infrastructure spending; generating jobs; encouraging consumption spending; and continuing social reform benefits, it is important to guard against wastage and corruption.

The methodology of dispensing the goodies, and attempts at stimulus initiatives leave much to be desired the way public works are undertaken and parceled out to contractors with local political patronage which, in the end, will only benefit the few, and widen further the gap between the sated few and the hungry many.

Where are the plans of action?

When all is said and done, while President Gloria Arroyo is doing the right thing by focusing on the economy, she cannot do much in her remaining watch as the global economic crisis, principally in banking and finance, deepens and lengthens not of our own making.

It follows that the burden of recovery and riding out the global economic storm will fall on the next Philippine President.

For these reasons, the next Chief Executive should not only be carefully selected but he should tower above ordinary mortals like us.

You be the judge. (For comments and views, please e-mail: chaff_fromthegrain@yahoo.com.ph)

Former Press Secretary