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Commentary

Tell me I’m wrong, or right

05:05 AM January 08, 2018

The title indicates I may be confused. I am. The report on the economy in the Inquirer’s Jan. 1 issue “confused” me. Let me first say that I know next to nothing about economics, neither in theory nor in practice. Its vocabulary is Greek to me. What consoles me is that there are a lot of other people like me who seek clarification in lay language. What I ask or say may be silly (“she doesn’t know what she’s talking about”) — or sensible, as lay persons, even in their ignorance, can stumble upon surprising observations.

The editorial in the same issue was a revelation. Never have I read a more glowing report on our economy: Having chalked up 2017 as “a year of high economic growth, among the fastest in the region…,” the country is poised for “bright prospects” in 2018.

The World Bank has “raised its growth forecast for the Philippines” and has noted “higher-than-expected export growth” and forecast “that economic growth in 2018 could be higher.” The Asian Development Bank has also raised its growth forecast with high expectations for the coming “massive infrastructure program.” The “Japanese financial giant Nomura” is “most upbeat on economic prospects for the Philippines, India and Indonesia in 2018.” All three cite GDP growths and “percentages” that are beyond my laic mind.

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A question, a genuine puzzlement, immediately rose in my mind: Can a nation’s economy fly high if, on other major fronts of nation-building, it is skimming the ground and can’t seem to take off? Cannot the state of the latter adversely affect the economy?

The same issue cited the less-than-ideal state of four such fronts. Three heads read: “MRT3 broke down more than 500 times last year,” “Malacañang defends anew Faeldon’s appointment to Office of Civil Defense,” and “We’ll mourn until justice is served, says family of Mandaluyong shooting victim.” And what about the case of Sen. Leila de Lima, arrested and jailed in the wink of an eye?

Taking off from those cited fronts, can a nation’s economy keep on shining bright with chronic breakdowns or slowness in basic services like the MRT, the Land Transportation Office and other government agencies; with the swift and controversial use of presidential power, as in eyebrow-raising appointments and dismissals; with deeds most evil blest with silent and spoken mandates to kill, so strongly insinuated that the chief of the Philippine National Police wept; with justice delayed, denied, demolished, if so desired, except for stealing a can of corned beef?

And what about other poorly served fronts like healthcare, unemployment, education, agriculture? Through such as these, can the economy continue to excel with flying colors? And through all these, how do we, the people, feel and fare?

Let me end with a twist. There’s a fly in the ointment.

On the MRT breakdowns and the horrendous traffic: Do we hear the daily whining of yesterday? Accepted na.

On the EJKs: With every death, the wailing soars, then dies with a whimper. Accepted na (mabuti nga).

On hunger, homelessness, disease: This is the lot of the poor and unwashed. Accepted na (they’re expendable).

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On the whimsical use of power and rumors of big-time corruption: Long accepted na (since Marcos pa).

On the recently floated “No-el”: Will this also be accepted in the plebiscite?

Is this ominous picture the “new, malignant normal” (Solita Monsod, 12/30/17)? Have the people been enamored of “Dutertismo,” the President’s brand of authoritarianism (Randy David, 12/17/17)?

If so, who says we’re victims? We’re sovereign; we have chosen. The ratings say so. We get what we choose. Under such circumstances, can the economy be a god apart, with GDP as the main measure and its fruits remaining upstairs? By the way, what happened to the so-called “trickle-down economy” whereby the fruits were supposed to flow down as well?

Never mind. Aren’t we the third happiest country in the world?

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Asuncion David Maramba (marda_ph @yahoo.com) is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.

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TAGS: Asuncion David Maramba, Inquirer Commentary, Philippine economy
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