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Never giving up

12:30 AM July 22, 2022

It is a new administration, meaning new political personalities will be governing to support their priorities. This is normally a cause for a new honeymoon, so to speak, between people and government. That formal election results showed a majority for the new leadership is even more reason for celebration. Yet, it was and is not visible at all.

There must be several reasons why the mood is not celebratory. I have my own conclusions but most are academic at this point. They are not only political but partisan as well, making them more subjective than usual. At the same time, there are more objective possibilities for this relative quiet in what should be a festive atmosphere.

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As I have already mentioned in earlier articles, vote-buying is not new anymore. Yet, in the last elections, votes were being sold at record prices. If only there were no law stipulating vote-buying a crime, it could have been the headlined public news in the whole Philippines. In towns and cities, on Election Day and the subsequent days that followed, everyone was comparing how much each vote went for from this or that candidate.

Yet, the most recent survey of SWS said that 82% of voters believed the elections were clean and honest. This figure is irreconcilable with the noise about vote-buying everywhere. Unless vote-buying is not considered anymore a legal or moral violation. In other words, vote-buying is part and parcel of clean and honest elections.

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If millions had sold their votes, they had reason to keep quiet instead of celebrating. It is hard to be happy and proud having accepted money in exchange for one’s vote. In fact, there is some amount of shame in it, a quiet guilt for having done something wrong.

In an earlier article, I had proposed to hold auctions instead of elections. Let positions go to the highest bidder. That would substantially curb the immorality and illegality of buying and selling votes. Elections could become a major fund-raising effort every three years with every candidate having to bid and surrender the amount (or part of it) even if he or she loses.

For me, winning elections and not celebrating at the same time is partly or largely answered by the massive level of vote-buying. With that, I can set aside one puzzling question. We can now move on to matters that actively concern, even threaten, most of us. We can put the economy on the table and discuss possibilities under a less partisan ambience.

Actually, the last several weeks have raised, on a global basis, a now universal trend called inflation. Most countries, progressive or underdeveloped, are experiencing inflation. The difference is how much, and poorer countries are hit much harder than others.

Good news or bad news is the softening prices of oil. For several weeks, international oil prices have not gone up and slowly even gone down. That should be truly good news if not for the fact that the easing of oil prices is basically caused by the slowdown of economies worldwide. That is bad news worse than the good news of lower oil prices.

Following two years of Covid-19 is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It looks like a localized problem but the world is now much smaller, thanks to technology and globalization. Furthermore, political alliances necessarily interconnect and establish economic partnerships.

There are also the main players involved and their support systems. Russia as the major oil and gas supplier of the European Union is facing sanctions, including embargoes on their energy exports. At the same time, Russia is also hitting back and making gas and oil scarce in their whole region. Globally, then, prices have shot up simply because supply and demand routines were disrupted.

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Ukraine, on the other hand, is a major producer of wheat, the export of which is almost impossible after Russia has blocked ports and sea routes. After fuel, food is disrupted, too.

The dynamics seem all so far away but have driven a dagger to our economic situation. The Philippines has not recovered from a lingering Covid-19 and gets a second beating from steep increases of fuel and food prices. The war between Russia and Ukraine has not only affected prices but supply as well, worsening price hikes and contracting availability of essential materials.

We are, indeed, in a bad place. However, we have been in bad places in the past. We have in us the DNA of survivors and the reputation of a come-back kid. It is now a matter of finding the critical attitude of never ever giving up, and translating that attitude into working plans.

Let us not expect anything much from the national level. Doing so (31 million will in the beginning) simply forces the government to accelerate more domestic and foreign borrowing. The present adult generation of Filipinos will be burdening our youth and the following generations with a monetary curse. We must face any crisis now as best we can – some of us with the least of help as possible.

While we move away from dependency on the national government, we focus aggressively on building productive capacity where we are. In other words, go local, develop core groups territorially, learn, experiment, and train towards that one single purpose – production. We have to address shortages of the essential, whether that be food, health, commerce and jobs – and keep them as local as we can.

The more we can stay afloat on the local basis, the less burden we give to the regional and national, and the more our capacity for being on our own will grow. Because of the adverse external conditions that drive food and fuel prices up, everything else will also go up. The only antidote is to produce more and consume less.

Hopefully, too, in the midst of our own challenges, let us carry in our hearts and generosity those who are too weak to help themselves.

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