Like it Is
By Peter Wallace
Manila Standard Today
Last week I started to analyze the claims of success—Ganito Tayo Noon, Bakit Nagkaganito Ngayon (This was how we were before, this is how we are now).
Today is a continuation of that evaluation. I still can’t believe they’d be so crass as to release such obvious distortions of the true situation.
Well, here’s some more of the true situation—like it (really) is.
Low levels of foreign direct investment and investment spending have undermined the country’s capacity to create jobs. The result? More Filipinos are forced to flee for a job, away from their families. Brain drain worsens and more families become dysfunctional.
Mrs. Arroyo claimed “higher quality of life for Filipinos”. Well, under Gloria the number of families experiencing involuntary hunger reached a record high. And just go back and read what I wrote last week (see my August 26 column): “Higher quality of life”?
“Peace and order secured”. Excuse me? Fifty-eight people massacred by her stalwarts is “peace and order”? The Arroyo administration failed to meet its target to neutralize the New People’s Army, the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia by 2010. It was also during her presidency (2008) when the Philippines obtained the notorious distinction of having the most number of internally displaced persons, topping Kenya, Congo and Iraq. Here we can’t compare to the other two countries because they don’t have rebellious groups. Well, Thailand does have the demonstrations and turmoil of the past year or so, but that’s hardly the same as armed, violent insurgencies that kill people. Last I looked, the MILF and NPA issues were still far, far from resolved. And they didn’t progress to any noticeable degree in Arroyo’s term—a reduction in the NPA (there were less) is commendable, but no great achievement, just a modest one.
There is one claim I will give Arroyo credit for, though: Creating the call center/BPO industry. It has been dramatically successful. And I agree with her, Aquino is making a serious mistake downgrading (because that’s essentially what he’s done) the agency responsible for it. It needs a Department—as I told Gloria in 2002, with no effect for the next 8 ½ of her years. Yet she had sufficient influence to push it through Congress if she’d wished to.
“More roads and bridges were built in President Arroyo’s term than in the past three administrations.” Well, nine years versus two of Estrada is not a fair comparison. Also, infrastructure spending under Arroyo was at 2 percent to 2.5 percent of GDP. Under Ramos it was 3.5 percent. During the 2001-2008 period, it was between 9 percent and 10 percent in Vietnam, 6 percent in Thailand, and 3.4 percent in Indonesia.
The ad also claimed that during GMA’s term 294,995 housing units were built, “nearly as much as the 2 presidents combined.” Isn’t it a little unfair to compare the number of government houses built in the 2 ½ years of Estrada with the nine years of Arroyo? On an annualized basis Ramos built 33,982 per year, Estrada 39,306 and Arroyo 31,052. So who built the most? Not Gloria.
Other ludicrous claims:
377,672 tourists in April 2010. We checked the Department of Tourism Web site and found that only 277,672 visited the country during the period. Was this a deliberate typo? Worse, they compared the erroneous “377,672” with the 317,443 tourists recorded in April this year as showing how much better it was in her time. It was worse. But forget the monthly comparison. From 2001 to 2009, a total of 22.6 million tourists flocked to the Philippines. Again, this pales in comparison to Thailand’s 111.3 million, Indonesia’s 48.2 million, and Vietnam’s 29.5 million.
Water for previously waterless municipalities, thus improving quality of life and sanitation. A DILG report noted that the number of waterless municipalities increased to 273 in 2009 from 189 in 2003.
99.39 percent of barangays electrified. The existence of an electric cooperative in an area is considered “electrification” of the entire area. By the end of GMA’s terms it is estimated (by the National Electrification Administration) that around 16 percent of households still had no access to electricity while two in every five households who struggle to live below the poverty line do not have electricity, according to the National Statistics Office. The Arroyo administration put up power barges in Tawi-Tawi and Surigao (two of the poorest provinces). However, only a very few families can afford to pay connection to that electricity.
Technical vocational training through TESDA. It was claimed that more than 1.9 million trainees graduated during Arroyo’s term. Perhaps true. But more could’ve benefited if not for anomalous contracts entered into by her administration. During a hearing on the agency’s budget, the Senate questioned the awarding of a P33-million contract for an e-TESDA project to Prime Logic Corp. despite the firm having a capitalization of only P500,000. There was no mention in the ads of the dough cutters purchased by the previous TESDA administration at P48,508 each, 404 times the prevailing market price of P120.
Food for School Program as an incentive for children to stay in school. According to a World Bank report, only 38 percent of intended recipients actually benefited from the program. Funding for the project was canceled this year and savings were channeled to more efficient poverty alleviation schemes.
Better access to education through improved textbook-to-student (1:1 for both primary and secondary) and classrooms-to-student (1:39 for elementary and 1:55 for secondary) ratios and high school education assistance. A study released by the Senate Economic Planning Office in 2008 showed that in some public schools in the National Capital Region, the ratio goes as high as 79 per 1 classroom for elementary and 82 for high school. The situation could be worse in public schools in far-flung areas.
An International Institute for Management Development report in 2009 revealed that the Philippines had the worst student-teacher ratio in secondary education and, along with Indonesia, the worst secondary school enrollment rate among Asian nations.
Delivery of quality healthcare through PhilHealth membership. The Aquino administration has had to set aside P5 billion for the coverage of indigents left unpaid by the Arroyo administration from 2007 to 2010.
Improved access to cheaper medicines through Botika ng Barangay. A Commission on Audit (COA) report issued during Gloria’s term concluded that the Botika ng Barangay (BnB) program was beset by violations of “procurement laws and bureaucratic inefficiencies.” Around 200 outlets closed from 2001 to 2009.
There’s another comparison we could make, the international one. How the Philippines ranks against the world on things that matter. Take the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, for example. In the 2000 edition of the survey, the Philippines recorded a higher anti-corruption score than Indonesia and Vietnam. But perception of graft and corruption in the country worsened during Arroyo’s term. The Philippines’ score plummeted during the period and is now on the bottom rung of the survey, placed behind both Vietnam and Indonesia.
It’s the same trend in IMD’s competitiveness survey. The Philippines’ ranking in 2009 dropped 3 notches to 43rd (place second worst in infrastructure) from 40th in 2000 while that of Thailand and Indonesia improved.
Let me make one final point: GDP/Capita (current) was $907 in 2001, it was $1,746 in 2009. Vietnam was $415 in ’01, it was $1,130 in 2009. It grew 80% faster, and will overtake us in about 6 to 8 years. Like so many people, I’m extremely disappointed. We had such high hopes for Gloria and she let us down so badly.
So this was us before (Ganito Tayo Noon), I’m glad we’re not like it now. What we are like now is a little too early to say. Certainly too early to be making the kind of comparisons Arroyo’s ad tried to do.
Before anyone accuses me of being heartless attacking a seriously ill woman, let me just say I didn’t raise it, she (or her people, same thing) did. It’s our duty to respond.
We lost a decade under Arroyo. A great people let down by an egomaniacal, imprudent leader. So unnecessary, so sad.
There was a very good article recently that pointed out how Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam based their growth on agriculture. Their governments put full support behind the farmer with farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, post-harvest facilities and agricultural services. Given that 70 percent of the poor are in the rural areas (more if you count urban migration and flight overseas in desperate search for a job they too often don’t find), boosting agricultural development makes great sense.
It’s a policy shift the government should well consider: Pour money into the countryside and watch the poor disappear.
But the article then mixes up this excellent concept with population growth by saying that those who attribute poverty to too fast population growth are “barking up the wrong tree. ” Economic growth is determined by a forest, not a tree. Accelerating agricultural growth is one tree, slowing population growth is another. Encouraging tourists to come is one also, as is mining. All of these trees address rural poverty, and all must be attended to.
Let’s hope P-Noy does.
Tony Tan was elected as the new Prime Minister of Singapore with a scant majority of 7,269 votes. It took “a few hours” to recount the votes because of the closeness of the result. A few hours! The Zubiri–Pimentel recount took several YEARS (4 to be exact). I don’t need to comment, do I?
On accepting the result Tan said: “I plan to work my utmost for Singaporeans whatever be their political affiliation. THE PRESIDENCY IS ABOVE POLITICS (emphasis mine)”. There you have it, the failure of Philippine politics is not only that the president (any of them) is not only not above politics, he, or she is, ever so heavily entrenched in it.
A great president would rise above politics, and have friends for social discourse only. He would certainly give them no special treatment.