Dutertenomics off to bad start, says group

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Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte’s initial choices for his economic team shows him treading the same Aquino administration path of elitist economics, research group IBON said. It added that Duterte’s early pronouncement on Charter change also strongly indicates continuity with the neoliberal economic policies that have kept Filipinos poor and the economy underdeveloped.

The presidential frontrunner’s first major economic policy pronouncement, made by his spokesperson the day after the elections, was a “major rewriting” of the 1987 Constitution including easing foreign ownership restrictions. This is a long-standing demand by foreign investors and domestic big business to expand their opportunities for profit-making in the country. According to IBON, this surrenders sovereignty and compromises long-term national development.

The group said declaring a policy that directly and immediately benefits millions of poor Filipinos rather than a handful of wealthy elites would have been more welcome in signalling real change. Farmers, workers and poor Filipinos for instance have long demanded free land distribution, meaningful wage hikes, and fulfilment of their right to education, health and housing.

IBON noted that Duterte’s broad plan for the economy seems to be mainly about improving the law and order situation to create positive conditions for business while providing some minor social interventions such as cash dole-outs and farmer support.

Duterte campaigned with an unfilled and ambiguous economic platform. He also admitted not having economic policy expertise so the economic team he chooses will have a strong influence on his policies. No one among those mentioned so far as being considered for the important cabinet positions of economic planning, finance, or transportation represent any kind of break from past failed neoliberal economic policies, IBON observed.

These include former Pres. Arroyo’s economic adviser Gov. Joey Salceda and former agriculture secretary, and businessman, Carlos Dominguez III. University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist Prof. Ernesto Pernia has also been reported as advising Duterte.

IBON said that these are signs that Dutertenomics is taking shape as a conventional elitist economic agenda. Duterte’s unorthodox manner gives the impression that there will be major changes under his administration. But continuing the orthodox neoliberalism of the past will mean no improvement in the conditions of tens of millions of poor Filipinos clamoring for change in the next six years, concluded the group. ###

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