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Economic Decay, Discontent and Political Unrest: A Post-Election Briefing

There is a version of the Philippines that the Arroyo administration peddles. The country, it argues, is well along the road to progress and prosperity. This rosy outlook is supposedly borne out by key economic indicators...
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Midyear Briefing, July 10, 2007
Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman, Quezon City

 

The Economy and Arroyo Presidency

EXCERPT

There is a version of the Philippines that the Arroyo administration peddles. The country, it argues, is well along the road to progress and prosperity. This rosy outlook is supposedly borne out by key economic indicators: the fastest quarterly growth rate in almost two decades, stock market indices soaring to all-time highs, record international reserves, the "strengthening" of the peso and steady increases in foreign investment. Despite minor flaws, the May 2007 mid-term elections were relatively peaceful and saw the Filipino people maturing as voters and united behind democracy.

The administration takes credit for all this: it has taken bold, even unpopular, decisions to ensure vital reforms resulting in sound economic fundamentals that will soon be felt by all. Its political system is imperfect but improving. Moreover, these are successes despite destabilization by selfserving opposition politicians, a festering rebellion involving military adventurists, and belligerent Communist and Moro armed revolutionary movements. These are dealt with firmly but fairly, and the armed groups are expected to be eradicated before 2010. The extrajudicial killings and abductions are unfortunate but the work of a mere handful of rogue elements in the military and police as well as internal purges within the insurgent movement - the civilian government is doing everything in its power to put a stop to these. The administration also humbly appeals to everyone: so much more can be done with national reconciliation, consolidation and solidarity.

It is a calculated storyline and the message it aims to send depends on the audience targeted. The impoverished Filipino majority are assured that there is a point to their suffering and that their material salvation will come sooner or later. If anyone is in the way, it is the "destabilizers": militant groups and opposition politicians. Foreign investors and domestic big business elites in turn are assured that the government is on their side and is working to ensure their profits and create new opportunities. The Asian myth of authoritarian development states is also subtly transmitted: political repression and the curtailment of civil liberties are needed to create the requisite stability for national growth and progress.

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