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Posts Tagged ‘inflation’

The plight of overseas Filipino workers in the Arab and Middle East countries should be attended to and immediately!

A new order is coming into being in these countries–and depending on specific national conditions–Filipino OFWs will have to contend with its implications. The Aquino government should not underestimate these implications, not only to the OFWs themselves but also to our oil supplies, to inflation, local and global job availability, government tax income, Moro situation, great-power rivalry, international terrorism, and our democratic people power legacy.

The loss of possibly hundreds of thousands of jobs in these countries can lead–in the medium term–to a dip in the Philippine GNP growth. In a situation of global recession, this can lead to a “squeeze” effect when foreign jobs gets scarcer even as new graduates enter the labor market and the local job market cannot sufficiently expand to accommodate the slack.

Oil supplies may also suffer even as the oil prices shoot through the ceiling. This is also a “squeeze” situation where scarcer but pricier oil and gas products drive up inflation even as foreign reserves scramble to cover higher-priced oil importation.

The government basically and indirectly taxes the OFWs through their remittance spending (consumer goods in malls, land and housing acquisitions, tourism, and other family-based spending). This will slow down and marginal business may collapse. Government income may thus take a hit.

As instability engulf the Arab world and the Middle East, big powers will increasingly compete for scarce resources–not only in these countries but throughout the world including southeast Asia. We are already well within the ambit of this hidden “resource war,” as a possible major resource for oil, gas, and other minerals.

Politically, we are also vulnerable to the events in the Arab world and in the Middle East because of our own Moro Muslims–who have living ties to the Arabic world. The Al Qaeda network extends into the region and into the Philippines. And to a certain extent, the events there mirror our own 1986 people power.

It is now a question of when–and not if–a major global crisis hits us from the events in the Arab world and the Middle East. The crisis opens both the door to our own crises and our own opportunities. Interesting but dangerous times. Also, dangerous but interesting times.

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The results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) June 27-30, 2008 national survey released today, Friday, showed that Mrs. Arroyo had a net satisfaction rating of -38, her lowest since the -33 recorded more than three years ago. Only 22 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the President’s overall performance against 60 percent who said they were not.

This was, of course, after typhoon Frank had already ravaged the Philippine heartland and she was still traipsing in the US. A Nero act, some would say. However, it is also as much a product of the relentless rise of oil and food prices that already produced an 11% double-digit inflation rate, as well as her stubbornness in preserving the expanded VAT regime.

The eVAT has always been a political issue, especially among the poor people,  that victimized its author, former Sen. Ralph Recto. He lost in last year’s senatorial elections because of this issue. GMA refused to let go of it despite the widespread clamor to rescind it–even only for fuel products. During these days of high prices, she knows this stubbornness will lead to a political debacle for her administration.

Her attempts at distributing some of the windfall from eVAT such as the one to transport workers and their families are only seen as mitigating pogi points and not a real solution to the inflationary pressures of a high price crisis. There is already the public perception that these are attempts to bribe the local leaders, protesting sectors, and the restive masses. Worse, there is the public perception that it only provides new avenues for big-scale and petty corruption. That’s what you will get if there is a yawning gap in credibility between leaders and the people.

It is within this context that one should view the renewed calls for federalism, such as the new angle of satisfying MILF demands for a peace agreement brought up by former chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. Whatever the merits of federalism, unfortunately it is being viewed in a very negative light today because of suspicions that a constitutional change process–required by such a major political proposal–can easily be manipulated in order to extend GMA’s stay in power.

Charter change under an extremely unpopular president can only feed the political crisis–it will lead to a political conflict that may strain the democratic system itself. It will also effectively set aside the 2010 presidential elections. At this point in time, any such move will require neutralizing all political opposition.

Will she dare to declare some form of martial rule?

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Gas prices are going up. Rice and food prices are going up. Inflation rate, as an index of rising cost of goods and services, has gone double-digit. The only food price going down is the price of galunggong fish. Fishes from the sea, of course, are still suspect to wary consumers who are horror-struck at possibly eating human flesh from victims of typhoon Frank.

Some have predicted chaotic protests and even vigilante actions because of the high prices. To be sure, it has not been our history that economic issues directly lead to regime change. However, it has the legacy of setting the stage for regime change by rendering an incumbent administration politically vulnerable to a political offensive.

The GMA administration certainly faces–if it is still possible–a heightened political crisis because of its unpopularity. If the inflation crisis–and more telling, the inept handling of the Frank national disaster–is linked in the people’s consciousness to the poor quality of governance by the GMA administration, then it will translate into a landslide win for an opposition presidential candidate in 2010.

At the moment, this is already the case. If the president continues on into 2010, she will be the only issue of the elections and, if the opposition know its stuff, it will trump anybody whom the ruling coalition puts up against their sole candidate.

The people are already getting oriented to the probability of the 2010 elections. A foolish move today will be the desperate move to set it aside in favor of a constitutional change process–which everybody suspects will be the vehicle for continuance in power of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Doing cha-cha in the midst of a worsening economic crisis is pure political suicide. It can only succeed by subverting an entire panoply of democratic institutions–from Congress to Comelec to the Supreme Court. It can only be carried out by trampling over fierce protests from the people.

The people, as a matter of course, will not take it lying down. Thus people power is invoked–as it nearly happened in December 2006.

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