I find it quite laughable that a certain Daniel Wagner, CEO of a certain Country Risk Solutions would, on one hand, observe how the Philippines has long been held back by a people that “didn’t demand enough of themselves, or of their government” and sustains a habit of accepting “a low common denominator of performance” in its leaders but then, on the other hand laud current President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III as the man behind an economy that “skyrocketed” since he took office supposedly making the country “the next economic miracle of Asia.”
What escapes Wagner’s “expert” mind is the fact that Aquino was, himself, a lowest-common-denominator candidate in the 2010 elections. Where debates on qualifications and platforms failed to move Filipino voters, Aquino’s pedigree and prayerfulness and the sympathy he attracted following the death of his popular mother was what ultimately won him the presidency.
What does Wagner even know about the Philippines to begin with? The claim alone that the Philippines suddenly got from bad to good as soon as President BS Aquino assumed power is indicative of a disturbingly sloppy analysis style. For starters, national economies are complex systems with a million and one variables at play. What sort of maths did Wagner use to conclude that President BS Aquino is the singular cause of the Philipines’ purported transformation to the next Asian “miracle”. Second, there seems to have been a noticeable silence coming from an organisation that describes itself as a “country risk” expert on the contributions of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
There is lots of debate over whether Arroyo’s nine-year rule over the Philippines had a good or bad effect on its fortunes. But nine years is still a lot more time to effect a presidential influence on a national economy compared to the five years that Aquino had so far racked up. How much groundwork for economic growth has Aquino actually lain and how much of the movement in economic indicators observed over the last five years is accounted for by what Aquino had done so far?
Well, ok, Wagner did not really say Aquino single-handedly turned the Philippines into an “economic miracle” (whatever that last-Century phrase actually does mean). He said that this improvement in economic fortunes was “due, in large part, to Aquino’s refusal to continue the regrettable tradition of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power.” How big a part exactly?
Funny that considering the world’s Big Businesses and the politicians they prop up all salivate over the economic muscle of China and India, two behemoths that also happen to be amongst the world’s most corrupt countries. So we should really question the whole idea that stamping out corruption necessarily makes a country wealthier.
Then again, perhaps it does — if you look at the right numbers. A lot of the Second Aquino Administration’s cheerleaders in the international media always quote macro economic indicators to “prove” what an all around great guy President BS Aquino is. The trouble with that approach is that it does not consider who exactly is collecting all the fruits of this economic “growth”. Much of the Philippine economy is controlled by a tiny elite clique of oligarchs and foreign “investors” while just about all of Philippine politics is driven either by the same families or lackeys of these families being drip-fed with a steady “commission” from their rent incomes.
So in the case of the Philippines, “eliminating corruption” likely means eliminating it in “the right places” — specifically in places that impede the financial prosperity of specific families. Have a shooting buddy who is into an import-export business? No problemo compadré. Let’s sack the incumbent Customs chief and “reform” the bureau. Need to return a favour to a rich uncle stuck with a vast but insolvent hacienda in Luzon? No worries, pañero, let’s slander the “tainted” Supreme Court Chief Justice and replace him with one of our “friendlier” girls.
There are many ways to package a payback government into a “reform administration”. That’s Philippine Presidency 101. Look no further than all the discussion and “debate” surrounding who the next president will be after the coming 2016 presidential elections. The discussion is, yet again, a discussion around finding the best Lowest Common Denominator candidate money could buy. The “unacceptable” alternatives out there are the “evil” and “corrupt” candidates while the ones to “seriously consider” are the ones seen to have not done anything bad yet.
The above pretty much summarises the bobotante thinking Filipinos apply to determining their fortunes past 2016. It hasn’t changed much. Indeed, what is likely the biggest motivation for President BS Aquino now that his days as the most powerful man in the Philippines are numbered is to keep himself out of jail post-2016.
Perhaps one way to do that is to reflect on the way he’s been treating his predecessor, former President Arroyo. Already, renowned international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney has taken notice of Arroyo’s plight, reportedly elevating her case before the United Nations Human Rights Council as an “urgent” case.
“We felt that Arroyo is being singled out,” [Arroyo’s lawyer, Atty. Larry Gadon] said.
Arroyo’s lawyer said under a case considered urgent, the UN body will send a confidential communication to the government of the accused’s country.
Meanwhile, if it is placed under regular procedure, Arroyo’s case may still be tackled in the late part of the year, Gadon said.
“The urgent action means they will send a communication to the Philippine government to appeal for the bail of Arroyo for humanitarian reasons. There is no legality that will be discussed,” Gadon said.
“Democracy” in the Philippines has descended into a cycle of incumbents throwing their precedents in prison then helping themselves to the national treasury to undertake their own personal-agenda-motivated “projects” masquerading them as “reform” initiatives. And each politician masquerading as a “leader” is really just the representativeof business and private interests allied with him or her.
And the economy? What about it? As Arroyo said in her seminal piece, It’s the Economy Student!, the achievements of presidents are just parts of “the continuum of history,” each one one building “on the efforts of previous leaders” and as such means that “[each] successive government must build on the successes and progress of the previous ones: advance the programs that work, leave behind those that don’t.”
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