An ill-mannered, lying, or ignorant President before an international forum

It was an ill-mannered, even unpatriotic, act for President Benigno Aquino 3rd to bad-mouth his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in a formal speech before an international audience, the APEC CEO meeting, the other day. I don’t think any other head of state has done that in an APEC meeting or before any international audience.

Worse, though, he was either lying, ignorant, or just plain stupid when he claimed that the years under Arroyo were a “lost decade.” Average growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the four-year period from 2004 to 2008 was 5.8 percent, which isn’t much different from the 5.9 percent under Aquino from 2011 to 2014.

We use the average for these years of the Arroyo Administration not only to be comparable to Aquino’s past four years but because the global financial crisis —actually the worst in post-war history —broke out from 2008 to 2009, which brought down the economies of nearly all countries in the world.

Aquino should be thanking Arroyo, not disparaging her, since her P330-billion fiscal stimulus program, called the Economic Resiliency Plan, prevented the economy from contracting. As a result, GDP still grew 4.2 percent in 2008 and 1.1 percent in 2009. In contrast, the GDP of most of our neighbors (Malaysia, Thailand, and even Japan) had contracted.

Credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service even pointed out in its most recent report that it was during Arroyo’s term that crucial institutional reforms were started, strengthening the country’s management of its finances.

It was Arroyo’s efforts to strengthen the country’s economy – resulting in its resiliency in weathering the global financial crisis – that convinced the world and the local business community that the Philippines had definitely moved out of the boom-and-bust cycles of the past. That is the reason why there has been so much confidence in the economy despite the bungling, incompetent President of the present.

The so-called surge in foreign investments under Aquino is a clever deception made by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which by its own admission, shifted to a new method of computing foreign direct investment inflows to include even the borrowings by Philippine subsidiaries of foreign companies from their mother firms abroad.

This fiction, however, was unveiled by its own fabrication. The real amount of foreign direct investments that came into the country can be computed by subtracting foreign investments that went out of the country (outflow) from that which came in (inflow), using the BSP’s new definitions in both cases.

The result is that from 2006 to 2009, or under Arroyo’s term, net direct foreign investments totaled $5.1 billion. Those under Aquino are just a fifth of that: $1.2 billion. These are based on the more reliable figures of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

What lost years is this misinformed but boastful President talking about?

Aquino in his speech claimed: “The numbers were alarming: Income growth was low, and inequality was at an incredibly high level, in terms of access to employment and social development opportunities.” The liar’s fibs are easily exposed, though, if one just takes the time to look at the data:

APEC, a torment to Filipinos
Under President Aquino, the Philippines’ hosting of APEC became another episode of suffering for hundreds of thousands of poor Filipinos living in Metro Manila.

Due to his failure to start thinking about and planning for the event early enough, the APEC Summit now has to be at the congested metropolis, which has to be shut down for two to three days.

This will put out of work at least a million contract workers, both in private firms and government (who are paid only when they work for the day) and “informal” workers, mostly street vendors, jeepney and tricycle drivers, and other micro-entrepreneurs in Metro Manila, whose livelihood depends on workday-activity in the metropolis.

Only Bejing in 2006 had a similar shutdown, intended mainly to ensure that its terrible pollution levels would go down during APEC. But with Beijing’s $15,000 per capita income, or four times that in Metro Manila, and with much fewer contract workers and poor informal workers, its shutdown was welcomed by the city’s residents. It was even cheered as a third “Golden Week,” referring to the two annual seven-day holidays coinciding with the Lunar New Year and the National Day in October.

That is certainly not the same case here, with contract and informal workers losing income for two to three days of work that they cannot recover.

Print media mostly downplayed the horrendous traffic on Monday when Roxas Boulevard was closed, to be exclusively used by APEC delegates. TV reporters did their job in interviewing ordinary folk crying in anger and pain, as they had to walk from as far as the northside end of Cavitex in Cavite province up to the Manila City Hall on an unusually hot November day. It was heart-rending to see a grandmother, with a toddler in tow, complaining why they had to suffer for an “EPEK” she could not understand.

A very angry young man told a reporter: “Gaganti kami.” (We’ll get even). When asked what he meant, he said: “Hindi namin iboboto sinuman na kasama ni Penoy [sic].” (We’re not going to vote for anyone associated with Penoy,” he said, referring to the President’s nickname.)/


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