My paper in the class of Principles of Economics — 2021
The Philippines, despite being an emerging economy, suffers a myriad of challenges that hinders growth and improved quality of life for its citizens. Most of the problems the country experiences at present can be linked with Poor Governance. According to multiple reports from Amnesty International, the World Bank and similar international institutions, the Philippines suffers mainly from developmental economic problems. Poverty is high in the country, with 18% of the population living below the poverty line. According to the Department of Education themselves, the country suffers a lot of issues when it comes to quality of education and the ability to provide it, especially to the marginalized in society. Due to this, other aspects of Philippine society are also affected. One notable observation of mine is that, during the election period, “trapos” and candidates with poor platforms or political dynasties get elected into office, simply because the Philippine populus lacks education to vote wisely.
To add to the mess, the private sector is often in tangles with the public sector. When it comes to the largest corporations here in the country, rampant corruption, backdoor deals, embezzlement, bribery and nepotism is seen (especially amongst the elites and dynasties), as well as a mismatch between genuine public good versus personal selfish political interests. As a result, many plans meant for the entire country’s development do not come into fruition; infrastructure projects, education projects, legislature and improved economic policies are great examples of things affected.
This chaos is not just limited to the larger businesses, according to many corruption research organizations from abroad, small businesses are often harassed by unfair treatment from agencies such as the BIR, Bureau of Customs and even local government/LGUs. As a result, enterprise is somewhat less incentivized and the consumer has to deal with delays, higher prices and even lack of ability to purchase certain goods. When business growth conflicts with selfish political interests; it will be a recipe for disaster.
International relations has not been great either; ever since the Duterte administration, the Palace has suddenly stopped wanting to defend its rights in the West Philippine Sea. Despite already winning the UNCLOS tribunal at the Hague, for some reason the president himself wants China to come in and strip the nation of its resources, whilst distancing itself from the protection of a long time ally, the United States. This leaves the people wondering: does the Palace have a death wish for the country?
In terms of demographics, the Philippines has both the talent and the resources to become a world leading economy; the only issue is that it is being bogged down by many issues.
To put all of this simply, the Philippines is suffering from poor quality Institutions, and given that healthy institutions are the key to a prosperous nation, the Philippines is left to stagnation and limited growth.
The Coronavirus Pandemic in the Philippines
As of writing, it has been over a year since the pandemic has reached the Philippines. Thousands of people have been promised government aid, but never got it. Many are jobless, sick, dying and hungry. Small to medium enterprises (SME) are taking the biggest hit, especially those in the entertainment, retail and dining industry.
Every Filipino would know that there are already cracks in the entire system this country is based upon. All it took was this pandemic to reveal how deep these issues were in the first place. One example for instance is the problem of government corruption that extends from the top level all the way down. Think issues such as the ignorance over the West Philippine Sea dispute, continued corruption and embezzlement of funds, political nepotism, donations and monetary assistance from abroad, as well as government meddling with the private sector’s plans for economic recovery and widespread vaccination amongst the people. Recently, the government has once again been under fire for attempting to discourage the establishment of “community pantries”, which are citizen made initiatives to fill the gap in which the government was unable to provide for.
R.A. 11494, or the “Bayanihan Act” for instance, can be considered a failure. According to the Official Gazette of the Philippines, the main intent with this act was to activate government funding towards providing much-needed assistance to the marginalized in society through food, health and financial aid. Unfortunately, only a portion of all Filipinos were ever able to aid they were entitled to. The LGU response was considered slow, and despite the allocated budget, the actualization of the aid did not appear to be in full effect. There have been a multitude of scandals on social media, the radio and the news, wherein people called out their local governance for corruption. They all had the same question: “Where did the money go?” Additionally, every Metro Manila citizen would know about how many people were forced by circumstance to squat and beg on the streets. Many businesses have long since been forced to shut down, leaving formerly busy urban districts into decay.
Another issue with the pandemic was with how the government was meddling with the private sector’s own initiative for economic recovery. For instance, the Ayala Corporation was one of the first conglomerates to bring in vaccines to the country, with the intent of vaccinating the non-health workers in depressed industries so that the country’s economy can slowly get back on track. The government halted and downright seized the stockpile, claiming that they will use them for frontline workers. Though, not much news has been released to the public about the status of that shipment, the public is not sure if those vaccines have been used for economic government, or have been a victim of political games. Many rumor that the vaccines were not distributed properly, and some were stolen and redistributed into the gray market. Regardless of the rumors’ authenticity; it is a fact that not enough people are getting vaccinated, and that has been admitted by the DOH themselves.
People movement was another controversial issue, as Filipinos who just wanted to come home to their families needed to file a vague amount of requirements for an unreasonable amount of money to many agencies like the PNP, LGU, various health institutions etc… just so they can travel. Even if they do comply with all the requirements, they still have to undergo 14 days of quarantine upon arrival, of which, the cost may or not be shouldered by the government. There have been reports where citizens have been harassed into quarantine through fake positive COVID results as well as forced quarantine by LGUs. The key question here is: Are government and medical institutions really caring for our safety, or are they just milking the money out of us?
Once again, it goes back to the issue of how the Philippine economy is strained by the government’s flaws. Given its current footing, the nation is currently set a course for stagnation and slow recovery. Whilst many countries in the world are already on the path to recovery, millions of Filipinos are jobless, suffering and dying, despite how much the private sector or the citizens fight to survive.
What Could Have Been Done?
“Lockdown means no human rights. Having no lockdown means no humans left”
With everything in life, balance is key. One particular observation of mine was that many of the pandemic protocols implemented do nothing to improve safety, but rather just make life more miserable for everyone.
An example of a protocol that could have (and should have) been made better was the policy on domestic and international travel by the DFA and local LGUs. Instead of forcing the citizens to file hundreds of required documents, why not have a streamlined system such as a virtual “travel pass”, that can be used anywhere in the country? We live in a world where we have the technology and the infrastructure to build frameworks, why not invest in information technology and create a simple solution and allow Filipinos their basic right to travel?
On the economic side of things, Filipinos are doing their best to stand up for their rights to livelihood. Community pantries, donations, pandemic funds and economic recovery initiatives by the private sector are examples of this. If the government really cares about its people, then it should allow these and stop meddling/politicizing these well-intentioned movements toward progress. The private sector should not be viewed as a “greedy enemy”, but rather a “partner” of the government when it comes to saving the Philippines. It is a well known public fact that the government owes it to the private sector for all their help and generosity. Rather than harassing these sectors, the government should have implemented a policy to protect them. It could be as simple as a Mayor’s city ordinance or an LGU mandate.
One thing that the government should have done in the first place is implement an economic policy that favors economics, instead of irrational safety paranoia. A great idea would be a bill or act to promote livelihood for industries that are heavily affected by the pandemic. If the government ensures that everyone still has a job, they would benefit from having to worry less about trying to feed more hungry citizens through the Bayanihan act, as well as alleviate the economic depression that came with the pandemic situation.
I, the author am not responsible for any negative consequence as a result of people reading and/or being influenced by this piece of independent academic literature. You, as the reader are given the right to consume this piece, but are not allowed to copy paste or plagiarize it under Philippine copyright law; of which, offenders could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 6 years and a fine of up to PHP 1,500,000.00 (or foreign equivalent) depending on the damages. By interacting with this page you agree to have your IP address and ISP collected as per legal liability for prosecution by Medium.com and it’s partner, Turnitin under any circumstance of piracy.
For educational purposes only.