Ang Naghihirap na Economiya

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Comics By: A. Lipin, ( January 16,2002)

Maaring narinig mo na ang slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." Ito ay isang patunay sa kahalagahan ng ekonomiya sa ating buhay.

Ang Pilipinas ay isa sa mga bansa sa buong mudo na sa kasalukuyang ay naghihirap ang ekonomiya sa harap ng ng globalisasyon. Noong 1986, ang tanyang na EDSA Revolution ay nagdala ng maraming pag-asa sa ekonomiya ngunit unti-uniting naglaho sa harap ng problema sa local at banyagang pagkakautang. Many observers thought that the moment had arrived for the country to shake off its old reputation as the 'sick man of Asia.' Hampered by  corruption, political conflicts, social instability, and economic mismanagement dating back to the independence of the Republic from the United States (1946), the Philippines was lagging  behind the newly-industrializing countries of Asia, such as South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.


Many observers thought that the moment had arrived for the country to shake off its old reputation as the 'sick man of Asia.'

While their economies started to reap the gains from developing their human resources and infrastructure during the '80s, the Filipinos had just begun the task of dismantling some of the old, inefficient  arrangements, rules and policies that helped bring down the economy from being second only to Japan in economic growth rate in the 1950s to one of slowest in the world.

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But economic travails have persisted despite the rehabilitation of Philippine democracy. Just as growth rate began to accelerate under the Ramos Administration, financial crisis and recession hit Asia and the rest of the world at the close of the century. Three Presidents after Corazon Aquino and the EDSA Revolution, the giant task to rebuild the economy carries on.

Economic Concerns

Managing an economy has become more and more a contradiction in terms nowadays. As illustrated by an old saying, "When (one country) sneezes, (other countries) catch a flu," economies are getting linked to one another in ways that make it difficult for smaller, Third World countries like the Philippines, to predict and control their respective economies.

It remains the government's job, however, to make sure that the burgeoning population do not become more and more vulnerable to the changes in the world economy.


The Philippines is highly-populated country. According to census data (NEDA, 2002), the Filipinos numbered about 76,499,000 in 2000. This phenomenal growth from a mere 20 million around 1950s has been a tremendous concern for government planners. Unemployment in April 2002 stood at 13.9% (NSCB, 2002).

Census of Population
(in millions)
1948 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
19.234 27.088 36.684 48.098 60.703 76.499

Source: National Economic and Development Authority
Note: Data as of June 20020


Common knowledge holds that almost half of the country's population is below the poverty level. There is however, another indicator used for gauging the country's condition. The 2000 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR 2000) found that in terms of human development, the Philippines is faring relatively well despite the stagnant economy. The Human Development Index (HDI) - measuring life expectancy, functional literacy and income, among other things -  has become a popular index for those who wish to understand whether having high or low economic growth rates are equivalent to having better or worse choices and standards of living. Read former Economic Planning Secretary Solita Collas Monsod's article [A More Differentiated Look at Poverty] discussing the following findings:


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Photos: Office of the Press Secretary (2001)

A team of agencies, headed by the Office of the President, takes charge of economic planning and management in the country.  Following are the major economic agencies:

Forecasts for 2002

Following is the NEDA's Growth Forecasts for Fiscal Year 2002:

"The government’s forecast of real GDP growth in 2002 is 4.0 – 4.5 percent. The realization of this forecast rests on continued macroeconomic stability. The government remains committed to its fiscal deficit reduction program. For 2002, the fiscal deficit is targeted to decline to P130 billion which is equivalent to 3.1% of GNP, from P147 billion in 2001 which is equivalent to 3.8 percent of GNP.

Likewise, as the US economy recovers and the Eurozone economies strengthen, which is anticipated by many analysts, the prospects are bright that this GDP growth forecast will be realized. Rising consumer and business confidence in the country will also permit GDP growth to gain strength.

Debt and the Budget

According to the Philippine Constitution, the biggest chunk of the public budget should go into Education. However, this has been technically ignored. The Philippine budget, for the last three decades, has been largely devoted to paying off the country's huge foreign and domestic debts and their interests. As of 2001, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the country owes some $52,355 million in total external debt (see -

For year 2001, the external debt's ratio to the country's GNP is 64.61%. It is 68.35% to the GDP.

See the current Philippine Government budget by agency, fund, and program: R.A. No. 9162  GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT,   FY 2002 at -

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Lingering Issues

"The happiest Asians around."

This is what Flipinos are often called perhaps owing to the fun-loving and hospitable nature of the people, but definitely not the state of the economy. Despite the growth of democracy in the Philippines, the economy remains in a critical condition.

A recent survey by Pulse Asia (Philippine Star, June 26, 2002) shows that one out of five Filipinos would like to seek better lives in other countries, given the chance. Philippine leaders and economic managers are constantly changing faces; yet, it is a truism that changing even a President really cannot do much to influence the economy in the modern age. An unfortunate behavior on the part of a President (recall the Estrada scandals) really is economically insignificant compared to the devastation that the yearly natural disasters visit to the country, or to the global financial crisis that began in 1997.

There are, however, several matters that can adversely influence any economic development program and the perceptions of potential foreign investors in the country.

  • corruption - government losses due to corruption has been estimated to hover around 20% of the national budget (Doronila, 1999); corruption in the country is said to have reached the systemic level
    (Photo: Phil.Center for Investigative Journalism, 2000)

  • peace and order - the fact that the country has been used as a base of international terrorist has dampened once again the business atmosphere
    (Photo: BBC News, 1999)
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  • loss of natural resources - the rapid conversation of lands for residential and commercial purposes coupled with natural disasters (the Philippines was declared the most disaster-prone country in the world in 2000 by a Brussels-based research center) and armed military operations have contributed to the insufficiency of the country's agricultural output

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  • human resource competitiveness - skills training is urgently needed for the growing population, many of whom are out of school; as people are the most numerous resources found in the country, the government should put in place an industry-related national training program

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These are important issues that must only be left in the hands of the Philippine government. These are issues that ordinary Filipinos need to resolve upon themselves to act upon and change. Recalling Secretary Solita Monsod's words: "Filipinos, at least those in (some) provinces, are doing something right, because we are managing to maximize the choices that are available to us given our incomes, or to minimize the negative consequences to human development of our income poverty," ordinary folks need to be able to ponder their strengths, weaknesses and choices, and act decisively on a matter that can never be left alone to elected leaders.

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