Suspicion of disbelief | Inquirer Business
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Suspicion of disbelief

/ 02:15 AM October 13, 2014

The key to understanding the government, at least in the past four years under our dear leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS), is this thing in fictional work in literature and cinema known as suspension of disbelief—and the operative word is “fictional.”

In other words, let us continue to be kind to the Aquino (Part II) administration.

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For example, this government outfit known simply as BSP, the Bangko Sentral itself, proudly announced in media a rare feat achieved by the Philippines, as the country posted a “record high” in FDI (foreign direct investments) only a few months ago last July.

And what was the amount of the FDI last July? Well, it seemed that, for just one month, the Philippines already recorded a whopping FDI of $400 million. Reports quoted the BSP thus: “This reflected continued favorable sentiment on the Philippine economy on the back of the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals.” Wow, hurry, pop up the champagne already!

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There you are, ladies and gentlemen: It was one single statistic on foreign direct investments—just one out of hundreds of different complicated numbers that the whole world tracks to monitor the economic performance of a certain country—which the BSP even culled from all of the entire stretch of just one freaking month!

Yet, as our dutiful submissive BSP crowed boldly, that one freaking month of “record high” was a surefire indication of this propaganda line of the government: The Philippines remained as the “strongest” economic performer in the whole continent known as Asia.

That was of course the very line fed by the Aquino (Part II) administration to the general public through its much vaunted propaganda machinery—that our economy was doing just swell under our dear leader BS, perhaps in an attempt to hide his pathetic record in economic management, if indeed he even tried to dip his fingers into it.

Well, for the past four years under our dear leader BS, this country grappled with problems like high unemployment rate (more 7 percent), not to mention the high “underemployment” rate (18-19 percent); the desperate state of infrastructure in land, air and sea transport, which was the root of our problems in traffic, port congestion, airline schedule delays; or the high power rates (highest in Asia), not to mention the impending power shortage in 2015 that is already expected to paralyze entire industries in the whole of Luzon.

To top it all, we hardly heard any news about any comprehensive solution to all those problems besetting the business sector—and thus all of us who depend on the business sector for our jobs.

And so on the “record high” FDI last July, what our beloved BSP forgot to tell us in its media statement was this: We still attract the least amount of FDIs among the original five members of the Asean.

Yes, boss, compared to the FDIs flowing into Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand—and now even Vietnam—our FDI was still wretchedly shamefully miserably small. It is as if the foreign investors were much like bettors at the racetracks, putting money in the Philippines as a hedge—you know, as “insurance bet,” a just-in-case-by-some-freak-accident-it-wins bet.

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In other words, it was not an economic feat at all.

For it would be difficult for the Aquino (Part II) administration to manipulate the fact that, as of last year, believe it or not, the Philippines posted close to $4 billion in FDI, which actually represented only 3 percent—yes, that is actually the number “3” and not just a typo—out of the total FDI flowing into the entire Asean.

The $4 billion in FDI that we got last year seemed to be morsel from an enormous feast of FDI in Asean, which as a region got a total of more than $120 billion, which could make us wonder if we should still believe the Aquino (Part II) administration on its propaganda line that our economy was the best performer in the whole of Asia.

For despite the ceaseless propaganda from the Palace, the fact remained that, last year, out of the $120 billion FDI in Asean, Singapore got more than $60 billion, Indonesia with more than $18 billion, Thailand with $13 billion, and Malaysia with $12 billion.

Again—hold your disbelief—the suspiciously best economic performer in the whole of Asia got only $4 billion! Look, boss, even Vietnam got almost $9 billion in FDI last year, which was really more than double the total FDI intake of the Philippines.

Guess what sector was the most attractive destination for the FDI in Vietnam—yes, none other than infrastructure.

(By the way, one local group with experience in toll road management recently received a contract from Hanoi to handle a brand-new 200-kilometer toll way, which the Vietnamese government itself built, which was not part of the FDI flowing into that country.)

Infrastructure, anyway, was the very same sector that we needed to prop up, at least according to the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum, which was repeatedly noted in its “competitiveness index” during the past years of the Aquino (Part II) administration, which in turn did not miss the chance to boast about our improving standing in the WEF index as clear proof that our leader BS was doing just swell.

And so with less than two years remaining in the term of our dear leader BS, after more than four years of so-so performance in infrastructure, the administration now wants to do too much with too little time.

It seemed that, based on media pronouncements of the administration, our leader BS wanted to accomplish in less than two years, or before the end of his term in 2016, something that he could not do in the past four years.

And that was, well, our leader BS wanted to raise the investments in infrastructure to some 5.5 percent of the GDP by 2016, compared to 2.2 percent of GDP in 2012. How would he do it? Well, based on news reports, the administration would unleash the power of its much-flaunted PPP.

That is of course the “public-private partnership” program of the administration—and not the recycled version of the PPP more popular in the business sector, which actually stood for “power point presentation.”

According to news reports, the Aquino (Part II) administration would continue to push for some $12-billion investments in some 16 projects in airports, railways and roads under the PPP program that, after four years, had yet to show any single completed infrastructure project in the critical area of transportation.

Look, boss, we have bad roads all over the place, which should tell us only about the misguided priority of our government, as we were often told that the number of vehicles keeps going up, which in turn should only lead to worse traffic conditions—really, much worse than it already is today.

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Business, economy, foreign direct investments, News
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