Social media influence on economic policies feared
The Philippines is opening a new chapter this week as results of the national election trickle in, but concerns over how social media is shaping governance and influencing the direction of the economy loom.
Victor Andres Manhit, founder and managing director of think tank Stratbase Group, made this observation as a resource person in a recent economic forum organized by Security Bank Corp.
Manhit said that, in particular, the direction of the economy in the next six months will be determined based on who wins as president and who will sit on the new Cabinet.
He said that, as usual, the economy will move according to the statements that the new president will make in their first State of the Nation Address come July.
“Social media is shaping the discourse [and] mainstream media is catching up,” Manhit.
Social media platforms—over the past several years and especially during the recent election campaign season—have been rife with misinformation and disinformation.
Operators of platforms like Facebook and Twitter have themselves announced the suspension of networks of accounts that are conduits of inauthentic behavior. This refers to accounts through which users misrepresent themselves or accounts that are fake and used to artificially boost engagement of certain content.
“If the presidency is shaped by what is happening on social media, then imagine what governance would be and that for me is the great challenge,” Manhit said. According to Tsek.ph, an academe-based fact-checking initiative, Vice President Leni Robredo is the “biggest victim” of disinformation while former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the beneficiary of positive but misleading messaging on social media.
In a commentary issued in April, New York-based GoldmanSachs said Marcos’ plans for the country’s economic future appears to be a continuation of Duterte policies in general and pointing to more expenses and minimal debt management.
At the same time, an administration run by Leni Robredo might mean a significant shift, considering her comprehensive plan to free the Philippines from the clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic.
GoldmanSachs noted that this was the case even as the next administration would need to make policy choices such as maintaining a direction toward prudent fiscal improvement while still nurturing a still nascent economic recovery.
These choices will have to be made amid public debt and external financing constraints, and adverse impacts of global price shocks.
Last February, a slew of Filipino economists — including former Economic Planning Secretaries who served in successive administrations from that of Corazon Aquino to that of Rodrigo Duterte — expressed their support for Vice President Leni Robredo’s shot for the presidency.
“We are convinced that only a competent leadership can restore the people’s trust and confidence in government enabling it to effectively preside over the collective effort of economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic,” the economists said in a statement.
The economists said that considering economic recovery should be a priority in the next administration’s agenda, they are endorsing “a leadership with a vision for the future” and one which understands that addressing the crisis will take a long time but also appreciates the urgency of providing relief and comfort to the vulnerable.
“Bad governance is a poison that kills both lives and livelihoods,” they said. “Robredo’s brand of good governance is the antidote this country needs.”
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