Friday, November 6, 2015

Presidential suck-ups to business

Presidential suck-ups to business.
Herman Tiu Laurel, November 1, 2015, Sunday.
A week ago the top presidential candidates bared their economic plans at the 2-day 41-st Philippine Business Conference & Expo at a Manila hotel carrying “One. Global. Filipino: Synergies in partnerships for Global Competitiveness”.
Essentially, aside from the flap with Grace Poe who declined upon hearing the event was on a debate format but suddenly popped up when it was changed to simple exposition, the candidates lines “showed no marked departure from current  policies, validating analyst expectations of continuity under a new political leadership that would provide solid ground for continued strong growth” a report by Victor V. Saulon of the Manila Times described.
The situation reminded us of a quote from Mark Twain who said once, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” Or 20th century American political activist Emma Goldman who said, “If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal.”
The real power in Philippine society today is in the hands of Big Business connected to the global financial oligarchy. In the hands of cold-hearted businessmen especially the likes of the Ayalas, Aboitizes, Pangilinan, Lopezes, et al who have taken public utilities like electricity, water, public transportation infrastructure as cash cows for their financial empires – with Wall Street financiers such as Goldman Sachs etc. behind and the U.S. State Department’s protection racket.

Motherhood statements.
The first speaker, Miriam Defensor-Santiago declared: “I commit to invest in people, public infrastructure and political institutions,” and people to be prepared for a modern global economy. The country she said needs more irrigation, farm-to-market roads and research and development. Philippine political parties remain unstable so she would push for public funds to support these parties. Her first priority would be enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI).
The problem of the FOI is that is only demands government’s transparency and not transparency from the National and Transnational Oligarchy’s Corporations that have taken over most of the vital public functions. Under the cover of “trade secrets” and/or “corporate secrecy privilege” these large predatory corporations have withheld from public scrutiny the terms and conditions of contracts of power utilities, water utilities, toll road services.
Jejomar C. Binay, the second speaker, opened with: “Our economic agenda is simple: sustainable and shared economic growth.” Sounds good, but sustaining what and shared by whom? Manila Times columnist Marlen Ronquillo had a good article on American oligarch Steve Forbes’ praise for BS Aquino’s economy, “Under Mr. Aquino, 60 percent of GDP went straight to Top 1 percent and Mr. Forbes likes nothing better than an economic system of upward redistribution.”
Binay wants to accelerate infrastructure development and says the government has the money for it. He wants to sustain the 7-8%GDP growth and that benefits cascade to the poor. He upholds the “sanctity of contracts” and promises to “amend the …1987 Constitution that … restrict the entry of foreign investments …. (to) address nagging problems … such as unreliable and expensive power, poor infrastructure, and lack of jobs.” He reaffirmed support for many more pro-business incentives and the B-O-T law, as well as reduction of personal and corporate income taxes.

I am almost ready to curse (but I will refrain from saying “dumbass” dumbo): the highest power cost in Asia is precisely because of privatization to foreign corporations and the local oligarchy – remember American Mirant Corp. cornering major power privatization contracts in 2001 after raking in billions of dollars and then selling its assets to Mitsubishi in 2006, and the IFC (International Finance Corpo.) behind all major power privatization (like Meralco). Now recall the failure of MRT, and then  the exorbitant fare increases of MRT/LRT. It’s more wealth transfer to the oligarchy as Ronquillo wrote.
Roxas II extolled the “daang matuwid” (straight path) governance thrust citing BS Aquino’s government’s investment in people and infrastructure. The road and traffic infrastructure in Metro-Manila is the highlight of “daang matuwid” which has become the nightmare of the decades, and there is not a single memorable infrastructure project to remember this administration by – six years wasted. If any project has started it is at the closing year of the administration and at the delayed timetable and high cost the PPP (Public Private Partnership, i.e. privatization) extracts from the people.

 Roxas reportedly highlighted education, but the memorable education  project of this administration is the “K-12” that dislocates up to 120,000 teachers and school workers, cause from 800K to 1.4-M dropouts, additional P 200,000 per student entering senior high school (transport, food, materials for two extra years), cost universities and colleges estimated P 150-B in losses over the transition years, all due to ill-preparation by the BS Aquino administration. There was more diarrhoea of motherhood statements but a waste of time to review.
Ms. Poe said she would have the best and the brightest in her cabinet. Hohum. She’d like to do some interior redesigning, “We should transform -- and this may be a bold move -- one of the rooms in Malacanang into an infrastructure war room for projects, with real time feedback capability, if possible”. Wow! One room and communication connection withal infrastructure projects she isn’t even sure in this wireless, satellite Internet age that it can be done? Like Miriam she prioritizes the FOI – but not Big Business secrets even on public utility projects that the corporations keep from the public eyes.

There is very little else the news reports say of Poe’s speech, except additionally that she arrived late and didn’t stay for questions in the open forum. Poe “came and left” one report said. If this report on Poe’s speech is short it is because she said and had so little to say.
The Pope on Capitalism.

These candidates in this supposed Christian country couldn’t even think of authentically representing even by a little the suffering of millions of poor and the disappearing middle class of this country. The country has been under the regime of capitalist privatization of essential public utilities and services the past thirty years yet it fails to halve its poverty incidence, using government stats, from 34.4 % in 1991 to 17.2% by 2015. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have achieved this years ago.
Using the ridiculous low poverty threshold of P 52.60 per day income in in 2012 tepoverty incidence was 25.2%, in the first half of 2014 it was 25.8% and still rising in 2015. The SWS using its system of “self-rated poverty” found 51% or 11.4-M families (multiply by five members each) of Filipino families considering themselves in poverty, and 3-M families experienced involuntary hunger during the same period. Meanwhile, based on a declaration of former president Gloria Arroyo’s economic adviser Joey Salceda in 2010, the Philippines top listed corporations rake in P 1-Trillion annually.
Isn’t it unbridled capitalism or a degenerated form of it in this economically malformed society that Big Business can earn P 1-Trillion annually while around 55-Million are in poverty? In November of 2013 global news was swamped by headlines of Pope Francis calling unfettered capitalism “the new tyranny” in an 84-page document know as an apostolic exhortation or the official platform of the papacy. It attacked the “idolatry of money” and added that "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor." There didn’t seem to be any real Catholic amongst the presidential speakers that day at that business  conference.
How about Revolution.
If elections in this country changed anything they would ban it. With the Smartmatic scam still prevailing and the oligarchy having all presidential candidates (including the fifth one who got to be congressman today on Napoles’ money) eating out of their hands, elections represent  one and the same of the past thirty-years of U.S.-Philippine unfettered capitalism sucking dry the blood and life out of our land and seas, and out people.  Election has become the opiate of the people, distracting it with the excitement of false hope. But how do we wage Revolution? It is still by political education – like this. ##

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