It's not the economy, stupid
Because it is election season, candidates are expected to indulge in political tirades meant to prop up their political stock. Certain issues such as fitness for office or morals are highly subjective and open to debate and interpretation. But the performance of the economy is not.
Sometime last week, the Genuine Opposition came up with a full-page advertisement in some newspapers to make mincemeat of the economic gains being trumpeted by this current administration.
In so many words, the opposition said that the country’s much-vaunted economic progress is a mirage and that the administration is making false claims, particularly about its role in the bull run of the stock exchange and in the appreciation of the peso. From the point of view of the Genuine Opposition, the current administration is simply lucky to be sitting in power at a time when all these good things are happening in the economic front. That like a natural phenomenon, economic progress is bound to happen anyway regardless of what this administration does or does not do.
This latest tirade is expected. The whole point of being in the opposition is to attack those who are in power and show the people why they are the better alternative.
Thus, efforts to refute the so-called economic gains is par for the course given the fact that even the economic managers of the country admit that so much more needs to be done before any economic progress can be felt by ordinary people.
But then again, the apparent lack of connection between economic figures and public perception is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to the Philippines. The latest issue of Time Magazine reports that the same phenomenon is shaking up the whole of Europe. While most countries in Europe are riding an economic boom, most Europeans are of the impression that they are worse off today than ever before. Discontent is a worldwide phenomenon brought about by increasing cost of living.
The opposition’s simplistic spin, however, is insulting because economic figures are difficult to fudge and our economic performance is subject to close scrutiny by a number of international agencies who are all in agreement that the economy is indeed picking up. More importantly, attacking the economy is counterproductive because quite frankly, it is not the issue. Politics is the issue.
Simply put, it is politics that is weighing down heavily on the economy, not the other way around. We should all be rallying around the economic gains and pushing these further upstream rather than tearing these apart.
The claim that the performance of the stock exchange is simply brought about by a general upsurge in the capital markets in the region is ridiculous because it assumes that international fund managers simply invest their money where the wave leads them. It doesn’t work that way and as someone who spent eight years in the local capital markets, I know that attracting foreign capital into the country is never that simple. God knows how hard the local capital markets people have been trying to entice foreign investors into bringing their money into the country. So once again: The upsurge in the local capital market is caused by increased confidence in our economic fundamentals.
To attribute the surge in the local stock market to sheer dumb luck is to spit on the faces of these people. In fact, the local market was able to recover within a day after a steep fall last Wednesday brought about by an external glitch, proof that our economic fundamentals are strong enough to withstand external factors.
But I just wish they stopped there. Unfortunately, the real intent of the ad became painfully obvious when it tried to make comparisons between the supposed economic gains under Joseph Estrada’s watch as president and those during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s. All those previous assertions that this election is not a contest between Estrada and Arroyo has just been shot down by that ad.
To say that we were better off during Estrada’s time than we are today is ludicrous. The Genuine Opposition is indulging in fallacious debates because to begin with, the context is not the same. The time gap between Estrada’s short-lived reign and the present is also a major factor that needs to be taken into account as people do tend to look at the past more kindly than they do the present.
Let’s shorten this pissing contest by simply stating the obvious: By no stretch of the imagination can Estrada be considered the better economic manager. How can a regime that plotted its economic programs during midnight meetings over bottles of scotch and which involved suspicious characters be any better? Of course his supporters say otherwise and they are entitled to live in their own mythical world where Estrada is a hero and maybe even perhaps a god. But I am aghast that the more learned people in the opposition seem unable to make these distinctions anymore perhaps because they can’t seem to see through their hatred for Arroyo.
Of course, this administration is guilty of so many sins and deserves to be made accountable for them. But let’s cut this BS about Estrada being the better leader. Let’s not rewrite history in an effort to topple this administration.
And more importantly, let’s not drag the economy into the fray. Whatever growth we are experiencing in the economic front deserves to be nurtured and supported regardless of where our political affiliation lies. It’s a given that sustained economic growth is bound to enhance our prospects as a nation in the long term. To do otherwise is akin to sabotage. Could it be that is exactly what the opposition is doing?
Any effort to undermine and sabotage the economy is counterproductive because it is not only Arroyo’s fortunes that are at stake here. If the GO wants to get the business sector and the working class on its side, it had better get its act together and leave the economy alone. The GO had better focus on more substantive issues rather than attack the economy. It seems to forget that there are so many among us who are working so hard to keep the economy afloat.
By attacking the economy, the opposition has only succeeded in alienating the business sector and the middle class.
More than two decades ago, just before Marcos was kicked out of power, the businessmen and the middle class rose up in arms over Marcos’ tirade against the business sector. At that time, the slogan of the businessmen and the middle class was “The issue is political, not economic, Mr. President.”
The Genuine Opposition had better brush up on history. It’s not the economy, stupid!