I was one of the millions of Filipinos glued to their seats to watch President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo deliver her 9th and last SONA or State of the Nation Address over a local TV network. It was full of statistics to quantify the present administration's achievements under Pres. Arroyo's leadership. Figures that made me sigh in relief and silently applaud...for a while.
"The state of our nation is a good economy," the President said. "Good news for our people, bad news for our critics," she added. GMA took pride in enumerating her administration's economic reforms, infrastructures, public service law, and many others.
Here are few of the highlights mentioned by the President:
- $6B revenues and 600,000 jobs created by the BPO industry
- Tourism almost doubled to a $5B industry
- $165B-Micro Finance Loans helped 7M entrepreneurs
- Banking system improved
- Foreign reserves have grown by $3B.
- GDP growth highest in 43 years
- Poverty reduced by almost half
- 1M jobs generated every year
- Economy posted uninterrupted growth for 33 quarters since 2001
- Our average inflation is lowest since 1966.
- The government's housing programs benefited 1M families.
- 16 kms. of farm-to-market roads
- Construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway
- Built seaports and the RORO system
- Constructed international airports and upgraded domestic airports
- Automated elections (digital infrastructure)
- Recommends radical reforms in the country's education system
- Will allot P1.5B budget for teacher training
- Built 95,000 rooms
- Hired 60,000 teachers
- Approval of the Cheaper Medicines Law
- improving health care in the country that covers 86% of the population
Apart from her administration's accomplishments, The President also chided her critics saying she did not become President to be popular. "Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones,those who should be in jail should not threaten it, especially if they have been there." she retorted.
Honestly, I was rather impressed with the President's SONA...because I was made to believe that the data given were all factual. A few hours later, news reports and editorials came out refuting The President's "facts and figures." Economists, people from the academe and the business sector were quick to challenge the veracity of the President's statistics. They cited the country's slow foreign trade, the low 0.4 growth of gross domestic product, among others.
One of those I watched on TV was Mareng Winnie Monsod, another woman I look up to for being so brainy, vocal, reputable, and vigilant. Monsod, a UP professor, is one of the country's respectable and credible economists.
Monsod argued that basing on actual figures from the National Statistics Office, only 2.8 M jobs were created from 2004-2008, a far cry from the promised 1M jobs per year. She added that poverty rose by almost 50%.
Monsod further enumerated the following that remains unanswered:
1. The increase in corruption
2. The increase in human rights violations
3. The increase in bureaucracy and overall demoralization of the civil service
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, meanwhile, said in an article on Business Mirror that "government statistics show that the number of poor Filipinos now total 27.6 million, or an increase of 2.7 million between 2000 and 2006. The number of poor families rose by 530,642 also during the same period, bringing the total to 4.7 million."
Is the economy really doing good as the President confidently stressed? Or is the country's economy just lucky to be sustained and fuelled by the OFW's billion dollar remittances? Who among them are giving the real statistics and the real state of the nation? Are the figures reported by the President factual or are they, like what her critics say, merely works of fiction?