I would like to echo this analysis piece published by the Agence France-Presse on our economy. It puts things in a very simple perspective that can be a cause for either hope or alarm depending on how you want to spin it.
Here are some points I would raise from the article:
- The Glorietta explosion, the Congress bombing and the Peninsula drama all failed to negatively impact our economy.
- The economy is now unaffected by all those calling for GMA’s impeachment.
- Political bickering and military adventurism are all just nuisances now. They don’t matter.
- The GMA administration has its problems, but the local investment community has come to terms with that.
- The general public would rather live with her administration.
- Concerns over corruption may no longer be deterrents to foreign investment. India and China, the two largest magnets for foreign investment, have long histories of corruption.
- There is still need for economic reform. With the right bills passed, we can attract up to an additional $35.8B worth of investments.
- The economy’s strength has been credited to the huge remittances of the millions of Filipinos working overseas, the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) sector at home, strong domestic demand and the resilience of the export industry.
This is good news of course, until you read between the lines. Political apathy is at an all-time high (read this blog entry by one of my best non-students, Rob Roque), corruption is tolerated, and our migrant economy is keeping us alive. So why the pessimism, Martin?
A lot are excited that soon, we will catch up and overtake our Southeast Asian neighbors such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. My take? They’re right. Though it may take a time before we overtake Singapore, but yes, we are catching up more and more with the rest of ASEAN.
Pretty soon, we will be very much the controlled or managed democracy they are. Simply stated, a controlled democracy is run by a state founded with democratic principles but operates using varying levels of autocracy. One symptom of this is a semi-free media where criticism is allowed but dissent is punished. Another clear sign is requiring permits for protest rallies. So in other words, we vote for our dictators.
So why am I pessimistic? Just because of the notion that not everyone may be happy with that kind of arrangement. I’m afraid that there may be another uprising or coup attempt in the future, but that will only serve to cement our controlled democracy status. People can be hurt and killed in the process.
However, it is a historical inevitability. Complete, liberal democracy is a historical impossibility in Southeast Asia where decisions are collectively made and law is not as binding as moral imperatives. Freedom may be a universal aspiration, but democracy is not.
Considering how we continue to toot our economic growth horn, I suppose the general public is in quiet agreement.