JOBLESS FILIPINOS HIT 12.1 MILLION!
Unemployment rate rose to 27.5% in Q4- SWS survey

The number of unemployed Filipinos in the last quarter of 2013 swelled to more than 12 million, making the 7.2-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, considered the second-fastest after China, far from inclusive. The unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million individuals, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found. Malacañang on Monday described as “understandable” the findings of the SWS survey. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed to calamities that hit the country last year to help “explain” why unemployment rate increased to 27.5 percent at the end of 2013.

ALSO: Palace not surprised by uptick in jobless rate

Malacañang said it was not surprised at the unemployment figures recorded in the latest SWS survey. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda attributed the possible increase to the series of calamities that hit the country including the Central Visayas earthquake and typhoon "Yolanda". "Yolanda" slammed into parts of the Visayas last November, flattening towns and cities. "Given the nature of the severity of the three (calamities), especially of typhoon 'Yolanda', where you saw a big chunk of Eastern Visayas affected… I think the rise of the unemployment can be explained here," Lacierda said. At the same time, the SWS survey also showed Filipinos were slightly optimistic that they will get jobs this year.

ALSO: Aquino on rise in joblessness: What went wrong?

Baffled by the high unemployment rate, President Aquino on Tuesday quizzed the Cabinet on its “action plan for poverty reduction” as the benefits of a strong economy were eluding the country’s middle class and poor. Aquino presided over a rare full Cabinet meeting that included Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of Malacañang. The meeting came after the media reported a finding of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year. The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent, the second-fastest after China’s, showing that the economic growth was not inclusive.

EMIL JURADO: The alarming unemployment numbers

Reports said that in the last 20 years, the highest unemployment rate was recorded in February 2009 at 34.4 percent. Now, it’s at 27.5 percent—if that’s any consolation. Malacañang had a ready excuse for this. According to the Palace, this was to be expected with man-made and natural calamities hitting the country last year, like the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front’s standoff with the military in Zamboanga City and the devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas. The fact is, that there is a slowdown in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors because of lack of foreign direct investments. Now here is what’s bothersome. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz now claims that government data show that calamities do not have an impact on employment, and that SWS figures are always higher because the latter uses a different methodology. Baldoz further says that the Department of Labor and Employment is guided by the National Statistical Coordination Board labor force survey, which puts the unemployment rate at only 7 percent. Which figure are we now to believe?

BOO CHANCO: P-Noy needs to take bolder steps

With less than two and a half years left in his term, P-Noy needs to take bolder steps to address the key problems of this country. He has to learn to venture out of his comfort zone. Otherwise, many festering problems will just get worse before his term ends. Good intentions and token solutions don’t count. The President cannot think that just because he has a Conditional Cash Transfer program he has done his share in fighting poverty. The CCT is a stop-gap measure at best, a means to help the next generation of marginalized families to break out of poverty through better education and health care. Fighting poverty means creating jobs… here at home. The foreign jobs help, but again sending Filipinos abroad and breaking up families was supposed to be a stop-gap measure too. It became somewhat permanent only because our leaders have failed to address the problem of joblessness at home.


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

Jobless Filipinos hit 12.1M SWS: Unemployment rate rose to 27.5% in Q4


AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, FEBRUARY 17, 2014 (INQUIRER) The number of unemployed Filipinos in the last quarter of 2013 swelled to more than 12 million, making the 7.2-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, considered the second-fastest after China, far from inclusive.

The unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million individuals, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found.

The level of joblessness across the country was almost 6 points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the previous quarter, results of the SWS survey conducted from Dec. 11 to 16 showed. The results were first published in BusinessWorld.

Nikka Policarpio, 19, who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas last year with a degree in journalism, is among the millions of unemployed.

Nearly a year after college, Policarpio is already in between jobs since she left her first job last month as a marketing communications specialist.

“I have been applying at different media companies for less than a month now… I want to take a rest before I start working again,” said Policarpio, who resigned from her nine-month stint with a cosmetics company because the low compensation did not match the heavy workload.

The high unemployment rate despite the high GDP growth may have contributed to the pessimistic outlook of Filipinos last December.

A survey by another polling outfit, Pulse Asia, found that 55 percent of Filipinos felt the national quality of life deteriorated in the past 12 months. They also expected the situation to remain the same for the whole of 2014.

‘Understandable’

Malacañang on Monday described as “understandable” the findings of the SWS survey.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed to calamities that hit the country last year to help “explain” why unemployment rate increased to 27.5 percent at the end of 2013.

Lacierda cited Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which devastated central Philippines last November, and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu provinces a month earlier.

According to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, some 6 million workers saw their livelihood destroyed or disrupted as a result of Yolanda.

Lacierda said the siege of Zamboanga City by Nur Misuari’s followers “also disrupted” economic activity in the area.

“Certainly, it’s very unfortunate that these things happened, but we have to rise up. That is the role of government: to provide for its people,” he said.

‘Bloodied but unbowed’

“We were bloodied but unbowed,” Lacierda added, borrowing the words of William Ernest Henley’s poem, “Invictus.”

Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, Lacierda said the government would “continue to ensure that our people find employment.”

The latest jobless rate, however, was below the 34.4 percent posted in March 2012.

The unemployment rate has mostly remained over 20 percent since May 2005, according to SWS. It was under 15 percent from 1993 to March 2004, and was within 16.5 percent to 19 percent from August 2004 to March 2005.

Different definitions

The SWS definition of unemployment covers respondents aged 18 and above who are “without a job at present and looking for a job.” This excludes those not looking for work such as housewives, students and retired or disabled persons.

This is different from the official definition in the Labor Force Survey (LFS), which covers persons 15 years and over who are reported not working, looking for work and available for work.

The government’s latest LFS put the official unemployment rate at 6.5 percent (about 2.6 million Filipinos) as of October 2013.

The SWS survey also found that 40 percent of respondents believed there would be more jobs in the next 12 months, 31 percent claimed the number of available jobs would remain the same, while 21 percent expected fewer jobs.

Unemployment picked up sharply among men (from 13.4 percent to 21.2 percent) but remained higher among women (from 32.4 percent to 35.9 percent).

Highest among 18-24

Across age groups, joblessness remained highest among those 18-24 years old (52.3 percent). It was 33.1 percent in the 25-34 age bracket, 25 percent in the 35-44 age bracket and 17.7 percent among those 45 years old and older.

The nationwide unemployment included those who were retrenched (10.4 percent), resigned from their jobs (13.5 percent), and first-time job seekers (3.5 percent).

‘Endo’

Of those retrenched, 6.8 percent did not have their contracts renewed (also called “endo” or end of contract, usually after six months so that the workers won’t be regularized and the employer won’t pay benefits), 1.6 percent had employers whose businesses ceased operations and 2 percent were laid off.

The survey, which used face-to-face interviews with 1,550 Filipinos, had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 percentage points.—Reports from Rafael L. Antonio and Kathleen de Villa, Inquirer Research; and Christian V. Esguerra

FROM ABS-CBN

Palace not surprised by uptick in jobless rate ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 02/10/2014 6:10 PM | Updated as of 02/11/2014 12:11 PM


LACIERDA

MANILA, Philippines - Unemployment rose in December, according to a new survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS).

BusinessWorld reported that the jobless rate jumped six points to 27.5% for the December 11-16 SWS survey, equivalent to 12.1 million adult Filipinos. This was higher than the 21.7%, estimated at 9.6 million Filipinos, recorded during the previous quarter.

This was the highest unemployment rate recorded by the SWS since August 2012's 29.4%. The official unemployment rate is 6.5% or 2.6 million.

Malacañang said it was not surprised at the unemployment figures recorded in the latest SWS survey.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda attributed the possible increase to the series of calamities that hit the country including the Central Visayas earthquake and typhoon "Yolanda". "Yolanda" slammed into parts of the Visayas last November, flattening towns and cities.

"Given the nature of the severity of the three (calamities), especially of typhoon 'Yolanda', where you saw a big chunk of Eastern Visayas affected… I think the rise of the unemployment can be explained here," Lacierda said.

Lacierda said that government is addressing the situation by coming up with cash-for-work programs in calamity-hit areas, adding that jobs are expected to be created with the reconstruction phase kicking in.

At the same time, the SWS survey also showed Filipinos were slightly optimistic that they will get jobs this year. Around 40% of the respondents said the jobs outlook would improve this year, while 31% said it would stay the same and 21% said the number of jobs would decline -- resulting to a net optimism score of +19. This was 15 points higher than net optimism score of +4 in September.

The SWS said this was the highest net optimism score since November 2010, when it stood at "very high" score of +36.

"Adult joblessness has been traditionally dominated by those who voluntarily left their old jobs and those who lost their jobs through economic circumstances beyond their control," the SWS was quoted by BusinessWorld as saying.

The SWS December 11-16 survey involved face-to-face interviews of 1,550 adults nationwide.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz attributed the high number of unemployed in the SWS survey to its different methodology.

She said that government is guided by the NSO's labor force survey.

"Laging mataas ang lumalabas sa resulta ng SWS survey because they use a different methodology than the labor force survey also done on a quarterly basis by the National Statistics Office of the NEDA. So parang hindi fair na mag-compare ka, dahil hindi siya apple to apple. Ang methodology totally different but we in government is guided by the labor force survey of the NSO. That has been the case from the beginning. As far as the unemployment is concerned, nasa 7.2 percent tayo," Baldoz said. - With report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

FROM THE INQUIRER

Aquino on rise in joblessness: What went wrong? By Michael Lim Ubac, Jerome Aning Michelle V. Remo -


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/02/Cabinet-members-0212.jpg
Cabinet members enjoy a light moment before the arrival of President Aquino for Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting in Malacañang. They are (from left) Voltaire Gazmin (defense), Patricia Licuanan (Commission on Higher Education), Paquito Ochoa (executive secretary), Dinky Soliman (social welfare), Rogelio Singson (public works and highways), Cesar Purisima (finance) and Rene Almendras (Cabinet secretary). LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines—Baffled by the high unemployment rate, President Aquino on Tuesday quizzed the Cabinet on its “action plan for poverty reduction” as the benefits of a strong economy were eluding the country’s middle class and poor.

Aquino presided over a rare full Cabinet meeting that included Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of Malacañang.

The meeting came after the media reported a finding of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year.

The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent, the second-fastest after China’s, showing that the economic growth was not inclusive.

The unemployment rate was 6 percentage points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the previous quarter, according to the SWS survey.

Aquino “prayed for God’s guidance” at the start of the meeting, Malacañang said.

At press time, the Cabinet was still discussing the action plan as well as the “strategic framework of human development and poverty reduction,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said in a text message he sent to members of the media.

The action plan for poverty reduction is indispensable to the Aquino administration’s goal of “inclusive growth.” Poverty incidence in the country stood at 25.2 percent in 2012.

“We are focusing on job creation in manufacturing and more highly remunerative sectors,” Coloma said, when asked by reporters why, despite the strong capital inflows, the level of joblessness was growing.

Coloma said the conditional cash transfer program and programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) “have been expanded to ensure that children of most needy families become employable.”

Faces of poverty

Margie Sta. Ana, 55, said she did not feel the economic growth.

“It’s even hard to find a job even if you are a college graduate,” said Sta. Ana, who worked as a factory worker for 30 years.

She lives with her sickly husband under the stairs of a dilapidated two-story apartment in Makati City because they can no longer afford the rent.

Like Sta. Ana, Astro Camitan, 25, said he also didn’t enjoy the benefits of the country’s growing economy.

“They (corrupt officials) pocket the people’s fund instead of using it to help the needy,” said Camitan, a father of one and works as a tricycle driver. “What progress are they talking about if they are the only ones who benefit from it?”

Allies and critics alike of the administration as well as economists and a multilateral agency put forward various proposals to address the unemployment problem.

Instead of blaming calamities for the soaring number of jobless Filipinos, the government should focus on having labor-intensive infrastructure projects that would achieve the twin goals of providing jobs and reconstructing devastated areas, said Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.

Reacting to the SWS findings on Wednesday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the unemployment rate increased in the last quarter because of the calamities that hit the country.

Contractualization

But while this was the case, Bello said the increasing number of the unemployed could also be attributed to existing policies on labor contractualization, a scheme in which workers are let go after six months so that employers will not hire them on a regular basis and thus pay for their benefits.

Three labor groups—Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)—said “jobless growth” would continue unless the primary causes of unemployment were recognized and addressed.

Trade liberalization

PM chair Renato Magtubo said that while climate change was becoming a big threat to the Philippines, the primary culprits behind the rising unemployment levels were trade liberalization, lack of an industrial program and privatization-led growth model.

Industrialization

TUCP executive vice president Gerardo Seno said the government must continue to attract new job-creating investments, build new roads, bridges, and sea ports and airports, and lower electricity rate if it wanted to effectively address the unemployment problem.

KMU attributes the high unemployment rate to dependence on foreign investments, alleged failure to implement genuine land reform and absence of national industrialization.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in a recent publication titled “Taking the Right Road to Inclusive Growth,” said the failure of the country to boost its industrial sector was a key reason why its economic growth remained far from being inclusive.

“The Philippine economy’s chronic problems of high unemployment, slow poverty reduction and low investment are reflections of the sluggish industrialization,” the ADB said.

Manufacturing

The ADB said the industrial sector, which included manufacturing, should be the one driving the economy to substantially reduce unemployment and poverty.

Growth of the Philippine economy over the past decade, however, has been driven by the service sector, which includes the business process outsourcing (BPO) subsector.

While the BPO sector in particular and the overall services sector in general have provided economic gains, these are not responsive to the need for inclusive growth.

According to the ADB, the industrial sector, compared with the service sector, has the better ability to create job opportunities for the poor. Also, the industrial sector has a much higher multiplier effect on the economy.

The ADB suggested more government support for the industrial sector through investments in education, skills training and infrastructure to achieve inclusive economic growth.

Economists’ take

Economists said it would take a while before the country’s economic growth would translate into significant drop in unemployment and poverty.

When an economy takes a high-growth trajectory, businesses do not immediately hire more workers. They only do so when they are convinced that robust economic growth is sustainable, said Victor Abola, an economics professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

“Initially, they (businesses) will just require existing workers to work overtime,” Abola told the Inquirer.

Benjamin Diokno, an economics professor at the University of the Philippines, said economic growth did not always equate to a drop in the unemployment rate. In the case of the Philippines, he said, many recent investments were capital-intensive but not labor-intensive.

“Most public and private construction can be characterized as large-scale, capital intensive. Even the multibillion-peso school-building program was implemented by big-time contractors using capital intensive or labor-saving technologies,” Diokno told the Inquirer.

Diokno said the Philippines needed to invest more in sectors that were labor-intensive and job-generating in order to see a drop in the unemployment rate.

Human development
At the full Cabinet meeting that started at 10 a.m., the President was briefed on “jobs challenge and human development” by the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Tesda, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Trade and Industry.

Other issues discussed with the President were “protecting the poor and the vulnerable (social protection).” The Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council led the discussions.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Science and Technology discussed “cross-cutting concerns and support for human development and poverty reduction,” while the agriculture, environment and agrarian reform departments zeroed in on “rural development and poverty focus,” said Coloma.
Coloma said a special presentation on “Fish Settlement” in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda was also made by the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Besides antipoverty issues, the President and his Cabinet also tackled issues dealing with peace and order, and disasters.

The Cabinet secretaries also discussed with the President several measures that were consistent with the administration’s “social contract” with the Filipino people.—With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Rafael L. Antonio, Inquirer Research

FROM MANILA STANDARD

The alarming unemployment numbers By Emil Jurado | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am

TWO of my sons and their wives took a short trip to Cagayan de Oro last week to visit relatives. Regarding their return flight, they were told to book early because flights were often cancelled. Mist was common in the late afternoon, making flights to and from the Laguindingan Airport unpredictable.

The President inaugurated this airport just last year. And now the place is called “hindi maka-land” airport. The reason is its lack of navigational equipment. More importantly, there is also a lack of landing lights.

Already on board, my children had to wait for an hour before taking off. They were told it took that much time to get clearance from other airports in Visayas and Mindanao because of congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

My gulay, it’s certainly more fun in the Philippines! Can the Department of Tourism even imagine what foreign tourists would think?

***

The Social Weather Stations survey showed that the number of jobless Filipinos, out of a population close to 100 million, rose to 12.1 million during the last quarter of last year, up by six points from 9.6 million jobless Filipinos recorded in September 2013.

Reports said that in the last 20 years, the highest unemployment rate was recorded in February 2009 at 34.4 percent. Now, it’s at 27.5 percent—if that’s any consolation.

Malacañang had a ready excuse for this. According to the Palace, this was to be expected with man-made and natural calamities hitting the country last year, like the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front’s standoff with the military in Zamboanga City and the devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas.

Sure, the disasters last year contributed to the rising unemployment rate, but it wasn’t all that. The fact is that there is a slowdown in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors because of lack of foreign direct investments. Yes it’s true that there was also a rise in FDIs, but this was not enough to provide employment for millions of jobless Filipinos.

Now here is what’s bothersome. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz now claims that government data show that calamities do not have an impact on employment, and that SWS figures are always higher because the latter uses a different methodology. Baldoz further says that the Department of Labor and Employment is guided by the National Statistical Coordination Board labor force survey, which puts the unemployment rate at only 7 percent.

My gulay, which figure are we now to believe?

Granted without admitting that the increasing incidence of joblessness is all due to man-made and natural calamities, the question is: What is the Aquino government doing about it?

It is useless to quarrel about statistics when we all know about the rising incidence of poverty and joblessness in the country. The Aquino administration can always cite its own statistics against poll surveys of the SWS. This is odd, given that Malacañang swears by the poll surveys when it suits its purposes.

The 7.2-percent growth rate attained last year becomes meaningless with increasing poverty and joblessness. This means that only 1 percent of the entire country’s population that contributes to 76 percent of the GDP are benefiting from it. The bulk of Filipinos remains mired in poverty.

There are proposals to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to open our doors to foreign investments. Sadly, we have a President who is so stubborn about charter change. He refuses to listen to unsolicited advice. In this respect, he reminds me so much of his late mother, former President Cory.

If the SWS survey of 12.1 million unemployed Filipinos doesn’t jolt him from his noynoying, Santa Banana, I really don’t know what will.

***

Vice President Jojo Binay, who is also a lawyer and who fought for human rights during the Marcos regime, is correct. Binay said that with regard to Ruby Chan Tuason’s offer to testify against Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada in the pork barrel scam, it’s only the courts that can decide who can qualify as a state witness in criminal cases.

Every lawyer knows that there is a process that must be observed. For example, government prosecutors must first file a motion in court to discharge the would-be state witness from the rest of the accused (Tuason is herself charged with plunder) before that person is declared a state witness.

Binay also said that, according to the law, for one to quality as a state witness, he or she should be the least guilty. The testimony of the state witness is needed because the evidence of the prosecution is weak.

From what Tuason says in her affidavit, she is obviously not the least guilty. She herself says that she personally delivered the kickbacks to the senators. Thus, she was an agent of Napoles, the mastermind. An agent is as guilty as the principal. Hence, Tuason is not the least guilty.

I am quite surprised that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima called Tuason’s testimony “slam dunk evidence” when she had said earlier that the testimonies of the whistleblowers were sufficient to convict the accused.

Hence, I agree with the Vice President who doubts the testimony of Tuason as “slam dunk evidence” because it is not needed.

***

There are disturbing reports that Malacañang is open to the possibility of Janet Lim Napoles, the mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, becoming a state witness.

If this comes to pass, then I would conclude that the charges thrown at the minority senators in connection with the Napoles scam are all politics.

I don’t know how the people would accept this idea of Napoles being a state witness. It can only show how desperate the administration has become, preparatory to the 2016 presidential elections.

When the circumstances surrounding Napoles’ “surrender” were brought to the public’s attention, I said I would not be surprised if she ends up being a state witness. My gulay, this would only prove that the administration would resort to anything and everything to pin down the opposition!

That’s why I say that the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing. Malacañang is concentrating on the involvement of minority senators in the pork barrel scam. The trial by publicity against them is all part of the grand scheme to demonize the opposition.

The irrepressible Arsenic Lacson once said that politics is so dirty that it’s like looking through a garbage can. The very fact that Malacañang and its conscripted media are feasting on the testimony of Tuason is proof of this scheme.

I would not be surprised if one of these days, there will also be attempts to link Vice president Jojo Binay to some imagined anomaly to start another trial by publicity.

Binay is as of now the most viable presidential candidate in 2016 against the anointed one of Malacañang, who is most likely Mar Roxas.

FROM PHILSTAR


Boo Chanco

P-Noy needs to take bolder steps DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 14, 2014 - 12:00am 8 40 googleplus0 0

With less than two and a half years left in his term, P-Noy needs to take bolder steps to address the key problems of this country. He has to learn to venture out of his comfort zone. Otherwise, many festering problems will just get worse before his term ends.

Good intentions and token solutions don’t count. The President cannot think that just because he has a Conditional Cash Transfer program he has done his share in fighting poverty. The CCT is a stop-gap measure at best, a means to help the next generation of marginalized families to break out of poverty through better education and health care.

Fighting poverty means creating jobs… here at home. The foreign jobs help, but again sending Filipinos abroad and breaking up families was supposed to be a stop-gap measure too. It became somewhat permanent only because our leaders have failed to address the problem of joblessness at home.

According to the most recent SWS survey, the number of unemployed Filipinos swelled to more than 12 million in the last quarter of 2013. Imagine everyone living in Metro Manila jobless... that’s how many 12 million is. This makes the 7.2-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, meaningless for 60 million out of our population of a hundred million, assuming each of the 12 million represent a family of at least five.

While it may look good on a press release to say that our GDP growth is the second-fastest after China, it is far from inclusive. Only the super rich benefit from it. Structural problems in our economy have created a kind of waterproof barrier that prevents any benefit from that kind of growth from trickling down to most Filipinos.

SWS data show that the unemployment rate went up to 27.5 percent as an additional 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December. The level of joblessness across the country was almost six points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the previous quarter.

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Across age groups, joblessness remained highest among those 18-24 years old (52.3 percent). It was 33.1 percent in the 25-34 age bracket, 25 percent in the 35-44 age bracket and 17.7 percent among those 45 years old and older. That must be what Pope Francis is talking about as the joblessness of the youth, an urgent problem of our times.

Jobs are created by right policies that create the right business climate. No one, Filipino or foreigner, will invest in this country unless the climate is right. Inadequate infrastructure, corruption and bureaucratic red tape, unfriendly laws and local regulations and having the best justice system money can buy all conspire to keep our fair share of investors out.

Just early this week, a news release from the Bangko Sentral proudly announced that foreign direct investments (FDIs) rose 54.9 percent in November last year to $286 million. Before you get totally impressed, the percentage number comes from a rather low base number compared to our peers in ASEAN.

Actually, that seemingly impressive number brought the year-to-date total to $3.65 billion, better than the $2.67 billion in the same period the year before. But economist and National Scientist Raul V. Fabella observed that “our investment rate (capital formation over GDP) still stands at about 19 percent in 2013 in a region where 30 percent is normal.”

Here are comparative FDI data as of 2012 from the World Bank in US$: $2,242,980,000 Myanmar; $2,797,000,000 Philippines; $1,557,134,885 Cambodia; $8,368,000,000 Vietnam; $9,733,616,207 Malaysia; $19,618,049,398 Indonesia; $10,689,324,361 Thailand; and $56,651,074,727 Singapore.

Forget Singapore and even Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. We are competing now within the second tier of Asean countries and given the widely publicized interest in Myanmar, I will not be surprised if the once hermit country will soon overtake us, if it hasn’t done so.

Yet, when ASEAN was formed, we were ahead of the pack. I know for a fact that even the capitals of all those ASEAN countries looked less impressive than Manila not too long ago. Even Singapore was just getting started when I first made a tour of ASEAN countries as a UP Student Council delegate in 1969. Anyari???

Speaker Sonny Belmonte, in a message to the Joint Foreign Chambers, gave us a succinct analysis of what’s ailing our economy. It is worth noting, the Speaker observed, that despite their relatively lower economic growth rate in recent years, our neighboring countries continue to enjoy low unemployment rate.

“A striking feature of these countries is that they are more open compared to the Philippines. They have managed to attract more foreign investments, and to export more than the Philippines. Consequently, they have bigger industrial and manufacturing sectors, and their economic growth have largely been driven by investments and exports, critical contributors to success in job creation and poverty reduction.”

We somehow give the impression to the world that our investment climate is less than hospitable because of the constitutional restrictions. Worse, these restrictive economic provisions have outlived their usefulness. These are even causes for corruption as some investors, the type we would rather not have, use Filipino dummies to comply with the Constitution.

In an era of economic globalization, the provisions seem out of place. Even communist countries like China and Vietnam are more liberal with their investment rules.

Defending his stubborn stance on relaxing the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution, P-Noy said he wants to be shown the reason why we need to change anything in the Constitution... P-Noy fears disruption in the short term and wonders if the disruption is worth the anticipated benefits.

The President often says he could not see why the Constitution is being seen as an economic hindrance when a country like China, which never allowed foreign ownership, posted 10 percent growth for a decade.

Oopps… China? P-Noy seems misinformed about China and its economic strategy.

For P-Noy’s information, China has allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of companies since 1979. Go ask the SM Group of Henry Sy who has malls in several cities in China, George Ty of the Metrobank Group who runs a full service bank in China; Carlos Chan of Liwayway Marketing (OISHI) who now has 14 factories all over China or Lucio Tan who owns a hotel and a property business in China. China did not require them to get Chinese partners on a 60/40 basis as we do here. They own their businesses there entirely.

P-Noy has to realize that the stiff opposition to relaxing our restrictive economic provisions is coming from elements from the old oligarchy who are afraid of world class competition. This is the oligarchy that demanded and got market protection for decades for infant industries that never grew up. Only global competition will keep those oligarchs honest and give Filipino consumers a break.

What P-Noy should do now is give his blessings to the proposal of Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Frank Drilon for a simple amendment to the Constitution’s economic provisions that adds the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, president of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, rightly pointed out that the President loses nothing with this amendment. Congress must still pass a law for every industry to be liberalized and the President can veto it. The thing is, we are able to go tell the world that we are open to change to make our Constitution more hospitable to investments.

Rep. Rodriguez said P-Noy seemed interested. “I told him, Mr. President, your administration achieved 7.7-percent economic growth. If we have more foreign investments by opening up certain businesses to full foreign ownership, we can attain at least 10 percent. He was intently listening.”

Speaker Belmonte said there are only a few provisions that would be affected: those on land ownership, public utilities, mass media, educational institutions, and advertising.

The Speaker is of the belief that lifting restrictions in these areas will enable us to promote the country’s competitiveness and to expand growth. Hopefully, the painless Cha-cha plan of P-Noy’s congressional allies will win him over so we can get this done this year.

The clock is ticking and we have no time to lose. All those unemployed Filipinos waiting for jobs shouldn’t have to wait much longer. That’s the only way they can get out of poverty. Hopefully P-Noy can see that too.

A bolder P-Noy, one who will venture out of his comfort zone and act boldly, is the President we need today.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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