MANILA,  JUNE 25, 2004
GMA must overcome misrule. Armed with a six-year mandate, President Arroyo needs to move fast to clean up the mess left by decades of misrule, analysts said yesterday.

The job of rebuilding this socially, politically and economically fractured nation of 84 million people where more than half of the population live on less than $2 a day will not be easy.

The Philippines has fallen from being one of the most outstanding economies in Asia 40 years ago to being one of the worst.

In 1957 the World Bank said the Philippines had "achieved a position in the Far East second only to Japan, both in respect to its level of literacy, and to per capita production capacity."

Although recent economic indicators are showing a glimmer of hope the country is still weighed down by debt which is nearing 90 percent of gross domestic product while interest eats up 37 percent of the national budget.

The Philippine parliament yesterday formally announced that Mrs. Arroyo had won the May 10 election, defeating main opposition challenger Fernando Poe Jr. by just over one million votes.

For many in the opposition camp Mrs. Arroyo will be seen as having stolen the election through fraud and the prospect of mass street protests will overshadow her administration in the coming weeks and months, analysts say.

"She faces a wide range of possibilities because many people do not accept her victory," Antonio Abaya, chairman of the Foundation for Transparency and Public Accountability.

"So her mandate is not strong and she will have to play footsie with many groups to stay in power."

The President has reportedly cut a deal with one of her most outspoken opponents, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and there is speculation he will be offered a post in her new administration.

When dictator Ferdinand Marcos was thrown out by a popular uprising in 1986, it was supposed to herald a new dawn following 20 years of corrupt rule.

Instead successive administrations with the exception of Fidel Ramos in 1992-1998 have had to face coup attempts, military revolts and civil uprisings.

Mrs. Arroyo came to power on the back of a popular uprising against matinee idol Joseph Estrada halfway through his term in 2001. For the next three years she ruled in a vacuum with no popular mandate.

Abaya said he expected Mrs. Arroyo "will muddle her way through the next six-years" avoiding such contentious issues as birth control. The Philippines has the highest birth rate in Asia at 2.36 percent a year.

At this rate, according to the Commission on Population, the nation’s population could effectively double within the next 30 years.

ING Financial Markets in an advisory note to clients yesterday said: "Talk of destabilisation attempts from the losing side may be a factor until the inauguration is over.

"If she can rise above charges that she lacks a mandate because of her narrow victory in an unfair election, Mrs. Arroyo is in a position to drive the legislative agenda."

Standard and Poor’s in a statement said: "Expectations are high on Arroyo to now deliver political stability and higher growth."

A United States-educated economist, Mrs. Arroyo has widespread support among the country’s business elites and is seen by many as being pro-big business.

Peter Wallace, who has lived in the Philippines for 30 years and is an advisor to multinational corporations, lists 10 areas Mrs. Arroyo will need to address.

Politics that puts vested interests above the national good; uncontrolled population growth; a weak education system; corruption; poor infrastructure; an agricultural system that has not improved in 27 years; job creation; the judiciary; security and the overbearing influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Without absolutely fundamental change in these issues and the cultural change to go with it, the Philippines will be the basket case of Asia in one generation from now," Wallace said. — AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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