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Monday, December 29, 2008

A Better World Is Possible, A Better Philippines Is Attainable

An adopted resolution in the National Forum on "Bailing out the Philippine Economy" last December 18, 2008 at PRRM Headquarters, Mo. Ignacia cor. Dr. Lascano, Quezon City

The US financial meltdown, which has precipitated a full-blown global recession, is rooted in the neo-liberal dogma that markets are self-correcting and work best for the common good when left unregulated. Neo-liberalism worships on the altar of an imaginary global free trade system and frowns on any government market regulation as harmful to growth, investment and employment. Such narrow thinking allowed a greedy few in Wall Street to create toxic bubbles in the financial markets and make fabulous earnings out of unproductive speculative investments everywhere. Such thinking is also the weapon used by a few global corporations and neo-liberal economists from Washington in imposing on the world an asymmetrical trading arrangement based on equal rules for unequal trade partners. The result is predictable: a crisis-prone and imbalanced global economic order as demonstrated by the global food crisis, the deteriorating global climate, and the global financial meltdown.

The above neo-liberal thinking, now widely denounced in the developed world, has been the guiding philosophy in Philippine economic governance, no thanks to the IMF-World Bank and their structural adjustment programs and no thanks to a succession of unrepentant neo-liberal economic technocrats, from the Marcos era to the present.

In the last three and a half decades of neo-liberal economic governance, the Philippines managed to shrink its industry and agriculture through a blind program of deregulation, import liberalization and government neglect. This erosion of the country's agro-industrial base is at the roots of Philippine joblessness and is the singular reason why one after the other, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India and now Vietnam have left the Philippines behind. Without the remittances of over 8 million overseas Filipinos the country would have been in a much more terrible shape.

And yet, now that many of our overseas Filipinos are facing threats of forcible expulsion from their host countries and that some of our so-called export winners are likely to shrink in 2009, it is incomprehensible to see our government technocrats pushing for more economic liberalization such as 0-5 tariff rates for domestic industries such as steel, auto and cement. In the WTO, the Philippines is even abandoning the NAMA-11 coalition of developing countries seeking trade flexibility. It is also pushing for more free trade within the ASEAN, with America and with the pan-Pacific region under APEC. All this is happening at a time when there is a global re-thinking of the unbridled laissez faire economic model, which is at the roots of the financial Armageddon and our own prolonged economic stagnation.

We, at the Fair Trade Alliance, therefore, would like to add our voice to those calling for a new and just global economic order. The primary purpose of finance is to serve productive capital in creating jobs and wealth for society. The primary purpose of trade is to link economies based on mutually beneficial arrangements. The WTO, IMF-WB group and other so-called development agencies should be remodeled based on these rules. There is no room for a one-size-fits-all rule for not all countries are created equal. Each developing country must be given maximum flexibility to deepen its agro-industrial capacity and accelerate growth based on its level of development.

We, at the Fair Trade Alliance, also call on our government and policy makers – Take a pause, a historic pause in this mindless program of pursuing unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral liberalization. The present global crisis and the re-thinking going on in many capitals of the world present our country a historic opportunity to overhaul the neo-liberal development program that has miserably failed Philippine society. Instead, we urge our government and policy makers to immediately put in place the much-needed safety nets for our working people, including our industrialists and entrepreneurs. One effective safety net, to preserve jobs and industry, is to adjust our industrial and agricultural tariffs toward our maximum bound tariff commitments to the WTO.

We also demand that the government immediately put a halt to the senseless automatic appropriation of two-thirds of the national budget for debt servicing. We should instead adopt the Argentinian budgeting system, which makes allocation for debt servicing only after urgent adequate allocations have been made for urgent and priority social spending. Like the other countries, the Philippines need a large stimulus package directed at the domestic market to preserve and create millions of jobs. The government should be able to spend as much as it can on productivity-raising infrastructures such as school buildings, renewable energy, communal irrigation projects, farm-to-market roads, harvest silos, barangay health clinics, public transport systems and so on.

Finally, we call on all Filipinos to join us in the movement to cast aside the bankrupt neo-liberal economic model of governance and promote instead our vision of Nationalist Development. based on our five-point agenda composed of the following: one, a coherent, balanced and pro-Filipino trade-development economic governance structure, two, a program of re-calibrating our agro-industrial fences to give our industry and agriculture a breathing space for survival and growth; three, a program of enhancing our national productive capacity through the all-out mobilization of domestic resources in support of industry, agriculture and entrepreneurship; four, a program to unleash our people's productivity capacity through a rounded program of human resources development and completion of asset reforms; and, five, a program for the inculcation of the culture of industrialism, tangkilikan, excellence and economic nationalism.
Walang sasagip sa Pilipino kundi Pilipino rin!

A Better World Is Possible! A Better Philippines Is Attainable!

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