IBON: Duterte’s economic plans geared towards neoliberalism

By Jeuel Barroso

Independent thinktank IBON Foundation discussed Friday how ‘self-proclaimed pro-poor’ President Rodrigo Duterte forwarded economic policies favoring large-scale business over the working class and the impoverished.

Analyzing the first six months of the administration, IBON Executive Editor Rosario Bella Guzman said Duterte’s economic team implemented strategies that boosted the development and opportunities of local and foreign corporations while decreasing the resources of the local production and labor force.

“It would be called a crisis if we can see that the poor majority are really sinking deeper and deeper into poverty and then on the other hand the rich… has grown richer,” Guzman said in the year-end forum at the University of the Philippines, Diliman College of Mass Communication.

Despite the 3 percent decrease of the daily National Capital Region minimum wage in 2016 to P481–barely half of the 1,119-peso average family living wage–the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos grew by almost 14 percent while the profits of the Philippine Stock Exchange increased by 18 percent.

Among these richest Filipinos include SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Chairman Henry Sy and John Gokongwei of Robinsons Malls.

“[Elite economics] has widened the gap between the rich .001 percent of the global population as against the 99 percent poor majority, mostly in poor countries such as in the Philippines,” Guzman said.

Likewise, in a press release by the foundation, business-oriented sectors such as construction and real estate industries have been identified as the country’s fastest growing sectors in 2016 while production sectors such agriculture and mining declined to 38.5 percent, the smallest recorded shares in Philippine history.

Besides favoring local corporations, the forum also discussed the inclination of the Duterte administration to foreign trade.

The executive editor explained that beyond the tension in Duterte’s meetings with the United States and the European Union, Foreign Trade Agreements (FTAs) between them are still being negotiated. These FTAs with foreign countries will open similar trade rights from both parties, lessening trade barriers such as tariffs.

However, according to an online article by the foundation, the Philippines cannot yet compete internationally due to the country’s relative underdevelopment. Aside from this, IBON claimed massive foreign corporations also tend to dissolve the many small local business.

“These FTAs expose the country to unfair competition, really advance capitalistic countries, and they also prevent the use of state intervention so they strengthen foreign investor rights,” Guzman said.

She further explained that these policies are grounded in a poverty-perpetuating system called neoliberalism–a system where the market concentrates on seeking profit from different life aspects such as food, agriculture, social services and public utility.

It manifests when the state regulates the flow of public resources to private profits, giving corporations legal rights to “rake in the biggest possible amount of profit.

“The president surrounded himself with an economic team that is composed of apologists of neoliberalism, the very reason for the continued impoverishment of the population,” Guzman said.

“[Neoliberalism] has exacerbated monopoly pricing, neglect of social services, marginalization in the countryside, urban poverty and mass overseas migration…In the Philippines, the almost four decades of implementation of neoliberalism has weakened local agriculture and Filipino industry,” she added.

Concluding the foundation’s assessment, Guzman reiterated IBON’s call for the country’s pursuance of national industrialization as a solution to the Duterte Administration’s economic deficiency.

“Pro-poor economics is when the local agriculture, the Filipino industry develops in a way that it creates sufficient jobs, that raises income, that develops local technology,” she said.

Guzman added, “You have a President that mouthed national industrialization. So it’s up to us to really push for that.”

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