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The Audacity of Hope April 21, 2016

Posted by Janjan in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

A good friend and fellow writer wrote a witty blog yesterday, explaining to her unnamed friend why people are clamoring for Rodrigo Duterte.

That unnamed friend is me.

I read her points and agree with most of them. She wrote it because I was confused on the appeal that Duterte had over so many and was wondering what was I missing that I couldn’t understand this phenomenon. I finally understand the point, and I guess the difference lay in the fact that the situation outlined in Rosey’s blog described the Philippines as something akin to Gotham. Dark, lawless, frustrating and rife with corruption. Apparently, so many people see this as well.

And the reason why I can’t understand it is that I’m seeing the glass as half full.

Perhaps most people are comparing our lives now to that they see elsewhere in the world. Singapore, Japan, Europe… even our neighbors Malaysia and Vietnam are faring better than we are. I however, am not comparing our journey as a nation to these countries. They have indeed been successful, and they have many things that we could emulate.

I am, however, comparing how we are now, to how we were before. And for me, how can one not see that our lives have become much better? Economic growth is a reality for me. It’s palpable and my life is different from how it was 10 or 20 years ago. Another friend argues that yes, while we keep larping about economic growth, has this growth trickled down and reached those who are poor? I’ll take these issues together.

I agree that economic growth has not reached those marginalized sectors of society, in the sense that we still see so many who are homeless and hungry. But I will disagree with the statement that the wealth has not trickled down. It has, but the sector that has felt it primarily is the rapidly expanding middle class. Let me explain.

1. There are now more jobs to be had. With the growth of the BPO and IT sector, people with acceptable English-speaking skills can easily find a job that pays more than adequately for their living needs. There are now more youths with more disposable income. This was unheard of back in the 80’s and 90’s. Job generation was a difficulty and people with college diplomas had to settle for menial work.

2. There are a wider array of consumer goods available on the market, including imported products. Note that importers and retailers would not invest in creating infrastructures and systems if there is no market to support it, and market refers to people with disposable income. Count the many malls opening over the country, including those in the various outlying provinces. A rise of a consumer society denotes a more empowered middle class. Even those among the poor are benefitting from this wider array of products as better and more hygienic consumer choices are being sold in your local wetmarket and suking tindahan.

3. Count how many car retailers have opened up around the country. Count how many international brands have started selling in the Philippines in the last 10 years. Ask these retailers how many new cars are being sold every month. A car is not a simple purchase. To buy one, you have to consider whether you have the means to afford the monthly payments. Again, this denotes a strengthening and growing middle class.

4. Inquire with the telecommunication, cable and internet companies how many people have signed up for post-paid plans. Inquire whether the upper tier plans (P1,000 monthly, and up) are growing in number. I’m sure you’ll be given a positive report. Once more, it shows a growing middle class, one that has the means to make fixed monthly payments.

5. Inquire with the credit card companies whether card applications are on the rise. Note that credit cards are debt instruments primarily targeted to people with the means to repay them.

6. Ask any stockbroker how the market has been under the Aquino administration. He will tell you that the market has been more stable and that foreign stakeholders are rushing to invest more and more into the robust and positive-outlook Philippine market.

7. Count how many foreign and luxury brands have opened up in the malls. Count how many of these brands have opened up in non-Manila markets. Again, this is a sign of a more robust middle class.

8. Have you noted the rise of people taking trips abroad? Back in the 80’s and 90’s, vacations in other countries were luxuries that only the truly rich can avail of. But now, even a call center agent can afford to take trips to Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea.

9. I don’t know if this is true for everyone but it seems like among my circle of friends, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who want to work as house helpers, and if you can find one, they often require higher salaries or perks like internet. I would like to think it’s because better options are available for people from the provinces now. They have the options of getting regular jobs or there are better business opportunities.

10.  Convenience stores… EVERYWHERE.  Convenience stores are not cheap!  They sell goods which you can buy cheaper in groceries or even at your suking tindahan.  But still, people would often buy from convenience stores than save money, and that’s because they can afford to give more importance to their own comfort and convenience.  And if you note, even people from the poor sectors of society are buying from these convenience stores.

The point I would like to make is that, together with the contributions of everyone, opposition and administration, Daang Matuwid has contributed to the betterment of our lives. One could argue that these are gains built on top of the foundations set by previous administrations, and that would be true. However, the fact that the Aquino administration can sustain and build upon this foundation should be a credit to the system. It didn’t derail the momentum set but instead added to it and used it to the country’s advantage.

Which brings us back to why do people still think that things are so much worse? Yes, there are massive problems to be solved, such as the burgeoning traffic and congestion problems in Manila. But these are not attributable exclusively as failures of the government. These are simply our growing pains. We are becoming more and more overpopulated and our current infrastructure and resources couldn’t keep up with our growth.

Rise in crime? Haven’t we always been plagued with crime? If countries as advanced as the United States, South Korea, and France struggle with the management of criminal activities, then why not us? Have they been able to solve their problems without resorting to human rights abuses? Isn’t the fact that we are no longer going through coup after coup after coup already a much needed improvement?

There are real problems we need to fix with respect to the management of resources. The main failure I will attribute to the Aquino government is the worsening situation at Customs. The inability to deliver license plates and stickers are also inexcusable failures. I also feel that our roads (especially in Cebu City and the NCR) are getting worse and worse.

And let me just say that for the first time in a very long time, a Philippine President will finally step down without a single impeachment proceeding directed against him during his administration.

I do not see the need to take drastic measures and elect a President that has to sit down and figure out how to redo things. The wheel has been invented, and we simply must have someone continue the momentum.

SADLY HOWEVER, this needs to become even more inclusive to even the marginalized sectors of society.  But we are getting there.  We just need more time to grow and become better at the dispersal and management of resources.

And yes… to answer my friend Rosey, the future is as rosy as… *wink*

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