Thursday, 9 August 2012

It's Not All About the Economy

Let’s take a look at the positives then: the Philippines is on its way to become an economic super power.

In the IMF’s List of Countries by GDP (PPP) for 2011 which saw India overtake European countries in fourth place, we are ranked 32nd. An outlook by investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that by the year 2050, we will be on the 14th place.

The fact that the country had recently lent $1 Billion to the IMF as its share in supporting the global efforts to stabilize the world economy is impressive. Up until 2006, the Philippines had been a net borrower from the IMF for nearly 40 years.

There are other signs that the country’s economy is growing. It was also recently announced that S&P has raised its credit rating to BB+ from BB, the highest level since 2003. This higher rating is likely to help the Philippines attract more investments, a key to further growth.

Top that with the news that six Filipinos made it to the recent publication of the Forbes Magazine’s List of World Billionaires for 2012 (one of them described as a former Marcos crony).

So in terms of the economy we are doing well. So good in fact that there has been a massive boost in local tourism (which has created air traffic causing an hour’s delay for take-offs). There are more people flocking the enormous air-conditioned malls and sporting branded products most Westerners couldn’t even afford (or wouldn’t even touch). There are more SUVs in Manila than probably the whole of Britain so sit back in traffic and relax (a normally 30-minute ride can take close to two hours but there is air-conditioning at least, never mind the carbon emission). There are more people who are carrying the latest gadgets too and you can even see some of them watching You Tube whilst eating in a restaurant.

There is nothing wrong with being bullish but one should be responsible enough to look at the bigger picture and not just pick the ones that ‘feel good’. What good is a positive economic outlook if 25% of the population still lives in poverty? Three years after I have left the country, the shanty houses are still there, multiplying each year. The typhoon that regularly visits the country still claims lives and livelihood every time it strikes. The transport system of Manila is still way behind other nation’s capitals.

Has anyone else noticed all these or has it already become a way of life? 

The size of a country’s economy has little to do with its standard of living. Take Austria, for example, who is only ranked 35th in the same list. Its capital Vienna has been since 2010 ‘The Most Liveable Place in the World’. A visit to the city and you will see why the Philippines is still centuries behind.  Their transport system is fast, reliable and efficient, thus there are more bicycles than cars in the road, reducing carbon footprint. They have invested in renewable energy that they don’t need to rely on fossil fuel from Arab countries. They have fair taxation and a generous social system that ensures everyone has a shot at a decent way of life. They have a culture and heritage that is as alive today as it had been hundreds of years ago.

My travels have not given me ‘anti-Filipino’ sentiments. In fact, I have thought more about my country now more than I have ever done in the first 24 years of my life spent there. I am proud of its history and of the freedom I have inherited. But I am not proud of what the country has become – right wing, materialistic and without regard to the environment.


  1. This article is a no brainer. How cow you expect to fixed all those problems at once.
    Hoy! bago pa nga lang tayo nakakaahon sa kahirapan. Give us another 10 years like this and don ka magdadakdak.

    1. Thanks anyway for such a 'no-brainer' reply. If you wanted to against the facts, you could at least have presented a sensible case rather than a low personal attack.

      I disagree about your timescale and I'm willing to bet on that. Like I said, it takes more than an uplift in a country's economy to change its standard of living. You only have to look at China and India for that matter, two of the world's biggest economies and yet home to some of the poorest individuals who suffer from some of the worst human rights violations imaginable.

      But take a look at Brazil, another developing country whose economic reforms take on a balancing act between development and preservation. And how is this possible? A survey by 'research firm Ibope showed that 94% of all Brazilians said they are concerned about the environment. Some 44% of the people surveyed said that protecting the environment should be a priority over economic growth whilst 40% believe that environmental protection and economic growth can be reconciled.' (

      My point exactly? That progress is not just about the economic boom, because every boom in history has always been followed by a painful bust. Our country needs to adopt sustainable development. We have to learn from history and from other countries who have been there. Perhaps if you can open your eyes wider, you will also learn to see the bigger picture. But perhaps that is too much to ask.


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