FOREIGN AID inflows to the Philippines are soaring to their highest levels in about six years, but the availability of more money for government projects has not made life any easier for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Filipino taxpayers.
Indeed, the latest controversy to rock her seven-year reign stems from the sharp surge in official development assistance (ODA) from China, an emerging economic behemoth, and the Philippines’s growing inability to impose its procurement policies and procedures on ODA projects.
RAMDAM MO na nga ba?
Even the current administration is probably asking itself this question — “Do you really feel it?” — since the recorded performance of the Philippine economy in 2007 surprised everyone, including the government. With GDP growth likely to have exceeded seven percent for the full year, the economy appears to have overshot the government target of 6.1-6.7 percent for the year. And with relatively stable prices manifested in a low inflation rate, and an apparently improving jobs picture as of the third quarter, we are finally seeing good news on all three basic economic yardsticks that the ordinary Filipino can understand: presyo (prices), hanapbuhay (jobs) and kita (income). Inflation (2.8 percent) is well within the 2.6-3.1 percent projected range; unemployment is down to 6.3 percent from last year’s 7.3 percent; and income (GDP) growth (7.1 percent so far) is better than the targeted 6.1-6.7 percent. Until recently, the best we could do was a “two-out-of-three” score, with jobs data having consistently lagged behind the other two indicators.
HE IS known by many Filipinos as the author of that economics textbook with the blue cover, but once upon a time Gerardo P. Sicat was the head of a powerful government agency that took care of preparing and coordinating the country’s socioeconomic and development plans. In fact, back then, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) was very powerful, particularly given its oversight function with respect to the plans of government agencies. Though by protocol, the NEDA director general was not a member of the Cabinet, the position was of Cabinet rank and the NEDA chief was even regarded as a primus inter pares (first among equals).
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