Sunday, 30 November 2014

Philippines: ‘Economic miracle’ – a neo-liberal nightmare for the masses

Forced evictions, poverty wages and repression is the reality for millions

There is a lot of hype about a Philippines ‘economic miracle’ and high GDP growth rates during the current Benigno Aquino presidency (since 2010). But this is nothing new. GDP grew at roughly the same rates under the previous Arroyo government, even after waves of corruption scandals and political crises that called her administration’s legitimacy into question. Countless governments and institutions like the World Bank have been harping on about the country’s economic growth since the 1970s, but rarely do they call our attention to the nature of that growth or the realities of growing inequality that GDP calculations too often gloss over.

What has changed is the increase in large-scale investments in speculative real estate and mineral extraction, and commercial-industrial zones where labour rights are weak or non-existant. These are taking up an increasing share of the country’s economy. The Aquino administration has leaped enthusiastically on the opportunity to vest ever more power in the hands of local and foreign capital and their government allies. Already attempts are underway to revise the constitution and invite new waves of trade liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation.

Widening wealth gap

Aquino’s policies are faithful to the neoliberal template of those that came before him. Public investment in mega-infrastructure has grown while investment in social services (in real terms) has declined. More and more is forked out to corporations – with the government granting millions to guarantee their investments through so-called public-private partnership agreements – while wage rates stagnate and unemployment grows alongside GDP. The first quarter of 2013 saw the rate of Philippine GDP growth outpace that of China, but the previous year saw more than 800,000 farmers lose their livelihoods as well as fisher folk and unskilled labourers. About 26,000 professional, associate professional and technicians lost their jobs.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Indonesia: "New Hope" president faces intense pressures

Initiative to build mass party of working class and rural poor urgently needed

"A New Hope" was the headline for the front cover of the latest issue of ‘Time’ magazine. It described Jokowi Widowo, the newly elected populist president known simply as Jokowi, as the new ‘Rising Star’ in ‘third world politics’. He is considered unique in Indonesia’s presidential history because he is neither from the political elite or a military background. Brought up in a riverside slum in the city of Solo, he went on to become a furniture exporter. In 2005 he successfully won the mayoral election in his home town.

For two years before the presidential election, he was also the governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. During his tenure as mayor in Solo and Governor in Jakarta he was considered as affable, with a common touch. His approach was a big contrast with that of other politicians.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Kerajaan mengumumkan mulai 1 Disember, semua subsidi untuk petrol RON95 dan diesel akan dihentikan. Penurunan harga komoditi di pasaran dunia, dan penyusutan aktiviti ekonomi lain seperti eksport dan ekonomi domestik yang tidak memberangsangkan, telah memaksa kerajaan memberhentikan subsidi minyak. Dengan ini harga minyak tempatan akan berlandaskan kepada  harga pasaran minyak dunia yang akan turun-naik berdasarkan keadaan ekonomi global. Jika harga minyak pasaran dunia meningkat, maka harga minyak tempatan juga akan meningkat.

30 peratus pendapatan kerajaan datangnya daripada akitiviti pengeluaran minyak negara. Dengan harga pasaran sekarang, dan dengan penamatan subsidi petrol RON95 dan diesel, dijangka kerajaan akan mendapat pendapatan lebihan sebanyak 20 billion ringgit untuk 12 bulan akan datang. Tetapi, pada masa yang sama berbillion-billion ringgit lesap begitu sahaja daripada tabung kewangan negara akibat penyalahgunaan kuasa serta korupsi dalam kerajaan seperti yang didedahkan dalam laporan auditor negara, dan melalui pendedahan skandal seperti 1MDB.

Harga minyak dunia yang pada satu ketika melebihi 100 dolar (RM336) setong, kini jatuh di bawah 80 dolar (RM268) setong. Ini bermakna, jika harga minyak semakin merosot, maka ini juga akan memberikan impak kepada pendapatan dan ekonomi negara, dan seterusnya merosotkan keadaan sosial dan taraf hidup rakyat.