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.