Planning the 'Un-plannable'
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-02-12

In the US, Reuters reported that over 525,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of January 2009 alone — the biggest US job loss since World War II.

In China, the BBC reported that over 20 million Chinese migrant workers have already lost their jobs and that unless remedied — this could result in serious social problems.

In the Philippines, thousands of workers of big foreign firms like Intel, Amkor and FedEx have lost their jobs over the last two weeks and that is only the start of massive job losses for Filipinos working here and abroad. Not really a casualty of the Global Financial Meltdown, FedEx decided in 2005 to transfer its operation here to China. That is little consolation though for the 550 Filipino FedEx workers who just lost their jobs.

The truth is the economic situation worldwide is still unfathomable and even the experts cannot really say how bad things will turn out or when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no solid indicator of what will reverse the tide or inspire consumer confidence.

It is useless to even cite data. The current situation has no precedent. Major economic powers like the US, UK, Japan and China are introducing stimulus packages in the hope that these will spur confidence and recovery.

The Philippines may have been shielded somewhat from the effects of the credit crunch but that is only because the Philippines is not in the level of sophistication of the major economic powers like the US, UK, Japan and China.

Having attracted very little foreign investments, we are naturally encountering less company closures or downsizing. However, that does not guarantee that the Philippines will not suffer the effects of the economic crisis. On the contrary, the effects are already upon us as seen in lost OFW and local jobs.

This is essentially what I shared with the Communications Foundation of Asia (CFA) whose head, Noel de Leon, asked me to provide them with my insights on the economic forecast for 2009.

Bad as the global picture is, the Philippines may be in for worse times than most of the other countries. This is because Philippine economic problems are tied up to political problems. Economic recovery could bail out other countries that are not saddled with the political problems of the Philippines. But economic stimuli alone will not remove the dangers posed by unsettled deeply-rooted Philippine political problems.

Forecasting the Philippine economy therefore cannot be comprehensively undertaken without assessing the root cause of Philippine socio-economic problems — our poisoned POLITICS.

The following political factors can reverse whatever economic stimuli are introduced and can sink our country further:

1. Charter Change — Largely unpopular and seen as a desperate ploy to extend the hold on power of those who are considered as political undesirables, Charter change can ignite a political upheaval.

2. An effort to abort the 2010 presidential elections — As Filipinos are looking forward to attaining economic relief via the 2010 elections, any effort to abort this can be very destabilizing, to say the least.

3. A revival of the MoA (Memorandum of Agreement) on the failed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) — Largely seen as an act of treason by ceding Philippine territory, this is a very emotional issue to both the civilians and the military.

4. A US or China geopolitical proxy war for vital Philippine territory — Control of the shipping lanes and the oil fields in the South China Sea are more than enough reasons for the two superpowers to engage in a proxy war. This will pit Filipinos against fellow Filipinos where each side could be unwittingly dying for a superpower agenda.

5. An Arroyo administration attempt to declare a State of Emergency — Filipinos will not allow any ruse by the present regime to extend power through a manufactured emergency designed to justify the declaration of martial law by whatever name they may call it.

6. The never ending corruption scandals involving people in high places — Contrasting with the people’s misery index, these scandals can fuel dissent and a social explosion.

7. Escalation of Communist as well as MILF and MNLF combat activities — The rebel groups are expected to capitalize on the current economic downturn and will likely escalate their combat activities against the government. This will result in added instability and volatility. Should an all-out war explode in the BJE, government resources will be hard pressed funding a war front. A government implosion can become a likely scenario.

8. The festering wealth gap — Fruit of the oligarchy, this wealth gap discourages foreign investors who fear a social explosion.

What is worrisome is that any of these aforementioned eight political factors have the potential of unleashing CIVIL WAR — especially now that the country has a politically-divided AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). As mentioned, the worst possible scenario for a Philippine civil strife is one that is a proxy war for the US and China.

Of course, the political problems are also exacerbated by the economic problems. Those who have lost their jobs, those who are now unable to feed their families and can no longer be accommodated by either government or NGO support systems — all of them are ripe for the siren call of revolution.

The fact is our country has long been under severe socio-economic-political pressures even before the Global Financial Meltdown happened. Like Tsarist Russia before World War I, we have long been a social explosion waiting to detonate.

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