Jojo A. Robles

Last two minutes

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The last time the President addressed the country on television, he was declaring how the preparations for Typhoon Yolanda were all in place. And we all know how that turned out.


It is unfortunate that President Noynoy Aquino has chosen to compare his work so far to a basketball game that is entering the last two minutes. It’s as if, after falling behind for nearly the entire time in a hoops game, Aquino now seeks to make all his shots and win the whole thing in the dying seconds.

But it doesn’t happen that way, in basketball or in life. The job of the President, like that of a basketball team, is to put in the work for the entire game, not just in the last two minutes; to be brilliant in “garbage time,” when the only thing left unsettled is the score, not the outcome, is usually the role of benchwarmers who never see any minutes on the floor.

During his six-minute New Year message, Aquino once again claimed that his good governance was leading the country into prosperity. Unfortunately, he appears to be the only one who remains convinced that he is a good administrator and that millions of Filipinos are now rolling in dough.

As he shambles to the end of his remarkably underachieving term two and a half years from now, Aquino seems hell-bent on peddling the lie that he has put in all the work that is required of him. This is self-delusion.

Aquino has done nothing expect pursue his political vendettas, claim credit for what his predecessor has achieved and avoid blame for all the missteps that his government, by itself, has committed during his term. If this were truly a basketball game, Team Aquino would have long been buried in an avalanche of opposing points by halftime.

I understand that a President should rally his people and offer them hope of good times to come. But when all previous experience shows us is a Chief Executive who did nothing significant for most of his term, it becomes very hard to sell people on the idea that a last-minute reversal of fortunes is going to happen in the remainder of his time in office.

If the year now ending has taught us anything, it is that Aquino is not the man for the job that he still, through some unfathomable reason, still holds. And that he will still not be able to get anything of significance done in the time he has left.

The only good thing that can be gleaned from Aquino’s latest speech is that his time is soon ending. Now that should give us true reason to be hopeful.

* * *

Right before Christmas, the business Web site Bloomberg reported that the Philippine stock market went from “first to worst” in just half a year, mainly because of factors beyond anyone’s – least of all government’s – control. Essentially, the report highlighted just how sensitive the local equities market is to extraneous factors like the paring of the US Federal Reserve’s stimulus program and Typhoon Yolanda – and the folly of claiming economic growth on the basis of increased “hot money” inflows.

“International investors have pulled a net $955 million from the country’s equities since July amid the prospect of reduced Federal Reserve stimulus and slower growth,” Bloomberg said. “[A]ccelerating inflation and the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan last month have dented confidence in an economy that expanded at almost three times the global average annual pace from 2008 to 2012.”

Of course, for most ordinary Filipinos, the hyping and the cashing in on the long-running stock market boom (together with the government’s shameless credit-grabbing about it) meant nothing, because they never had portfolio investments. This is why the hothouse “growth” trumpeted by the Aquino administration always felt hollow, like the investment-grade ratings purchased at great cost and using taxpayers’ money from those agencies that are only too willing to give them, at the right million-dollar prices.

With the fat-cat fund managers and their billion-dollar funds fleeing to places with better earnings, what this country really needs are investors in real brick-and-mortar industries. And as we all know, these have basically shriveled up and died under the present dispensation.

The reason why Filipinos keep leaving to look for jobs overseas remains the same—there are simply not enough well-paying employment opportunities locally, opportunities that open up only if real industries set up shop. And when you have a government that has failed miserably in the task of uplifting the poor, then no paper growth will make them feel any better.

The sad fact is, like many of the other so-called accomplishments that Aquino always crows about, stock market activity is not a real indicator of a country’s growth, any more than investment-grade ratings are. And because hot money flees at the onset of the slightest, least-controllable adverse condition without leaving a trace of true inclusive growth should tell us that it should never be used as a yardstick to measure the competence of those who govern.

If this were really a basketball game, we aren’t even playing. Whoever wins, we’d still lose.

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