Candidates from the “Genuine Opposition” held a rally at the Rizal Park in Davao City on Thursday. The candidates took turns lambasting the Arroyo government for its many shortcomings. According to analysts, the Genuine Opposition has to engage the administration Team Unity ticket in a meaningful debate. “People, not big business, should decide on content and conduct of the debate,” according to Ibon Foundation. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)
MANILA — The planned debate on the true state of the economy between the senatorial bets of the Genuine Opposition (GO) and Team Unity is a welcome development to bare the stand and platforms of the candidates on various people’s issues. But according to independent think-tank IBON, organizers must ensure that the debate will focus on the most urgent economic issues confronting Filipinos today and that ordinary people will have access to the debate.
Big business groups should not be tasked to sponsor the debate, design its framework, and even decide on where it should be held. They represent a very narrow self-interest that could influence the content and conduct of the debate. For instance, employers’ groups like Philippines Inc., Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Philippine Exporters Confederation, and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., which said they will sponsor the debate, have lobbied strongly against the wage hike bill at the expense of millions of ordinary workers.
As far as the people are concerned, the debate should shed light on the following:
* Why has unemployment remained very high — with 4.1 million jobless workers while 7.5 million are underemployed — in spite of rosy macroeconomic figures which means that business is doing well? Under the Arroyo regime (2001 to 2006), the unemployment rate has averaged 11.3% – the highest among all administrations since Marcos.
* What are the immediate measures to tame the steep price increases in petroleum products, electricity, water, and other basic goods and services? What is stand of the candidates on price control, privatization, and deregulation?
* Why have wages remained very low — in Metro Manila the minimum wage (including the cost of living allowance) is P429.64 short of the cost of living and in ARMM it is P819.73 short — while profits of big business has been soaring (between 2001 and 2005, for example, the net income of the biggest 1,000 corporations in the country expanded by 327.23% with an annual growth of 37.86% while their gross profit margin has steadily increased during the same period averaging 19.56% per year)
* Why has government spending on social services been falling while debt servicing has been increasing and additional taxes like RVAT are being imposed on the people? What is the stand of the candidates on automatic debt servicing that takes away a huge portion of our resources at the expense of education, housing, health, and other services for the poor?
These are just some of the most important and urgent issues that the debate must answer or at least clarify. It is also a great deal that ordinary people directly hear what the candidates of the GO and Team Unity have to say on these issues. It means that instead of holding the debate at the posh venues like Manila Hotel, as proposed by big business groups, hold it somewhere else where ordinary people can attend like Plaza Miranda or even Mendiola.
IBON Foundation Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.2007 Elections