The 2017 State of the Nation Address was dismissive of the Philippines’ serious socioeconomic problems especially joblessness, poverty and inequities, research group IBON said. The President even tended to oversimplify the economic situation to justify authoritarianism, said the group.
President Duterte delivered Monday his second State of the Nation Address to the country’s senators and congressmen. According to IBON’s executive director Sonny Africa, “There was no acknowledgement that the economy actually shed almost 400,000 jobs since last year and that poverty remains deep and widespread among tens of millions of Filipinos.” Africa added that there was no sign that the current administration grasped how neoliberal policies implemented by its predecessors have resulted in rapid growth, profits and wealth for a few amid poverty and joblessness for the many.
According to Africa, the President’s speech ignores the long-standing deep structural inequities that keep the economy underdeveloped. “Landlords and rural elites take the most of landless peasants and farm workers’ produce; capitalists exploit workers through low wages and scant benefits, and charge consumers monopolistic prices; and domestic agriculture and industry are stifled to preserve foreign big business’ markets and sources of raw materials,” explained Africa. He also said that the President’s discussion of investor confidence and protecting local and foreign investors even defends these inequities.
Africa said that the President’s statement that the economy surges when there is peace and order is an oversimplification to bolster the drive to dictatorial rule. “A declaration to uphold the bias for the marginalized and poor in the economic sphere would have been much welcome,” Africa said, “but instead the impression is of growing authoritarianism as the political framework to push the neoliberal economic agenda against growing protest and opposition.”
“These are alarming developments in the state of the nation,” said Africa. “The administration would do well to heed the grievances and demands of the people who are constantly asserting their social and economic rights”, Africa concluded.