NEDA misses the point of people’s dissatisfaction — IBON

February 20, 2024

by IBON Foundation

The Marcos Jr administration misses the most important point about the results of the recent OCTA survey which showed dissatisfaction with the government’s economic policies. They claim to acknowledge inflation, job creation, food security and poverty woes but their response is to push the same economic policies that cause these to begin with.

The OCTA Research Group’s survey showed that 75% of Filipinos are dissatisfied with the government’s efforts to manage inflation; 46% with reducing poverty; 31% with job creation; and 32% with ensuring food security. In a statement, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Balisacan said that the government recognizes the “significance and urgency of addressing these issues and challenges”. But the administration still insists on attracting more foreign investments as a policy. It claims that this will improve the economy’s competitiveness and create more and high-quality jobs that will help people cope with inflation through higher incomes. As proof of this, the government also keeps hyping reported economic growth, took credit for slowing inflation, and extolled “historic low” unemployment.

But the more appropriate response should perhaps be why so many Filipinos remain dissatisfied despite the glowing statistics presented. It is also worthwhile recalling how another survey outfit, the Social Weather Stations (SWS), reported that the number of Filipino families saying they are poor or borderline poor/not poor actually increased to 22 million or some eight (8) out of 10 Filipinos in December 2023 – again, despite glowing statistics of supposedly improved economic performance.

Ultimately, the situation of Filipinos on the ground is more important than abstract statistics of so-called economic performance. The economy is meant to improve the conditions of the majority of Filipinos. And when so many Filipinos express dissatisfaction over government’s management of the economy, the administration should take this as their cue that their preferred economic strategies are not working.

The government needs to let go of economic policymaking that is so obsessed with pleasing foreign investment as if they’re being in the country is an end in itself. More than lacking foreign investment, the country is lacking strategies for real and equitable agricultural development and especially for national industrialization.

Strengthening domestic production by protecting and supporting Filipino agricultural and industrial producers is the only long-term and sustainable solution to high prices, joblessness, food insecurity and poverty. The stubborn insistence on obsolete and failed free market dogma is the binding constraint to national development, and invalidates the Filipino people’s lament that the neoliberal economy results in chronic economic miseries.