NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/ 11 September) — The cab driver who took us to our hotel from the airport was like a July downpour in dropping on us his resentment on the choking economy and his ire to the senseless people who have irresponsibly pushed the country to starvation.
The people are slowly dying from hunger, he wailed. The prices of everything have flown high beyond the reach of many. The adjustment made to those who are still able is like drinking a 3-in-1 coffee, which means a cup of coffee today have to be shared by 3 drinkers to warm their stomach before they scramble to foray for anything to ward off hunger and survive the day.
Indeed, the economy is in a disastrous twist. The purchasing power of the peso has dipped to a precarious low. The inflation has hurt the poor more than any other sector, crippling, for instance the poorest region of the country like Bicol that hits an annual rate of 9% and the ARMM at 8%.This means that the income of a wage earner that remains the same, can no longer buy the same amount of food and other basic necessities it used to do a year ago. A year ago a kg of rice was around P40; now it hovers between P50 and P60 or more depending on locations, if ever still available. In Basilan, one of the depressed areas in Mindanao, a kg of rice is reportedly P80.
With the prices of commodities going up and the purchasing power of the peso going down, the demand consequently goes down and production logically dips, driving workers from production and distribution out of job reducing further production and demand. With less supply the price of commodities rises higher, wrecking the capacities of fixed salaried and wage earners, and devastating the lives of the expanding unemployed and the penniless.
With the demand becoming unprofitable, production may eventually stop, throwing many further out of job and more families becoming more hungry and angry every day.
For one, the rice shortage is hitting the people real hard. Even the weevil-infested grains that DA Secretary Pinol wants us to stomach are becoming invisible in the market.
A 3-in-1 coffee can only do much to quell a grumbling stomach. After a while the monster that hunger creates in the mind may eventually find release in the streets as historically shown in food riots and violent upheavals in many countries in time past.
Unless the government and its economic planners immediately correct the course of the politics and the economy of the nation we might fall to quagmire that we may have extreme difficulty of crawling back.
It’s time for President Duterte and the wise guys around him to stop blaming the external world for the current economic malaise. No doubt the trade war in the international arena had sent to our shores shock waves in the devaluation of the peso and the spiralling cost of imported fossil fuel. Incidentally, before it happens, the trade war had loomed for some time in the horizon and yet our policymakers and planners had done nothing to avert its likely consequences to the country. Instead it has imposed more taxes on the people that wreaked more havoc to everybody.
We should not be duped by word play and diversionary tactics. If there is a group or force that is threatening the political stability of the country and the administration’s grip on power, it’s not the political opposition and the critics of the regime but the worsening economy which is the administration’s brainchild. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)