Ibon slams Philippine government claim as "Asia's next miracle" during WEF
Ibon belied the Philippine government claim during the World Economic Forum that it is Asia's next miracle harping on the impressive economic growth which makes it the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. Ibon said that the growth in the Philippine economy is artificial, unsustainable and exclusionary benefiting only multinational corporations and big local companies while the majority of the population suffer record-high poverty and unemployment rates. The research group said that the claim is pure hype meant to lure foreign businesses and clinch more public-private partnerships (PPP).
Research group and TWHA partner Ibon criticized as pure hype the Philippine government claim in the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF)-East Asia that the country is "Asia's next miracle". It said that labels such as "Asia's next miracle" and "Asia's rising star" are meant to attract foreign businesses and clinch more public-private partnerships (PPP).
The Philippines was chosen to host the WEF-East Asia last May 21-23 after the country caught the attention of the global business elites as it emerged as the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia and the second fastest in Asia, next only to China. The WEF is composed of 1,000 officials from the world’s top corporations and global enterprises.
In a statement, the WEF said the meeting would be held against a backdrop of impressive growth rates and an ambitious journey toward regional integration and trade liberalization.
But according to Ibon, the recent growth in the Philippine economy is artificial, narrow, debt driven and unsustainable and that it is accompanied by worsening job generation, growing unemployment and exclusionary growth. Instead of seriously addressing real economic woes such as joblessness and exclusive growth, the government is further upholding failed and pro-business programs such as the PPP that worsen the people's economic condition, it said.
President Benigno Aquino's administration has made the PPP initiative as an ambitious centerpiece economic program. But the program has not been moving as fast as the government would like, according to both its proponents and critics. According to Ibon, PPP has been coined to sanitize and then enhance the discredited neoliberal policy of privatization.
"The WEF is meant to be a venue to invite foreign transnational corporations and big domestic corporations to look for profitable short-term opportunities amid sluggish US, European and Japanese economies. It will also likely support the looming ASEAN economic integration in 2015, which will make Southeast Asia more conveniently integrated for the global value chains of big foreign transnational corporations," the research group said.
Ibon co-sponsored with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) an alternative forum for civil society groups and grassroot organizations last May 23, the last day of WEF, discussing the impact of PPP on sectors such as public utilities, labor, education and health. The forum was entitled World Epic Fail to satirize the costly meeting which attracted some 600 foreign businessmen, bankers and policymakers from 30 countries. The participants later held a protest-march to express their indignation against the WEF.
Adverse effect of PPP on health
Under the Aquino administration, one of the sectors that bear the brunt of PPP is health. Presently, all government-owned hospitals are up for grabs under the PPP program as announced by Health Secretary Enrique Ona. The government has cited lack of funds and poor delivery of services as the main reasons for opening up the hospitals to private businesses.
PPP in health as a policy is actually the continuation of the privatization policies that have been implemented under the Health Sector Reform Agenda (HSRA) of the government. According to Ibon, under the HSRA, the Department of Health is tasked to promote competition in the "health market" which means that it acts as a middleman between the private corporation and the individual instead of being the provider of health services.
In a powerpoint presentation during the forum, Angela Doloricon of the Alliance of Health Workers emphasized that health is a human right and a state responsibility. Privatization in the guise of PPP is the biggest threat to the lives and well-being of the people as the government shows its readiness to abandons its responsibility to make way for the control of profit-oriented corporations on the delivery of health services.
She presented several statistics showing the dismal health situation in the Philippines:
80,000 babies die of preventable causes annually.
6 out of 10 Filipinos who die are without medical attention.
Of the total 41,000 villages, there are only 17,000 which have government established health centers that are often ill-equipped with facilities, medicines and staff.
She cited as an example a town in Typhoon Haiyan-ravaged province of Samar where the local health office has currently only 1 doctor, 8 nurses and 1 midwife to attend to the health needs of its more than 15,000 population. In one of their visits, she said pregnant mothers complained that they rarely see a doctor or a midwife for their regular check up.
She said that PPP will not answer the present woes of health in the country since it will not change but will rather reinforce the current characteristics of health services in the country: commercialized, urban-centered, curative instead of preventive and foreign-controlled.
Right now, there is a growing mass movement demanding the government to scrap privatization as a policy for development especially in the health sector. Health groups filed a petition to the Supreme Court to stop the government from pushing through with the privatization of Philippine Orthopedic Hospital, the first government hospital to be privatized. Also, lawmakers belonging to the progressive party-list groups in the Philippine Congress recently filed a legislative bill to prohibit privatization of public hospitals.
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