Fantasy versus reality

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Fantasy politics returned the Marcoses to power. In the last election, they sold a fantasy which resonated with a large portion of the electorate. They made people believe there was once a “Golden Age” albeit non-existing and vowed to restore the phantasm.

The masses, tired and weary of their miserable condition which has not changed for decades are on the ropes and are willing to take a risk with the fantasy. The desperation of the poorest section of the population forced them to bite the bullet and gave the Marcoses a chance to realize the fantasy they promised.

BBM continues to hold on to fantasy politics believing that it can maintain him in power. His first State of the Nation Address (Sona) is largely make-believe, a projection of a fantastic future under his rule not the real state of the nation. He promised that by 2024, the per capita income of Filipinos will be at least $4,256 heralding the Philippines has attained upper middle-income status. BBM thinks the fantasy is enough to cover up the present reality.

The fantasy of BBM is in direct collision with the current reality. The Philippines today is actually in a pretty bad shape, a terrible legacy left behind by his predecessor.

At the end of June, the national debt of the country is Php12.79 trillion data from Bureau Treasury reveal.  With a population of 110.9 million today, it means the debt of every Filipino is Php112,678. It also implies that every Filipino family has a debt of Php474,543. BBM never said anything about how he will tackle this huge debt of the country. This ugly reality has no place in BBM’s fantasy.

Inflation (increase in prices of goods and services) rose further in July, from 6.1 percent in June to 6.4 percent according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Economists foresee inflation could remain high for the rest of the year. Some analysts believe inflation could even reach 7 percent in the coming months.

The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has already hiked its benchmark rate by 125 basis points to combat inflation but to no avail. BSP Governor Felipe Medalla hinted another hike is possible, 50 to 75 bps in the next Monetary Board meeting.

Hard times are upon Filipinos with prices of goods and services soaring. Life is difficult for most Filipino families that even senior citizens are forced to look for jobs to augment the family income. PSA found that the number of retired senior citizens looking for work increased from 34.9 percent in May to 38.2 percent at present. National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the PSA survey reveals the seniors are looking for jobs to “help them cope with rising prices.”

Senior citizens are supposed to enjoy their retirement but hard times at present left many of them no choice but to re-join the labor force to survive. Is this the road to the “Golden Age?”

High inflation also affected the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Philippines in the second quarter. GDP in the second quarter slowed to 7.4 percent from 8.2 percent in the first quarter. Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno fantastically forecasted the country will post a double-digit GDP growth in the second quarter. Reality punctured the fantasy with slower growth.

Slow second quarter GDP growth was attributed to the dismal performance of the services, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors. The lower GDP in the second quarter is primarily linked to high inflation. With inflation not yet peaking, the prospect for the third and fourth quarter GDP is not rosy. High GDP growth is crucial for the Philippines to outgrow its huge debt.

The trade deficit of the country also widened at present. The PSA reported that as of June 2022, the Philippines’ trade deficit reached US$5.84 billion or an increase of 75.4 percent. The country’s exports in June 2022 totaled $ 6.64 billion or a 1 percent growth rate compared to the same period last year. Imports, on the other hand, reached US$12.49 billion, or a growth of 26 percent.  With import outpacing export, the country’s trade deficit expanded.

BSP also reported that as of July 2022, the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) declined.  As of June 2022, the Philippines has a GIR of US$101.98 billion.  By July, the GIR of the country went down to US$98.8 billion. In May 2022, Philippine GIR stood at US$103.65 billion.

Current reality shows the country is in a rotten condition. No amount of fantasy, especially projected into the future can hide the horrible reality. Life is hard today.  Filipinos will not survive the crisis with a dose of fantasy. What is BBM doing to address the current woes of the nation?

The latest public appearance of BBM saw him singing along with other leaders of the land at the birthday bash of Sen. Angara. Nothing wrong with singing but such a public display of “having a good time” while the country is in crisis is bad taste. Fiddling, in this case, singing “while Rome burns” is a mark of an insensitive leadership.

Huge debt, high inflation, trade deficit, peso devaluation, declining GIR and other economic afflictions are battering the country. This is the reality today. How will BBM bring the Philippines from this messy reality to the promised fantasy? He said nothing. Almost two months in office, BBM has yet to unveil the details of how he will usher in the “Golden Age” amid the present reality – economic crisis.

BBM can sing “You’ve Lost the Loving Feeling” to his heart’s content but it seems he is out of touch with reality.  Lost in his fantasy, BBM is oblivious to the reality that the vast majority of Filipinos are living a hard life under his rule.