Thursday, 30 July 2009

What President Arroyo did

By Tony Lopez
Manila Times

Economy. Infrastructure. National integration.

These are the key words that characterize the nine years of the administration of President Gloria Arroyo.

She greatly expanded the size of the Philippine economy, in GNP terms, from $74 billion in 2001 (per capita GNP of $967 times population of 76.5 million) to $184.6 billion in 2008 (per capita GNP of $2051 times population of 90 million). In percentage terms the increase was 149 percent—an expansion of one and a half times in eight years, even as a 15 million more Filipinos were born and had to be fed and nurtured.

In GDP terms, the economy expanded from P3.63 trillion in 2001 to P7.42 trillion in 2008, a 104-percent increase or a doubling of the size of the economy. That’s equivalent to an average 13-percent gain per year (104 divided by eight years).

The economy grew for 33 consecutive quarters—the longest sustained expansion in the country’s history. Average GDP growth was 4.85 percent during 2001 to 2008, exceeding per capita population growth of 2.2 percent per year and resulting in per capita growth of 2.65 percent. In the 25 years before that, average per capita GDP growth was 0.2 percent—one of the slowest, if not the slowest, in the world (based on World Bank data).

Today, with a population of 92 million, the Philippines is the 12th largest market in the world. With GDP, in purchasing power parity terms, of $327.8 billion, the Philippines is the 36th largest economy in the world, according to the World Bank’s 2009 World Development Report. With per capita GDP in PPP terms of $3,631.50, Filipinos belong to the world’s middle class.

The result is an equally awesome consumer purchasing power. According to the World Development Indicators 2009, household expenditures account for 80 percent of GDP.

Under the Arroyo administration, heavy investments were made in all kinds of infrastructure—in physical infrastructure like road networks and highways, airports, seaports and nautical highways; in all kinds of energy and power plants; and in information technology and communications.

Investments in airports have enabled Cebu Pacific for instance to create five million passengers who never flew an airplane before.

We have three nautical highways connecting Luzon in the north to Visayas in Central Philippines to Mindanao in the south.

Today, 98 percent of all barangays have electricity. When Arroyo took office, the ratio was less than 70 percent.

Today, 98 percent of the archipelago has a cellular phone signal. Eight of every ten Filipinos have a cell phone. For millions of ordinary Filipinos, their first major investment, their first capital goods acquisition is a cellular phone handset.

It is now possible for the vegetable farmers of the Mountain Province, the fishermen of Iloilo and the rice farmers of Cotabato to surf their phone and get the latest quotations in commodities prices from the Internet. Thus, they know how much their product is worth and how much their hard work is valued.

We have begun to build the mother of all infrastructure networks—Education.

With the expansion in the economy and the investments and advancements in infrastructure and technology is a kind of national integration never seen before in our lifetime.

Physically, all the country’s provinces and nearly all the islands of the archipelago are connected, by land through the road networks, by sea through the nautical highways, by air, through renovated and brand new airports; and wirelessly, through modern communications technology.

For the first time, Filipinos, no matter their age, sex, tribe, religion or political persuasion, can connect and relate to each other. And not only to each other, but to the rest of the world.

This is national integration.

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