Monday, 10 August 2009

Nobility personified & the prophet of boom

JA de la Cruz
Business Mirror

It was well President Arroyo and Sen. Noynoy Aquino heeded their better nature instead of the passions of hecklers, as the mourning for the late President Aquino reached its crescendo last week.

For a while there, these political hecklers, led by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, had feverishly fanned the flames of contrived discord between PGMA and the family riding on the reported efforts (a blunder-in-the-making which has since been denied) by some people in the administration to withdraw the security escorts of the late President even before she succumbed to colon cancer. “Just stay away,” Pangilinan reportedly advised when apprised that PGMA was cutting short her US visit to pay her respects to the former President. He added that if she insists, she should be prepared to be heckled or, worse, even snubbed by the Aquino children. Well, neither “feared” scenarios happened and the “people’s burial,” as it has come to be called, and the country were better off as a result.

Nobility personified

Indeed, quite apart from the spontaneous outpouring of grief and love and sympathy for a beloved leader, it was quiet solemnity which attended last week’s wake and burial ceremony for “Presiden Tita Cory.” That would have been ruptured beyond repair had those who had anything to do with the whole affair, particularly the Aquino children and, of course, the government, allowed the “uzis” and the political opportunists their run of the show. These people had wanted to politicize the entire affair as they ventured to turn it into an indignation rally of sorts and a vehicle to settle scores, old and new, perceived or otherwise. It’s good the family and, yes, the public did not allow it. And the administration did not fall for the bait, either. That the agitators would not have their way came out clearly when the Marcos siblings, Representative Bongbong and his elder sister, Imee, paid their respects and the public welcomed it. Even those in the media who were somehow initially agitated, to say the least, about the possibility of such happening at all had to hold their tongues and acknowledge the sincerity of the gesture, especially after Ballsy Aquino-Cruz welcomed the Marcoses and Pinky Aquino-Abellada publicly thanked them for the visit. Theirs was nobility personified, and their dignified presence hovering over the entire affair after somehow calmed nerves and stunted misguided efforts to hijack the burial for political ends; that kind of quiet dignity, a nobility of character Senator Noynoy showed himself when he welcomed the President at dawn of his mother’s burial. Decency and respect characterized that brief encounter as the two leaders sat down and silently said their prayers for the departed.

The President herself showed steely determination and grace as she braved a possible rude welcome from the likes of the Pangilinans of the world when she decided to proceed to the Manila Cathedral right after landing at the Naia. She did not get discouraged by all the discordant noises preceding her visit. Nor did she allow the intemperate advisories from her own people to just ignore the developments altogether and get these things over with. She did not let her hurts, if any, get the better of her. That she ordered the military and the police and other officials to extend all necessary honors and courtesies to the fallen leader and her family despite all the catcalls and the innuendoes speak well of her bearing. She could have just stayed away as advised and let the publicly stated positions of people close to the Aquinos rule the day. She did not. She had to take things in stride and do all the things necessary to accord respect and honors as befits a former President. And all these she managed with the dignity her office represents. There is a word for that kind of leadership other than grace under pressure. It is called statesmanship, and PGMA showed it. Yessir, like Senator Noynoy, she did not succumb to the heckling of the naysayers such as Pangilinan and they both came out the better for it.

The prophet of boom

And so, the nation moves on to contemplate the “Presiden Tita’s” legacy and, perhaps more critically, build on the blocks for the nation which we can be and which has seemingly eluded us since Edsa Uno. It is as if we had moved in circles after that adventure. Worse, a lot of our people may actually be living more problematic lives and looking forward to a fuzzier future since. But, like the rekindled spirits of love of country and democratic ways since, we can look forward to better days. That is, if we are to believe the original “prophet of boom,” University of Asia and the Pacific senior vice president Dr. Bernie Villegas. Like the honor guard who stood tall during the Cory funeral and exemplified the best in the military and police, economist Villegas has defied the critics and doomsayers with the bold prediction that this year’s gross national product growth can reach as high as 4 percent, more than a percent higher than the government’s best projection and at least 3-percent better than those of the rest. Villegas believes there are enough factors supporting his prediction.

Like we had earlier advised, Villegas noted that government infrastructure spending will be heavy toward the last quarter. We had earlier complained and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had also said so that the funding for infrastructure works provided for in the 2009 budget had been set aside but had barely cascaded to the beneficiaries. Not even the funds for special projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications and even minor infrastructure agencies, such as the airport and seaport authorities and the local government units, have embarked on the promised infra spending as provided for under the 2009 stimulus package. We are advised that just over 40 percent of the allocated funds have actually been spent while the rest are in the pipeline waiting for project approvals and releases. In short, we have the money but have been holding off for some reason.

Remittances, election spending

Villegas also surmised that overseas remittances will keep on flowing maybe even surpassing that of last year’s. That seems to be borne out by the latest BSP figures showing a strong 7-percent rise in remittances last quarter. Right now, the BSP believes we will have at least $17 billion in overseas remittance, at least $2 billion more than last year’s. Should that come about, which is likely, we can expect robust consumption spending from overseas Filipino workers families cascading into other communities as well through the lean months of August and September and on to the pre-Christmas and then Christmas rounds. Add to that, spending for the enrollment period in the second semester.

Of course, Villegas’s advise that election spending may come in earlier than expected has actually materialized if we go by the ads being put up by all the prospective candidates from the “presidentiables” to the lowliest officials with their tarpaulins and placements in community newspapers and radios. We note, for example, that Senators Manny Villar and Mar Roxas, the two highest spending presidential wannabes, have reportedly forked out almost a billion pesos between themselves. And we are only talking here of ads. What about their spending for ground organizations, events mobilization (like the organized groups in the Cory funeral) and, yes, their own mobilization and going-around-the-country monies. Those should be in the billions as well. And we are not yet talking here of projects, pledged or otherwise, and other such giveaways, which usually go with the moving around work out.

Quite apart from these spending vehicles the fact that the country’s inflation rate has been lowering for the past five months is encouraging. The July rate which stood at 0.2 percent is the lowest since March 1987 when it was 0.06 percent. That, coupled with the BSP’s easing of credit, should prod businessmen and entrepreneurs to get into the fray all over again. It maybe time to refinance loans, to rev up development projects or even take the risk of exploratory and related works. We are hopeful even that agri spending and, yes, garments-making will once again get going as market prospects open up. In a word, what we should expect is a rise in all kinds of preparations across-the-board as the world economy turns slowly toward recovery. How we prepare for the next upturn should be part of our continuing efforts, in and out of government. We have to spend, yes, but spend wisely and well.

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