President Rodrigo Duterte, as expected, completely blamed the ongoing pandemic for the sluggish economy and accused the contagion of “stealing everything”, unmindful of the following:
The Gross National Product (GDP) has been steadily falling even before the pandemic from 7.1% in 2016 to 6.9% in 2017, 6.3% in 2018, and 6.1% in 2019. The GDP plummeted to negative 9.5% in 2020, which was the lowest ever including the Marcos years.
While the Asia-Pacific region was hit with equal ferocity by the pandemic, the other countries weathered the contagion admirably, but the Philippines rather feebly.
He had a “medical populist” approach to the pandemic, like America’s former President Donald Trump, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He belittled the virus as a joke; downplayed the public health crisis; relied on a militaristic approach to the contagion, consequently preventing scientists and medical professionals from taking the lead; and touted his own bizarre solutions to the problem.
Duterte failed to mention that the following negative indicators derail the economy: (1) decelerating Gross Domestic Product (GDP); (2) runaway unemployment; (3) increasing poverty and hunger; (4) galloping inflation; and (5) ballooning national debt, to which he failed to offer explanations and solutions.
While the President highlighted the completion of some mega infrastructure projects, he was ominously silent on the infrastructure of the mind, particularly basic education.
Duterte failed to refute the findings of the World Bank that in an international assessment on primary education, out of 79 countries the Philippines ranked last in reading and second to last in science and math.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN