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Philippines: On Mrs. Arroyo’s 7th State of the Nation Address

by Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2007 at 8:03 AM

"Gloria's economy is not working." This is what the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said of Mrs. Arroyo's flamboyant and rosy economic claims; two days shy from the Executive's 7th State of the Nation Address (SONA) this 23rd of July.

In an economic forum at the University of the Philippines, FDC said if there is one way of truly measuring the economic performance of this government, then it is by scrutinizing our current debt situation beyond what is being peddled to us by Mrs. Arroyo's economic managers and spin doctors.

"If Mrs. Arroyo has anything to say on the debt during her SONA, most likely it would be a boring reiteration of her deceptive claims that the debt problem is 'over' or is being managed prudently," FDC President Ana Maria R. Nemenzo said.

"While this assertion may be partly true, however, these so-called improvements in the debt statistics have been achieved through pre-payment of loans in exchange for new loans with longer maturity, decreased availment of agencies of direct loans and the unplanned resurgence of our currency—all of which speaks of Mrs. Arroyo's core debt management strategy of borrowing heavily to pay old debts," Nemenzo said.

According to the group, Mrs. Arroyo's take on the debt does not solve the problem and is instead imbedding the predicament further. "No economy achieved real growth and development by prioritizing debt payments or by simply remaining in the debt trap. If not for the remittances of our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) which this government has nothing to do with, the economy of our country would have long been in the mire of an undeniable and explicit economic crisis," Nemenzo said.

The anti-debt advocacy group likened the government's debt strategy as a form of pyramiding. FDC said that while it might seem to work at this particular juncture, it is highly unsustainable and harmful in the long run.

"Clearly, this is Mrs. Arroyo's own FrancSwiss scam. While we are fixated with apprehending those responsible for the FrancSwiss swindle, We, particularly, the new Congress must also put a stop to the pyramiding scam that is the Arroyo government's flawed debt management strategy which continues to deceive the Filipino people," Nemenzo said.

The group stated that while the Arroyo government continues to sell the idea of a 'good debt management', sustained accumulation of illegitimate debt cases are being religiously paid by the Filipinos under Mrs. Aroyo's rule. Some of the many debt cases FDC has mentioned are:

- The 0 million North Rail Project;

- The World Bank textbook loan anomaly;

- The 1 million WB-funded Small Coconut Farms Development Project;

- Austrian Medical Waste Project;

- Power Sector Restructuring Projects; and,

- Private loans that the public is now paying for, e.g., Casecnan and other IPPs, Metrorail Transit.

The group also called on the legislators of the 14th Congress to:

- Repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Law - Stop prioritization of debt payments over the urgent needs of the Filipinos;

- Pursue a Comprehensive Audit of Public Sector Debts and Contingent Liabilities, including review of existing laws and policies, particularly GMA's debt management strategy; and,

- Non-allocation for payments of loans that clearly did not benefit the Filipinos, and/or those resulting from anomalous transaction.

"If we really want our economy to work and serve the interests of the poor, then our national leaders must address the debt problem seriously and courageously. Otherwise, so-called rosy economic performance will remain mere statistics devoid of any broad concurrence from the public," Nemenzo concluded.


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