Rigoberto Tiglao has insulted the intelligence of 84 million Filipinos again with his “It's the economy, stupid” article a few days back, using misleading interpretation of historical data claiming for GMA an average 4-percent GDP growth rate against Aquino's 3.8 percent, Ramos' 3.7 percent and Estrada's 2.8 percent. Tiglao uses a deliberately misleading assumption that Estrada's economic governance started in 1998 when the GDP fell to 0.6 percent. Economists know that there is a lag time of at least 6 months as one administration passes on to the next and 1998 is certainly Ramos' responsibility.
Estrada's first year was 1999 and growth had recovered to 3.4-percent GDP from -0.6 percent left by Ramos. This was followed by Erap's year 2000 GDP of 4.4 percent. When Mrs. Arroyo took over in January of 2001 after the Edsa II power grab, that rate fell to 3 percent. These are official Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas figures we are citing.
Tiglao claims that Erap's drinking and mahjong sprees kept him away from decisively leading the economy out of the Asian-wide financial crisis and that Chavit Singson's expose in 2000 only further weakened the troubled economies. But the data show Erap still managed 4.4-percent GDP.
Tiglao claims a decline in the poverty incidence from 27.5 percent in 2000 down to 24.7 percent in 2003 during Gloria's years. What Tiglao doesn't explain is that the poverty threshold was revised since then from P13,823.00/person down to P11,605/person. As an ADB report on the Internet remarked about the change in the poverty threshold, i.e. the level of income/year where an individual is considered poor, it gave the new poverty definition a $50 per capita bonus. But various surveys have put the poverty and hunger at over 50 percent, while real family income of Filipinos fell 14 percent from the year 2000 to 2003 and the purchasing power of the peso fell by 10 percent.
Tiglao omits a discussion of the unemployment figures that during Estrada's time and using SWS figures never exceeded 12.5 percent (the worse in Dec. 2000), while employment under Gloria fluctuated and deteriorated from 14.1 percent in March 2003 down to 20.3 percent in May of 2005. As a consequence, 57 percent of the people rated themselves as poor in the March 2005 survey. Mrs. Arroyo's debacles are real, unlike Estrada's created by destabilization in 2000. Tiglao clearly falsified the presentation of the statistics to suit his objective of prettifying what actually is a horrible economic picture of Gloria's economic management.
One of the most basic and important economic indicators is the level of external debt the Philippines has and this is one thing Tiglao obviously did not want to touch on and never brought up. During Erap's 1999 to 2000 years, foreign debt grew from $50.99 billion to $51.206 billion rising by only about $1.7 billion, Gloria's on the other hand grew from $51.900 billion in 2001 to $53.645 billion in 2002 and then leapt to $57.396 billion in 2003 increasing gigantically by almost $4 billion! Despite this, growth had not significantly improved in 2004 where the President claims up to 6.1-percent GDP, election spending created the artificial upswing which this year crashes back to 4.5 percent as the August issue of The Economist records.