Saturday, April 29, 2006

Let's Move On

Yes, the title of this post is deliberately meant to rile those in the opposition, in the hope of increasing their chances of developing strokes, heart attacks, or at the very least, atherosclerosis. But wishful thinking aside, I'm posting this to call attention to the latest SWS survey, which finds that 58% of our countrymen want, as you may have already surmised, to move on.

Of course, the oppo already has that covered, having pre-emptively come out with analyses disputing the reliability of surveys, just when the tide of public opinion was turning decisively against their favor. It's a double-edged sword, one that I'll be more than happy to use should circumstances ever reverse themselves, so I won't begrudge them what little consolation they can get. Still, whether you prefer your polls with grains of salt on the side or not, this one will either perk you up or pull you down, depending on your political persuasion. Or maybe not; as some in the opposition have amply demonstrated, they just don't give a damn what the rest of their fellow citizens think.

As the Philippine Star doesn't have permalinks, here are the relevant excerpts from the report:

"More than half of Filipinos want the country to move forward from the political crisis hounding President Arroyo since last year over accusations of electoral fraud, according to a commissioned opinion poll.

Fifty-eight percent said they agreed that the opposition 'should start helping the country and stop too much politics,' according to a survey by pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Fifteen percent of the 1,200 people questioned said they disagreed, 24 percent were undecided and three percent were unaware of the issues or refused to answer.

Fifty-one percent said it was time to forgo bitterness over the May 2004 presidential elections, in which Mrs. Arroyo allegedly cheated her way to victory, and let her 'focus on the real problems of the nation.'

Twenty-three percent disagreed, 24 percent were undecided and two percent had no answer.

Forty-two percent agreed that Mrs. Arroyo 'has the right plan for the nation and the economy but it is not moving fast enough as expected by the average citizen.'

Twenty-six percent disagreed and 29 percent were undecided. Three percent were unaware of the issues or refused to answer."

If you haven't already done so, feel free to start ostracizing those who are obdurately in the opposition. Do not invite them to social gatherings, do not fraternize with them, put them in your Snubster list, make them feel that they are dead to you. Perhaps we'll get lucky and they'll all leave the country. Let them go to Venezuela or Cuba or wherever they think they'll be appreciated. Then we can finally get some work done.

Analyses on the reliability of surveys, among other things, can be found in Philippine Commentary:

Public Opinion Polling as a Genre of Journalism
How the Surveys Have Lost Their Sting
"SWS" Survey: Fallacy of the Leading Question In Aid of Propaganda

SWS' media release of their March 2006 survey can also be found in their website.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Never Again

An essay by inveterate opposition internet denizen M. Buencamino in Business Mirror castigates the middle-classes' cravenness to their upper-class masters (yawn) and questions their continued relevance to national issues. My initial reaction was 'here we go again, they can't enlist any support from the middle for their agenda, so they resort to casting aspersions on its collective character and asking if it is even needed'. Well of course the middle class isn't necessary; the opposition has been courting it assidiously for almost a year now, just for the pure heck of it.

But back to his essay. On reading it again, I thought Buencamino did make at least one good point, only he may not have realized it. Thus, in the spirit of amity and reconciliation, I've decided to focus on that particular point of agreement, so that, using everyone's favorite phrase du jour, we can all move on. Here's the choice excerpt:

"The middle values stability. Their biggest fear is slipping off the ladder and falling back into the masa’s arms. They will not take chances."

Agreed. Stability is such an underrated virtue these days, especially among certain quarters. Glad to know the middle still values it. And rightly so that they are apprehensive of falling back into penury. Really, we already have enough poor people in this country as it is; creating any more would be downright immoral. This distaste for ill-considered adventurism moved by well-justified fear of possible consequences would in saner societies be called prudence; over here, it's yet another underrated virtue.

As for the chances we are asked to take... What exactly would be gained? More uncertainty? Another bad precedent? Another bad president? No, thank you, but we'd rather not have any more political instability and capital flight than is absolutely necessary. We'd rather not have the possibility of another Erap assuming the throne. One more of him and we're done for. Seriously. IMHO, that's what the middle classes had in mind when they marched in EDSA Dos and chanted "Never again!" But, of course, you already knew that.

Having disdainfully dismissed the middle class, Buencamino then goes on to take the poor for granted, before finally devoting the major part of his essay to a pathetic attempt to sow dissension in the ranks, ostensibly by warning the rich that the erstwhile parvenu living by the Pasig can quite easily bite the hands that feed her. Of course, from his tone, he probably couldn't care less if that happened, if only it wasn't the detested midget doing the biting.

I know that what passes for the opposition's brain trust is starved for ideas, fixated as they are on pretermination like pit bulls to a scrawny leg. But really, is this the best they can do?

Other more rational, thoughtful and, yes, moderate reactions to the essay can be had elsewhere on the interweb, if you'd prefer something other than this rather bilious take at it. Two I particularly like are posted by baratillo books cinema @ cubao and Out of my mind.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Driving Opportunity Away

Today's piece in Alex Magno's column in the Philippine Star perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the so-called brain drain currently being decried by the usual opportunistic politicos, greedy (yet inefficient) pseudo-nationalist businessmen, and (of course) our unexportable state-university intelligentsia. To wit, instead of looking at it as a problem, we need to look at it as an opportunity. If we find the supply drying up, the solution is NOT to bottle it up and hide it in the cupboard, thereby creating a huge class of pissed-off, underpaid professionals. Rather, the solution lies in taking advantage of the demand and, more importantly, expanding the supply. As Magno notes, the private sector is doing exactly that, moving swiftly to expand the supply of pilots, nurses, IT personnel, etc. This is being done even without any government support or incentives, though thankfully there isn't any government interference either.

Increasing the supply is the only solution equitable to all parties concerned. Being based on market forces, it's also the most stable and thus the most suited for the long-term. To take the perverse path being peddled by the usual suspects would not only be equivalent to creating a new indentured caste, but would also be tantamount to driving a great opportunity away.

N.B. The Philippine Star has a problem with permalinks, and articles posted on their servers have a habit of disappearing after a few days. Such, unfortunately, is the case here. Copyright concerns prevent me from reproducing the entire article, and laziness precludes me from producing a suitable summary. If you have access to the Star's archives, then you can find Mr. Magno's piece in the April 13, 2006 issue. The title is Cameroon.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Stay the Course

Recent developments in fellow Third World economies, particularly in Latin America, indicate a reaction setting in, a swing of the pendulum if you will, against globalization, what with the rise of left-leaning politicians in these countries. We should welcome this development with open arms, if not with glee, and encourage it to the utmost. Why so, you ask? Because, if nothing else, a widespread backlash against globalization would effectively reduce the number of economies receptive to foreign direct investment. In other words, it would effectively reduce our competition. One reason among others why growth has been relatively sluggish in the SEA region the past decade is that most of the world had seen the error of their ways during the 90s and have since been hewing strictly to economic orthodoxy. Though this doubtless makes the TNCs happy, it means more work for economies like us to compete in luring them. With our inability to get our political act together, our focus and performance have been spotty at best. So anything that could diminish the competition would be very welcome. We must thus do our utmost to encourage this new wave of socialist reaction, to the extent of encouraging these would-be Chavezes and latter-day Castros diplomatically, if discreetly. If possible, we must encourage our national democratic comrades to go abroad and help these neo-Sandinistas in their struggles against the running dogs of capitalism, preferably on a permanent basis. We must export our anti-globalization and anti-Davos types to foreign capitals, to foment the locals into rejecting WTO membership and picketing the TNC offices. If we succeed in this, a new Iron Curtain should soon descend in the different places we've targeted. And all we'd have to do then is just stay the orthodox economic course and wait for the capital to pour in.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Replies to Responses

Recently browsing the comment thread in Mr. Quezon's blog, I came across someone who was hoping for an embargo by foreign powers in response to "gluemac’s undemocratic ways". Now something like that happening is, as we know, highly unlikely, but what got my goat was his attitude (I'll assume the poster was male) that anything was acceptable, just so Midgie is kicked out of Malacanang. What the hell, it's my pocketbook, not to mention the pocketbooks of millions of other citizens, he's talking about when he daydreams of embargoes. Though it's a policy of mine to comment in other blogs as little as possible (not because I can't stand the arguments, but because I'm too lazy to write replies to any responses, and I don't want my silence misconstrued as assent or surrender), I felt I had to put pen-to-paper / fingers-to-keyboard on this one, for the sole fact that it was really quite upsetting. Against my better judgment, I clicked 'Submit' and sent my comment.

a de brux was quick to the defense, and the original commenter, in a pig's eye, clarified his position. My replies:


i’m afraid the irony in your reply is lost on me. it’s not really very funny when one’s prospects is bound inextricably to the local economy, and held hostage by scorched-earth politics. though to some extent i am insulated (as i believe you are, too), not everyone is so fortunate. without even taking into account the opportunity costs, the real economic costs alone of almost one year of continuous political war is already too much to bear. as it is now, it’s almost like mutually assured destruction, with the caveat that one can no longer count on the other side being rational, and thus have to assume they will indeed push the red button. that the economy had performed as well as it had was the surprising thing. imagine the growth we’d have had if the political climate had remained fairly stable.

in any case, such an embargo could never happen. my main objection is the attitude that anything’s acceptable, even if it adversely affects the national economy ON WHICH MOST OF OUR CITIZENS STILL DEPEND, just as long as the midget’s booted out. an attitude that cavalierly disregards other citizens’ economic well-being, property, and even lives for this particular crusade.

opposition need not be destructive. witness the Black and White Movement, which goes out of its way not to inconvenience fellow citizens or negatively affect the business climate. i’m sure a lot of people like me who are otherwise opposed to their views still appreciate their consideration (even if i can’t resist making fun of them at times).

we’re already in a hole. let’s not dig ourselves in any deeper.

in a pig’s eye,

“the desire to see the least of our brethren well schooled, clothed, housed, respected and able to stand first among equals amongst people of other nations” is probably shared by 99.99% of our countrymen. we differ in the ways that we think best in achieving it. i merely believe an embargo, or anything to damage the economy for that matter, is not the best way to go about it.

Yes, I am such a linkwhore indeed. My apologies to MLQ3.


It's pathetic and rather sad how the oppo is trying to make the most mileage out of the critical NYT editorial that came out last Wednesday. For one thing, does it matter what the Times thinks? Last I checked, the Republicans are still in power, and the likelihood that the current US administration will give a flying f**k what some liberal East Coast journalist-types write about is roughly the same as the chance that Arroyo would take her cue from Cacho-Olivares' Daily Tribune. Needless to say, what goes for the NYT does not necessarily go for the US government. Far from it; for what it's worth, it's more likely to do the opposite of whatever the Times suggests.

Having said that, it's also pathetic and rather sad how the palace people went all into crisis mode (ok, semi-crisis mode) when the editorial came out, when it would have been much more dignified to just ignore it. At most, they could've released a statement acknowledging it as opinion from a private entity (which it is), that relations with the US remained strong and friendly (which they are, for those who take their cue from Uncle Sam), and that democracy, for better or worse, is hardly in any danger (PDI is still around, right?). But no, they got their panties all bunched up about a non-event, and sent Romulo and company demanding satisfaction from the Times, among other things. Très uncool.

Enjoy the holidays.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rain on Their Parade

Thaksin resigns, and our own oppo is sure to follow up with their "Why can't Gloria be like that?" chest-beatings all through today and perhaps through the entire week. But before they start expressing admiration for PM Shinawatra, and envy for the 'democratic' hordes in Bangkok, perhaps they should read first these two articles in Newsweek, to put things in proper perspective:

Why Thaksin Is Tanking by Ruchir Sharma
A 'Fragile Foundation' by George Wehrfritz and Joe Cochrane

I don't see what these could do but rain on their parade.

[More on comparisons between Arroyo and Shinawatra in my previous post, After the Fall.]

After the Fall

If anything, what's happened to Shinawatra is more like EDSA Dos, rather than the first incarnation of people power in 1986. As Ruchir Sharma writes, "[Thailand] is in the midst of an elitist uprising, centered in Bangkok, home to 6 million of its 65 million people and most of its real wealth. There thousands of middle- and upper-class Thais are angered by, among other things, the economy's poor performance; Thailand has been among the worst performing emerging markets for two years running."

Sound familiar? Take a look at the stock exchange and the peso in the waning days of the previous administration. Take a look at GDP growth (or non-growth) for the final three years of the Marcos era. Further evidence that what drives revolutions and regime change alike is economics, the citizens' collective pocketbook. Freedom fighters and idealists make a lot of noise and drama, and often get themselves killed in the process. Quite romantic, if you're the sort, and not really a bad way to die, into the breach and all. But in the final analysis, they are window-dressing. They provide the rationalizations and weave the myths that the victors write into the history books. But the decisions that matter most are determined by the soulless indicators and indices trending implacably downwards. Decisions by moguls to withhold investments and finance the opposition. Decisions by middle managers to follow their bosses. Decisions by ordinary people, feeling the pinch in their thinned-out wallets, to join the protests in hopes it will get better after the fall. At best, the true believers are merely catalysts. And as anyone who has studied any chemistry knows, catalysts can only hasten, but can never drive, the inevitable reaction. Meaningful, significant change is driven by, yes Virginia, the cold hard cash of self-interest.

But I digress. As I was saying, Thaksin is more similar to Erap than to Arroyo, and not just because he is a fellow populist with overwhelming support among the poor. The campaign to unseat him, like the one to oust Erap, was driven mainly by the middle and upper classes, and smells faintly of class war. Alas, as Wehrfritz and Cochrane note, "the middle-class protesters furious at Thaksin simply don't trust elections to produce good leaders." Oh dear, and these were the very champions of democracy. More from the same article: "Sondhi Limthongkul, a key member of the anti-Thaksin alliance, believes the rural Thais who form the backbone of Thaksin's support are too uneducated and easily manipulated to be allowed to choose the country's next leader." Tut tut and tsk tsk, I'm speechless. At least over here we still pay lip service to democracy. And yet there are those in our own oppo falling all over themselves in Bangkok envy, extolling the brave Thai opposition, or praising Mr. Shinawatra for his consideration. Were they to apply the same standard here, they'd all be going rah-rah for Cha-Cha, and thanking Erap profusely for having given way to Arroyo.

My fearless prediction: the Thais will soon find themselves defending their little revolution from the same criticisms we had to endure after EDSA Dos. Perhaps Ms. Arroyo should send a congratulatory telegram to whomever succeeds Mr. Shinawatra, forthwith and with much haste. It's only fitting.