Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Labor party won’t buy Nograles’ pitch for cha-cha

Partido ng Manggagawa
2 October 2008

Transforming the US financial crisis into an opportunity for the Philippines was not just a wishful thinking on the part of the House Speaker but an insidious ploy by the administration to smuggle its charter change agenda.

“The view that the worsening financial crisis in the US may turn into a golden opportunity for the Philippines was more like King Midas’ political imagination rather than sound economic wisdom of Speaker Nograles,” said Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chair, Renato Magtubo.

Speaker Nograles had said that the US financial crisis offers us the best argument to "lift equity restrictions" on the prohibitive 60-40 constitutional provision that favors only local businessmen, adding that amending the constitution would give Americans and Filipino migrants the opportunity to transfer their investments here.

Magtubo, who was a former partylist representative for labor, pointed out that there was no solid argument to support the claim that Fil-Am’s decisions to bring their investments back home is restricted by that constitutional provision, and thus comes the urgent need to lift it. Even with Americans and other aliens whose investments here are already protected by many foreign investment laws such as the build operate and transfer (BOT).

Magtubo explained that on the contrary, their decision to invest in the country may not be bothered by the Philippine conditions but by the overall investments climate amid capitalism’s continuing dip into global recession.

“In fact, what we must be greatly concerned of are the fate of our OFW’s and emigrants living in the US and other countries badly hit by the financial crisis since the immediate impact of that crisis is the rise in unemployment rate,” said Magtubo.

Magtubo cited a recent report by Reuters based on the findings of some business analysts that US factories are now at “recession levels” causing a rise in the unemployment rate.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of national factory activity fell to 43.5in September from 49.9 in August. An index of below 50 means contraction instead of expansion. Another report by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. reveals that job cuts brought the third-quarter layoffs total to 287,142, the highest quarter of cuts since the fourth quarter of 2005. The September non-farm payrolls report from the Department of Labor is expected to show a loss of 100,000 jobs, according to a median estimate from economists.

The labor leader said that under this condition, the government must be more concerned with the ‘capacity’ of our OFWs to secure their jobs abroad and weather this crisis than their ‘ability to invest’ their dollars in the country, which they already did by sending most of their incomes back home to support their families.

There are at least eight million Filipinos working abroad, according to the records of POEA. It is assumed that their jobs as well as their income are threatened by this global recession. One in every six Filipino families derives most of their income from OFW remittances, according to studies.

“It should be this kind of risk and prospect that our government leaders should prepare. Otherwise, making use of the crisis as an ‘opportunity’ to revive the charter change campaign, is barefaced political opportunism,” said Magtubo

Accordingly, to prepare the country for the worse impact of the global crisis, the Partido ng Manggagawa called on national leaders to reverse its economic policies that were hinged more on foreign investments rather than on developing our own industry and the real economy.

“It can be done by redirecting the more than P600B debt service payments this year for economic and social services. Banks and pension funds should also be mandated to invest their money in agriculture, industry, housing, and other sectors of our real economy, rather than in ‘casino’ speculative markets offshore,” concludes Magtubo.

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