Marcos is already undermining the Philippines’ economic future


History just doesn’t seem to be Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s thing.

The most obvious example is how his administration, after just 88 days, is trying to whiten his father’s disastrous 20-year reign that ended in 1986 amid a massive “people power” revolt. Now, however, Marcos is looking to rewrite much more recent history regarding his struggling economy.

In a Sept. 23 interview with The Associated Press, Marcos said he wanted “reintroduce the philippinesto the world and raise Manila’s profile internationally. The reaction of many global investors: Huh?!

Whether it’s an illusion or not, Marcos glosses over how former President Benigno Aquino III once achieved it. During his tenure from 2010 to 2016, Aquino didn’t just repeat that the former “sick man from Asia” was “open for business.” He proved it in a way to earn Manila’s first ever investment grade credit ratings.

One by one under his leadership, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings have all recognized Aquino’s efforts to strengthen the national balance sheet, increase public accountability and fight corruption. For six years, Aquino’s “good governance” campaign increased transparency between departments and cracked down on tax evaders.

Simple moves like bringing basic government services online suddenly left dozens of rent-seeking middlemen out of the process. Aquino has turned to a public-private partnership model to internationalize bidding processes, introduce sustainability studies and offer foreign investors attractive entry points into one of the world’s biggest booms. Asian infrastructure.

It was a surprising detour from the 12 years before Aquino arrived at the presidential palace. His two immediate predecessors have been embroiled in controversies over corruption. Joseph Estrada’s passage from 1998 to 2001 was interrupted by Corruption charges and indictment. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency from 2001 to 2010 ended with plunder charges.

This left Aquino in 2010 to play a stabilizing role in the country. It was an Aquino family tradition, of sorts. In 1986, his mother, Corazon Aquino, led the protest movement that ousted the Marcos family from power. In 1992, she handed over to Fidel Ramos, a technocratic leader who accelerated efforts to fix a battered economy.

Then came the backtracking. As Estrada and Arroyo wanted pals, economy upgrades have been largely dropped. The late Aquino got things back on track. Under his leadership, Manila’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index improved to 95th of 134th in 2010.

In 2016, the Philippines was vying with China for the title of Asia’s fastest growing economy, global investors were heading to Manila, and Aquino became a guest speaker at Davos. Efforts to “reintroduce” the nation were going well.

And came Rodrigue Duterte, who voters elected to oversize the “welcome” Matt Aquino had dragged around the economy. The hope was that Duterte would take his legendary 22 years of house-cleaning in the southern city of Davao – which has seen faster growth and less corruption than other regions – and repeat that perceived success nationally.

Instead, Duterte prioritized a violent war on the drug trade. Rather than making headlines about multinational corporations rediscovering the Philippines, Duterte drew scorn: sharp rebukes from the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In addition, Manila’s Transparency International rating was 117th at the end of Duterte’s term, a deterioration of 22 rungs. freedom of the press rankings fell even more precipitously.

Duterte also paved the way for the Marcos family to return to power. First, by giving the dictator who destroyed the Philippine economy a “hero’s funeral.” Then, legitimizing Marcos Jr., known as Bongbong, as a worthy successor (along with his daughter Sara Duterte as vice-president).

Marcos has had a few years now to detail plans for the economy. He has had two months and 28 days in office to explain precisely how he aims to improve the country’s economic game and reduce the fallout from the Duterte era. Instead, Marcos relied on vague and tired talking points.

The Real Marcos Moves has are not promising as these things go. For example, he took charge of the Ministry of Agriculture. It’s a bizarre move at a time when the inflationary fallout from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to push millions of Filipinos in poverty. No one can guess how growing up the scion of the Philippines’ most notorious dynastic family leaves Marcos proficient in the sciences of crop yields.

Speaking of Russia, Marcos told Bloomberg last week that his team was in talks with Putin to secure cheap fuel and other key commodities. As Marcos said, “the national interest comes first.” Oh good? Doing business with Putin’s gangster regime will only “reintroduce” global investors to fears that the Philippines will slide back into economies to avoid status.

Marcos likes to say “the future looks bright” because the economy could grow by 6.5% this year. But as we learned from his father’s calamitous reign, fast gross domestic product doesn’t matter unless it hits 99%. During their presidencies, Estrada and Arroyo also produced large increases in GDP that failed to enrich the masses.

Aquino tried, but six years isn’t enough to revitalize a long-neglected economic system. Especially when the next leader, Duterte, is more concerned with pet issues than revamping the economy.

Will Bongbong do better? Let’s hope so. But early indications are that he is already screwing up the Philippines’ economic future.


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