Economists look at economic progress of the country in terms of gross national product, gross nation income, per capita income and other authoritative sounding jargons.
But columnist Joel Ruiz Butuyan recently wrote that these standards of measurement do not reflect real conditions on the ground. Lumping together the income of the ultrawealthy and our impoverished majority and then coming up with an average income, give us a deceptive picture of progress in a country like ours where the gap between the rich and poor is deep, wide and immeasurable.
He views five alternative and nontraditional indicators which reflect real economic conditions namely:
1. The proliferation of ukay-ukay and Japan surplus stores nationwide. Ukay-ukay are street (may I add online) retailers that sell used clothes, bags, shoes, and other apparel brought in from wealthy countries. Japan surplus stores are shops that sell secondhand household items and personal materials from Japan, such as plates, cups, furniture, home ornaments, bicycles, sports equipment, beauty products and some food items. These stores proliferate in virtually every town in our country. They sell the refuse and discards of prosperous countries, and they indicate that we are virtually a nation of mendicants, regardless of what our GNP figures say.
2. The flourishing business of selling food and hygiene items in sachets which are within the purchasing power of the daily wagers. For as long as there’s brisk business in sachet-contained merchandise, hand-to-mouth existence extensively pervades among our people, regardless of the rosy picture painted by our GNI figures.
3. The continuing diaspora of our workers and professionals who take on manual labor abroad. For as long as our country heavily bleeds with talent because of the yearly exodus of tens of thousands of our workforce who endure muscle work abroad, reports of economic prosperity is a mirage. The exodus of so many of our countrymen to take on unwanted jobs abroad is a severe indictment on the lack of growth-induced opportunities here. There is something off in including the remittances of our overseas Filipino workers as a factor of our country’s economic progress, when they are income induced by growth in foreign economies.
4. The proliferation of pseudo-religious groups that take advantage of the gullible masses and that impoverish them even more, while making their leaders filthy rich. They’re like tumors caused by desperation and hopelessness. The more severe the economic hardship is among our people, the more pseudo-religious groups mushroom and expand in membership. When a country attains real economic progress, these pseudo-religions wither.
5. Finally, the overwhelming predominance of elected leaders who win public posts because of patronage politics. They who use government funds and resources to buy electoral support. The fact that this kind of leaders flourishes, indicates the desperation of people who cling for survival on leaders who dispense economic favors. No matter how robust our per capita income numbers may be, if the leaders who are voted into office are patronage politicians, we have massive numbers of our electorate living in poverty. Dirty politics thrives when voters’ stomachs are empty. Clean politics flourishes when tummies are full.
Yet, he said, the Marcos administration boasts that before his term ends in 2028, our country would have joined the ranks of upper middle- income countries, which presumably proves that we are bound to enjoy respectable prosperity.
This is a goal and a boast that are utterly meaningless to people who will continue depending on ukay-ukay and Japanese surplus stores, who will survive daily on sachet-apportioned foodstuff, who will anchor hope on pseudo-religious groups, who will dream of migrating abroad, and who will continue to be indentured vassals of patronage leaders.
I have often discussed the abovementioned premises of why I do not believe in that economic gobbledygook. I see things the way they really are and I refuse to believe tales of progress, prosperity and growth, especially mouthed by government economists. Let us stop fooling ourselves. Poverty is staring wide-eyed at you, yet what you see is prosperity and wealth amid people begging on the streets, amid commuters having difficulty getting rides for their office and back home, amid lack of water in many parts of the country, amid lack of food especially for the poor.