PAMPANGA

Sula: Bleak scenario

Commentary

IF LOCAL economists are right on the money about the foreseeable future, or at least one of them, things will get worse before they will get better.

Sonny Africa, executive director of IBON Foundation, had this bleak heads-up for Filipino consumers, especially the poor, during an interview at CNN last week.

If to be forewarned is to be forearmed, people should batten their roof, so to speak, to prepare for the coming storm, hopefully not a perfect one, but a stronger one if prediction is enough to go by.

Inflation will ratchet up further, food prices will continue to go up, among others, and more rice imports will have to be made.

These need not happen, or at least the situation will be mitigated if at least four factors will be immediately implemented. I remember three of them: 1) mothball the Train Law; 2) support Filipino farmers; and 3) build more irrigation infrastructure.

These are doable. Africa didn't say it but it was implied that government must rearrange its priorities.

The Train Law may not be the only culprit, but it seems to have played a pivotal role in the sudden and unabated spikes in food prices, even the country's economic managers conceded their failure to project correctly the law's negative impact. Critics have gone to town since the mea culpas with their Ï-told-you-so.

With the poor likely to suffer most, it's time our bright boys, starting from Malacañang, stopped the blame game and fix the problem, heeding what the president had earlier warned about by way of Murphy's Law: if anything can go wrong, it will.

Persecution and paranoia must be put in the back burner, perhaps until this current crisis is solved. Critics and cynics will always be part of democracy, or we will be in perpetual mediocrity. Unbridled paranoia can also lead government to paralysis. We can't, we don't have to, live this way. The poor will always be with us but it doesn't mean nothing should be done about their interest.

In the US, Americans are wondering if there is an adult in the White House. Somebody has yet to bring this up to public discourse. Perhaps, it's about time.

Over the weekend, it tried to find out for myself what the situation really was. I went to the old public market here armed with P200. I came back to my car with two half-kilo of local fruits. I did not buy until I felt I got the best bargain in town. Or so I thought. Two years ago, I could have bought a lot more with the same amount.

If Africa's bleak scenario happens, we may have to double the money in our pocket to be able to buy the same amount of goods today.

Times like this, it is evident that there is a lot opportunism also taking place, further pushing prices away from the reach of the poor. You just have to be patient in making a hard bargain to get more from your budget. And for the other side to moderate its greed.

We certainly don't deserve this, although Albay Rep. Joey Salceda had already given the verdict: We shot ourselves in the foot.


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