BACOLOD

Ombion: Re-building local economy

Perspective

IS A great challenge, a long overdue one in fact, but a complicated one as well.

Basic questions however are: What is going to be rebuilt? How will rebuilding be like? Who will be the driving force? Who will be the main beneficiaries of the outputs?

Rebuilding local economy is more than just re-opening of local businesses, and restoring all the attendant requisites to it, e.g. public transportation, re-filling the inventory, enticing local economic players to join, and moving technical, legal and fund support from the local government and national government agencies to local economic activities.

I know that once businesses are re-opened, there could be a breathing spell for some recovery. But for how long, how vibrant, how sustainable, is a big question. In fact, there is no guarantee that when businesses are re-opened in the old ways or in the new normal so-called, everything will just flow again.

Reality check says otherwise. In Bacolod alone, two thirds or more are unemployed, another two third are odd-jobbers, seasonal workers, and families and kin of OFWs. With Covid crisis, their ranks have certainly multiplied in just seven months. As consumers, their access to basic needs is low.

Even if some subsidies are provided for the local MSMEs, constituting the bulk of local businesses, when most commercial banks remain biased for the big businesses, taxes are decapitating for the MSMEs, doing business with local government is not eased but fraught with corruption and extortion.

A few big Chinese-Filipino businesses with national and international interlocking directorates are still dominating the local economy, often to the disadvantaged of MSMEs and other locally owned small businesses, mostly retailers are dependent on the big businesses.

The dominantly monocrop sugar-based economy of Negros, has not only caused so much class divide for decades, but continues to breed poverty, hunger, misery and retarded the general economic development of Negros.

The remaining agricultural lands are either neglected, or under the hands of big agro-industrial corporations engaged in contract growing of high value crops for exports.

While the remaining frontiers of Mt. Kanlaon National Park and North Negros Natural Park are under unabated plunder and destruction by mining companies, big timber poachers, and urban rich establishing their rest and recreatiom haven.

Small agricultural producers, mostly upland rich peasants, and former farm workers who won land struggles, are increasingly disenfranchised and marginalized by big food traders, massive food importations, wide operations of convenience stores network, notwithstanding the hassles that massive checkpoints and LTO crooks are doing against small food haulers and enterprising motorists.

Apparently, Covid has only exposed and exacerbated the already bankrupt, moribund and anti-people local economy of Bacolod and Negros.

If this is the economy that we want to rebuild, I am sorry, this will change nothing for the better; on the contrary, this will only drive the majority struggling poor to wage their own brand of retributive justice.

If the demand is just about reopening of local businesses, it is fine and great, but will that be enough?

Rebuilding the local economy I must admit is complicated and demands a lot of critical factors.

The most pivotal still includes the democratization of resources and wealth, diversification of production for basic needs, surplus generation and environmental protection; building economic infrastructures to control and rely on local resources than on imports; utilizing local army of labor, a big percentage of whom are skilled workers, for agricultural development and building of local manufacturing and industries; supporting the MSMEs and rising ranks of self help social entrepreneurs.

Of course, these would also need the re-peopling, re-orientation and re-structuring of local government systems towards creating an environment for the functioning of good local governance.

Unless the above conditions are addressed, efforts at re-building the local economy would only give temporary relief, turn into a political vengeance, but will still soon find a dead-end.

Still, let's start wherever we are with whatever we have.


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