Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Forecasters and soothsayers

AS if by force of habit, or is it by strategic political spin?, government forecasters the likes of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the whole caboodle of Palace technocrats always races with the soothsayers of Quiapo and the Feng Shui connoisseurs of Binondo in cracking the crystal ball for what’s in store for the country in every new year.

Immediately after the smog of firecrackers cleared the Manila sky, NEDA projected that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow by 2.6 to 3.6 percent in 2010 and expressed a wholesale confidence that the country’s economy will be stronger due to the economic reforms undertaken by the current Administration.

To substantiate their prediction, the bright boys of MalacaƱang then gave a litany of the following growth drivers that will propel the economy to heights: trade, tourism, business process outsourcing, construction, mining and quarrying, government services, air transportation, manufacturing, communication and agriculture. This, of course, is a template that always appears every time the government winks.

The public takes this forecast nonchalantly just like it does with every State of the Nation Address of the big boss. People know that it is hard to cheat the stomach which is a better barometer than government forecasts or social surveys that according to a presidential candidate can be bought in Quiapo.

The analysts of the University of the Philippines (UP) see the country’s economic lot differently. Dr. Rene Ofreneo, for instance, said that the country “will continue to reel from the effects of the crisis until 2010 due to low investments in the Philippines, as well as natural and political disasters like Maguindanao massacre and martial law.”

Commenting about the increase in the number of underemployed and unemployed, another UP professor, Dr. Benjamin Diokno, said that due to structural problems in the economy and weak external demand for labor, job prospects in the country may continue to be weak until 2014. And employment, according to a former National Treasurer, Leonor Briones, is the most reliable indicator of whether the economy is in good shape or otherwise.

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