POSTSCRIPT / July 29, 2008 / Tuesday
 
GMA gave clear data; critics must refute them
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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BLINDERS: We do not progress fast enough as a nation, stuck as we are with our blinders and biases.

Days before President Gloria Arroyo delivered yesterday her State of the Nation Address, every talking head in town was already whaling away in advance at the supposed false claims and outright lies that, they said, would pad her SONA.

It seems that many of us, particularly some politicians and radical elements, have lost the capacity to listen and to grant good faith. That is sad.

Such is the tragedy of having the seeds of yesterday’s SONA – especially the appeal for a unified front against the food and fuel crisis gripping the world — possibly falling on barren soil.

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CREDIBILITY: On the flipside, lending of a deaf ear to the President is inevitable considering her eroded credibility as suggested in the latest surveys.

To those reeling from the hard times or bitter experience, the true SONA is not the upbeat report delivered by the President, or even the counter-SONA of politicians railing on the other side of the fence, but the SONA rumbling in the guts of the masses.

Like all phenomena, the true SONA depends on who is viewing it and the point of view taken.

Actually kanya-kanyang SONA tayo. But anybody questioning the President’s report must produce counter-data or start by proving her statistical bases wrong.

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CLEAR DATA: The President’s  SONA was backed up by clear statistical data. She cited persons, places, amounts and specific projects that she said had benefited the less fortunate.

Some of the beneficiaries, she said, increased their household income after receiving assistance from government livelihood and other projects in their areas.

Her critics in the Congress and in the streets cannot dismiss these claimed accomplishments with a general sweep of the hand without citing their own validated figures. They should come up with their own statistics.

In the legislature, opposition congressmen and senators may want to tell the people their own legislative agenda targeting the food and fuel crisis and, specifically, improving the quality of life of the masses.

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TOUGH DECISIONS: Situating her appeal “at a crucial moment in world history,” the President reported:

“Just a few months ago, we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created. We were all looking to a better, brighter future.

“Because tough choices were made, kumikilos na ang bayan at sa wakas ang ekonomiya… palapit na tayo sa pagbalanse ng budget habang namumuhunan sa taong bayan.

“Biglang-bigla, nabaligtad ang ekonomiya ng mundo. Ang pagtalon ng presyo ng langis at pagkain ay nagbunsod ng pandaigdigang krisis, the worst since the Great Depression and the end of World War II.

“We are on a roller coaster ride of oil price hikes, high food prices and looming economic recession in the US and other markets. Economic uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.”

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APPROACH: How does the President propose to solve these many complex challenges whipped up by the crisis? Her answer:

“First, we must have a targeted strategy and a set of precise prescriptions.

“Second, food self-sufficiency, less energy dependence, greater self-reliance.

“Third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long-term reforms, which will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well.”

Along those lines, she suggested reform legislation that the Congress, which she credited for some useful laws recently passed, can consider.

She gave positive statistics and cited success stories of farmers, drivers, entrepreneurs, housewives, etc., some of whom stood to applause as they were called by the President.

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VAT DEFENDED: The President mounted a stout defense of the expanded Value Added Tax that a broad spectrum of objectors wants suspended at least as it is applied on power and oil products.

The President explained: “Napakahalaga ang VAT sa pagharap sa mga hamong ito. Itong programa ay sagot sa mga problemang namana natin.

“Una, mabawasan ang ating mga utang and shore up our fiscal independence.

“Pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para sa inprastraktura at taong bayan.

“Panghuli, sapat na pondo para sa mga programang pangmasa.

“Thus, the infrastructure links programmed for the poorest provinces.”

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WHERE VAT WENT: The President told the Congress: “Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibilities as leaders. We shall pull the rug from under our present and future progress.

“Lalong lumalakas ang tiwala ng mga investor dahil sa VAT. Mula P56.50 kada dolyar, lumakas ang piso hanggang P40.20 bago bumalik sa P44 dahil sa mga pabigat ng pangdaigdigang ekonomiya… Kung aalisin ang VAT, hihina ang kumpiansa ng negosyo, lalong tataas ang interes, lalong bababa ang piso, lalong mamahal ang bilihin.

“Pag ibinasura ang VAT, ang mga makikinabang ay ang may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84 percent ng langis at 90 percent ng koryente. Kung aalisin ang VAT sa langis at koryente, mawawala ang P80 bilyon para sa mahihirap.

“Noong Hunyo, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa VAT sa langis — dalawang bilyong pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap, isang bilyon para college scholarships o pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita, kalahating bilyong pautang upang palitan ng mas matipid na LPG, CNG o biofuel ang motor ng libu-libong jeepney, at kalahating bilyong pampalit sa fluorescent sa mga pampublikong lugar.”

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