Schooled

There are challenges like propping laggards like agriculture, but the future looks good overall with the spadework done by the Duterte government.

June 3, 2022

Karen Davila is earning a lot of flak over her interview with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno, which she anchored on the faulty assumption that President Rodrigo Duterte would be handing to President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. a bankrupt government.

Her tone was that of astonishment why Diokno has agreed to join the Marcos administration as Finance secretary when he, at least the way Davila saw it, would be presiding over a ship that’s already sinking before it could sail away from its dock.

Typical Davila, she asked whether there’s a quid pro quo for Diokno in leaving the BSP with still a year left in his constitutionally guaranteed term, like having his lieutenant and trusted pal Felipe Medalla taking over his BSP post.

Amiable as always, Diokno pointed out that Medalla also has a year left in his tenured term in the BSP as its Monetary Board Representative, and that Marcos did well in choosing him as his BSP governor on account of his track record and credentials.

There’s no blaming Davila for asking what to her were hard questions — something that earned her a “thank you” tweet from defeated senatorial bet Chel Diokno. Except that those were only hard questions because she did not do her homework as a journalist.

Diokno did not appear at all like a deer stopped dead on its track from crossing the street under the glare of the headlights that the broadcaster thought she shone on him. He just proceeded to destroy the very foundation of her line of questioning.

Even if left unsaid, there seemed to be an attempt by Davila to liken the Philippines to bankrupt Sri Lanka by blaming the Duterte administration and the over 31 million Filipinos who voted to make Marcos the first majority elected president in decades.

To Davila’s, “I will make it simple, walang pera ang gobyerno (government has no money),” Diokno said that having served for 30 years under four presidents, starting with the late Cory Aquino, he has seen all kinds of crises. “I’ve seen the worst of our economy, but we are in a better position now,” he said.

“Prior to the Duterte administration, we were heavily indebted and had a hard time arguing with the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Before, our foreign reserves will only last for two months at most, but with the Duterte administration, we have at least nine months’ worth of import reserves,” Diokno pointed out.

“Currently, we do not have a problem with paying our debts, which are mostly domestic than foreign, and we are a net contributor to the IMF,” he added. “The Duterte administration has the best tax structure than the previous admins that can help the Marcos leadership.”

By pointing out that the Philippines is a net contributor to the IMF, Diokno shot down the favorite line of government critics that he had buried the country in debt. As a net contributor, it meant that the Philippines has never had a problem under Duterte in meeting its obligations, thus the country’s good credit rating and readily available credit line for such life-saving expenditures like vaccines against Covid-19.

That’s not the case in past administrations, said Diokno, when the country had to “beg” lenders like the IMF. The Duterte government has been paying its debts with money that the IMF, in turn, is using to provide loans to other countries.

The country’s debt payments, it should be pointed out based on Diokno’s explanation, are not at the expense of the Duterte administration’s provision of services, and its infrastructure projects under “Build, Build, Build” have created jobs and propped the purchasing power of Filipinos despite the pandemic.

Diokno said that while the Noynoy Aquino government left infrastructure projects hanging by using only two percent of the country’s gross domestic products (GDP), the Duterte administration spent five to six percent of GDP on infrastructure undertakings.

He said the outgoing administration has given Filipinos roads, bridges and better airports and seaports “that boost our international trading.” He said, “Build, Build, Build” “created jobs” and expanded the country’s “capacity to gain economic growth.”

Why would Diokno not join the Marcos government? As he pointed out, the country’s economic growth hit 8.3 percent in the first quarter despite a “surge” in Covid cases in January. For him, there are challenges like propping laggards like agriculture, but the future looks good overall with the spadework done by the Duterte government. Those who want the next government to fail may be in for another big disappointment.