Friday, January 30, 2009

Over 100 groups launch alternative plan to respond to crisis in RP

MANILA, Philippines - No less than a complete overhaul of the government’s economic policy framework is required to stave off the worst impacts of the deepening economic crisis.

This was the gist of the comprehensive plan unveiled by a group of over 100 civil society organizations representing at least 100,000 workers, farmers, urban poor, teachers, and other basic sectors concerned about the potential fall-out from the crisis.

Convinced that the global crisis has proven the failure of the government’s prevailing pro-“free market” framework, they are instead calling for “a more decisive role of society over the market, more democratic access to resources, as well as greater public participation in economic decision-making.”

“The crisis should once and for all compel us to abandon the myth of trickle-down growth peddled by the government and by technocrats,” said Josua Mata, one of the plan’s proponents. “We either overhaul our economic governance – or we suffer from the worst that the crisis will unleash,” Sr. Arnold Ma Noel, added.

Called People over Profits, Society over the Market: The Balay Kalinaw People’s Agenda to Respond to the Financial Crisis, the plan calls for, among others:
- recovering state ownership in strategic industries and utilities
- reversing privatization of social services an unprecedented “social pump-priming program” that would allocate more funds for education, health care, housing and other social services
- repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Act and elimination of the pork barrel system
- massive employment-generating investments in renewable energy
– allowing us not only to weather the crisis but to emerge from it with a more sustainable economy,” said Jean Enriquez, one of the plan’s drafters.

Proponents of the People’s Agenda sought to contrast their plan with the government’s economic stimulus package which Chester Amparo, another proponent, describes as “wasteful at best and criminal at worst.” They warned that the package is being set up to “line the pockets of corrupt politicians, who need more money for their 2010 campaign kitty, instead of going to those who really need help.”

The People’s Agenda was the result of over three months of brainstorming and deliberation that began after the spectacular collapse of banks in the United States in September. Two conferences on the topic were held at the University of the Philippines’ Balay Kalinaw while a series of smaller meetings were also conducted.

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