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Jul 30

The Explainer: Dissecting the numbers

Tyler Durden: We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.

Tyler Durden: Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishing the brass on the Titanic. It’s all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns. I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, and let the chips fall where they may.

 

That was a scene from “Fight Club.” For many of you watching tonight, things are looking up, in terms of the economy. And yet, in the media and who knows, in the privacy of gatherings of friends at home, in the clubs, and in the schools, you’ll also hear that things are pretty bad.

What’s the reason for this disconnect? Why is the glass half empty or half full? Does either view have a basis?

Tonight, we’ll have a business reporter and a distinguished former head of Neda, to explore why this might be so. 

I’m Manolo Quezon. The Explainer.

 

I. Where we stand

 

Last week, we saw that there can be a disconnect between statistics, and our opinions. The way government defines poverty, for example, may be far removed from what constitutes poverty from your or my point of view. Tonight, together with David, we’re going to look some numbers, and together with former Neda Director-General Cielito Habito, a fellow columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, we’ll ask Mr. Habito to interpret these figures for you.

But I’d like to start by asking you, David, to read this quotation from Mark Twain, which appeared in a recent editorial of your paper, The Business Mirror.

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. —Mark Twain (1835-1910)

 

You can’t beat Twain for tart but true comments. But David, I’d like to go on and ask you to read a portion of the editorial, which appeared on July 26:

And while members of Congress where preoccupied with petty bickering, entrepreneurs chaffed at the difficulties of having their businesses registered because of a tangle of obsolete rules; locators in some special economic zones were panicking at the prospect of losing fiscal incentives promised them when they registered; and the general public was left wondering whether or not it would ever have better infrastructure or improved social services. These sad truths didn’t help our efforts to attract foreign investments.

 

David, your paper’s editorial argues that much work needs to be done. At this point, I’d like to invite Mr. Habito to join us, and I’d like to ask you to jump in and comment, as well, on the data Mr. Habito is going to present.

 

Cielito Habito is best known as the Director-General of Neda during the Ramos administration. Welcome Mr. Habito.

 

Thank you for sharing with us your PowerPoint presentation on the state of the economy. Without further ado, let’s tackle your first slide…

 

When we return, Mr. Habito asks, and answers the question, “why the disconnect.”

 

II. Discussing the disconnect

  

Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

 

That was another scene from “Fight Club.” Earlier, Cielito Habito presented some information on the state of our economy. This data was gearing up for a question he posed, and which I’d like to ask Mr. Habito and David here, to tackle.

The question is, “Why is there a disconnect?”

 

My view

 

It’s the citizenry, and not the government, that builds wealth. But as each of us tries to make a living and improve our lives, someone has to act as the referee. That someone –or something- is government.

We task our presidents and our congresses with the job of acting not only as a fair referee, that is, we expect them to ensure wealth doesn’t only exist for the few, but for as many as possible. We also expect our officials to ensure that no one gets abandoned to poverty and misery.

Life is tough and complicated enough, without our being involved in the often uninspiring activities of our political class. But it seems to me, that our present-day tendency to simply shrug our shoulders, and concentrate on improving our own lives –and to hell with the rest- is ultimately, a self-defeating proposition.

Whether it’s Ciel Habito or Solita Monsod, or business-oriented writers like David Llorito or the columnists who tackle economic issues, there’s plenty of information out there, to help you get a better view of where you are, and  where our country is, in terms of global economic goings-on. 

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