Zom­bie econ­omy

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

OR HAS­SLE and walk­ing dead econ­omy. This is how I char­ac­ter­ized the pre­dom­i­nantly vend­ing and ser­vic­ing econ­omy of Ba­colod and Ne­gros.

It’s not em­ploy­ment and sur­plus gen­er­at­ing sys­tem which sup­posed to help build the foun­da­tions for a com­pre­hen­sive and sus­tain­able eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. We don’t have that.

And I’m not even talk­ing yet of the in­clu­siv­ity of de­vel­op­ment be­cause then it will even be a big­ger slap on the face of the con­cerned de­vel­op­ment plan­ners and of­fi­cials.

From side­walk stall shops, cell­phone and elec­tronic gad­gets re­pair shops, sari-sari stores, road­side eater­ies to restau­rants, food shops and fast­food cen­ters, gro­ceries, phar­ma­cies, dis­trib­u­tor shops, assem­bly plants, buy and cell com­man­does, mos­quito lend­ing and mi­cro­fi­nanc­ing groups, wet mar­kets, con­ve­nience stores and su­permalls or big vend­ing cen­ters.

Go to sec­ondary cities and towns, you see the same, or maybe less. No has­sle but no daz­zle ei­ther.

These are mostly and mainly vend­ing stores and ser­vice shops, owned mostly by the big busi­nesses and few by the self­em­ployed small en­trepreneur­s and fran­chis­ers. Big malls are just the big­ger ver­sion of sari sari stores, mainly ser­vice and re­tail. They don’t gen­er­ate gain­ful and sta­ble jobs, and con­trib­ute less to the lo­cal econ­omy. Worse, many of them, en­gage in con­trac­tual job and flex­i­ble job ar­range­ments where work­ers are al­ways the losers.

In the con­text of monocrop sugar-based econ­omy of Ne­gros, the ebb and flow of the re­tail and ser­vice shops are largely de­pen­dent on the for­mer. Dur­ing the tiempo muerto or dead sea­son which is more or less from May to Au­gust, where there is not much work in the sugar farms and mills, the re­tail and ser­vice econ­omy drops sig­nif­i­cantly, and the sugar district more promi­nently looks like hav­ing ghost cen­ters.

With­out the gov­ern­ment sec­tor em­ploy­ees and the OFWS’

remit­tances, where Ba­colod and Ne­gros have 3-5 OFW per fam­ily (fa­ther, mother, sib­lings, close kin), the lo­cal econ­omy could hardly sur­vive, it’s only float­ing on its belly so to speak.

So no mat­ter what and how the busi­ness com­mu­nity, busi­ness spec­u­la­tors and the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials boast of our lo­cal eco­nomic growth, there is re­ally not much to brag about.

It’s all a has­sle, spi­ral and zom­bie econ­omy, and the same grim pic­ture re­peats each year.

But the de­fend­ers of this zom­bie econ­omy is quick to ar­gue that “look how the long stretch of Lac­son ave has turned color­ful and busy, the rise of the east bloc around gov­ern­ment cen­ter, the huge traf­fic jam in ma­jor thor­ough­fares, and the en­try of big mall, ho­tel, condo projects by known na­tional devel­op­ers, etc.”.

Have they in­creased solid, sta­ble and sus­tain­able em­ploy­ment? Have they built our lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing and agri­cul­ture? Have they ben­e­fit­ted a wider seg­ment of our pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially the ma­jor­ity marginal­ized sec­tors?

Ob­vi­ously, not. What is un­for­tu­nate, most of them are quick to rise and van­ished quickly. I have made scan­ning of these places sev­eral times, and lately I’ve found out that many have closed shops, and quite a num­ber of condos and build­ings have no oc­cu­pants.

This zom­bie econ­omy just good­time our peo­ple on dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and so-called ameni­ties of mod­ern life while wal­low in slave and cheap la­bor. This econ­omy never pre­pares our peo­ple for long term, in­te­gra­tive, in­clu­sive and hu­mane de­vel­op­ment.

This is a kind of econ­omy that only ben­e­fits devel­op­ers, con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, real es­tate peo­ple, en­ter­tain­ment hubs, the bro­kers be­tween them and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and would-be client-vic­tims, and the cor­rupt politi­cians.

To have a truly com­pre­hen­sive, in­te­gra­tive, in­clu­sive, hu­mane and trans­for­ma­tive eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, we should look towards a com­pre­hen­sive and bal­anced de­vel­op­ment of our agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try and ser­vice econ­omy.

This is why, there is an ur­gent need to re­view all com­pre­hen­sive land use plan and com­pre­hen­sive de­vel­op­ment plan of all cities and towns, be­fore any fur­ther con­struc­tions are com­mit­ted to devel­op­ers.

Mean­time, I chal­lenge them to reg­u­late our en­ergy and wa­ter to small rev­enue gen­er­at­ing busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments, and also a stop to the con­ver­sion of our valu­able agri lands to sub­di­vi­sions, malls, golf clubs, and en­ter­tain­ment hubs.

Put money where it counts most, and mat­ters most to our peo­ple, not to the few ra­pa­cious cor­po­ra­tions.*

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