Thursday, March 8, 2007

It's not just the economy, stupid!

The economy is surging, interest rates are going down, OFW remittances are going up, jobs are being created (principally in the ICT and mining sectors), and the business sector (going by the surveys) have never been more upbeat.

Sure, the stock market is down for now, but really, that's not the government's fault - it's a global event, triggered by the Chinese. And by some accounts, long term prospects for the Philippines - and the stock market - firmly remain on an upward trend.

And yet, we have one of the most unpopular presidents ever.

Our guess for this palpable disconnect - While the numbers are encouraging, for most Filipinos they remain just that - numbers. They have to translate into tangible benefits, and those benefits have to actually be felt by ordinary Filipino.

The article below exemplifies what we are talking about.

And, needless to say, it will help if the President does a better job (her staff had better do a better job in preparing her) in communicating her successes to the public.

Knowing who her audience is would be a great first step.


Arroyo delivers Women's Day message to wrong crowd

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Last updated 04:58pm (Mla time) 03/08/2007

No wonder President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo couldn't get her International Women's Day message across.

She was addressing the wrong crowd.

Speaking at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila on Thursday, Arroyo said one way of empowering women was making microfinance available to them.

"Kayong mga kababaihan, sino na sa inyo ang nakinabang sa [You women, who among you have benefited from] microfinance?...Sino sa inyo ang mga [Who among you are] conduit[s]?"

"Wala [Nobody]," the crowd chorused, to Arroyo's surprise.

Turning to Myrna Yao, chairperson of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, she asked: "What happened?"

Yao approached Arroyo and explained that the crowd was composed mostly of government employees, and not members of non-government organizations (NGOs) who make up the beneficiaries of the microfinance program.

Before Arroyo spoke, Yao had, in fact, warned her that most of the people in the stadium were government employees.

Arroyo got another heckling when she asked, "Siguro [Maybe this is the] first time kayong nag-attend ng [you have attended] Women's Day?" and noted that she also spoke on microfinance during last year's celebrations.

"Hindi [No]," was the crowd's reply.

She then went on to boast that microfinance is no available to 97 percent of people and the three percent to whom it is not available can turn to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

She then asked the audience: "Sino ang nakipag-ugnay na sa DSWD para malaman ito [Who has approached the DSWD to inquire about this]?

The crowd replied: "Wala."

Turning to Yao, Arroyo said: "Maybe what we need, Myrna, is to be with the NGOs we have invited here today."

When Yao tried to explain that the event included the launching of a livelihood training project for women funded by a P300-million Canadian grant, Arroyo stuck to microfinance.

Seeing DSWD undersecretary Alicia Bala in the crowd, Arroyo called her onstage and asked her to explain microfinance, which Bala did, explaining to the government workers that there were conduits they could coordinate with.

Arroyo then mentioned organizations that could act as microfinance conduits, including the Local Council of Women (LCW), Norfil, and Go Negosyo. An LCW officer went onstage to say they have 1,765 chapters.

"Kilala niyo ang [Do you know the] Local Council of Women?" Arroyo asked.

"No," the crowd answered.

A disbelieving Arroyo asked, "Hindi niyo kilala ang [You don't know the] Local Council of Women? Sino, sino ang nagsabi ng 'yes' [Who, who says yes]" as she scanned the crowd vainly for someone who would raise a hand.

When reminded by Yao that the audience was mostly government employees, Arroyo said there are cooperatives in government offices that can act as conduits for microfinance and then instructed the People's Credit and Finance Corp. to giver government employees wider access to microfinance loans.

Trying to salvage the situation, Arroyo addressed the audience with a subject she expected they would warm up to -- the P1,000 increase in government workers' allowances supposed to have been granted last year.

"Di ba meron kayong [Don't you have the] P1,000 allowance?" she said.

"Wala," the crowd answered again.

Looking appalled by this time, Arroyo asked: "Hindi kayo nakakuha [You haven't received anything]? Saan na ba ang [Where is the] DBM [Department of Budget and Management]? Pwede ba naming [Could it be possible]?…"

Finally, someone in the audience acknowledged receiving the allowance.

Arroyo promised the government workers salary increases when a law for this is passed this year. She also reiterated that microfinance would be made available to them and instructed the PCFC to make it a project "between now and March 8 of 2008" so that, by next year's celebrations, the answers to her questions would be, "Yes."

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