President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) once again betrays her lack of vision towards building a modern economy and giving the country a better future, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

IBON research head Sonny Africa said Arroyo’s enumeration of innumerable details in her SONA aim to give the illusion that her administration has accomplished much, while diverting attention from the bigger picture of unprecedented joblessness and economic decay. He pointed out that the jobs created from 2001 to 2006 were mainly in domestic household help or unpaid

family work in the agriculture sector.

Meanwhile, thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost and millions of Filipinos are still either looking for work or, if employed, seeking more work in order to earn more.

The Arroyo government’s adherence to free trade policies has further placed the country’s agriculture and industry on the road to decline, Africa said. Thus, instead of a country of producers, the Philippines is becoming a nation that sells its labor cheaply to foreign investors and its agricultural and mineral resources to whichever transnational corporation bids the highest to government. The decay of local agriculture and industry is further underscored by her singling out of call centers as one of the country’s strengths and her call for the country to move up the value chain in business process outsourcing.

Africa also pointed out that the fiscal crisis still remains despite so-called reforms. The government has only been able to reduce the runaway deficit through severe cuts in spending for social services such as education and health and the implementation of taxes such as the reformed value-added tax. But even these have not been enough to address the crisis

and the only thing maintaining the illusion of stability is government’s desperate privatization of its remaining assets. In the near term, Filipinos also face further cuts in social services spending and new taxes so that government can continue to service its debts and make up for lost revenue from corruption and trade liberalization, Africa added.

The country also continues to suffer from severe income inequities, despite the government’s claims of six years of unbroken growth, as foreign and local elite sectors continue to prosper even as the majority of Filipinos continue to suffer daily from poverty, joblessness and despair. For these tens of millions of poor Filipinos, the SONA will only send the message that the government serves these few sectors rather than the interests of the majority of the Filipino people, Africa said .

If Pres. Arroyo had the interests of the Filipino people genuinely in mind, she would use her SONA to outline a vision in which the country’s agriculture sector would be freed from its backwardness, and an industrial sector that has developed genuine Filipino manufacturing. These are vital for a modern economy that is able to secure the livelihoods and welfare of millions of families, and are urgent if the Philippines is to overcome widespread poverty, achieve sustained and rapid economic growth and attain genuine economic independence.

Filipinos need a government with truly visionary leadership that is honest about the state of the nation and boldly takes the steps needed to build a Philippines for the Filipino people.  Unfortunately, Pres. Arroyo’s SONA betrays an administration that provides neither, said Africa .

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