As representatives of states meet on October 29-30 for the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), we call on our fellow migrants, migrant advocates and supporters to join the genuine voice of migrants as we say “No to GFMD!”
The GFMD is a device created by First World countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank to corner the remittances, borne by the blood, sweat and tears of migrants, and use it in funding for the “development” of poor countries. It is being used to sell neoliberal anti-poverty financing strategy that relies on the remittances of migrant workers.
The false notion of “migration for development” that the GFMD peddles further promotes the systematic exploitation of cheap labor. It is meant to capture the remittances of migrants to ensure super profits of bank monopolies and ensure that debt-ridden economies have enough reserves to pay off debts, especially amid the raging financial crisis. The GFMD thrives on the poverty of Third World countries and forces them to institutionalize migration policies. Clearly, the agenda and framework of the GFMD reveals that what is in store is greater commodification of migrant labor, and greater exploitation and miseries of migrant workers.
The GFMD holds more significance this year because it is being hosted by the Arroyo regime in the Philippines. The Arroyo regime is the nightmare ofoverseas Filipino workers (OFWs). No other regime has bled the OFWs dry with enormous exactions from fees to charges to taxes. It has duped OFWs to part with their earnings in collusion with big business, illegal recruiters, traffickers and racketeers, and in utter disregard of the abuses and violations of migrants’ rights. It is currently riding high on the phenomenal increase in dollar remittances even as OFWs continue to reel from the falling value of their dollars.
It is time to expose that the GFMD is a predatory scheme that does not address the root causes of underdevelopment and the massive migration of poor people, much less consider the harsh conditions and legitimate issues of migrant workers. The GFMD does not promote the development of poor countries but pushes them deeper into the quagmire of poverty.
The GFMD is a sham assembly that talks about migrants but deliberately excludes the migrants themselves. It talks about the protection of migrants but in reality violates our rights. First World countries, IFIs, banks, businesses, and governments of poor countries– which have profited immensely and unscrupulously from our hard labor– are the same institutions that are behind the GFMD. After years of neglect, abuse and exploitation, it is time that the genuine voice of the migrants be heard: No to GFMD! No to labor export policy! No to forced migration! Create jobs at home! End poverty! Defend and advance our rights!
The series of oil price rollbacks on diesel implemented by oil companies this month are not enough because diesel prices are overpriced by a total of P6.45 per liter from January to September this year, according to research group IBON Foundation.
This estimate was the cumulative overpricing over the January to September period, computed based on the monthly movement of Dubai crude, diesel and pump prices, and the foreign exchange (forex) rate.
According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, the worst overpricing happened in June to August when oil firms used record Dubai prices to increase pump prices, and then rollback pump prices to less than what is justified. Overpricing in those three months amounted to a total of P13.50. Although there was underpricing recorded in some months since January, the price of diesel was still overpriced over the nine-month period.
Africa noted that this pattern has continued since the start of deregulation where diesel pump prices increased 1.7 times faster than Dubai crude prices in peso terms. The cumulative overpricing only shows that big oil firms use their monopoly over pricing to dictate pump prices that are beyond what can be justified by global crude oil price movements.
Civil society groups call October 16 ‘World Foodless Day’
As the world celebrates World Food Day today, research group IBON join civil society groups worldwide in denouncing globalization polices and corporate profiteering, which have made food a commodity for trade and speculation that worsened global hunger.
Global food prices have risen by 75% since 2000, according to the World Bank, while prices of rice, corn, wheat, and soybean have hit all-time highs. Prices of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products naturally follow the upward trends of grains prices. Amid the global financial crisis, increased speculation in food and fuel prices is seen as a possible consequence that will further push food prices up and worsen the poor’s access to food.
The world is facing its worst food crisis that has been aggravated by trade liberalization policies imposed by international finance institutions (IFIs) like the International Monetary Fund and trade bodies such as the World Trade Organization. These policies have allowed intensified profiteering by food transnational corporations (TNCs). In fact while more and more people go hungry everyday, TNCs such as Cargill and grain traders such as Archer Daniels Midland reported increased profits as of the first quarter of 2008.
TNCs in its desire for more profits have continued to lobby IFIs and Third World government to implement globalization policies in food and agriculture, including liberalization of trade and investment in agriculture, privatization of public organs in agricultural extension services such as irrigation, trading and the like, and deregulation of government roles in pricing, marketing and even land reforms. These globalization policies compound the deep crisis of agriculture and food production in underdeveloped countries due to decades-old landlessness of farmers, backwardness of their tools and production, monopoly of land, tools and inputs, TNC control in production and trade, and government neglect. Thus, ironically, hunger is at its worst in rural communities in the Third World where most food and agricultural production take place.
Globalization has not only resulted in the increasing bankruptcy and worsening poverty and hunger of farmers and consumers, but also in continuously eroding local production and self-sufficiency of Third World countries.
Civil society, peasant groups, and people’s organizations around the world consider World Food Day an opportune time to send a strong message that farmers and people of the Third World reject globalization, trade liberalization, and TNC profiteering of agriculture. It is also a time to recognize the successful efforts of broad alliances of farmers and people’s organizations for strengthened protests against globalization, struggle against genuine agrarian reform, and relentlessly demand for social accountability. (end)
World Foodless Day events are being held in more than fourteen countries across Asia and being supported by civil society groups around the globe. For more details on the events of World Foodless Day, visit http://www.panap.net/wfd
Contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, research group IBON Foundation says it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.
JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enables beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.
Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.
The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.
According to Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.
The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.
There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers, Africa added.
To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (end)
IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.
It is not surprising but still disappointing that the government has clearly not learned its lesson. The current global turmoil and its impact on the Philippines underscore the vulnerability of our economy. The country is extremely vulnerable because of nearly three decades of reckless “free market” policies of globalization.
Progressive groups warned in 1994 about the damage that a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal would cause. Yet the government insisted on ratifying the deal and even implemented policies opening up the economy beyond what the WTO agreement required. The so-called safety nets were ineffectual and local industry and agriculture has been devastated causing unprecedented joblessness.
The economy’s fundamentals are very weak and will be weakened further by JPEPA and other such deals to come. The country’s historic jobs crisis will worsen, more Filipinos will be forced to try and find work abroad, millions more will suffer poverty and deprivation.
We condemn the surrender of the country’s sovereignty and patrimony by the government through JPEPA. The country’s negotiators have absurdly given up nationalist and protectionist policy measures that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for instance held on to in their respective trade deals with Japan.
The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of solidarity, mutual benefit and development for those who have long suffered poverty and backwardness. The JPEPA however is a treasonous deal that must be completely rejected.
With the worsening crisis of the US and global economy expected to further aggravate poverty in the country, independent think-tank IBON Foundation today said that it has become more crucial for government to ensure enough resources are spent for the poor.
IBON said that the Arroyo administration must start by increasing the allocation for social services in the 2009 national budget. The group criticized the allocation of 2.5% of the total budget for health; 13% for education; and 0.4% for housing as atrociously low especially in today’s environment of rapidly rising prices and greater economic uncertainty.
IBON said that the perennially low budget allocation for social services will have a deeper repercussion on the poor and vulnerable sectors as the deteriorating global economic crisis destroys more jobs and livelihood and inflates the cost of living.
Experts count slowdown in export demand, tighter flows in foreign investments and increased speculation in food and fuel prices as among the consequences of the US financial crisis and overall slump in the world economy.
With increased poverty, it becomes more urgent for government to provide sufficient social services such as health, education and housing. But the proposed budget levels obviously could not cover the expected increased demand for public schools and hospitals among others.
For the past ten years, government has been spending an amount equivalent to 2.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for education, way below the international standards of 5% to 6%. For health, it has been spending only 3.2% of the GDP, lower than the norm set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
IBON said that the government should at least meet these levels to alleviate the present condition in the country seen to worsen with the global crisis. To increase spending for social services, government should put a stop to burdensome payments and cut back on military spending. The proposed budget for 2008 allocates P683 billion for debt principal and interest payment, while it allocates P5 billion for AFP modernization. In contrast, government allots only P30 million for health care asssitance.
The group added the removal of regressive taxes such as the reformed value-added tax (RVAT) on oil is equally urgent to lessen the inflationary impact of the financial crisis.
The Arroyo government should also abandon its proposal for new taxes because these will further burden the Filipinos already suffering from low incomes and spiraling cost of living. IBON also urged the administration not to use the global crisis as an excuse to impose more taxes in its effort to achieve a balanced budget.
The exposure of Philippine banks to the global financial crisis will result in the contraction of local businesses and job losses because economic liberalization has made the local banking system vulnerable to external factors.
According to research group IBON Foundation, Philippine banks are merely a conduit of foreign capital, and being in a liberalized and deregulated environment, are vulnerable to the current volatility of global finance.
Even as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has assured the public that only a few local banks have exposure to cash-strapped US investment banks, the impact on local businesses will be felt since majority of investments in the country are dominated by foreign capital, accounting to around 54% of total flows in the country. Thus though not exposed to the Lehman Brothers, investments in the country are affected by the jitters of foreign capital.
The local banking system, dominated by foreign banks, will likely be prudent in lending to small local businesses and would instead opt to protect large businesses with foreign capital. Unavailable access to lending would result in business slowdown and possibly lead to more establishment closures. As it is, financial losses have led to a significant number of closures among establishments in the past years.
Business slowdown will worsen the country’s unemployment, which is already at its record high, as business owners will be forced to cut down on their labor force or close shop. Job losses will be first felt in all trade and investment enclaves in the country, both manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPOs), and then by the few Filipino firms exporting to the US and related markets.
The global crisis will further worsen the Philippines’ own economic crisis as neoliberal reforms have further deepened its links to the US and the global economy. However, the economy would have been less vulnerable if the domestic economy were not overly dependent on trade, foreign loans and capital, and if nationalist economic policies were in place
IBON Foundation, Inc.
invites you to its
Failure of Oil Deregulation and October 7, Tuesday
the Struggle Against Oil Monopoly
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights November 7, Friday
and Deepening Philippine Poverty
Social Research: Methods, Practice December 5, Friday
The lectures will be held at 1-5 pm at the IBON Center, 114 Timog Avenue, Quezon City. For inquiries, please call 927-7060 to 62 (Look for Gina, Tes or Joseph).