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Kuwatog’s lament

On our last visit to our favorite barber, Kuwatog, last week, we asked him what he thought of the performance of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his first year in office. His reply was quick and direct to the point: “Bakit, naibaba na ba niya ang bigas sa P20 per kilo tulad ng pangako niya? (Why, has he brought down the price of rice to P20 per kilo like he promised).” Kuwatog’s answer, albeit a little unfair, had me thinking, considering that our barber was one of those who supported Marcos Jr. in his campaign last year. If at all, Kuwatog represents the masa or the 31 million who voted for the son of the former dictator and brought back one of the country’s most polarizing families to Malacañang. Of course, Marcos’ resurrection as an elected leader carries significant expectations, particularly regarding his promise to bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo. Reducing rice prices to a specific target may be as plain as the masa would expect from a leader but actually, it is a complex undertaking influenced by numerous factors, including production, distribution, and market dynamics. To fulfill his promise, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would have needed to implement comprehensive measures addressing those areas. During his first year, he may have initiated policies to increase domestic rice production, improve agricultural infrastructure, and enhance distribution networks. However, these efforts can face challenges such as natural disasters, changing global market conditions, and the complexities of transforming an entire industry. Of course, Kuwatog would have none of this. All he can see is that inflation continues to erode his purchasing power and that rice, which is the staple of all commodities, is the most visible indicator of whether their leader has failed them. During the campaign, Marcos pledged to bring down the cost of food, including rice, which has been dismissed by analysts as unrealistic and still has not been achieved going into his second year at the Palace. Instead, inflation has been one of the defining characteristics of his maiden year, according to observers. Inflation, driven in large part by increases in food prices, reached a 14-year high of 8.7 percent in January this year. The crisis led to the cost of onions rising to more than P700 per kilo as onion smuggling flourished, while sugar prices also soared, exacerbated by a failure to import enough of the commodity at the right time. Although the President established an inter-agency committee and introduced cash aid to cushion the impact of inflation, these steps may have come late, according to analysts. Marcos also pushed to open more government stores like Kadiwa that sell food at a discounted price but critics dismissed this as a band-aid solution first introduced under his father’s rule. We told Kuwatog we cannot gauge a leader’s performance on only one aspect like the prices of commodities, considering that he has a myriad of other problems to attend to. Running a country is far different from running a household highly dependent on one’s budget, we told him. For starters, we said, Marcos initiated a marked shift in foreign policy, pursuing much warmer relations with the United States and taking a tougher stance in defending the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea. This is a far cry, we told him, from his predecessor, under whose leadership relations with Uncle Sam deteriorated. An essential aspect of evaluating Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s performance, we believe, is transparency and accountability. It is crucial for the government to communicate its progress in addressing crucial issues and to provide regular updates to the public. Transparency ensures that citizens are informed about the challenges faced, the measures implemented, and the outcomes achieved, fostering trust and understanding. If only Kuwatog was made to understand all of these, he would have made a more balanced assessment of the President’s performance so far. But then, Kuwatog may only be putting his mouth where his money is. *** e-mail: The post Kuwatog’s lament appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

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