ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Corruption, unemployment, poverty: emergencies the new President will have to face without delay

Thursday, 13 May 2004

Manila (Fides Service) - Awaiting the final results of the elections the first forecasts say outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has an 8 point advantage over her main adversary in presidential elections on 10 May. According to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) President Arroyo has won 40% of votes while film star Fernando Poe Jr has gained about 32%. The survey which took into consideration 4, 600 voters all over the country, has a 2 percent margin or error.
But whoever leads the country in the next six years (it will be a month before the official results are announced), the new president will face the serious economic problems afflicting the country.
Fides sources say the country it at grips with a heavy budget deficit, a growing rate of unemployment, persistent poverty and an unstable political system. Although the economy registers an annual growth of more than 4% thanks to consumer spending, expansion has failed to eliminate poverty afflicting half the country’s population of 82 million. Poverty and lack of job opportunities have pushed many citizens to emigrate, there are 8 million Filipinos overseas and the figures continues to rise with a steady one million applications every year. On the one hand the economy benefits from money sent home from overseas residents, but observers warn that the country must work to become self-supporting rather than rely on money sent home by Filipinos working in other countries.
In the political field the main problem is corruption a theme taken up by the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines in a message issued in view of the elections. According to an analysis by the NGO Transparency International based on data 1996 to 2003 at the world level the Philippines is low on the list for transparency in public administration 92nd place out of 133, with a high corruption rate.
The Philippines have a population of 82 million 95% Catholic. In southern Philippines a Muslim minority, about 5 million people 6% of the total population, has produced groups of separatists and guerrillas with whom the new government will have to launch a peace process that will certainly improve both the stability of the national economy and the national image.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/05/2004 Lines: 54 Words: 540)