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Renewed hope for 2024

Can the Marcos administration, if at all, bring down the prices of consumer goods without heavy reliance on importation before its term ends in 2028?

Jan 1, 2024

Tita C. Valderama


4-minute read

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If it’s any consolation, we are welcoming the new year with the price of onion at P220 per kilogram (kg), unlike in the previous year when it reached as high as P800/kg. Still high but relatively affordable.

Regular milled rice is at P52/kg, which is more than double the P20/per kg “aspiration” of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. But with the promise of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. that the “new [Department of Agriculture] will work towards more production and less cost,” there is hope for the prices of consumer products to go down.

Most Filipinos welcome a new year with a sense of renewed hope and excitement for opportunities to start something good or even better, despite the turbulent times.

The latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS), conducted from December 8 to 11, shows that 96% of its 1,200 adult respondents will be welcoming 2024 with hope rather than fear, the highest percentage since pre-pandemic 2019.

In its June 28 to July 1 survey, 46% of 1,500 respondents expressed optimism that their lives would improve in 2024, while 44% believed that the quality of their lives would remain unchanged and 5% anticipated a decline.

The surveys did not include questions on the respondents’ reasons to hope or be optimistic for 2024.

Although the administration is far from achieving its goal of bringing down the price of rice to P20/kg, it has somehow tempered the prices of a few consumer items, such as onion and garlic. However, it was able to do so not by improving local production but by importing the goods.

News reports say the government imported more than 86,000 metric tons (MT) of garlic and over 33,000 MT of red and yellow onions as of early December, based on data from the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Can the Marcos administration, if at all, bring down the prices of consumer goods without heavy reliance on importation before its term ends in 2028? That’s a real challenge to the president, who wooed votes during the 2022 campaign with a promise to improve farmers’ income by helping raise production and reducing costs.

After one and a half years, however, the prices of most consumer products keep on rising. The P40 increase in the daily minimum wage in July could hardly cope with the price adjustments.

In his Christmas message, Marcos emphasized the importance of spreading hope during the yuletide season by reaching out to those in need. “Indeed, there is no better way for us to share the gift of Christmas than by spreading hope to those who need it the most this holiday season,” he said, adding that doing so would allow people “to become living instruments of the timeless adage that God’s work here on earth is truly our own.”

According to recent news reports, economic analysts foresee a generally positive outlook in 2024, although a high inflation rate remains one of the pressing challenges that the administration has to address, as well as the threats of El Niño to the agriculture sector.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas expects a 3.5% inflation rate by 2024. From a high of 8.7% in January 2023, inflation decelerated to 4.1% in November, well within the forecast of 4.0 to 4.8% for the month.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said, “The slower inflation for the month of November is a testament to the Marcos Jr. administration’s whole-of-government effort to moderate rising commodity prices while protecting the most vulnerable sectors from its effects.”

The easing up of inflation rates is seen to help stabilize prices and improve Filipinos’ purchasing power.

The Asian Development Bank has projected a gross domestic product growth of 6.2% in 2024.

The government’s data on unemployment show a significant drop to about 2.09 million in October from 2.26 million in September. The Philippine Statistics Authority says this translates to a national unemployment rate of 4.2%.

National Statistician Dennis Mapa attributed the improvement to the “substantial increase” in both the labor force participation rate and employment rate, noting that local employers usually hire more staff during the fourth quarter period (October to December), leading to the Christmas rush.

If the projections become reality and the trend continues, then we may indeed have reasons to hope for a better 2024.

Happy New Year!

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.

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