Governor Jose Clemente “Joey” Salceda of Albay province was quoted as saying in a public forum at the Ateneo Graduate Schools that while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be a bitch, she may be the luckiest bitch around. Lucky in the sense that despite her unending political woes, events beyond her control have conspired in the economic and other areas to keep her in power.
He meant it in jest, of course, “almost with affection”, in his own words. He later admitted that the joke was tasteless and apologized. Still, the last thing President Arroyo needs now is another person calling her a bitch. And from no less than her former Chief of Staff and trusted adviser.
An internationally respected economist, financial analyst and fund manager, Salcedo, while in the private sector, was voted by foreign fund managers in Asiamoney’s Annual Survey as “Best Analyst” in 1995 and “Best Economist” for four consecutive years from 1993 to 1996. He is known to choose his words wisely and carefully, as any former cabinet secretary and recognized authority in business and finance should. That he should be stricken with foot-in-mouth disease at the height of the many scandals bedeviling his former boss is odd.
Freudian slip or not, Salceda’s words ring true. That GMA is still around owes much to her uncommon luck than anything else. She was catapulted into power by People Power 2, a convergence of political events that led to the ouster of Erap Estrada amid charges of corruption. She just happened to the constitutional successor. She clung on to power by a combination of ruthless political maneuvering and pure luck.
The economy is growing at an unprecedented rate not because of her governance but because the remittances of ten million Filipino overseas workers, which is fueling consumer-led growth. The public mood has been one of caution, if not downright apathy and cynicism, in reacting to the succession of charges of massive corruption in the Arroyo administration. The fall in the value of the U.S. dollar has given the country a favorable balance-of-payments footing and allowed it to retire a significant amount of its crippling foreign debt. Imports are cheaper and our rising foreign reserves and the appreciating peso has cushioned the impact of rising oil costs. The Arroyo government claims that it can attain a balanced budget before GMA’s term ends in 2010.
The overall picture, while not exactly rosy, is one of stability in the economic sphere and that’s exactly what’s keeping the Arroyo regime in Malacanang, however tenuously. The 10 million Filipinos working abroad might well have been marching in the streets now. Instead, they’re sending home money to prop up what some observers consider a failed state.
But being called a lucky bitch, however affectionately, is not a good thing. It implies that the bitch is at the mercy of persons or forces beyond her control and which might, depending on the vagaries of fate, kick her out into the gutter at any time. That kind of life’s a bitch, for sure.