Banyan: Uncrowning Gloria
Posted by akosistella on March 6, 2010
The Economist, Feb. 11, 2010
THE lethal carnival that counts for election season in the Philippines began officially on February 9th. It comes to a head in May, when voters choose a new president to replace Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in office since 2001. With the outcome too hard to call, the only sure thing that can be said is that the Philippines is not poised to start giving Asian democracy a good name.
The gleaming country Mrs Arroyo says she is handing on is hard to spot. A jeepney ride through the capital’s snarled streets offers time to reflect on the shortage of political commitment to the public good. Manila’s infrastructure is shoddy, and private gated communities exist near public slums. Even in these, the famed Filipino cheerfulness is impressive. But the Philippines now has a higher proportion of extreme poor, ie, those living on $1 a day or less, than does China or Vietnam. With a wry smile, Filipinos remind visitors that they were once Asia’s second-richest country, behind only Japan; and that a perhaps mythical World Bank report half a century ago picked them as Asia’s most promising prospects (alongside the Burmese).
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