Inflation! Inflation!By Glenn Ferrariz
Media must help the public understand if the government has done what it has to do to
make things easier for them to provide for their basic needs. In citing experts,
journalists must learn to draw out what matters in practical terms.
PRESIDENT FERDINAND Marcos Jr., in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), admitted that inflation was the “biggest problem” of the country in the post-pandemic period. He softened the message by citing the World Bank’s projected growth rate of 6 percent and the actual growth rate of 7.6 percent in 2022.
In reviewing the coverage of the SONA, CMFR cited reports from CNN Philippines, ABS-CBN News Online, TV Patrol, 24 Oras, and Inquirer.net, which countered the speech with facts and figures on labor, wages, market prices, the country’s debt, inflation, and poverty.
At the start of 2023, the Philippines’ inflation rate was at 8.7 percent, but at the tail end of the year, in December, the country’s inflation rate eased to 3.9 percent, making the country’s average inflation for the year, 6 percent. The downturn however still keeps the government off its target of 2 to 4 percent.
Graph 1. Monthly inflation rate of 2023 (January-December)
As the media reported, January 2023’s 8.7 percent rate is the highest since November 2008’s 9.1 percent.
The media picked up on the public disapproval of the administration’s management of inflation. The September survey revealed the disapproval rising to 56 percent of Filipinos, with approval declining to 16 percent, and 28 percent undecided. This disapproval deepened.
Marcos’ campaign loudly claimed he would lower the price of rice to PHP20 per kilo. One year into his presidency and as concurrent agriculture secretary, the country has suffered from the highest rice inflation in 14 years. Media reported that inflation of rice in September 2023 hit 17.9 percent, the highest since March 2009’s 22.9 percent under President Gloria Arroyo.
Marcos set a price ceiling on rice on September 5 — PHP41 for regular-milled and PHP45 for well-milled. The controversial policy captured headlines in the first week of September. CMFR picked up coverage featuring retailers, economists, and experts who expressed concerns and objections to this policy, reminding Marcos of the basic concept of the law of supply and demand. Media reported that some retailers chose to close down shops while waiting for cheaper stocks from their suppliers.
A month later, Marcos lifted the price cap on October 4, noting the “decreasing rice prices in the domestic market, increasing supply of rice stock, and declining global rice prices.” Rice inflation in October was at 13.2 percent.
Economy and Agriculture
Throughout the year, CMFR cheered pieces from Inquirer.net’s Kurt Dela Peña that looked closer into the country’s economy and agriculture.
- In his piece published on January 11, Dela Peña cited think tank reports and numbers that challenged the government’s claim of attaining the goal of higher economic growth.
- His article on March 27 discussed the plight of farmers in the country and the negligence of the government toward this sector. The report included data from Philippine Statistical Authority, which confirmed the high rate of poverty incidence among farmers and fisherfolk. Dela Peña cited contributing reasons including landlessness and the rich’s control, according to the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Reporting on the economy, journalists must bear in mind that the complexity of the subject and the use of technical terms make it difficult for people to understand the problems that are causing them such hardship.
Media must help the public understand if government has done what it has to do to make things easier for them to provide for their basic needs. In citing experts, journalists must learn to draw out what matters in practical terms.
But some matters are obvious enough. Clearly, something must be done to overcome the difficulties of getting produce to the market. People can see that it doesn’t make sense to pay so much for vegetables when pictures of harvested crops show the same rotting at farm gates. It is the task of media, not just to show the phots. Journalists must dig in, trace the chain of distribution to connect the dots to other issues as necessary, to identify the policy or practice at fault.
Inflation may be a fact of life. The failure to curb it may be a long-standing failure. But the past three years have shown the inadequacy of the president and his economic and finance team to act and avoid the scandalous crises of rice, vegetables and onions that we grow in our own soil. MT