As I listened to presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo talk before the Rotarians of the Rotary Club ofManila, guests from other Rotary Clubs, including my very own RC of Makati-Paseo de Roxas District 3830, my mind wandered to the yesteryears of how Bill Clinton, a presidential contender, defeated incumbent US President George W. Bush.

Veep Leni’s first order is to implement a program that she said her camp already has but was mum on the blueprint’s details, designed to control the pandemic, which in turn, will pave for the re-opening of the economy that came spinning down to recession because of the virus. It’s anchored on her hope that this health predicament will not turn into a food crisis.

It reminds me of the Clinton campaign battle cry “It’s the economy, stupid!” Coined by James Carville, the strategist of the former governor of Arkansas, it stands for meaningful messages of “change versus more of the same,” and “don’t forget health care.”

So powerful was the phrase that it hit the soft spot of the electorates. It became a sign of recognition associated with the Clinton campaign. The buzz phrase won the support of the Americans, sending the Clintons to the White House.

To me, this catch phrase reemerged, catching the VP’s line that the emphasis of her administration, if she is elected president, will be health and wealth.

Prior to the pandemic, the Philippines was the rising economic star of the region, growing at an average pace of over six percent. But our shooting star fell with the global health crisis messing it up.  

That tagline is no longer in sight. Today, the country is viewed to be one of the last economies that would recover from this pandemic. Though we had been the first to impose a lockdown, the commentary is that the government’s response leaves much to be desired.

Based on the latest Nikkei COVID-19 Recovery Index, which ranks 121 countries and regions on pandemic management, vaccines rollout, and social mobility, the Philippines ranked the lowest at 121st, down another notch from 120th the month before.

In his recent presentation before the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., I agree with the observation of BDO chief market strategist Jonas Ravelas that enhancing the rollout of vaccines will increase people’s confidence.

Sadly, though, the country has taken a very conservative approach to the pandemic by putting public safety at the forefront at the expense of the economy.

It’s actually a chicken-and-egg situation and a difficult balancing act. The health of the people first, the economy comes trailing behind. True, how will the economy prosper when there’s no consumer? On one other hand, how will the people handle the financial requirements of the daily grind when the workforce is on lockodwn and businesses closed.

Looking at the overall picture close to 20 months’ in battling the pandemic, the majority of the people are still suffering and losing their jobs because enterprises have closed, particularly the micro-small-and medium-enterprises (MSMEs). Micro enterprises represent 91.6 percent of the businesses with SMEs accounting for roughly eight percent.

As we run up to the campaign period, will the voters realize just what the presidential aspirants mean to them with promises to bring us out of this quicksand situation.

“It’s the economy, stupid!” 

Talkback to me at 

Source: Manila Bulletin (