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Did government stimulate only some bank accounts?

Our economy had a disappointing 0.8-percent annual growth for the economy in the third quarter and the earlier-announced 1.5-percent growth rate for the second quarter which Ate Glue was so proud of was also revised downward to 0.8 percent. Thus far our average growth rate for the year is 0.7 percent. The best that Ate Glue’s apologists could say is we are technically not in recession. Big Deal!

The worse part of this story is that Ate Glue’s spending this year has already caused our deficit to exceed the budget of P250 billion set for the year and the year is not yet over. The 10-month deficit of P266 billion is more than four times that in the same period last year (P62.3 billion). It is now also over the previous record deficit of P210.7 billion in 2002.

So what is going on? If government is spending all that money, how come it isn’t showing up in better GDP numbers? All that money isn’t showing up either in terms of better infrastructure that we can all see and use. In fact, there is the question of how our Road Users’ Tax has been spent because the roads are as bad as they had always been... just ask Ate Glue ally Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Ate Glue certainly has a lot of explaining to do. She had been talking profusely about her economic stimulus program, the P330-billion “Economic Resiliency Package” which she and her apologists have been pointing to as their program to spare us from the harshest impact of the recession.

When they erroneously announced the economy grew by 1.5-percent in the second quarter, Ate Glue and her clueless minions pointed to their so called pump-priming efforts as the reason why. One economist observed that it may have been possible to justify the ballooning budget deficit as a necessary evil that at least bought us some growth in the economy. But now it seems we have the worse of all worlds.

If Ate Glue and company were really spending all that money to pay for additional kilometers of roads or more bridges that actually went somewhere useful, new or improved port facilities, new hospitals built, and if they even purchased office supplies, all that should have been reflected in our GDP numbers. But it seems no such thing happened or not as much as the money they have been spending suggests such government spending should show.

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Then too, Ate Glue’s administration claims they have spent half of the stimulus funds on additional government personnel, particularly teachers, policemen and soldiers. Such massive spending on services should have caused all those people to buy more goods and services that should show up in our GDP numbers. But apparently, nothing of the sort happened.

Then again, we all know what government says it spent our money on and where our money really went are two different things. I suspect that as usual, most of the so called stimulus money only stimulated the foreign bank accounts of corrupt officials and their friends. If that’s the case, that explains why our economy is still so anemic as measured by government statistics even when this administration already blew the fiscal deficit budget for the year with one more quarter to go.

Stimulus spending for this administration is only stimulating the lust for riches of officials and their friends at our expense… because for sure, we have nothing to show for it.

Chinatown

My wife and I did something different last Monday. We were tourists for a morning through Manila’s Chinatown courtesy of an old friend, Nonna Pena Nanagas who heads the local office of Dentsu Advertising. It will be Nonna’s 50 something birthday today. Like any creative advertising person, she decided to do something different: instead of treating her friends to a sit down dinner, she treated us to a walk-around food trek all over Chinatown.   

All 27 of us assembled in front of the Binondo Church at 9 in the morning with empty bellies and raring to fill them with the kind of Chinese food you can’t get at the malls. Nonna and her husband Jay signed us all up to an exclusive episode of Ivan Man Dy’s the BIG Binondo Food WOK! Ivan, a Chinoy who lived in Chinatown in his growing up years is a La Salle graduate who made a business out of his fascination with Chinatown and its colorful history.

Designed to let us eat our way through Chinatown, Ivan led us through a route that began at the Basilica de San Lorenzo Ruiz (the Binondo Church), and through a number of food stops along Quintin Paredes Street, Nueva Street (now known as Yuchengco Street), Benavidez Street, Salazar Street, Carvajal Alley, and back at Quintin Paredes.

Ivan started off by filling us with the history of the Chinese quarter as we gathered at the plaza in front of the Church. Ivan points out that the first Filipino saint was a Chinoy who served in this Church. The other would-be saint, Mother Ignacia, is also from Binondo, whose population then was more Buddhist than Catholic. Ivan then leads us through Ongpin Street to Salazar Street to Benavides Street.

What I found interesting was Dong Bei Dumpling, a thriving dumpling place in narrow Yuchengco Street (formerly Nueva Street), run by a first-generation immigrant couple from Northern China. As Ivan explained it, the flow of immigrants from China has never actually stopped, and this couple from Northern China arrived less than five years ago with a child studying English here.

The dumplings are prepared in the Northern Chinese style, prepared daily by hand, and boiled (not steamed)… something like the Japanese gyoza but tastier. This is authentic Northern Chinese style, Ivan emphasized.

We were served two types of boiled dumpling – one filled with chives and shrimp, the other filled with cabbage and pork. Then there was a kind of fried pancake filled with ground pork. All are dipped in our choice of sweetish soy sauce or chili sauce. The place is very small… just the size of a regular apartment with just five tables with the husband helping out his wife in his sando. It is a great discovery.

We then walked over to Benavidez street where we tasted a different kind of siopao they call chien pao or pan-toasted “siopao” filled with pork and spring onions. The vegetable content and the way it is prepared provide a different siopao experience from the familiar asado or bola bola. I sure wish it is made available outside of this small stall on Benavidez.

We went through a hopia house but for the next memorable place we visited, we walked through the narrow Carvajal alley with all the vendors selling vegetables and sea food. There used to be a great restaurant here my family and I used to frequent when I was growing up called Carvajal but it is now gone. The alley exits at Quintin Paredes, and Ivan leads us into a shaded patio at the heart of the Uy Su Bin Building, one of the few art-deco structures left over from before the war.

It is here where the Po-Heng Lumpia House is located in a patio that sits in the space between buildings. It is a one-product shop: the original fresh Hokkien-style lumpia made out of ground peanuts, sugar, pepper, carrots, and bean sprouts, blended and packaged in lumpia wrapper, served with a sweet and spicy sauce. We were told that the preparation and flavor is little changed from generations past, handed down from honored Hokkien ancestors.   

We ended the wok-ing tour here with full and satisfied stomachs. The mixture of history, culture and food make a fulfilling way of learning more about our own city and its people. As Ivan sums it up, though some of the original buildings are gone, thanks to the war and fires through the years, Binondo’s culture remains undiminished.

What we see in Binondo today, Ivan observed, is the result of the simple, hearty approach to life brought by merchants and coolies from Fujian province hundreds of years ago. It is all about how they have adopted to our country without losing what was their own.               

Happy Birthday Nonna!            

Grim Reaper

Rosan Cruz texted me this one which is apparently going the rounds in this political season and making the cell phone companies very profitable. These jokes keep us sane in this season of insanity.

Dear Mr Grim Reaper,

So far this year you have taken away my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, favorite actor, Patrick Swayze and favorite actress Farrah Fawcett.

Just so you know…

My favorite politician is Ate Gloria!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. This and some past columns can also be viewed at www.boochanco.com

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