More turmoil in 2019?

January 03, 2019

It’s beyond dispute that every New Year brings so much hope and happiness to Filipinos. And the overwhelming sense of hopefulness can be so high even for those whose Christmas was bleak.

So high is the sense of optimism, gauging by survey results of top pollsters like SWS, that as much as nine out of ten Filipinos across every social class and geographic area all over the country believe good tidings are coming.

Being Asia’s predominantly Catholic country, our perennial hopefulness is fueled by a deep and unwavering faith and trust in the Almighty God who gives us hope. Pope Francis reminds us: “God always opens doors, He never closes them.”

While our faith and trust in the Almighty can certainly do wonders in attaining a positive outlook, many sociologists think that the Filipinos’ “bahala na” attitude and the belief in fate – that all that happens in life is in accordance with divine will, that something better awaits everyone – can also hinder one’s ability and determination to strive to do the best.

Some have observed that optimism among Filipinos can be in stark contrast to realities of life. “While well over four fifths of the people say they have hope for the New Year, many of the same people live along the poverty line and in all but merry social conditions,” says one familiar comment.

Indeed, while many Filipinos always express optimism about the future, many of them look at the present and past as bleak. Previous surveys attest to what seems to be puzzling optimism. While a large majority thought life would be better, many said it really did not when surveyed on their actual life conditions. On the average, only about 22 to 25 percent of people said their lives improved over past years, as against the 32 to 35 percent who thought the quality of their lives worsened.

But there’s no doubt that such a sense of optimism is what gives Filipinos the resilience in the face of adversity. The resilience to survive the most difficult times would certainly be a tremendous help in coping for what awaits the country and the world this 2019.

The high inflation rate during the last four months of 2018 has indeed made life extremely difficult for poor Filipinos. Prices of basic commodities could remain high amid the scheduled fuel tax increase starting this month, as provided in the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.

And more tumultuous times lie ahead with the upcoming elections that would put in full display the extent of our electoral dysfunction: election-related violence, corruption, fraud, patronage politics, and many other ills afflicting Philippine politics.

Overseas, the takeover of control in the US Congress by Democrats would certainly lead to rough sailing for the administration of US President Donald Trump who would be facing an escalation in House investigations pertaining to various controversies.

The major controversies plaguing the Trump administration include the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi which has also angered key Republicans. Both Democrats and Republicans plan to probe deeper into the role of Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammad bin Salman in the Khashoggi killing.

The controversy is expected to escalate as Democrats vowed to hold Trump accountable for his apparent refusal to rebuke Saudis for the gruesome murder. Some fear congressional actions could blow up and adversely affect world oil prices and plunge poor countries like the Philippines, which are dependent on imported fuel, into deeper crisis.

With such grim scenarios depicting more turmoil on the horizon, a positive outlook can be of tremendous help in coping with tough times ahead. Amid all the expected turmoil, let’s hope 2019 would be better. Happy New Year!