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Cost of living crisis

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Compared to what feels like a long time but was just actually three years ago, everything is so much more expensive these days. It’s not just the onions which have become the symbol for inflation and government mismanagement in this country, but if you come to think of it, almost everything has seen a price increase.

Aside from onions which are probably an outlier because only in the Philippines has it become a luxury item, other commodities that have seen price increases that have at least doubled in recent years are fuel, cooking oil, electricity and even sugar. Aside from those major items, it feels like everything else has also seen a price increase, even if some were not as drastic.

The problem with these price increases is that our incomes, which was already not enough in the first place for most citizens of this poor nation, have not increased accordingly. Our incomes are being left behind by runaway inflation and all we can do is tighten our belts and trust in our famed resiliency to carry us through these difficult times.

The convenient excuse for governments, especially the lazy ones, is that this cost of living crisis is a global phenomenon. The double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic slowdown and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has muddled up supply chains and energy markets, sparking this period of economic hardship for most of the world. The world may be trying to recover, but as of now, it looks like things have certainly become worse before it becomes better.

In the Philippines, we may have to hold on for dear life a little longer, because our dear leader has been a bit busy with a revenge travel adventures bucket list. Maybe our government officials just need to learn how to handle the Great Onion Crisis of 2022, and then after that, if they can solve this seemingly simple problem, they can hopefully keep their stride and start making life better for Filipinos instead of enjoying their good life.

Until then, the onus is upon us to keep treading so our heads stay above the water as we hope to survive this ongoing cost of living crisis.

As we face the crisis head on, there are only two choices: earn more or spend less.

Those who have the opportunity and capacity to earn more, now is the best time to maximize that earning potential. As long as its legal, go for it because that 2nd or 3rd job or gig might be the only way you and your loved ones can enjoy some French onion soup.

If earning more is not an option, then spending less is the only way to survive these difficult times. Luxuries like that regular Frappuccino or milk tea may have to be put on hold while we wait for prices to go down or wages to go up. Those who have already tightened their belts might have to find that extra notch, even if it hurts, simply because there is no other choice.

The key here is priorities. Too many of us might be too caught up with the idea of revenge travel or revenge spending that we forget that we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis. Some parents who missed out on 3-years-worth of birthday parties for their kids might still be itching to throw one, even if it is simply a bad idea this year. Travel junkies who have been salivating over social media travel posts for too long may have to reconsider plans yet again, especially if the cost of living is making it doubly difficult to keep up with the Joneses. When prices are up, investments are down, and savings are in danger of being breached, we will have to force ourselves to endure an era of austerity right after we endured the era of isolation. We may be recovering for COVID, but this cost of living crisis is going to hurt as badly too if we aren’t careful.

The length of time we will have to endure this crisis, or any crisis for that matter, will depend on the quality of our leaders. This is why we ideally want capable, competent and well-educated people at the helm of our country but if you come to think of it, this global crisis might just be an opportunity for the people currently in charge to shine. For our sake, I genuinely hope they do take this opportunity to prove their critics wrong.*

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February 2024
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