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Dirty politics, despairing country

Deep in political crisis, president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is ill prepared to address the Philippines' critical financial problems. She seems to be running out of time. And so does her country.

Manana money                                 

Banks on a roll

From his office high above the streets in a new building in Makati, Manila's business district, former president Fidel V Ramos looks out across the city and gestures expansively at the rust-roofed shanties that cling to every corner of the city. "I'm concerned for those people there," he says.

By most calculations, a third of all Filipinos are constantly battling with poverty. And most of them are not winning. The Philippines is Asia's seventh-most populous nation, and with annual population growth of 2.5%, it is forecast that there will be 100 million Filipinos within 10 years. Although the proportion of those living on or below the poverty line is not expected to change, the absolute number of those living in poverty will continue to climb.

And the country's financial situation is suffering as a result of the continuing political crisis surrounding president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). Ramos – in a reference to his personal campaign calling for, among other things, constitutional change – says: "I'm asking Gloria for a sacrifice, to shorten her term."

He insists the campaign is not a precursor of another tilt at office.

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