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P-Noy, Obama Searching for Same Answers

By Rodney Jaleco

For many in Washington DC , it was their first glimpse of President Aquino  the political scion who captivated voters in the Philippines over a year ago  and went away with the burning, palpable hope that he is truly the one to can bring genuine change back home.

There was this same sensation we felt after witnessing the victory of President Obama in November 2008. He was swept to power behind the promise of transformational change, a vow largely unfulfilled as America grapples with a moribund economy and deep political divisions.

When President Aquino told a Filipino-American audience at the Fairfax on Embassy Row hotel that the government posted a P9 billion (about $200 million) surplus in August that his critics attributed to under-spending, that may have been something GOP lawmakers wished they could have also heard from President Obama.

The irony between the 2 leaders became evident  one is assailed for spending too much, the other for not spending enough.

Both men face different challenges  all equally grave and urgent. As he faces an uphill re-election bid, President Obama is struggling to make a dent against a stubborn 9 percent unemployment rate, cut deficit and debt to safeguard the long-term viability of the American economy, and try to restore confidence in a public that’s grown cynical by the noisy recriminations from the nation’s leaders.

On the other hand, President Aquino leads a nation where over 24 million of her citizens live below the poverty line, surviving on a little over 1 dollar a day. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies said the Philippines was about 20 years behind its more affluent neighbors like Hongkong or Singapore .

He spoke about the chronic classroom shortage, about the high drop-out rate in Philippine schools and how corruption and poverty seemed to feed on each other, perpetuating a cycle that his administration is determined to break.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) country report for the Philippines , released this month, showed that unemployment would remain steady at 5 percent until the end of 2012. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP)  the measure of all goods and services produced in a year  was expected to decline from 7.6 percent in 2010 to 4.9 percent next year.

President Aquino pointed out the Philippine economy will need to generate at least a million new jobs a year just to keep up with the growth of the labor force.

Both Presidents Aquino and Obama have their work cut out for them. They also probably understand that the solutions they seek all boil down to the least common denominator  to lead and inspire.

We caught a glimpse of that key element when one Fil-Am, emerging from the audience with the President, declared that President Aquino can not change the Philippines by himself.  “We have to help him,” he said matter-of-factly.

That is something Presidents Aquino and Obama have to continue drawing from their respective citizens.

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