Monday, November 21, 2016

Of carpetbaggers, the economy, poverty, tyranny and worldviews

“The market’s response to the announcement we achieved 7.1 percent GDP growth in the third quarter was described as ‘muted.’ Although our economy has apparently risen to a higher growth plane, there was no dancing in the streets.

“Remittances from Filipinos abroad kept our head above water the past several years as our exports lost competitiveness, as our industrial base shrunk and as our tourism fell way behind our neighbors.

“The new administration appears bent on using public spending to fuel economic expansion. Budget Secretary Ben Diokno, staunch critic of the previous administration’s underspending, advocates relaxing budget deficit targets and speeding up the infrastructure modernization program.

Our economic managers envision sustained growth of at least seven percent over the next generation. That is the only way to bring down poverty and raise our GDP per capital to high-income levels.

“The pace of growth we have achieved can only be achieved if we are able to industrialize. In the present global economy, no nation achieves industrialization without support from government. That support can only happen if there is a clear plan . . . Carpetbaggers could make a load of money in the short run but doom our industrialization eventually.” [7.1%, Alex Magno, FIRST PERSON, The Philippine Star, 19th Nov 2016. Professor Alex Magno, is a political scientist and academician in the Philippines.]

That’s from a political scientist. Let’s hear from our economists. “Even granting that it may take time for the President to change his style, I enjoin creditors and investors to focus on the predictables about the Philippine economy. They will realize that what we can posit for certain about the economy will make the uncertainties perceived by the likes of Standard and Poor’s pale into insignificance.

“First, the Philippine economy will be enjoying for many more years the close to $30 billion in annual remittances from overseas Filipino workers.

“Second, whatever happens to political leadership at the national level, our young, growing and English-speaking population will continue to make the Philippines a preferred site for the global business process outsourcing (BPO) and knowledge process outsourcing industries.

“The incomes generated by these two engines of growth will feed into the consumption sector and will generate large investments in retailing; the hospitality business . . . and the expansion of manufacturing of food, fashion goods, and furniture and fixtures. Construction and real estate will continue to benefit from the demand for more middle-priced condominium and residential units and for office spaces to cater to the BPO-information technology sector, with more of the expansion in second-tier cities . . .

“We can also count as highly predictable the maintenance of a stable financial sector by a very competent central bank that has admirably institutionalized inflation-targeting tools . . . and moderating the depreciation of the peso. We can also consider as certain the ability of the finance and budget departments to continue maintaining fiscal discipline, which began during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” [Predictables about PH economy, Bernardo M. VillegasPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016]

“We have earlier used the findings of AmBisyon in our previous columns on the kind of issues the new government needs to immediately address.

“One of the main results of AmBisyon is that an overwhelming majority, or about 79.2 percent, of the respondents aspire for a simple and comfortable life. A question raised by the moderator, Tony Lambino, suggested that this seems to say the aspirations of the majority are too low and, therefore, easy to achieve. However, as the AmBisyon web site itself explains—a simple and comfortable life is actually a middle-class lifestyle. It consists of “having a car of their own, a house of their own, and enough money and savings to send their children to school and to afford leisure, like travel.”

“Considering the latest poverty statistics as of 2015, this simple and comfortable life aspiration is not easy to achieve immediately.

“This would mean a lot of factors have to change for the country. Our planners and stakeholders have to work together for this. What may be critical is to understand that this cannot be done immediately. Prioritization may be done by phases focusing first on those who are in poverty. Phase 1 must be to ensure that people are getting out of poverty faster. Phase 2 is to ensure that those who have gotten out of poverty must be protected from falling back. Interventions per-income level may be necessary. Those that have gotten out of poverty are usually wanting to reach middle-class status immediately. Data from a World Bank financial behavior study reveal that only about 10 percent of the population have bank accounts. Our own research in rural hometowns reveals that families receiving remittances and those that do not have behave in the same way in regard to savings. Our data show that those who have savings actually keep them at home and most would put them into land and houses rather than in financial assets.

“A big challenge, but not necessarily unachievable. We need to work together with the government and other stakeholders to reach this dream. Behavior change and education can help facilitate the process and for the government to make the overall environment conducive for dreamers to achieve.” [A simple ‘ambisyon,’ Dr. Alvin P. Ang, Eagle Watch, Business Mirror, 17th Nov 2016]

And what does Juan de la Cruz have to say? “A place where there are no slaves and tyrants,” CARLOS D. ISLES,, Letters to the editor, Opinion, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016.

“As a senior citizen dribbling down the last years of my life, my fondest hope is to pass from this valley of tears to the next where ‘there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen, where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.’ (Dr. Jose Rizal’s, “Last Farewell”)

“It would indeed be quite a radical change from a country ruled by a tyrant, where politicians are corrupt, where the media have turned their back on their activist role, where the Supreme Court brazenly defies the letters and the spirit of the Constitution, where extrajudicial killings  of suspected users of illegal drugs are routinely done by policemen and vigilantes, where the brains of young people are addled by low quality education and noontime shows, where the Church fails to denounce abuses of power by elected officials, where those at the ‘laylayan ng lipunan’ are victims of government promises and band-aid development programs, where a former dictator is accorded a place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, where the President of the country speaks with a forked tongue thus, confusing the people as to his real intentions, where women are fair targets of misogynistic and sexist comments and innuendos, where the leader of the nation routinely hurls insults and dirty words against heads of state and international organizations, where the President claims that God talks to him, which is a sign of schizophrenia, where the President believes that drug addicts are less human therefore they do not deserve to live, where the Cabinet secretaries are nothing but lap-dogs and apologists of the President, where people lie supinely on their backs doing nothing to halt the gradual death of democracy in the country, and finally, where evil will continue to prosper if we, Filipinos, do nothing.”

And here is what our neighbors are saying. “Regional economic integration can be made to work better and its benefits more obvious, said Juan Raffo in a statement. Raffo is the Abac chair for 2016. If governments adopt policies which enhance the capacity of economies, their communities and people will be better able to take advantage of more open and competitive markets . . .

“In the face of growing public disquiet about the impact of freer trade and investment, business leaders are concerned that many governments are looking to impose new tariff and non-tariff barriers . . . But ‘protectionist actions make it harder for business to play its part in creating employment and raising living standards across the region,’ he added, in remarks that appeared to be in response to Trump’s vaunted economic policies focusing on shoring up the US economy.

“Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) and recent election results in both developed and developing economies seem to have served as a referendum on the merits of economic integration . . . Raffo said such developments have created an ‘unprecedented uncertainty about the direction of the global economy.’ They appear to call into question the successful model of economic integration that has been responsible for rapid growth and the spread of prosperity around the world . . .

“We accept the need to do more to help convince our citizens that economic integration is directly linked to expanding prosperity and that open markets—enhanced by new technologies and ways of doing business—have lifted millions out of poverty.” [Apec warned: Trump-inspired policy to kill growth, DJ Yap, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016]

“In many countries, liberal democracy is no longer considered the best political system for selecting national leaders. It is not the only way forward. The China model has never been a more attractive alternative in those countries, including Indonesia, still grappling with nation building.

“America can help restore faith in liberal democracy by carrying out the necessary electoral reforms. It needs to show once again that democracy is the best political system for selecting leaders because it is based on the principles of respecting freedoms and basic human rights.” [US electoral democracy: signs of failure or fatigue (?), Endy Bayni, Asian Editors Circle, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19th Nov 2016; Endy Bayuni is editor in chief of The Jakarta Post.]

Do we recognize if the worldviews of our neighbors differ from ours? Because we’re the regional laggard? And we will be until we stand up – enough is enough?

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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