Monthly Archives: May 2012

Its official, PH economy grew 6.1%

Great! The Philippine economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter of this year. This is an outstanding achievement in a period of small economic performance (or worst economic downturn) in other parts of the world. Let’s now work harder on getting more community inclusion to enjoy this growth. Otherwise, what is that growth without equity?

PH 6.4% economic growth in 1st quarter beats expectations

By: 

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Public construction fueled hiked growth in the first quarter, which registered an unexpected 6.4 percent growth.INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine economy grew 6.4 percent in terms of gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2012, driven mainly by a robust services sector and higher domestic consumption, government officials said at a press briefing on Thursday.

National Statistical Coordination Board secretary-general Romulo A. Virola said that services contributed the most to GDP growth with 4.7 percentage points (the highest since the third quarter of 2004), followed by industry with 1.6 percentage points and agriculture, fisheries, and forestry with 0.1 percentage point.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said the first-quarter growth was well above the market’s consensus forecast of 4.8 percent.

“Also, the Philippines posted the highest growth among Asean and other neighboring countries except China,” said Balisacan, who is also the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Growth for the quarter was supported by accelerated government spending (including for infrastructure and conditional cash-transfer spending), low prices which supported household consumption, better-than-anticipated exports performance, continued credit expansion, overseas remittances, tourism, and business and consumer confidence, Balisacan said.

According to NEDA, growth in the first quarter of 2012 translated to an increase in employment of 1.101 million, mainly in services and industry. Tourist arrivals reached 1.15 million in the same period. Overseas Filipino remittances increased by 5.4 percent to reach $4.84 billion in the first three months of 2012.

Balisacan said growth in the January-March period may be sustained in the second quarter and may even accelerate for the rest of the year.

As the first-quarter growth numbers exceeded most expectations, there comes the inevitable question of whether the growth is sustainable or at least translates to job creation and poverty reduction.

“The continued strong inflows of remittances, robust inbound tourist receipts and low inflation environment contributed to significant increases in employment creation, particularly in the services sector, which fueled consumption,” Balisacan said.

However, Dr. Benjamin E. Diokno of the UP School of Economics said via e-mail that the better-than-expected economic growth may not necessarily be sustainable.

“Is the better-than-expected economic growth the result of playing around with price deflators? For example, agriculture shrank by 3.1 percent in nominal terms; yet it increased by 1 percent in real terms. That’s silly unless food prices fell during the period, which they didn’t,” he said.

Diokno also pointed out that exports growth exceeding imports growth, as shown in government figures, is “unusual” considering the small growth of exports. He said this may indicate that imports, especially electronic products that make up the bulk of shipments, must really be low given the recent growth in petroleum imports.

“Certainly, the positive net export is not sustainable and perhaps not even consistent with strong growth in the future. The global market is shrinking and volatile. The growth of the Philippine economy should be based on domestic demand,” Diokno said.

Diokno also noted that there was a “worrisome” trend in construction which, he said, grew on base effect.

“Public construction in the first quarter of 2011 was horrendous. The worrisome trend is the behavior of private construction, which started to stall in the second half of 2011. Private construction plummeted 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from a strong expansion of 23 percent in the first quarter of 2011. Private construction accounts for about 3/4 of total construction. This suggests that the government has to step up its public-private partnership projects and the implementation of its infrastructure program,” he said.

GDP growth in the first quarter of 2011 was 4.9 percent. Growth for full-year 2011 was 3.9 percent.

For full-year 2012, the “fighting target” for GDP growth is still 5 to 6 percent although there is a possibility that actual growth may exceed this level, said Balisacan. Higher growth would help the Philippines meet its target average annual growth of 7 to 8 percent from 2010 to 2016.


Originally posted at 11:47 am | Thursday, May 31, 2012

Inclusive growth required to fight poverty, hunger and stable employment

The following is a country profile for the Philippine from this World Bank document. An interesting view is despite the growth that is expected although lower than the previous year, poverty, hunger and informal employment continues persist.

East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, May 2012 – Capturing New Sources of Growth – Philippine profile

 

The Philippine economy grew slower than expected at 3.7 percent in 2011, held back by weak public spending and external demand. Fourth quarter growthof 3.7 percent was slightly better than the previous quarter, with expansion continuing to be driven by remittance-fueled household consumption, which grew by 6.7 percent. The government’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan, designed to speed up spending, was partially successful, contributing 1.3 percentage points to growth, though this was not enough to reach the targeted growth level of around 5 percent. On the production side, the services sector, which includes the fast-growing business process outsourcing industry, was a key driver of growth, contributing 3.2 percentage points in the fourth quarter. Industry, and in particularmanufacturing exports, was buffeted by weaker demand, while agriculture suffered from typhoon related damage.

Despite some improvements in recent months, the labor market continues to face structural issues, and poverty, hunger, and the informal economy remain prevalent. The labor market improved markedly during 2011, with 2.1 million new jobs created between October 2010 and 2011. In January, unemployment and underemployment rates fell to 7.2 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively, from 7.4 percent and 19.4 percent last year. Around 50 percent of new jobs, however, were created in the informal sector, mostly retail trade and for unskilled workers, while real wages are shrinking. These trends, together with stubbornly high levels of poverty and hunger, reflect structural weaknesses in the labor market. In December, the self-rated hunger incidence worsened to 22.5 percent, one percent higher than the previous quarter, and an indication that around 4.5 million households experienced involuntary hunger. High levels of hunger incidence were especially pronounced in Visayas andMindanao—two island groups that were hardest hit byTyphoon Sendong in December.Robust growth in services exports and remittances helped to mitigate falling merchandise exports during 2011 and contributed to a balance of payments surplus of US$9.7 billion through December 2011. Nominal dollar remittances grew by 7 percent to US$20.1 billion in 2011 (9 percent of GDP), supporting household spending. In real peso terms, remittances have been growing since September 2011, after contracting for 12 successive months thanks to the depreciating peso. Services exports grew by 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from a year earlier, led by business process outsourcing, even as merchandise exports fell by 18 percent with a particularly sharp dip in electronics exports. Overall, the Philippine electronics sectorwas hit much harder than in neighboring countries— contracting by 22 percent in 2011—suggesting some structural challenges. In January, overall exports rebounded, growing by 3 percent on the back of arecovery of demand in the country’s top exportsmarkets. Meanwhile, international reserves amounted to US$77 billion, equivalent to 11.3 months of imports, through February. Riding on the country’s positive outlook, the Philippine government successfully raised US$1.5 billion in global bonds in early January at a rateof 5 percent (around 200 basis points above comparable US treasuries). The issuance came after Standard & Poor’s raised its outlook for the Philippines from stable to positive in December 2011.

Consumer price inflation remained manageable in 2011, averaging 4.8 percent, although this was at the high-end of the central bank’s 3-5 percent target range. Domestic food price inflation, which comprises almost 40 percent of the CPI basket, continued to ease in February to a low of 1.4 percent, as the domestic supply of vegetables and global rice stocks increased. Inflation this year is expected to be lower at 3.5 percent, given cheaper and more stable prices of food, as well as fuel, electricity, light, and water. With inflation on adownward trend, monetary policy easing, which began in January, is expected to continue if downside risks to growth persist.

Although actual national government spending was lower than originally budgeted in 2011, below target revenue collection resulted in a fiscal deficit equal to 2 percent of GDP. This still represented an improvement from the 3.5 percent deficit recorded in 2010. The implementation of transparency and accountability measures early last year resulted in slower-than-expected government spending through the third quarter. In December, disbursements grew by 43 percent, with significant increases in current expenditures and areas targeted by the Disbursement Acceleration Plan. Full year capital outlays were 12 percent lower than the previous year, despite efforts to increase spending in the fourth quarter. The tax effort improved to 12.3 percent of GDP, a 0.2 percentage point increase from 2010, largely on account of improved tax administration. However, the actual contribution of the tax administration effort is estimated to be higher, at around 0.5 of a percentage point of GDP, as the present tax system is designed to lose around 0.3 of one percentage point of GDP annually due to the nonindexation of excise taxes, and losses from various tax incentives. To support spending this year, policy reforms will be needed to plug holes in the tax system.

Should the global slowdown persist, growth of around 4.2 percent and 5.0 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively, will hinge on robust domestic demand, investment, and government spending. Appropriate fiscal and monetary policy responses are expected to boost growth to targeted levels, assuming sustained growth in consumption and some improvements in investments and exports. To sustain such a stimulus, higher tax revenues (through the executive’s effort to strengthen tax administration and push for the immediate passage of the tobacco and alcohol excise and fiscal incentives bills) would be necessary. The country likewise needs to address the key impediments to accelerating inclusive growth through the three reform areas as follows: i) strengthening public financial management; ii) raising tax revenues efficiently and equitably; and iii) enhancing competitiveness to attract more investment. Successful public financial management reforms would not only allow the public to see more tangible improvements in governance but would also help make a better case for tax policy reforms. Successful implementation of public sector reforms would allow the country to increase public investment and pro-poor spending and take advantage of new opportunities arising from the global economic rebalancing, given rising production costs in the rest of the region, including China.

Using mobile technology to help the poor in this case of poor people in the US just shows how this new technology can help them better manage the little money they have.  Its the similar concept of the poor being unbanked in the Philippines but in a different manner.

From TIME Magazine

How Cash Keeps Poor People Poor

By DAVID WOLMAN | May 22, 2012
ERIK DREYER / GETTY IMAGES

ERIK DREYER / GETTY IMAGES

Want to help the poor? Start by taking money out of their hands. More specifically, cash — coins and paper bills are the silent enemy of the poor, with costs often out of proportion with their day-to-day convenience.

 

On one level, it’s ridiculous to think of cash as problematic; if you have a mountain of paper money, you aren’t exactly impoverished. And at times cash seems like exactly what we need. Saying “yes” to cash can seem like saying “no” to overspending and steering clear of big banks, which means saying “no” to credit-card debt, overdraft fees and Big Brother. In the age of zeroes-happy bank bailouts and household credit-card debt on the order of $800 billion, cash stands for individual empowerment and no-nonsense finances. Right?

 

The irony of this line of thinking is that most of the people espousing the virtues of cash simultaneously enjoy the safety and cost savings of electronic money. Even those who despise credit cards usually have bank accounts, receive payments via auto deposit, use stored-value cards for public transit and more likely than not pay their rent or mortgage, utilities, medical expenses, Internet service, hotel bills and auto insurance by transferring sequences of 1s and 0s between faraway computers. Click. Sure, you may still need a bill or two now and then for Salvation Army Santas, waiters and bellhops. But for the most part, the better off you are, the less you need cash — and the easier it is to avoid it.

 

In contrast, the poor — tens of millions of people in the U.S. and billions of people worldwide — often have no option but cash, and pay dearly because of it. In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, Vishnu Sridharan of the New America Foundation writes that cash-based economies “harm the poor by heightening the risks they face when carrying money and fueling government corruption and inefficiency.” Imagine literally having your life savings under your mattress or folded into a coffee can, vulnerable to fire, thieves, drunken relatives or nagging neighbors. Imagine having to ride the bus for hours to settle a bill, or traveling for days to deliver funds to a relative. Your already fragile finances can also get hammered by outrageous fees charged by check-cashing services or astronomical interest rates levied by payday lenders.

 

Psychologists will tell you that we are more careful with our money when operating in cash because forking over those funds is a more salient experience than swiping a debit or credit card. But for the poor, especially in the developing world, it’s the opposite: cash gets spent. That makes it harder to buttress against financial shock and save enough to reach solid financial footing. In some parts of the world, people actually pay local strongmen to safeguard their money because having cash on hand is so precarious. Think about that: not even Wall Street bankers charge you to stash your money in a savings account (not yet, anyway).

 

Millions of people on the margins often tumble back into poverty because of sudden setbacks — major illness or natural disaster, for instance — but just as often they are small-scale financial disturbances like a sprained ankle, a leaky roof or a broken-down moped, which prevents you from commuting to work. Even if you’re managing to get by, a cash-only economic existence makes it difficult to save for long-term investments such as education, job training or farm equipment to break the cycle of poverty.

 

So what’s the solution? You probably have one in your pocket. By 2014, about 90% of all adults in the world will have a mobile phone. Technology companies have already shown that you don’t need the latest, flashiest model to send and receive money as easily as a text message and that you can remotely — and securely — access a bank account from the cheapest sort of handheld. Mobile technology will enable the poor to keep their money in the same form that you keep most of your money: digital. Not tomorrow, but soon enough, passing someone a bunch of banknotes or a clinking handful of coins will seem as dated as using a pay phone.

 

Digital money and mobile technology alone won’t end poverty, obviously. But as Rodger Voorhies, director of financial services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationwrites, innovations in these areas “hold the promise to increase transparency, improve financial access and help low income people get out of poverty and stay out of poverty.” If we can turn cell phones into the wallet and bank branch of tomorrow, we may end up doing more to combat poverty than cash donations ever could.

 

Wolman (@DavidWolman) is a contributing editor at Wired and the author, most recently, of  The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers—and the Coming Cashless Society (Da Capo Press, 2012).

Read more: http://business.time.com/2012/05/22/how-cash-keeps-poor-people-poor/?xid=newsletter-daily#ixzz1w2jRjvaY

Learn online about Alternative Energy

Want to know more about Alternative Energy? Get this online courtesy of Standford University.

Stanford Offers Online Course on Alternative Energy

Posted: 24 May 2012

From Clean Techies.com Blog

If you’ve been thinking about brushing up on your knowledge of alternative energy,Stanford University may have the opportunity you were looking for.

The university is offering an online program called Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies exploring emerging technologies that offer a new way to produce, distribute and store energy.

“Determining which technologies work and can be brought to market mass-scale is an urgent challenge for engineers and businesses,” said Michael McGehee, associate professor of materials science and engineering and the academic director of the certificate program.

The program will help participants to get a better grasp of the entire energy landscape and the fundamentals of how emerging technologies work. They will also learn about opportunities to develop and market new technologies. The program requires the completion of four courses from a portfolio of six or more courses covering topics including photovoltaics, solar energy, biofuels, batteries, and shale gas.

Students can take each course at their own pace, provided they complete it within 90 days from enrollment. Participants who successfully complete the program receive a professional certificate in Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies. To find out more, go here.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

And the winner is Sydney

Reading this article I find I am living in the best city in the world. At the same time, I always consider Manila as one of the best cities too for the friendly and hospitable culture, low cost, and abundance talented labour. Still, for weather Sydney wins hands down.

Insider Guide: Best of Sydney

Australia’s largest city packs in stunning dining, first-rate attractions and the best weather in the world

By C. James Dale 21 May, 2012

Best of SydneyThat’s not a skyline. That’s a SKYLINE.

If Sydney wasn’t so darned far from the rest of the world, everyone on the planet would move there.

Gorgeous. Vibrant. Sexy.

You’ll burn through plenty of adjectives and superlatives describing the best of Sydney, with its genuinely great beach options, top-notch restaurants and endless bars and nightclubs.

For a place that started out as a penal colony in the late 18th century (and for thousands of years before that, Aboriginal land), Sydney’s come a long way — from opening its iconic Opera House in 1973 to hosting the Olympics in 2000.

These days, it’s a regular on all of those “top 10 places to live in the world” and “most expensive cities in the world” lists.

An overheated real-estate market means homes that sold for $160,000 in the late 1970s now go for more than $40 million. (That’s one example, but you get the idea.)

The creep of gentrification is claiming street after street, turning once-dodgy neighborhoods into havens for the trendy set worthy of that “best of Sydney” tag.

Government officials are working on plans to build a second airport. Living in a city that’s popular, cool and costly is a fact of life for Sydney’s 4.6 million residents, an outdoorsy and environmentally friendly lot.

They work hard and play harder. They’ll charm you with a “G’day,” “No worries” or “How ya goin’?” You’ll contemplate moving here so you too can enjoy being in paradise full time — or at least talk like you do.

Failing that, you’ll consider extending your vacation or start planning a return voyage even before you hit the airport.

When you create a law you must implement it

The Philippines had introduced this law for sometime already presumably for a good economic reason. Now that it has been passed, let’s complete the process and issue the Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR). While the position taken by the Department of Finance on the tax treatment of the trust structure has been met with opposition by the big property players. Nevertheless, let’s finish it and issue it despite the opposition and allow the many other small and medium scale property developers to benefit from the creation of the law.

Philippines urged to implement REIT system

Property sector may see inflow of $500M in new capital

By: 

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The Philippine property scene may experience the inflow of as much as $500 million in fresh foreign capital within one year if the real estate investment trust (REIT) system is implemented in the local financial market.

Simon Treacy, group CEO of property investment fund MGPA, said that based on his experience closely working in Malaysia—the latest nation to allow REITs in Asia—investments into the country could easily hit $2.5 billion in two years.

He stressed, however, that for the Philippines to benefit from these foreign investments, policymakers and the private sector would have to restart stalled talks on the local issuance of REITs, which have faltered due to the Department of Finance’s opposition to the tax-exempt status granted to it by law.

“The Philippines is now the most overlooked, undervalued real estate market in Asia,” Treacy said. “Both sides [of the debate] should come back to the table to talk about this.”

REITs are tradable securities whose underlying assets are property portfolios that earn from either real estate sales or rent.

They are issued by property developers and sold to investors whose funds are then reinvested into new property developments.

Treacy, whose MGPA fund is one of the largest investors in REITs in Singapore, Malaysia and Poland, said that the Philippines is now in a unique situation to draw in more foreign investments if this novel scheme is allowed.

He noted that—apart from the advanced Singaporean financial system—policymakers in Japan and Malaysia were in the past also hesitant to introduce REITs in their country because of the misconception that the government would forego valuable tax revenues with the entry of these tax-exempt securities.

He pointed out, however, that both Japan and Malaysia are now reaping the benefits of massive inflows of foreign capital into their real estate sectors, helping keep their property markets buoyant and helping create jobs for their citizens.

“Malaysia, which started the system in 2009, now has 11 REITs,” he said.

Treacy made his comments during a recent talk before the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute, where proposed urban planning improvements were discussed by representatives of the public and private sectors.

In particular, the group noted that Metro Manila is the world’s fifth-largest urban area and, as the country’s political and economic center, can be improved with a more sustainable approach to city development.

Cheap quick fix to make a better world

Sometimes the cost involved to save the world does not really have to be expensive if you read this article. A quick fix done cheaply.

Economists list cheapest ways to save the world

AFP
AFP –  17 hours ago

 

Leading economists have ranked how to best and most cost-effectively invest to solve many of the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, a Danish think-tank said Monday, calling for a shift in global priorities.

“It may not sound sexy, but solving the problems of diarrhoea, worms and malnutrition will do good for more of the world’s poor than other more grandiose interventions,” Bjoern Lomborg, who heads the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, said in a statement.

His think-tank on Monday presented the results of its third global Copenhagen Consensus, in which it asked prominent economists working within 10 of the world’s top problem fields to propose the best investments to fix those problems.

A panel of experts, including four Nobel laureates, then went through the proposals and ranked the ones they believed would have the biggest impact and “where we can get the most mileage for our money,” Lomborg told AFP.

The Dane, who shot to fame with his book “The Skeptical Environmentalist” in 2001, insisted the list was necessary since policymakers and humanitarian organisations often allow irrational emotions to dictate how they spend money earmarked for fighting poverty, declining biodiversity or natural disasters.

He pointed out that focussing on creating nature reserves and making large swathes of forest off-limit to development was “a nice idea, but the problem is that it often doesn’t happen.”

Instead, the Copenhagen Consensus economists proposed investing heavily in agricultural research and development to make food production more efficient, which they said would reduce world hunger and also protect biodiversity “by reducing the need for forest land to be converted into agricultural land.”

Lomborg, who adamantly rejects the climate change-denier label sometimes thrown at him, also criticised the heavy focus on curbing carbon dioxide emissions in the battle against global warming.

While such efforts could make “a little difference,” Lomborg said they are often not followed through.

“There are smarter ways to tackle this, for instance by investing in research and development on green energy, or looking into geo-engineering,” he said

“It’s really just about focusing on what works rather than on what feels good,” he said, adding that especially in light of the economic crisis, “it has become very clear that we need to spend our money in the best possible way.”

The Copenhagen Consensus economists were asked how the world should best spend $75 billion (58 billion euros) over a four-year period, which Lomborg says is only 15 percent more than the global aid spending today.

Malnutrition topped the list of 10 proposals, with the expert panel suggesting annual spending of $3.0 billion to solve the problem that affects more than 100 million children worldwide, stressing that “each dollar spent reducing chronic under-nutrition has more than a $30-pay-off”.

This was because better nutrition improves cognitive functions and thereby also an individual’s education and income prospects as well, they said.

The economists also proposed investing around $1.0 billion annually in early warning systems for natural disasters, which Lomborg said was a far better way to spend money than to throw most resources into the clean-up after the disaster.

Character is a good start

I totally agree the emphasis on good governance already changes everything in the economic standing of the Philippines as it lays down the levelled playing field by removing any vested interests in doing business in the country. However, after laying down the governance framework in place, it should now work double time to bring the needed growth by government spending on needed infrastructure and other public services. To the many still poor and jobless, this is the only measure for success.

Still, character

By: 

Monday, May 7th, 2012

P-Noy had some pretty uplifting things to say at the Asian Development Bank. “You (the ADB) have a commitment from my administration. Gone are the days when the funds you funnel to our country will end up like water leaking through a broken pail. We are prepared to follow through on our commitments, and you are by all means welcome to see if we’re living up to our word.

“We have had six positive ratings actions since we took over government a little less than two years ago—a stark contrast to the single upgrade and six downgrades in the nine years of the previous administration…. Investors and Filipinos alike see what is happening: Here is a country determined to turn the corner by instituting genuine, wide-ranging, meaningful reform, and acting on its belief that good governance is the bedrock of equitable progress.”

His ebullience was shared by Renato de Guzman, CEO of the Bank of Singapore. The Philippines, he said, which has recently seen new record highs in stock market trading, is earning the confidence of the world. “The image is improving a lot. It’s not the sick man of Asia anymore. There’s less corruption.”

Maybe not quite yet, but we’re getting there. Or at least there’s the promise we could get there, if we do not bungle it this time. We’re no longer the sick man of Asia only in the sense that we’ve ceased to be dysfunctional, a country led by a head of government whose megalomania—she projected herself as a central figure in Davos, whose advice on how to escape the global recession the leaders of the world’s greatest countries eagerly sought—was matched only by her (and her husband’s) kleptomania. And we’re no longer the sick man of Asia only in the sense that we’re slowly pushing back the culture of impunity, which is really the organic soil from which sprout rape and pillage, quite apart from murder and mayhem. You can’t get sicker than rewarding the wicked and punishing the good.

But we’re not quite all that well yet. Certainly not in terms of poverty and inequality, the twin banes that continue to hold this country in their grip. The plight of the farmers and workers remains dire and desperate, as the latter had cause to remind the world only last Tuesday, some groups complaining bitterly in particular about P-Noy taking his cue from the employers rather than the employed. And the divide between rich and poor remains spectacular, though we’ve become so inured to it we are no longer astonished by the mind-boggling contrast between the glitter of Ayala and the gutter of Payatas, between gliding Mercedes-Benzes and crawling karitons, between empty palaces in posh villages and bursting hovels in crime-infested slums. It takes a stunned foreign visitor to make us see it.

But still the change from then and now has been vast. The first decade of the 20th century and the last two years offer a mind-boggling contrast as well, one we cannot fail to sense, if not see. It gives us at least a chance of taking the first wobbly steps out of the sickbed, or a crack at cracking the puzzle of what has kept the Filipino at bay.

That brings us again to the fallacy, indeed silliness, of the proposition that P-Noy’s anticorruption campaign merely distracts from what government really needs to do, which is to improve the economy and curb poverty. That it merely reflects an avoidance syndrome on the part of an inept president: Those who cannot do, teach; those who cannot improve the economy reprove those who can.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the very least, stopping corruption directly affects the economy, or, since the economy is just an abstraction, the wellbeing of the people.

P-Noy himself cites the criminal wastefulness of the past. “Rice, imported at inflated cost by the government, was rotting away in rented warehouses. Stewards of GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations) advanced their interest at the expense of the people. Bidding for public works had been orchestrated to favor individuals, again, at the expense of the people… Enforcing strict adherence to public bidding rules has allowed our Department of Public Works and Highways to save P6.14 billion from our 2011 budget.”

At the very most, stopping corruption, in more ways that have to do only with the theft of money, in ways that have to do with the theft of the soul, revives a country faster than you can say NBN. An ailing economy has something in common with an ailing person. The way out of it is not just through medicine, it is also through psychology. It is not just through tablets and injections, it is also through outlook and disposition. The economy is not about statistics, it is about people. It is about whether people are willing to make sacrifices because they believe those sacrifices will benefit their children in the end or likely only to become cynical, muttering, “Why in hell should I sacrifice when that will mean only more money in some people’s pockets?” The best medicine, as Reader’s Digest puts it, is laughter. Corruption kills laughter.

In fact, stopping corruption doesn’t just give us to hope, it gives us to aspire. What makes us the sick man of Asia too is that our whole trajectory, our whole predisposition, our whole agenda for at least the last half century has only been to survive or recover. A mind-boggling contrast with that of our Southeast Asian neighbors which has been to transcend and prevail. How in God’s name can you think heroic when you do not have a government to help you take giant strides, when you only have a government you are at pains to survive? The matuwid na daan is not just a road paved with good intentions, it is a road paved with the one thing that sustains a country and people:

Character.

Poverty still exists despite economic growth

While the government and investors alike sing praises about the substantial improvement of the country in image, economic growth and governance, more work is necessary to make these perceived benefits reach the common tao where many (and now increasing in numbers) still claim poverty and hardship.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

May 10, 2012

A discouraged nation

The number of Filipino households that consider themselves poor has risen markedly, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said, with surges recorded in Mindanao and in rural areas. Results of an SWS poll, conducted last March 10-13, found 55% of the respondents — equivalent to an estimated 11.1 million families — claiming to bemahirap, 10 points higher than December’s 45% or 9.1 million households.

The survey also found that 45% or an estimated 9.1 million families consider themselves poor in terms of food, nine points up from the 36% or estimated 7.2 million recorded in the previous quarter.

The new levels are the highest to date for the Aquino administration, which has pledged to reduce poverty, although they are still below the record highs of 74% for self-rated poverty — hit in July 1985 during the Marcos dictatorship — and the 59% for self-rated food poverty first recorded in April 1994 during the Ramos administration and repeated in September 2002 when the Arroyo government was in power.

Satisfaction with the Aquino administration has fallen to “good” from “very good” but its score remains well above previous governments, SWS said.

The survey done from March 10-13 found 64% of the respondents satisfied and 18% dissatisfied with the government’s general performance, for a “good” net rating of +46 (% satisfied minus % dissatisfied).

The new rating is 10 points below the “very good” +56 scored in the last two quarters of 2011 and compares with the +64% — “very good” and a record high — that the Aquino administration enjoyed in its first few months in office.

Measured against previous governments extending back to the term of President Aquino’s mother, Corazon C. Aquino, the next highest would be the “good” +36 registered in November 1998 during the Estrada administration.

The SWS poll, which involved face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide, saw the Aquino administration’s net ratings fall to “good” from “very good” in all geographical areas and socioeconomic classes except in Mindanao and among the class E.

It was hardly changed in Mindanao at +55 from +56 previously, but plunged 18 points to +46 in Metro Manila; by 13 points to +39 in Balance Luzon; and by nine points to +49 in the Visayas.

By class, satisfaction stayed “very good” in class E at +52 from +53 last December, but plunged by 16 points to +38 among the ABC class and by 13 points to +44 in class D.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the administration’s approval ratings remained high despite criticism that little was being done to address rising prices.

A little more analysis is needed, besides being more politically prudent. How explain, for example, government inaction on the economy despite the availability of hundreds of billions of approved outlays which could propel the economy?

Government has pledged to accelerate spending after missing its first-quarter target and four quarters last year, blamed for slowing down growth to 3.7%.

The Budget department said it aimed to make up for lost ground in the second quarter after government spending only hit P394.883 billion as of March, nearly P46 billion short of the P440.588-billion target. The first-quarter expenditure goal is the lowest for the year. The government aims to disburse P444.7 billion in the second quarter, P467.9 billion in the third quarter and P486.6 billion in the fourth quarter, for a 2012 total of P1.84 trillion.

The Transportation department had the biggest backlog in the first quarter, with P12.2 billion in unreleased balances. It was followed by the Agriculture and Education departments, both with P9 billion each. The Health department still has to spend P8 billion worth of budget releases, while P7.7 billion has to be spent by the Public Works department. Funds were underutilized by the Environment and Social Welfare departments. In particular, only P5.7 billion of the P39.4 billion released to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program was used. Banner programs for rice and other farm products utilized just P800 million of a total P11.9 billion allocated. Family health care projects also utilized just P1 billion from the P2.3 billion given. Infrastructure spending was the slowest moving at 71.24% of the P54.6-billion target.

Government agencies were said to have failed to submit special budget requests and supporting documentation for projects such as the public-private partnership program (P15.6 billion), construction of basic educational facilities (P8.7 billion), and the enhancement of health facilities (P5 billion).

Sluggish project implementation raised concerns that the underspending last year would be repeated.

Government spending dropped last year as agencies adjusted to the Aquino administration’s regime of stricter budget and procurement reforms.

Subsequent project delays were said to have contributed to 2011’s lackluster 3.7% economic growth, barely half of the record 7.6% seen in 2010.

If the government were an ordinary household, it would make sense to constrict spending after prices move up. But Philippines, Inc. is not an ordinary household. Economics 101 teaches us that government spending can perk up the economy by creating jobs. Jobs provide income for food on the table. What’s left after spending for basic needs is disposable income. Optimism-driven consumer spending propels the economy upward.

A hands-on, action-driven presidency is clearly needed.

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?Section=Opinion&title=A discouraged nation&id=51511

Economic growth with equity

The new NEDA chief has big shoes to fill in with his objective to make poverty reduction and inclusive growth his priorities. Let’s hope and wish him all the success.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

May 13, 2012

New NEDA chief details priorities

POVERTY REDUCTION and achieving “inclusive growth” will be the priorities of the country’s new socioeconomic planning secretary.

“I will look into poverty reduction and inclusive growth… There is no inclusiveness in our growth and it has been our problem for the past years already,” Arsenio M. Balisacan told BusinessWorld in a telephone interview yesterday, a day after his appointment as acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general was announced by the Palace.

Mr. Balisacan, dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics, replaced fellow UP economist Cayetano W. Paderanga, Jr. who resigned for health reasons, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail B. Valte said over the state-run Radyo ng Bayan last Saturday.

Mr. Balisacan, known in the region for his work in agricultural and development economics, said that among others, he would check progress in achieving the government’s Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP).

“What I expect to do is to identify where we are in achieving the development goals,” he said.

Mr. Balisacan also said he wanted to be “given time to learn the system, to be familiar with it, to first meet with the [NEDA] staff and to review the past achievements” of the government agency.

Mr. Balisacan has a doctorate in economics from the University of Hawaii. At the UP, he taught development economics, agricultural economics, and special topics on poverty, inequality, and institutions.

Before he was named dean of the UP School of Economics in 2010, Mr. Balisacan was chief of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture from 2003 to 2009. He was undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture in 2000, 2001 and 2003, during which he also served as Philippine negotiator at the World Trade Organization.

His appointment comes at a time of worsening self-rated poverty and hunger as surveyed by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The latest SWS poll conducted last March 10-13 showed that an estimated 11.1 million families or 55% of the total claimed to be poor, an increase from 9.1 million or 45% in December.

Hunger, meanwhile, reached a record high with 4.8 million families (23.8% of respondents) said to have experienced “involuntary suffering due to the lack of anything to eat,” the SWS said.

Mr. Balisacan, who will also chair the National Statistical Coordination Board, Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine Center for Economic Development, said: “We need to break away from past patterns of growth, which largely failed to benefit the poorest rungs of our society.”

Mr. Paderanga on Saturday thanked the President for giving him the opportunity to serve in the Cabinet for the second time and for “understanding the reasons why I decided to leave.” Mr. Paderanga first headed the NEDA from 1990-1992 under the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, mother of the incumbent president.

In an e-mail to BusinessWorld, Mr. Paderanga said his blood pressure was rising and “could not be stabilized with the usual stresses of being in the Cabinet.”

“It would have been optimal to leave between July and September when the [public-private partnership] projects would already start popping up. But that’s when my family said we could not take a chance. For me, it is enough that I have been able to contribute,” he added.

During the term of Mr. Paderanga, the old Build-Operate-Transfer Center was renamed the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center and transferred to the NEDA from the Trade department.

PPP Center Executive Director Cosette V. Canilao said in a telephone interview that Mr. Paderanga’s resignation would not have an impact on the implementation of PPP projects.

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Hubert d’Aboville, however, expressed concern.

“I am sorry for his (Mr. Paderanga) resignation and I hope he recovers soon from his sickness. However, my concern really is the PPPs. We need the DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications), NEDA and DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) to double-time,” he said, adding that “one cannot be optimistic on PPPs” because elections are coming.

Mr. Paderanga, however, said the implementation of projects, “if anything, will speed up even further in the near term.”

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?Section=TopStory&title=New NEDA chief details priorities&id=51642

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