YOU can just imagine how a part of the globe would look like under this leadership scenario: Trump in the US, Putin in Russia, the Brexiters in Britain and Marine Le Pen in France. You would have racism and bigotry, nativism and xenophobia. Or, worse, all of the above in each of the four countries thriving on intolerance.
This is selfish on our part but this question is worth asking: What happens to would-be-immigrants to these places, and what with the US and Britain as our youth’s destinations of choice? Once the literal walls are built, what happens to the dreams of our young and restless? Can our country that lives and dies depending on the state of our global diaspora be the same again with all those walls and no trespassing signs?
Grim. Foreboding. Dire. A once-welcoming part of the globe turned into a virtual Quadrant of Fear.
Beyond our selfish concern there is even a larger issue. What happens to the dream of interconnection and integration, the promotion of openness and diversity, the welding of the planet into one harmonious place for trade and relationships beyond trade? What will be the sad fate of the European Union?
Again these: Grim. Foreboding. Dire.
For now, much of the world can heave a sigh of relief. A piece of that quadrant – France – resisted Le Pen’s tamed-down xenophobia and elected a 39-year-old former banker, Emmanuel Macron, as its president. Le Pen was dealt a stunning defeat, not just a routine loss but a below-40 percent performance. It seemed that France, supposedly on the verge of taking the decisive vote to dismantle the European Union, made the timely move of propping up the grand ideals of assimilation and integration.
The grandness of it all was that Macron’s campaign was about unalloyed openness and integration, an unequivocal vote for France’s stay in the union. That a centrist to the core campaigned as a centrist to the core and was unapologetic about it was amazing given the rise of Trumps and the Brexiters. It made Marcon’s victory sweeter. In not-so-far Tuky, to add to Europe’s dread and foreboding, Erdogan was recently crowned as a constitutional dictator.
Though we are thousands of miles away from his place of victory, we should, just like much of Europe, celebrate Macron’s victory. The reasons are entirely pragmatic.
More than $50 billion is generated by the Philippines yearly, and with very little government investments, because borders and barriers are either porous or non-existent. The OFW sector is the bigger contributor for now, but the BPO sector is fast catching up.
The OFW sector is entirely dependent on countries accepting immigrants and other countries that accept Filipino workers either on a transient or semi-permanent basis. Filipinos thrive under these conditions. Filipinos in the US regardless of status (citizens, green card holders, TNTs) power the remittance effort.
BPO jobs are offshored jobs. Overseas firms, mostly US tech companies, move jobs to countries where talent is aplenty and where the workers charge “competitive“ pay, a code word for lower pay. The lower pay though of local BPO workers is higher than the average compensation of service workers. The competition for top Pinoy talent is the reason some of the offshore companies grant free food and other perks to their employees.
This year, the BPO is expected to generate a total revenue of anywhere from $22 billion to $26 billion. In a couple of years, it is expected to surpass the OFW sector in revenue generation.
Like the OFW sector, the BPO will practically be eviscerated by hard-line, hard-core nationalist policies of the employing countries.
On trade, the Ricardian thesis of comparative advantage on trade and the mercantilist behavior of trade in earlier times have been demolished. We now see Germany selling cars to the US and vice versa. Trade partners trade on the same commodities and the whole concept of international exchange of goods has been turned upside down.
The world, and this has been empirically proven, is better off without borders and excessive tariffs and it is in the same spirit of openness that our Pinoy workers cross borders in search of better lives and opportunities.
Had Le Pen won, the openness and freedom of people and goods to move easily and without much restrictions, would have been dealt a big blow. The nastiness of her xenophobia was barely disguised in her last debate with Macron – where she lost her poise and unraveled her true nature as a closet fascist.
A Le Pen victory would have emboldened closet fascists to crawl out of their cocoons to start the stalled dream of creating a Fourth Reich.
On Macron’s shoulders now rest the task of warding off such ghastly resurrection. He is now the virtual Guardian of an Embattled Galaxy.