FIVE-THOUSAND years of recorded history should have taught us by now that the only thing that can be predicted with any consistent accuracy is that something unexpected will happen in the future, but doing it anyway has become something of a tradition for media.
We do the “year in review,” we do the “holiday message,” then we do the “things to look for in the upcoming year.” It’s in the Rulebook, actually; if we don’t do it we have to submit a written explanation of why not, and in extreme cases, maybe even pay a fine.
Besides, I have a pretty good batting average, something around 70 percent over the past couple of years. A lot of that is just the result of certain things (such as the way voters and politicians behave) being depressingly consistent, but I’ve made a couple calls that even I thought were a little spooky—such as predicting the 2012 Negros earthquake to within a few percentage points of its intensity and the number of casualties it caused, and forecasting this past year’s Habagat flooding to within about two weeks of when it actually occurred.
The reason we make predictions (and read those made by others) is that we humans are naturally uncomfortable with uncertainty. If we think we know what’s going to happen in the future, we can prepare ourselves to face it. Sometimes the prediction turns out to be wrong, but even when that happens, more often than not it is because people’s behavior changed to prevent it from becoming true. Either way, the predictions make us think beyond our moment and our immediate horizons, and that is never a bad thing. So in that spirit, here are five predictions I’m going to make for 2014:
1. Politics—DILG Secretary Manuel A. “Mar” Roxas 2nd will emerge as the clear front-runner for the 2016 elections, in large part because of the massive support from Philippine netizens. It’s not so much that the supposed “thinking class” of the Philippines will support Roxas as it is that they will serve as a convenient media conduit for the petty and largely irrelevant black propaganda produced by his backers against his presumptive opponent, Vice President Jejomar Binay, as most have already done with the overexposed “Dasmagate” incident.
All of the other names that have been floated as possible successors to President Aquino have either been out of the national spotlight for too long to catch up, or have significant shortcomings they cannot overcome. Dick Gordon has become (unfortunately, in my opinion) this country’s Ron Paul. Joseph Estrada, apart from his sketchy past, will be approximately 300 years old by the time of 2016 elections. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is in delicate health, and also strikes a significant number of voters as being completely out of her mind. Between the inevitable Kenkoy memes and jokes about his midlife crisis, Chiz Escudero might as well not bother showing up. And Ping Lacson, whose performance as “rehabilitation czar,” will consist mainly of inspecting things and photobombing more important people when they address the public or the media, will be unable to translate that into a support base once the inevitable split between him and his Liberal Party fellow-travelers occurs.
As hard as it is for some people to accept, these two—Roxas and Binay—will be the only serious candidates in a campaign that will go on for about a year-and-a-half longer than it should. Hopefully this bothers enough people that some other realistic choices will emerge.
2. The economy—The impact of Typhoon Yolanda will pull down GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 by 2.5 percent to 5.4 percent, meaning that instead of the roughly 7-percent growth anticipated for Q4, it will be in a range between 1.5 percent and 4.5 percent. If the figures are any higher than that, look for something questionable in the calculations made by the government.
3. Law—There will be at least one win-win situation for the country: The administration will quietly drop its opposition to the Supreme Court’s making an adverse ruling on the “Disbursement Acceleration Program,” in exchange for a ruling that the Reproductive Health Law is constitutional. The administration and its legislative allies have essentially gotten all that they wanted in terms of funds to spend irresponsibly in the 2014 General Appropriations Act anyway, and President Aquino needs the RH Law to prop up his drooping list of achievements.
On the other hand, the issues with the PDAF “pork barrel” scandal, fraud in Department of Agriculture projects, and misuse of the Malampaya gas project royalties will be swept under the rug, and largely disappear from the public’s radar before April.
4. Disasters—It always seems a little ghoulish to predict these sorts of things, but the even more disturbing fact is they are very predictable. It will be a quieter year for typhoons, but there will be at least two large-scale flooding disasters in Luzon, at least one somewhere else in the country, and one major transport disaster—my spooky-sense is telling me it will be a plane crash, but another ferry accident would not be unexpected, either—involving triple-digit casualties. Travel safely, folks.
5. World events – This past year there were several big stories that grabbed the world’s attention; the ones that come to mind as being the most significant (given my particular tastes in news) were the Pope restyling himself as some kind of ecclesiastical rock star, the pause the world (except for our own President, because he was busy) took to honor Nelson Mandela, and the environment going completely haywire (Typhoon Yolanda, snow in the Middle East, an actual hurricane in Northern Europe).
Despite the news of troubles of one sort or another all across the globe in 2013, in reality it was actually a comparatively peaceful year. I think 2014 will be different, and the signal we should watch to know when to keep our heads down will be the Food Price Index (FPI). The Food Price Index is produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and when it rises above the threshold of 215—which it did only once in 2013, in April, which is when the two Koreas very nearly started shooting at each other—unrest in different parts of the world dramatically increases.
The FPI stood at just above 206 in November (December’s figure won’t be released until January 9), and the long-term trend is upward; look for a spike to near the threshold level in the early months of 2014, with the tipping point passed sometime in mid-summer.
Have a Happy New Year and a peaceful and prosperous 2014, and may any prophesies of doom only apply to other people.