Optimism despite the odds


Filipinos are said to be fatalistic, as exemplified by the so-called “bahala na” or “come-what-may” attitude. Many scholars, however, have qualified this, notably F. Landa Jocano, who views bahala na as an expression of the Filipino’s confidence in the Divine, if not his own problem-solving skills. At any rate, it is both an indicator of an optimistic outlook and a coping mechanism.

This optimism is shown in the quarterly Consumer Expectations Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). At first glance, the third-quarter results, released on Friday, present a less favorable outlook – the overall confidence index declined to 10.2 percent in the third quarter from 13.1 percent in the second quarter.

It should be pointed out, however, that even if the index slipped, consumer confidence – in the country’s economic condition, the family’s financial situation, and family income – was still high. In fact, the third-quarter reading was the second highest since the central bank began surveying consumer sentiment 10 years ago.

The latest BSP consumer survey results only showed that fewer Filipinos were optimistic. Still, there were more optimists than pessimists among the 5,000 representative households surveyed.

It is remarkable that Filipino optimism remained high, given the recent uptick in inflation and the crisis in Marawi City, on top of the usual concerns over the jobs situation.

Still, there is some cause for alarm. Low-income households became pessimistic in the third quarter, as respondents said they expected no salary increases during the period.

Middle-income households were less optimistic as they expected an increase in household expenditures.

These, however, are short-term worries that could eventually dissipate especially when the Duterte administration makes good on its “Build, Build, Build” strategy to stimulate the economy and draw more foreign investments.

Again, the BSP data reflects this. The forward-looking confidence index registered an increase for the fourth quarter, hitting 17.8 percent versus the 13.6 percent recorded in the previous survey.

In the final quarter of 2017, consumers expect additional income and salary increases, an improved peace and order situation, and more new jobs. This is not surprising. The fourth quarter is the season of merriment and gift-giving, enabled, of course, by the mandated 13th month salary, and bonuses for some, as well as other perks every hardworking Filipino looks forward to receiving.

Consumer sentiment for the next 12 months is also reassuring, with the index relatively unchanged at 33.7 percent.

The entry of the “ber” months is a yearly reminder of Filipinos’ optimism. There may be qualms over peace and order, fears over family finances and other worries, but these will all be overcome.

For Filipinos, these fleeting uncertainties are no reason to become pessimistic. This fatalistic-optimistic attitude is no liability; it is what makes us a resilient people.


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