Precarious investment interest and growth prophecy

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Ej Lopez

Ej Lopez

OF late the country has witnessed certain developments that can be perceived as either beneficial or harmful. We are still a mile away from the 2016 national elections, yet several interest groups have already shown their grit by signifying intentions to contest the coming polls.

Perhaps buoyed by their commitment towards public service or for reasons strictly personal, the political ambitions displayed by some people may be premature; they may even hinder some in efficiently performing their current duties.

One issue confronting the economy that is worth our attention is what is possibly the gradual process of control being undertaken by the Salim-Pangilinan tandem, that seemed to have started with media. This could change the face of the Philippine economy. Though we do not discount their noble intention—as the local economy really is in dire need of investments—the fact that media is their initial thrust, causes some discomfort. Their direction points to either a protection or creation of some “imagery” which others may perceive as moot.

The Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim’s vast investments in the country, which can qualify as an empire, thanks to local tycoon Manny Pangilinan’s accommodation, commenced with some interest in media. This move points to the direction of a possible control over major and vital investment areas in the country. We know and cannot discount the influence of media in concocting stories favorable or otherwise to one’s interest. It would have been more commendable and perhaps less suspicious had the investments been made in a new venture that would either compete or complement the industry, instead of merely buying out an existing investment.


Almost nothing therefore has changed relative to its contribution to economic variables in terms of employment and investments. Same is true with their controlling shares in the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), another vital investment that is essential for businesses. It is not far-fetched therefore that sooner than expected the group will penetrate the political arena indirectly by endorsing and funding candidates who are perceived to hold some influential positions in the government. All these moves are anticipated and it is merely a matter of time before all the peoples’ speculations materialize. But with more vast investments coming our way, regardless of their origins, they could help create a semblance of stability in the local economy. In the first place, investment—good or bad—is still investment.

The government, with all its power to protect the interests of the majority should look into the possibility that some laws may have been ‘written off” to favor certain groups which in the long-run and in all probabilities disadvantaged our local investors and the economy as a whole.

Too good to be true

The recent “prophecy” of Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, popularly known as the “Prophet of Boom” is encouraging and “dazzling,” so to speak. Dr. Bernie’s predictions for the economy are anchored on the same factors government leaders have been bragging about: “Good governance” and a stable democracy. But his claim of strong macroeconomic fundamentals is a mere offshoot of the efforts of previous leaders; the current administration is reaping the fruits of someone else’s labors.

The kind of growth that we now have comes from unstable factors such as consumption expenditures, growth in the property sector that is feared to create a bubble and remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

We should not, however, strongly rely on OFW remittances turning into savings considering that most of these remittances are part of disposable personal income (DPI). All indications point to the possibility of an inflationary spike, triggered by increased OFW remittances and the enormous amount of money that is expected to pour into the country for the rehabilitation of the typhoon-stricken areas. These inflows could create inflation of unknown magnitude, and could endanger the stability of our currency.

The brighter side, however, is the massive employment that it could create, resulting in a reduction in the number of the unemployed in the country, which now stands at 12.2 million. Gauging from the series of events and indicators, it is quite hard to imagine a growth of 7 percent to 9 percent in the next five years, considering that the current growth rate is accompanied by high unemployment.

For comments e-mail: doc.ejlopez@gmail.com with cc to: opinion@manilatimes.net.

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