Outside the Box
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Since the end of World War II, there has been one truth about the way the world works. From the most remote South Pacific island to the highest mountains, in the deepest jungle, on the streets of every city on the planet, everyone knew the value of an American $100 bill.
At the end of the war, 44 nations sat down and created the Bretton Woods Agreements, which established a framework of rules, institutions and procedures to regulate the international monetary system.
The most important part of the agreements was that these countries would maintain the exchange rate of their respective currencies within a narrow band, based in part of the value of gold and the ability for the international monetary fund to provide trade financing.
Bretton Woods was an attempt to bring order to the chaos after World War I, as nations devalued their currencies in relation to gold. American President Roosevelt added to the destruction of “real money” when the US revalued the dollar to gold several times prior to World War II.
Bretton Woods was supposed to solve the problems of currencies not having any real value that is not being convertible to gold or silver. The problem of the Bretton agreements was that there was no way to stop governments from just printing as much paper currency as they wanted regardless of the amount of gold these governments held. Theoretically, the value of gold was pegged at $35 per ounce, and the dollar was the only currency that was still convertible to gold. The dollar became the world’s reserve currency. That is, countries preferred holding a portion of their national wealth in dollars knowing that it could be converted to gold and that the US government maintained a fixed value of gold to the dollar.
By the end of the 1960s, the US government could no longer support the $35 to one ounce of gold peg. There were simply too many dollars in circulation to pay off in gold if all dollars were suddenly converted. The US government, through the 1960s, had simply printed too many dollars, primarily to pay for its domestic programs.
In 1971 the US government closed the “gold window” and dollars were no longer convertible to gold. The world’s currencies were allowed to “float,” exchange rates were now being set by market forces and government controls rather than against the hard assets of gold. Gold went to $40 an ounce and by 1972, gold traded at $70.
While no longer convertible to gold, the dollar still retained its status as the reserve currency of choice. This is primarily due to the fact that the US government has always shown some restraints against too much money printing and because the US was always the largest, strongest and most resilient economy. The dollar has traditionally held the highest and most consistent purchasing power of any currency.
During the year, we have heard many times about a general call for another instrument to replace the dollar as the foremost reserve currency. Several nations have moved to settling their trade obligations using their own currencies rather than the dollar, as in the case of China and Russia.
In truth, the world economy can operate more easily and efficiently with a single, universally accepted reserve currency like the dollar. It is burdensome to have to settle trade obligations with several different countries in several different currencies as China might have to do with the US (dollars), Russia (rubles), Japan (yen) and Europe (euros). And each of China’s trading partners might have to source yuan to pay back their trade obligations. Using only the dollar makes more sense.
But 2009 has brought a fundamental change in the way the US does business. The Obama administration has embarked on the most massive deficit-spending program possible with a current government debt equal to all the US government debt of the last 200 years combined. The October 2009 monthly budget deficit was equal to the entire budget deficit of 2008.
There is no way that the US government can pay for all of its expenditures, except by printing more dollar bills.
With each new dollar that is printed, without a corresponding increase in real national wealth, the purchasing power of all dollars is reduced. And the only value that currencies of the late 20th and 21st century have is the amount of goods and services that they can purchase.
A reduction of purchasing power translates in to price inflation. As prices increase, confidence in the currency as a medium of exchange goes down, creating more price inflation.
There is no single currency that can replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. That is why there have been calls for the new reserve currency being created from a basket of currencies.
The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency. Most nations hold much of their cash wealth in dollars. However, there is and will continue to be a shift toward this super reserve currency. It is inevitable.
The new currency must adequately reflect world trade patterns. Therefore, it will be a mix of yuan, yen, euro, dollar, perhaps the new South American real and, of course, a portion of gold.
With a mix, the stability of the purchasing power of the currency will be greater than with the dollar. Further, one nation’s overprinting of its money will not have as great a negative impact as now.
This will take a year or more to happen but it will occur. And honestly, world trade will be better for it. Countries like the Philippines will be less inclined to focus on trade with the US to get dollars. Further, it would allow the Philippines to more easily and quickly diversify its currency holdings.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
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Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks rose significantly to US$1.4 billion in September 2009, posting a year-on-year increment of 8.6 percent, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today. As a result, cumulative remittances for the nine-month period increased by 4.2 percent to reach US$12.8 billion. Remittances from both sea-based and land-based workers expanded during the first three quarters of this year.
Steady remittance flows were shored up by the continued strong global demand for professional and skilled Filipino workers and the wider access of overseas Filipino workers and their beneficiaries to a broader array of financial products and services. These factors support the optimistic outlook for the sustained growth in remittances through the rest of 2009. The deployment of Filipino workers abroad is anticipated to increase given the continuing hiring arrangements between the Philippines with existing and non-traditional labor markets as well as the forthcoming relocation of U.S. military facilities from Japan to Guam over the course of the next five years. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had earlier reported that a top-level Guam Senate team visited the country in September this year to finalize details on the hiring of Filipino skilled workers beginning July 2010. The Guam delegation indicated their preference for and intent to hire Filipino engineers, architects, professionals and skilled construction workers.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that, as of end-October 2009, total job orders processed reached 226,260, representing 43.9 percent of the jobs needed (515,438). About 80 percent of the total job orders processed was for service and production and transport related workers.
In the near term, remittances could rise even further as the series of strong typhoons that hit the country in September and October could have encouraged larger amounts of transfers from relatives based overseas with a view to assisting their families in their rebuilding efforts.
For the period January-September 2009, the major sources of remittances were the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, U.K., Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Germany.
Erik de la Cruz
SECURITY Bank Corp. on Monday said its January-September net income jumped 27 percent to P2.2 billion from the same period last year, bringing annualized return-on-average equity (ROE)—a measure of profitability—to 21 percent.
Its ROE improved from 19 percent a year earlier.
Net income in the third quarter jumped 88 percent to P784 million.
Driving growth in the first nine months was the 21-percent increase in net interest income to P4.4 billion, which improved net interest margin to 4.4 percent from 3.9 percent. Interest income increased due to the shift in asset allocation from investment securities to loans, the midsized bank said in a statement.
Noninterest income grew 37 percent to P1.5 billion, reflecting profits from asset sales and trading gains that reversed last year’s losses.
“One of the bank’s objectives was to move toward a more balanced revenue profile. We are pleased that we are showing excellent improvements in both the net interest income and other income-revenue sources from our core businesses,” bank president and chief executive officer Alberto Villarosa said in a statement.
The bank’s balance sheet stood at P137.7 billion, relatively flat compared with the end-2008 level. Loans declined by 2.1 percent to P66 billion as of end-September, from P67.4 billion nine months earlier, and accounted for 48 percent of total assets.
Its investment-securities portfolio expanded at a slower pace of 5.1 percent to P47.6 billion, accounting for 34.6 percent of total assets.
Provisions set aside for credit losses amounted to P302.1 million for the first nine months, 39 percent higher than the P217.7 million booked for the comparative period last year.
“The provisions for the year represent the regular buildup of provisions for loans and receivables as a continuing effort to strengthen the bank’s balance sheet in support of the growth in the loan portfolio, rather than due to portfolio quality deterioration,” it said in notes accompanying its results.
Outside the Box
Even those of you who are not necessarily boxing fans should have watched Sunday’s Pacquiao fight. The Pacman again demonstrated his complete dedication to his craft and showed his utmost professionalism. Measured, cool, fighting within his game plan, Pacquiao did everything right. It was not a flashy exhibition. It was an exhibition that hard work and discipline can bring outstanding rewards.
And it was yet another opportunity for some normal Philippine bashing even in the sports world.
The HBO announcers yet again were not willing to concede that Pacquiao is simply the best. During the first round it seemed according their comments that Cotto’s blows were devastating while Pacquiao’s punches were just not strong enough. These sorts of comments continued until the eighth round, by then everyone on the planet knowing what the outcome was going to be: a Pacquiao win. But still one announcer said, “Cotto can still win this fight on points.” The only way Pacquiao could have lost a decision is if he had gone to the Las Vegas Jollibee for a couple of rounds of Chickenjoy with extra rice.
Talk is cheap. There is a gambler’s insult: “Put your money where your mouth is,” meaning that if you’re going to give an opinion, you need to place a bet to back up that opinion. In the case of the Pacquiao/Cotto fight, money did talk. Manny was a 3-to-1 favorite against welterweight champion Cotto. Talk is always cheap, in sports and everything else. You want to know what the truth is? Follow the money.
That is why I have such a great problem with the economic “experts”; they are all talk, with no money in the game.
That is why I listen to the business people, from the palengke to Makati; they have a stake in what happens next.
All this year, the “experts” have been saying the Philippine economy is a piece of garbage and getting worse day by day. This has been an unending phenomenon. Every positive uptick was met with skepticism and rebuttal. But around last June, I noticed a change in the attitude of the businesspeople I talk to. They were still cautious but there was the belief that if things were so bad, how come their own companies and businesses were not suffering like the “experts” told them they should be? Some said that maybe they were just lucky or blessed.
By September though, it was obvious that a whole lot of businesses must have been living under a favorable star. And now businesses were spending a little money looking toward the future for a change.
Of course, even the experts could not ignore what the local stock market has been doing all year. They could not very well call you investors stupid since your portfolio was up 20-30 percent for 2009. All the while the market was moving up though, there were a few comments that the market was only riding on the “strength” of the US economic recovery, a recovery that is still a myth. But there again you can look at the money.
The net inflow of foreign portfolio investment this year is $358 million against 2008 net outflow of $1.3 billion. That is a $1.6-billion reversal. But even that is not the full story. The gross inflow for the first 10 months of 2009 is over $5 billon. That means that $5 billion of foreign “hot money” came into the Philippines, bought stocks and government short-term debt, and some took the profits back home. And this past October, 67 percent of the $700 million that came into the Philippines was invested in the local stock market.
Not bad for a country with a “bad” economy.
But we all know what the economists think of stock-market investment. Short-term, not good for the long-term economy, easy money. What about “real” investment?
From BusinessMirror November 12: “Foreign direct investments grew a little over 30 percent in the first eight months to $1.3 billion.” How can that be? Don’t these foolish foreigners know that the Philippines is not the place for investments? Earlier this year the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had estimated $500-million hot-money inflow; now it is three times as much.
The world is awash in dollars right now. You can borrow in the US for almost nothing, take those dollars to a country lie the Philippines, and make much more profit than staying in dollar- denominated assets. The Philippines is benefitting from this situation.
Now that 2009 is coming to a close, I wonder if we might have benefitted more from the world situation. I wrote many months ago that we were in an excellent position to take advantage of global conditions, that our economy would be much stronger than expected, and that all the negatives (remittances, overseas job losses, slower foreign investment) were just not going to happen. At that time, the government had the opportunity to rise to the occasion by strongly defending and promoting the country. Instead, our financial leaders acted like frightened schoolgirls, almost with all the negatives.
Maybe next time, we will have leaders with confidence in the Philippines and with the courage to put their own mouths and money with this nation and not with the “experts.”
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Monday, 16 November 2009
WHEN Manny Pacquiao stepped into history on Sunday as the only boxer ever to win seven titles in seven weight classifications, it wasn’t just Miguel Cotto he vanquished. He defied, as well, all superlatives, with even the best writers seemingly reduced to simply saying he is the greatest boxer of all time.
Here at home, he is known to have singlehandedly beaten crime, without having to pummel a single hoodlum with his famous southpaw, by the simple, sacred act of fighting so well and with so much faith, patriotism, artistry and chivalry as to stop an entire nation in its tracks—crooks and criminals included—and have them rush back to their homes and hovels, thence to movie houses, beer gardens, cocktail lounges and street-corner stores with TVs on, indeed, anywhere with televisions to watch him fight yet again and win.
But the biggest enemy that Manny Pacquiao defeated, and to which he must owe such unimagineable skill, stamina and stroke of luck, is Manny Pacquiao himself. Here is a man who endlessly wowed audiences around the world in the days leading up to his Sunday bout—had veteran CNN anchors eating out of their hands, a Hillary Clinton declaring in Manila she had no doubt Manny would win over Miguel and she was rooting for him—all because for all the obvious marks of a boxer who trained scientifically, determinedly and endured so much pain to himself, he was humble.
When he and Miguel stepped foot on the MGM Grand two days before the fight, sportswriters said this was one of those rare moments when a great boxer on the eve of a historic fight didn’t say he would beat the shit out of his opponent. Manny, bless him, said simply he would fight his best, as always, for God, country and Jinkee. The obligatory boasting was left to the trainers.
The humility is deep-seated, and seems to spring from his simple but strong faith, something that again startled the most grizzled sportswriters and analysts before. Remember, this was the man who, on the eve of his fight with Oscar de la Hoya, was asked what he prayed for when he made the sign of the cross before the fight. He said he prayed “for the both of us, that neither one would be so badly hurt.” He had done the same in all those previous fights, since his humble days as a struggling southpaw in GenSan, and later when he trained in Manila and no one noticed or cared, except the few friends he truly counted as such. To the safety net of character, add his abiding gratitude, which accounts for his calling Lito Atienza his second father.
It was just as well that the referee stopped the fight with a badly mauled Cotto on Sunday’s 12th round. Manny had knocked down Miguel on the second and fourth rounds, and by the time the fighters entered the ninth round, it seemed as if the Puerto Rican was standing and flailing just on his guts and strength of will. Like “battery drain.” He could barely swing his arms, much less land a punch. His face was cut, bruised and swollen; blood made pink with sweat drenched his shorts. No one talked about it openly, but the previous day’s shocking incident—when Pinoy pugilist Z Gorres, all of 27 years old, collapsed into a coma as he left the arena as the victor in a minor title fight in Vegas—must have spooked some people, especially with the sight of the blood gushing out of Cotto’s face wounds.
No one is supposed to die or suffer so much punishment, the gods of boxing say, but look at Muhammad Ali. Manny Pacquiao, whose love of country springs as naturally from his heart as if he were breathing it every second, knows what happens to boxers when they grow old. He is helping, has been helping several ex-greats deal with retirement and bankruptcy, when the medical bills start to pile up. He knows the fame is fleeting, the victory only as good as the next headline; so when he ran to his corner of the ring after being declared winner on Sunday, he knelt, and bowed his head, only to stand up because Cotto tapped him to congratulate him, Pacquiao tightly embraced the bloodied man and then made the sign of the cross again, as if he was more relieved he hadn’t stepped on the corpse of his opponent into history.
Manny keeps winning because he never stops studying. Manny keeps winning because he remains humble and faithful, and prays for the grace to stay his powerful fist so that it doesn’t do irreparable harm even as he prays for victory.
There have been boxing greats, and their stories retold a thousand times. Manny Pacquiao joins their ranks, but he has made his own unique record—as the only one who ever prayed never to hurt his foe in a sport meant to maim. There stands more than just the greatest boxer in history. Behold the man.
SINGAPORE (PND) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today called Manny Pacquiao “an inspiration to the entire Filipino nation” after the Philippine boxing icon wrested the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title from Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Once again, Filipino grit and determination triumph over odds. May this serve an inspiration to the entire Filipino nation, especially the youth, that there is no limit to our capacity for success for as long as we work hard, put our hearts and focus our minds to achieve our goals,” the President said in a statement read by Press Secretary Cerge Remonde on DZBB.
The President is attending the 17th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting hereon.
The President said Manny trained long and hard, imposed stringent self-discipline, persevered, and, above all, always placed himself in the hands of God.
She expressed hope that “we all learn from his example so that, together, we can also move forward as a nation.”
Pacquiao made history when he won by technical knock out (TKO) over Cotto in the twelfth round. With the victory, Pacquiao won a record seventh world boxing title in seven different weight classes. (PND)
Erik de la Cruz
FIRST Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) posted a 164-percent increase in January-September net income to P824.2 million from the same period last year, as investment banking fees and trading gains from stocks and fixed-income securities swelled.
The listed company’s top-line figure grew 42 percent to P3.2 billion.
Net income in the third quarter rose 58 percent to P267.4 million.
Taking lead roles in several major corporate debt transactions this year, FMIC collected a record P292.1 million in investment banking fees, representing a 120-percent growth over P132.9 million in the same nine-month period last year.
FMIC, the investment banking arm of the Metrobank Group, helped raised funds for several big local companies this year. Among the deals it handled were:
· San Miguel Brewery Inc.’s P38.8-billion bonds—the biggest-ever local corporate bond deal—as a lead underwriter;
· Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s P10-billion and P500-million notes as lead arranger;
· Metrobank Card Corp.’s P1.3-billion notes as issue manager and lead arranger;
· Globe Telecom Inc.’s P5-billion bonds as a lead underwriter and P5-billion notes as sole arranger;
· Aboitiz Power Corp.’s P3-billion bonds as a lead underwriter and P6.5-billion notes and bonds as an issue manager;
· Cebu Energy Development Corp.’s P16-billion borrowing as arranger;
· Global Business Holdings Inc.’s P2-billion term loan as lead arranger; and
· Metro Pacific Investment Corp.’s P4.5-billion bridge loan facility.
FMIC was also one of the selling agents and issue managers of the Bureau of Treasury’s retail Treasury bonds offer in September, which raised P114 billion for the government.
Reversing last year’s losses from stock trading, FMIC posted an income of P187.6 million from investment in stocks. It also booked P39.4 million in dividend income from investment in Stradcom International.
Treasury income contributed P1.91 billion to total revenue, up 13 percent over the same nine-month period last year. Trading gains from the sale of government securities reached P319.5 million.
The higher average volume of securities portfolio handled in the three quarters of the year—P29.7 billion as against the P18.1 billion in the same period last year—was key to the P633.3-million, or 66-percent, increase in interest income.
Total resources grew 32 percent to P60.8 billion as of end-September from the end-2008 balance of P46.2 billion.
Francisco Sebastian, FMIC president, painted a guarded outlook on the economy in the last quarter and moving into 2010.
“We can now all sigh in relief as fundamentally there has been a confirmed recovery, although this has been for the most part restricted to Asia and the emerging economies,” he said in a statement.
DEUTSCHE Post DHL will prop up back office operations in the country as it sees the Philippines as an important part to the company’s regional operations, even if cargo volume in the country is one of the lowest in the region.
DHL said it will expand back office operations in Manila and will capitalize on the “knowledge competencies” of the Filipinos as the logistics company prepared to diversify regional operations aside from just moving letters and parcels.
Sam Ang, chief executive officer of DHL Global Forwarding, said the current back office in Manila has a capacity of about 200 people, but only 40 to 75 people are currently employed.
“The Philippines is a market that has growth potential in terms of global forwarding services but its also a center of excellence for the all other markets in which we operate in the world,” said Amadou Diallo, chief executive officer of DHL’s Global Forwarding in South Asia Pacific.
Diallo hinted that if they reached the center’s full capacity by the end of the year, there is a possibility hiring more people and expanding the number of seats by next year.
The back office provides customs services to all air and ocean freight services of DHL out of Singapore, where the company has its second-biggest hub in the region servicing some countries in Southeast Asia and Australia.
Ang said they are diversifying their operations in the region to tap other markets such as the oil and energy sectors as well fashion goods.
“What we do is diversification of goods to support the whole expansion process [of DHL] and to capitalize talents on the literacy levels of Filipinos,” Ang said.
On Friday, DHL announced it is diversifying operations to tap the multibillion-dollar oil and energy logistics sector. It has also launched its dedicated center in Singapore employing about 200 people for the oil and energy sector to serve Asia-Pacific customers.
“DHL’s focus on the oil and energy sectors—spanning both fossil and renewable energies—is timely as the industry currently spends about €260 billion ($388 billion) on logistics globally,” the company said in a statement.
World energy demand by 2030 is expected to grow 74 percent from 2005 levels, of which China alone is expected to account for 30 percent of that growth. The industry is expected to attract an average of $895 billion a year in investments through 2030.
DHL officials said they will be focusing on tapping the Malaysian and Indonesian markets, both of which are major oil producers in the region.
DHL lags behind United Parcel Service and Federal Express, but the German-owned firm hopes to target the movement of freight through air, sea, and land transportation.
“Expansion in alternative energy sources—wind, solar and geothermal—also present opportunities for growth, particularly in Asia. Today, China has the fourth-largest installed base of wind power in the world, and by 2015, it will be the world’s largest. The region has a strong track record of supporting exploration and investment in alternative energy to satisfy growing demand, support domestic industry and preserve the environment,” Hans Toggweiler, global head of oil and energy at DHL Global Forwarding, said in a statement.
FELIPE F. SALVOSA II, Associate Editor
SINGAPORE -- The Philippines was tapped by leaders of Southeast Asia and the United States to prepare a new five-year cooperation plan covering trade, labor mobility, cultural exchange and others following their first-ever meeting yesterday.
The move reflected Washington’s policy shift toward a more active involvement in the region, marked by a decision to engage members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) without treating countries like Myanmar as outcasts.
A statement was issued following the first meeting between a US president and heads of all 10 ASEAN countries, calling for "broader and deeper" cooperation and enhanced economic cooperation, particularly in easing customs procedures. They agreed to hold a second meeting next year.
"The general consensus was that the dialogue now has a firm basis to reach an even higher level," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique A. Manalo, who helped draft the statement, told reporters here.
The Philippines serves as country coor-dinator for the ASEAN-US dialogue from 2009-2012, and was tasked to lead the drafting of a new five-year plan of action.
President Gloria M. Arroyo -- the third leader to speak in the meeting after Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjaviva, the ASEAN chair-man, and US President Barack Obama -- focused on her role as coordinator and the Philippines’ forthcoming assumption as head of a United Nations review committee on nuclear nonproliferation.
ASEAN leaders welcomed the US decision to join the region’s nonaggression treaty early this year as well as Washington’s openness to sign a deal making Southeast Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone, which could restrict the movement of US vessels carrying nuclear weapons.
Mr. Manalo said the meeting was "friendly and productive" and that there was no tension between the US and Myanmar, although Mr. Obama called on the Myanmese junta to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, a key stumbling block in ASEAN’s relations with trade partners such as the US and Europe.
"We were pleased to noted that economic relations between ASEAN and the United States continue to be strong and dynamic," the statement said, noting that two-way trade has reached $178 billion, while foreign direct investments stood at $153 billion.
New initiatives will be undertaken through the existing agreement that is the basis for US and ASEAN dialogue for trade and investment. The "broader engagement" will now include meetings between ASEAN finance ministers and the US Treasury chief, aside from the regular dialogue of trade ministers.
Energy ministers will also meet next year to discuss cooperation in renewable and alternative energy.
The statement also called for the conclusion of the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks next year, and supported the statement of leaders of G-20 countries against protectionist economic policies.
"Drawing from the valuable lessons of 1997 and 2008, we resolved to contribute to reforming the global economic and financial architecture to safeguard the global economy from future crises, and to promote regional and global economic growth and recovery," it added.
The ASEAN-US leaders’ meeting was held after the yearly summit of Pacific Rim nations, in which the 20-year-old Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum reiterated a goal of economic integration in the region.
The statement also covered areas such as human rights, nuclear nonproliferation, terrorism and transnational crimes, disaster management, the so-called millennium development goals, food security and preparedness against pandemics, and climate change.
It called for cooperation in ensuring the success of December’s climate change talks in Copenhagen, without addressing calls for binding targets for carbon emission reductions.
"We stressed that access to diverse, reliable, affordable, and clean energy is critical for sustain-able economic growth, and agreed that accelerated deployment of clean energy technology and energy efficiency measures would diversify our energy supplies and strengthen out energy security."