Thursday, 11 February 2010

RP’s time to say: Shut up, fool!

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21723:rps-time-to-say-shut-up-fool&catid=28:opinion&Itemid=64

The country suffered for about decade after the Edsa revolution with continual references to the former first lady’s shoes found in Malacañang. Even now you can find 300,000 references to “Imelda’s shoes” on Google.

Then there was the period when Filipinas living abroad were obviously domestic servants or worse. And all overseas workers were obviously in the lowest-paying and most menial jobs possible.

Now because of the economic impact of the money sent back to the country, in virtually every article about the Philippine economy in the last decade, we learn that all there is to this economy is remittances, remittances, remittances.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; I’m not sure about the universe,” said Albert Einstein. Do you want proof of the limitlessness of human stupidity and ignorance? Just read a few foreign commentaries about the Philippines.

Here is one from last week found on The Economist web site. Let me say that I knew I was going to be annoyed, no, angry, from the very first sentence. “I have been in Manila where it’s clear that the most successful export of the Philippines remains its people.” Immediately I knew that this was another foreign “expert” on the Philippines. This is a story I have heard before. Most of the time “I have been in Manila” means “I saw a squatter’s camp on the way to the hotel from the airport, spent a night in one of the girlie bars on Roxas Boulevard, and wasted two hours in rush-hour traffic in Edsa on the way to Megamall.”

But this is from The Economist so I want to give the author the benefit of the doubt about his “expertness.” Except I can’t because he then writes, “It’s clear that the most successful export of the Philippines remains its people.”

The one-of-a-kind actor, Mr. T, playing the gold-draped character B. A. Baracus in the 1980s TV show The A-Team, owes part of his fame for the line “Shut up, fool!”

Without wanting to create the impression that the Philippines is populated with rude people, I do believe it is time for the country to stand up and start saying “Shut up, fool!” to those who continuously mischaracterize this nation and its economy.

The Philippines was not “Imelda’s shoes” and the Philippine economy is not overseas workers’ remittances.

“Remittances are now equivalent to 11 percent of the economy. Remittances are the force behind powerful consumption growth of more than 5 percent.” That data are correct. But the conclusion is wrong, just like the other misconceptions about the Philippines. “Manila malls are full to bursting, while blocks of flats [condos] are going up that are being marketed solely to OFWs, that is, overseas Filipino workers.”

If remittances make up 11 percent of the economy, what about the other 89 percent? Maybe 89 percent of the bursting Manila malls (see, I told you he had been to Megamall) is due to something besides remittances.

And about those condominium sales, certainly overseas workers have bought millions of dollars of condominiums. But OFW money did not build Eastwood, Filinvest or the huge SM Development projects going up around the Mall of Asia. These were all funded and are from the 89 percent of the economy not produced by remittances. Nor are these developments even designed for overseas workers’ families. They are the natural extensions of the growth of that 89 percent that you create every business day. Fool.

“So, remittances will continue to be the chief bright spot for the Philippines, whose domestic economic affairs are colored by corruption, sloth and poor governance. Still, actively exporting your best and brightest is hardly the best long-term policy.” Fool.

This last paragraph is so false in its conclusions that I can only believe that the author had a very unpleasant experience during his trip to Roxas Boulevard, or perhaps he is taking his analysis from the pages of one of our local, foreign-funded, left-wing socialist “think tanks.”

From the All Headline News (AHN) web site: “The business-process outsourcing [BPO] sector continued to lead the Philippine economy by earning $7.2 billion in 2009. The amount is a 19-percent hike from the $6.2 billion the sector earned in 2008. Aside from bringing in $7.2 billion to the national economy, the BPO sector generated additional 70,000 jobs in 2009, bringing to over 442,000 jobs it has created.”

Notwithstanding a global business disaster in 2009, our outsourcing business, all funded through “overseas remittances,” grew nearly 20 percent. In spite of “corruption, sloth and poor governance,” 70,000 new high-paying (P15,000 to P25,000 per month) jobs were created for our “best and brightest.”

The Economist writes that remittance growth is so much greater than overall economic growth (6 percent vs 1.5 percent). Yet outsourcing remittances grew by 19 percent in 2009 and the five-year (since 2004) growth rate of outsourcing remittances is 46 percent per year. India’s growth during the same period is 38 percent. Fool.

The title of The Economist article is “People, the Philippines’ best export.” That is just plain stupid. Remittances in 2009 were about $18 billion. Other goods that were exported brought in $38 billion. But why let the facts confuse a “great” article that continues a false, misleading and insulting stereotype about the Philippines and this economy? After all, who is going to complain, especially when local writers are just as clueless and write things just as offensive about the Philippines? Fools.

It is about time to take the agenda back and go on the offensive. It is wrong to allow the international press to continue to represent the Philippines in this manner. It is degrading and disrespectful, and economically, it makes the Philippines look foolish to the rest of the world.

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