Saturday, 8 January 2011

GIR rises to record $62.1b

by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideBusiness.htm?f=2011/january/8/business1.isx&d=2011/january/8

The gross international reserves climbed to a record $62.1 billion at the end of December last year, as Bangko Sentral accumulated heavy foreign exchange flowing into the country.

“Reserve assets accumulated over the 12-month period stemmed mainly from sustained foreign exchange inflows from merchandise exports, services receipts, overseas Filipinos’ remittances, and direct and portfolio investments,” Bangko Sentral said.

Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the end-December GIR level rose $1.5 billion from the revised November figure of $60.6 billion. It also grew by $17.9 billion, or 41 percent, in 2010 from the end-December 2009 level of $44.2 billion.

The reserves were more than enough to cover the country’s total foreign debt, estimated at $59.8 billion at the end of September.

Credit rating agency Moody’s Investor Service on Thursday raised its credit rating outlook on the Philippines to positive from stable, on the back of its strong GIR and balance of payments position.

Standard & Poor’s also cited the strong reserves and external payments position of the country in upgrading the credit rating of the Philippines in November last year by a notch.

The country’s balance of payments position yielded a surplus of $13.2 billion in the first 11 months of the year, prompting Bangko Sentral to accumulate reserves in a bid to temper the appreciation of the peso against the US dollar.

The peso gained about 5.4 percent against the US dollar last year and is predicted to become stronger in 2011 due to the healthy BoP position. It closed at 44.15 against the greenback Friday, slightly weaker than Thursday’s finish of 43.92.

Some $803.63 million worth of foreign exchange were transacted at the Philippine Dealing System on Friday, down from the previous day’s $958.55 million.

Bangko Sentral attributed the year-on-year increase in the international reserves to inflows from its foreign exchange operations, income from investments abroad, and revaluation gains on its gold and foreign currency-denominated holdings.

The bank’s foreign investments jumped to $53.175 billion in December from $36.655 billion year-on-year, while gold holdings rose to $7 billion from $5.46 billion.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Moody's raises Philippine outlook

By ARRAN SCOTT And RHEA SANDIQUE-CARLOS
Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704415104576065290609133416.html?mod=WSJASIA_hpp_LEFTTopWhatNews

Moody's Investors Service Thursday raised its credit rating outlook on the Philippines to positive from stable, bringing into view a possible upgrade for the Southeast Asian nation and highlighting improving economic fundamentals in the region.

Open skies set for Davao, Cebu, Zamboanga, Laoag

by Joyce Pangco Pañares
With Christine F. Herrera, Bloomberg
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideNews.htm?f=2011/january/5/news1.isx&d=2011/january/5

THE government will this week declare an open-skies policy in Davao, Cebu, Zamboanga and Laoag, exposing those secondary destinations to more competition from foreign airlines, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said Tuesday.

But the local airlines will still have the exclusive right to serve domestic routes as the executive order coming from President Benigno Aquino III will prohibit cabotage, an airline’s right to carry passengers between two domestic points.

PAL Holdings Inc. fell the most in seven weeks, leading Philippine carriers lower, after Ochoa made his announcement.

PAL, which controls the nation’s biggest carrier, sank 7.2 percent to P4.50, set for the steepest loss since Nov. 12.

Cebu Air Inc., the country’s biggest budget carrier, declined 2.8 percent to P111, set for the sharpest decrease since Dec. 17.

Valenzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian on Monday filed House Bill 1601 espousing a “pocket open-skies policy to boost tourism, liberalize air traffic, and prevent business disruption when an airline’s operations are snagged by a labor dispute.

The bill is being supported by the House leadership led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

“Open skies will usher in more competition and that will change the dynamics of the business,” said Rico Gomez at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

“Greater competition will always be difficult for entrenched players.”

President Benigno Aquino said in August that the government might give foreign carriers more access because of a labor row at Philippine Airlines.

Arroyos file bill for OFW hospital

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20110104-312424/Arroyos-file-bill-for-OFW-hospital

MANILA, Philippines—They keep the economy afloat and so deserve a medical facility of their own.

Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her son, Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado Arroyo, have proposed the establishment of a special hospital for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their dependents.

With many of them sick or ailing when they return to Manila, overseas workers would best be served in a special hospital, they said.

“Many OFWs are in immediate need of medical attention or hospital confinement due to various physical or mental illnesses sustained abroad,” the Arroyos said in House Bill No. 1474.

They proposed to name the facility the Migrant Workers Hospital and leave its control and supervision to the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (Owwa), the government agency overseeing overseas workers’ needs.

The Arroyos said the hospital would complement the package of health services provided by Owwa to OFWs and their dependents.

It would provide comprehensive health care services to workers who are Owwa contributors. Even would-be overseas workers who had secured approved job orders would be served by the hospital.

The facility “shall complement the existing package of services under the Health Care Program so as to include preventive, diagnostic, curative and rehabilitative programs.”

It will also have a system that will ensure the effective monitoring of patients’ conditions and collect relevant data crucial for the formulation of policies.

Aquino to grace Hanjin ship rites

Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/296857/aquino-grace-hanjin-ship-rites

MANILA, Philippines (PNA) - President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the blessing and naming of two bulk carriers built by Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil.) for India’s Adani Shipping PTE.Ltd. in a ceremony that will be held Thursday at the HHIC Shipyard at the Subic Freeport Zone (SFZ) in Zambales.

Adani Shipping PTE. Ltd. officials led by company managing director Rajesh Adani, HHIC Chairman N.H. Cho, SFZ Administrator and Chief Operating Officer Armand Areza and provincial officials will join the President in naming M/V “Rahi” and M/V “Vanshi.”

The vessels, both 175,000 dead-weight ton (DWT) have hulls made of steel with overall length of 289 meters and a registered length of 279.98 meters.

Gross tonnage of each bulk carrier is 91,829.0 tons while the net tonnage is 59.082 tons.

HHIC-Phil., the world’s fourth largest shipbuilding facility, started its operations in the Philippines in 2006 with an initial investment of $ 721 million.

It has recently shifted to full-scale operation at its Subic shipyard after completing its facility expansion program in mid-2009.

The Year of the Antelope

JOHN MANGUN
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/5813-the-year-of-the-antelope

Did I happen to mention the other day that cute little bunny rabbits are also cannibals?

If you breed rabbits for a living, one thing that may cut into your profit margin is that mother bunnies might start munching on their newly born babies. One common denominator when they chow down their own or the neighbor’s kid is stress. Too much pressure and strain makes them want to take it out on the children. A deficiency in the food or water supply can bring on an anxiety attack leading to infanticide.

But in fairness to the rabbits, other animals such as tigers, lions, hippopotamuses and monkeys are also known to eat members of their own species. A male lion eliminates competition when it takes over as king of the pride by killing and sometimes eating its predecessor’s offspring.

So cannibalism in the animal kingdom is caused by stress, often due to a poor supply of basic necessities or is done to protect vital personal interests.

Humans are not much different put in the right circumstances. Get stranded on a desert island or in a plane crash on top of a snow-covered mountain, and eventually your seat mate may start looking like a fiesta lechon.

We are slightly more “civilized” than most other members of the animal kingdom when it comes to eating our own. But that is not to say that we humans are any less practical than animals when stress hits the fan as a result of diminishing resources or when our survival depends on taking out the other guy.

A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest member. When the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. At first glance, that culling of the herd might seem ruthless but is just Mother Nature’s way of keeping things in balance. The strong should probably be the ones to survive.

But here is where it gets interesting. African antelope have taken this idea one step further. The herd actually runs ahead of the weak and old ones to make sure they are the ones left behind to get eaten by the lions. And if by chance the “weak” ones are not that weak and can still tag along, they are physically pushed out of the herd so as to not cause any problems.

I think maybe we are looking at the Year of the Antelope.

Germany has just about had it with the European Union and the euro. But they have no one to blame but themselves. The German economy, through German bank lending, has funded all of the now-weak European Union countries to the tune of $1 trillion. The problem is that countries do not die off as easily as weak animals. Sure, Germany could kill the whole thing by pulling out of the euro currency, but that does not get their money back.

However, Germany may have found a sort of hungry lion to take out their weakest antelope—Spain, who owes Germany some $200 billion. China has offered to bail out Spain. But even so, that does not change the predicament that Germany finds itself. All Germany needs to do is convince China to take over the debts of Portugal, Italy, Hungary and the rest. Ultimately, China must protect its own domestic economy that may see some trouble in the near future.

Before the end of the year, China may find itself wanting to eliminate a member of its own herd: North Korea. China pays North Korea’s bills and, in the large picture, it is not very much. But the North Koreans are possibly becoming more trouble than they are worth. While the world knows they check with Beijing before doing anything, North Korea may have outlived its usefulness as a Chinese irritant to the US. Besides, unification with South Korea will probably be partially paid for with US funding.

The US has been the true global cannibal these last two years, feasting off the wealth of future generations of Americans, trying to preserve the dollar as the world’s reserve currency in order to sell their government debt cheaply. It has not worked. Now, America is a nation in survival mode and there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.

At this point, the US does not care whom they have to take down to survive. The US economy cannot live without more borrowed funds. To this purpose, all economic policy, no matter the global consequences, will be focused on maintaining the US’ ability to borrow. America is already the largest debtor nation and this will continue. If the only way that the US can continue to borrow is to devalue the dollar, then that is what it will do. A strong dollar policy to maintain its reserve status has now been abandoned in favor of being able to sell debt. The dollar may die in value but it will still be the most widely used currency because other nations do not have a choice. For all of its talk, China cannot afford to see its $1.5-trillion reserves become worthless paper. So it must accept devaluation.

Brazil and countries (Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the EU) whose economies depend on doing business with the US are helpless against the dollar-devaluation policy. It is as if the only department store in town doubled prices and you have no other shopping alternative.

The US will cannibalize the economies of any nation they have to in order to survive.



E-mail comments to mangun@gmail.com. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc.

Year of the Azkals

TESSA JAZMINES
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/sports/5786-year-of-the-azkals

IT’S the Year of the Metal Rabbit, and looks like we’re all ready to hop, skip and jump along with the energies of the new year. A cute, bunny kind of year it’s gonna be—if we are to believe the predictions for the Year of the Rabbit—a time to relax, calm our nerves and appreciate leisure. Quite the opposite of the ferocious Year of the Tiger that had us living at the edge most times of the year.

A calmer year though it is, things are definitely buzzing for Philippine football. Ever since the Azkals made tsunamis in the world football stage in early December by defeating defending champion Vietnam in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup 2010, then making it all the way to the semifinals, football as a sport has never looked back.

Suddenly football has become THE sport. The Azkals became a top trending topic on Twitter. Everybody wanted to wear an Azkals Mizuno team shirt but could no longer find any because they’ve been sold out. Teens and other members of the swooning society changed their loyalty from basketball collegiate heroes to the good-looking members of the Azkals team—most notably Phil Younghusband, his brother James and the asteeg goalie Neil Etheridge. Philippine Football Federation head Nonong Araneta said Game One of the Philippines-Indonesia Suzuki Cup semifinals topped TV ratings that night, trouncing the PBA games and basketball.

I definitely believe that. On the night of December 16, I wanted to watch THE semis as well and tried to get into one of those grill and bar restaurants that show sporting events on big TV sets. They were all full. I finally settled for a quiet seat at Valle Verde Country Club where a smaller but truly avid group watched the Azkals mark the Indonesian playing ground with their spunk and character.

What a feat of mental fierceness and focus that was—playing in a foreign land in a sport where Filipino talent had been previously overlooked or undervalued; in a football field that was ablaze with red-shirted fans in all directions of the compass; amid a constant deafening roar of support for the home team and vicious boos for the upstart visitors.

Yet the Azkals fought on, doggedly. “Unlike other teams that played against the Indonesian squads who panicked and got disoriented, our boys were amazingly confident. They stayed unfazed throughout and didn’t succumb to pressure,” Araneta said in a postholiday interview.

Well, we all know what happened to the Azkals. They failed to defeat Indonesia and missed the chance to play in the Suzuki Cup Finals. But that was definitely not the end of their story. In fact, it was only the beginning.

After the Suzuki Cup experience, looks like the current generations’ regard for football will never be the same again. Just before Christmas I got a call from Tony Gloria, advertising/ movie whiz and CEO of the Unitel Group of Companies who said he would like to do an ad campaign for Philippine football, free of charge, just to give a push to his favorite sport. “We keep on insisting about basketball and giving it all the support, but here’s football doing all these good things for us, and we’re not doing enough to help the sport.”

Not anymore. Now, at the very least, there is a resurgence of long-quiet football passions that have been kept in wraps after football support and infrastructure dwindled in the distant past. There is a new awakening for football that is bursting out all over. Some of it comes from youth who are wondering why the Philippines is not in the World Cup when 95 percent of the world seemingly is. Some of it comes from corporate entities looking for a new cause to espouse and a genuine desire to help the country do well in an endeavor that is played out in the world stage. A lot of it comes from a groundswell of patriotic feeling that resulted from what the Azkals were able to accomplish.

It was all there in the Azkals’ adventure: the favorite underdog theme, the nationalistic cause, the excitement and rush of the unexpected. Yes, hunk glamour, too.

Now, says Nonong Araneta, big corporate sponsors have stepped up and offered their support. They do not just want to be sponsors of football; they want to be partners. Old sponsors want to come back. Sporting goods stores want to do more shirts to promote the Azkals. More Fil-foreign football players want to join the national team. In short, things have never been this good for Philippine football and the energies cannot—must not—be ignored.

The 2011 football calendar is full, for those who would want to sustain their love affair with the sport. There’s the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in February which will be played at the Panaad Football Stadium in Bacolod City. It’s going to be the Philippines vs. Mongolia.

Then the country prepares for its Southeast Asian Games football thrust in April with the Under-23 National Tournament. A July qualifying event for the World Cup will take place, then an Asian Football Federation under-16 tournament takes off in September.

The Southeast Asian Games football event in Palembang, Indonesia, is slated for November 11. The Philippines last played football in the SEAG in 2005.

“We willl organize under-16 and under-19 competitions and go nationwide in 2011. We will invite foreign teams to play against the Azkals to prepare them for their upcoming competitions,” Araneta aadded.

Never has the entire nation been this enthralled and excited about football, thanks to the Philippine Azkals. And thanks again to the Azkals, our resident askal Jodie, a sweet, affectionate Pinay she-dog, can now proudly wear her pedigree.

Benguet to regulate vegetable production due to oversupply

JENNIFER A. NG
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/component/content/article/53-agri-commodities/5751-benguet-to-regulate-vegetable-production

THE provincial government of Benguet is keen on regulating the production of temperate vegetables as the seasonal oversupply of the vegetables grown in the province is pulling down prices.

“Currently, there is an oversupply of vegetables because the holiday season is over. This is causing prices to decline. For example, cabbage is being sold at only P5 per kilo,” said Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan in a telephone interview.

At current prices, Fongwan said carrots sell for as low as P15 a kilo; potato, at P45 a kilo; broccoli, P7 to P8 a kilo; cauliflower, P8 to P10 a kilo; lettuce, P10 to P15 a kilo; Baguio beans, P6 to P8 a kilo; radish, P8 to P11 a kilo; cucumber P20 to P28 a kilo; parsley, P40 to P45 a kilo; zucchini, P6 to P8 a kilo; celery, P18 to P20 a kilo; and bell pepper, P50 to P70 a plastic.

Fongwan said the provincial government has spearheaded the formation of a cooperative whose primary objectives are to ensure that vegetable production will be enough to meet the demand of the domestic market and the stability of prices.

“There are still a few members of the cooperative. We are inviting farmers to become members,” he said in Filipino.

Fongwan noted that since December, Benguet has been producing around 3 million kilograms of various vegetables. Before December, the province’s vegetable output was only at 1 million kg.

To ease the supply and price problem, Fongwan said producers are keen on linking with high-end markets such as supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the chief of the provincial government said that frost, which usually affects vegetables during the cold months, was only confined to farmlands in Atok town.

“Vegetable production in Atok is not even 1 percent of total output of vegetables in the province. So far, it’s still manageable,” said Fongwan.

Apart from the frost, the province is also vulnerable to storms.

The province of Benguet is a major source of highland vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots and lettuce, for Metro Manila.

Any disruption or changes in the supply of vegetables in the province could directly affect the price of temperate vegetables sold to Metro Manila consumers.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

US Peace Corps volunteers can’t get over awe of Filipinos

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110104-312411/US-Peace-Corps-volunteers-cant-get-over-awe-of-Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines—When Peace Corps volunteer Shashank Iyer turned 22 in September, a Zambales family he knew for barely two weeks got a videoke machine going and prepared a special vegetarian feast: Bicol express with tofu, ginataang puso ng saging and vegetable curry.

In a place without First World conveniences, Iyer had the best birthday celebration he could have wished for.

“I could not really believe how generous my host family was in celebrating that. I celebrated my birthday most excitedly than I’ve ever had in my life. And it was with a group of people I’ve been with for barely two weeks,” said Iyer, a California native.


He said it was quite an awesome experience. “It really gave me a glimpse of how Filipinos just like to have fun. There might be problems around the corner but it’s something you can deal with when you get to that corner. But let’s have fun for now. Let’s live in the present,” he said of his two-month stay with a Filipino family during his pre-service training.

269th batch

Such spirit of celebration welcomed 137 fresh Peace Corps volunteers from the United States to their two-year tour of service in the Philippines—a record number of new volunteers joining some 79 others still completing their service in villages around the country.

The 269th batch of volunteers, inducted in simultaneous ceremonies in the cities of Pasig and Bacolod in November, are an addition to some 8,000 volunteers who have served in the Philippines since 1961, making for the largest participation in any Peace Corps program worldwide, the US embassy said.

“It’s a combination of good events. We have more resources available for the Peace Corps. The Philippines is such a great partner and we were able to identify good places for them to work relatively quickly. Washington agreed to send more volunteers here because the partnership has been so good,” said US embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Leslie Bassett.

After training in host communities for more than two months, the new batch embarked on their respective volunteer services in November in various locations across Luzon and the Visayas, staying with a new set of host families and immersing in new communities.

Volunteers are carrying out projects in education, coastal-resource management and child, youth and family programs in villages around the country, from Bulacan and the Bicol region to Cebu, Negros Occidental and Oriental, Capiz, and Southern Leyte, among others.

Unfazed

Amid terror threats the US warned about in the last quarter of the year, the American volunteers traveled to Philippine villages unfazed, encouraged by the hospitality and generosity they have seen all around.

“I’ve also been to other countries before coming here and found it really difficult sometimes to get through the cultural barriers,” said 23-year-old Morgan Chow, also from California.

“But here, it’s been like so effortless. Just walking down the streets, people smile at you. It’s been so great and welcoming and I didn’t expect that,” she said.

Brownouts

Jennifer Rambach, a 23-year-old American of Korean descent, was with her host family in Manggahan, Subic, when Typhoon “Juan” ripped through northern Luzon in October. But for the volunteer, what became more memorable than the brownouts were the times she played in the rain with local children.

“You really learn to be patient, like we had brownouts, no running water. But the fun part was learning how to take a bath with rainwater, building little toys with children, playing in the rain and having a good time,” Rambach said.

Greatest resource

“It’s an amazing country that has everything. I think the greatest resource that the Philippines has is its people,” she said.

Coming to the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer is a dream come true for 59-year-old Debra Pritchard of San Francisco. She was 10 when the volunteer group was inaugurated in 1961 and had always wanted to take part in the service.

Long exposed to the Filipino way through friends in her hometown, Pritchard said in half-jest: “I can’t wait to go back there and speak Tagalog.”

Iyer held in awe how Filipinos “can make a party out of anything.”

“All you really need is a pair of hands to start clapping, you get a song going, somebody will bring merienda over, somebody will bring drinks over, then that’s it. I’ve never really had as much spontaneous fun than in this country so far, and I’ve been here for two and a half months,” he said.

Peace cook

Preparing no-meat meals for her American son was a challenge for Iyer’s host “mama,” Cherry Daniel. But the mother of five, whose eldest son was the same age as Iyer, was only too glad to stretch her kitchen skills with the help of a friend she liked to call a “peace cook” (a play on Peace Corps).

“It was hard at first but I learned... I asked a friend to teach me,” said the market vendor, who admitted getting teary-eyed when it was time to say goodbye to Iyer.

Basketball jersey

As a going-away gift, Daniel gave Iyer a Pilipinas basketball jersey bearing the Philippine colors.

“I always hear Filipinos saying that they have a lot to learn from America, that America’s such a model. But in reality, I think we have a lot more to learn from Filipinos,” said Iyer.

“There’s so many problems in this country, with the typhoon for example. But the way Filipinos deal with it, the way they adapt to the problem, the way they almost make it a celebration is something that’s unbelievable and I don’t think it’s really seen anywhere else in the world,” he added.

Year of the Crazed Rabbit?

JOHN MANGUN
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/5729-year-of-the-crazed-rabbit

Master Ming, quoted in the Russian newspaper Pravda, wrote the following about our New Year 2011: “The Rabbit is tame and docile, as well as a year which comes full of good energy. From this aspect, the world will have peace and prosperity. It will be a season for many crops planted for those who struggled in 2010. In the Year of the Rabbit, the world will have more understanding and be more prone to help those less fortunate. The world economy will continue to thrive. In politics, the Year of the Rabbit will bring diplomacy and negotiation. The growth of national economies will be slow and steady.”

While not wanting to argue with 2,500 years of Chinese legend, culture and history, I believe that 2011 is going to be far from tame and docile. It is the year of the Metal Rabbit. But 2011’s Rabbit may be wild-eyed and crazy, with sharp teeth and sharper claws, pumped up on steroids and methamphetamine, carrying a metal Uzi submachine gun, loaded with hollow point bullets.

The media and particularly the financial press would like you to accept the sweet, meek bunny rabbit image for 2011. Yesterday the BusinessMirror published an article from Bloomberg, the ultimate mainstream financial organ. The headline read “Dollar gains most against euro since 2005.” Well, that certainly sounds positive until you read the second paragraph: “The US currency weakened against 12 of its 16 major counterparts.”
The implication of the article is that as long as the dollar is strong against the other largest economic bloc in the world, all is good and wonderful. Reality is a nasty factor when you are trying to spin the truth.

While the dollar may have been up 6.5 percent against the euro, that fact means nothing. The story of 2010 is how bad the dollar performed against the only true global currency—gold. The dollar dropped 30 percent against gold in 2010. Silver appreciated 80 percent against the dollar. The other sad reality is that commodity prices, from metals to food products, rose 20 percent in dollar terms in 2010 and the trend is strong, with momentum; up. Global economic growth, if we accept the often politically inspired numbers, is confined to domestic production in the emerging markets. This is a clear indication that the two dominant characteristics of 2011 will be high inflation combined with very slow economic growth, the worst of all possibilities.

Commodity prices require careful inspection for 2001. The crazed rabbit could go either way, both paths being very undesirable. The first scenario is that prices will continue higher, fueling high inflation in countries like the US that cannot revalue their currencies higher (like the Philippines) to tame price increases. The other possibility is that the world’s major buyer, if not actual consumer of commodities, will run into big problems in 2011. The Chinese have spent hundreds of billions to keep economic activity robust, building, for example, 64 million still unoccupied residential units. Funded by China’s own version of “money printing,” these units were built at a cost and, therefore, priced for sale to buyers making 10 times what the income is of the average Chinese. This cannot continue much longer.

Two drivers have been behind commodity prices in 2010: a weak dollar and Chinese buying. A continued weakling of the dollar will push oil and food commodities higher in 2011. That is almost guaranteed. However, if China slows down its buying, other commodity prices could drop, and putting resource-dependent countries like Australia in deep trouble.

While the US has been able to keep the collapse of its banking sector pushed into the future, and Europe has been able to do the same with its bankrupt nation-states, the worst may still come in the second-tier nations. Canada’s housing bubble is on the brink of bursting. Canada is dependant on oil revenue and the US market. The housing boom was fueled in large measure by the expectation of bringing great oil-shale reserves online that are now far too expensive. Another US-dependent nation, Brazil is heading for a rude wake-up call. The central bank is already raising the deposit requirements and rates, as several major banks are teetering on the brink.

Other countries mostly off the radar like Hungary will contribute to the potential chaos of 2011. While the focus is on larger European Union members like Spain, Fitch (and Moody’s before) ratings service just downgraded Hungary to one notch above junk status. But who cares about a little country like Hungary? The German banks that own their debt that’s who.

2010 was marked by mostly liberal/socialist governments willing to create false wealth through failed economic policies, such as in the US. Economically, leftist governments from the US to the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece and countless others are facing major political upheaval in 2011. As seen in the recent US election, voters will turn to what they consider more fiscally responsible governments. Spanish moderate-right opposition People’s Party holds the widest preelection poll lead in history. One of two things will happen. These new governments will continue “business-as-usual,” sinking their nations more into the dark hole of useless debt. Or, prudent economic policies will be followed by a large contraction of global economic activity in 2011, in the hopes of building stronger but smaller economies for the future. Either way, this not going to be a tame and docile bunny-rabbit year when the world will have peace and prosperity.

In the Catholic liturgy, the priest asks that the Lord “grant us peace in our day.” And “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you.” We tend to think of this as following the modern concept of the Latin word pax, meaning free from war and conflict. But Jesus was probably drawing from the Hebrew meaning of the word peace (shalom), a concept of safety, security, health and prosperity, in a world of utter strife and chaos.

In that proper sense, 2011 will be a peaceful year for the Philippines.



E-mail comments to mangun@gmail.com. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc.

Monday, 3 January 2011