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As I See It

Purisima on the economy in 2012

/ 11:16 PM January 10, 2012

Traffic was terrible all over Metro Manila last Monday because of the Black Nazarene procession. Even streets far away from the route of the procession were packed, as vehicles took alternative routes to get to their destinations. But there were no easy alternative routes; all the streets were congested. Many people were late for their appointments and offices and classes or never showed up at all. Worse, many of them could not call to say they would be late because cell phone services in some parts of the metropolis were cut off as part of the government’s security measures against a feared terrorist attack. Some bombs can be set off by signals from cell phones.

Many people were furious at the traffic jams, but never mind, it is only for one day of the year. Surely, we can bear with traffic jams this big for one day of the year for the sake of the millions(?) of devotees of the Nazarene. (I think estimates of “millions” of devotees are overestimated. Even just one million people cannot fit in the space traversed by the procession.) If you are not a devotee, you cannot understand the importance of that day and that procession to them.



A skeptic commented that Filipinos must be suffering worse now because more of them joined the procession to ask the help of the Nazarene.

This feeling is supported by the results of a Pulse Asia survey where a majority of Filipinos said that the economy under President Aquino stagnated in the past year or even worsened.

Of the 1,200 respondents that Pulse Asia interviewed, 45 percent said that they believed nothing has changed in the economy, while 30 percent said the economic situation has worsened. Only 6 percent said it has improved.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima disagrees with the results of the survey. He was one of the guests at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. The others were Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, Reps. Romero Quimbo and Sonny Angara, spokesmen of the prosecution panel in the Senate trial of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, and former party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Purisima said the economy is growing healthily. Economic experts in other countries think the same way.  Television channel Bloomberg reported in Hong Kong that the “Philippines is the economy to watch.” The fundamentals are strong, it reported, there is no overspending by banks, no real estate bubble, the BPO is booming, remittances from OFWs are strong. “The Aquino administration does not want to commit the mistakes of the past,” it added. “The Filipinos’ confidence in themselves and the new leadership is strong.”

Purisima added details on the improving economy during the forum. On the outlook for 2012, Purisima said:

“Besides the resilient BPO industry, the OFW remittances have continued to be strong and have shown resiliency. And we are very hopeful that with the new campaign and the new management in the Department of Tourism (DOT), we can build a third pillar, which is tourism.  The good thing about tourism is that it is all throughout the country and it can actually help our agro-industrial initiative.

“We should also continue to help the productivity and trade market for our agri entrepreneurs. Of course the garments industry  has now shown new potential with increasing costs in China. With all these and additional infrastructure investments, we are very hopeful that 2012 will be better than 2011. For us, we obviously don’t operate in a vacuum; we are hoping the global economy will be more benign compared to 2011.”


His comment on the new DOT slogan:

“Well, if the buzz in the social media is any measure, then it already has made a very big success. Obviously, there is no such thing as perfect and there will always be those who will be negative, but I’m very excited about the campaign because it’s a campaign that we can really support and justify, and people can actually experience that it’s more fun in the Philippines.”

On increased spending for infrastructure in 2012:

“Yes, we’re going to front-end, as Secretary Butch Abad said, for expenditures on infrastructure. As you know the infrastructure program has two major components: one is the budget and the other is getting the private sector to participate. We hope to do more with better success than in 2011.”

On 2012 fiscal management:

“We hope to continue our fiscal management so we can reduce our borrowing costs and, when we reduce our borrowing costs, we reduce the interest costs and reduce the percentage of interest in the budget for infra and social expenditures. That’s what a virtuous cycle is all about, unlike the previous cycle we were in, which is the vicious cycle wherein we get deeper and deeper into trouble. When you do this, the debt in relation to gross domestic product will continue to go down as long as the economy grows faster than the growth of the deficit.”

Solicitor General Cadiz and the three congressmen talked about (what else?) the Corona impeachment. They defended the disclosure by the prosecution panel of the expensive condos of Corona.

“That is not discussing the merits of the impeachment charges,” they said. “It is disclosure of new evidence as a gesture of transparency.”

They also harped on the refusal of Corona to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. “Why is he afraid to disclose it?” they asked. “Is it because it does not jibe with his actual assets?”

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