It’s a new year, a time when the more thoughtful of us lay down our plans and wishes of what we’d like to achieve in the coming 12 months. For each of us, it’s very different, very much tied to our personality and lifestyle. For most of us, it’s very much about “me.” We don’t give much thought to what the country, or what the world needs, and what we could do about it.
Each day is a new awakening; you’re glad to be alive still to enjoy another day on this fascinating planet. But a year is a milestone in our lives. It’s a stepping stone in the progress of life. It’s another goal achieved. It suits our biological clock.
For the world, it does not look very promising. Egomaniacal Putin can’t accept he’s lost the war; he’ll keep killing his countrymen and the innocent, courageous Ukrainians as he drives himself into oblivion. As he does, he drags much of the world down with him.
We’d all like to hope Putin comes to his senses, acknowledges he’s lost and retreats, but there’s zero chance of that. In fact, recovery of all pre-2014 Ukrainian lands by its people has a chance, albeit not high enough yet, but certainly on the cards. There are growing calls to negotiate a diplomatic conclusion to this war. But without a clear advantage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy won’t sit at a negotiating table. So the general consensus is that the war will drag on throughout the year, trailing its destruction into much of the world’s trade and economies along with it. One can but hope for a miracle that will break this chain.
A more positive note is that the world is learning to live with COVID, so its negative impact on economies is lessening. China, though, is just coming to recognition that its “zero-COVID” policy has failed. But the consequent economic recovery expected is in doubt because of the considerable threat a surge in COVID cases is imposing on a large scale. Xi Jinping’s insistence that Taiwan is China’s is a very worrying threat throughout this coming year, as is his continuing dominance in the South China Sea that isn’t his; on a practical matter that puts our search for much-needed oil and gas in doubt.
But the damage has been done. The rich world’s productivity is at best stagnant, and may even well be declining. Recessions are not off the table. Even in the US, with Republicans controlling the House, any substantive progress in 2023 can be forgotten. Aging population in many countries and a reluctance to accept immigrants just add to the problem. According to the International Monetary Fund, the GDP growth amongst rich nations is expected to be less than 2 percent.
The problems of the rich world must inevitably filter through to the Third, where we reside. What partially saves us is our weak interaction with that world. Our exports contribute a mere 17 percent to our GDP. The exodus of investible funds has already occurred, with $5 billion in portfolio funds fleeing in May-September at the height of the US Federal Reserve sharp policy rate increases. Year-to-October, the $10 billion outflow meant that almost all the money that did come had already left the country. This partly led to the $56 billion loss (-16 percent) since the start of the year in the value of shares traded in the stock market. Foreign direct investment in productive enterprises has been particularly weak. At $6.7 billion in 2022, from $7.65 billion in 2019, it’s shaping up to be the lowest since the pandemic in 2020, and down from the peak of $12.4 billion, surprisingly in 2021, when head offices made huge advances to sustain their operations in the country. Its best in normal times was $10.3 billion in 2017.
Next week, I’m going to ponder on what I’d like our country to do. And the first is to stop corruption, which, almost more than anything else, is destroying life in the Philippines. It’s not just the direct cost of loss of money that could have done ever so much good, but the indirect cost is unbearably high. The most obvious is foreign investment: It just doesn’t come. Most of the countries that would invest here have the strictest anticorruption laws, so CEOs won’t risk their companies in a corrupt country.
I’ve seen little recognition of this as an underlying problem to face. It’s not even in the eight-point socioeconomic plan. So one can’t get one’s hopes up that corruption will be truly addressed in 2023.
(More next week)
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