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Editorial

Most optimistic

/ 01:16 AM August 08, 2016

Filipinos have figured prominently in many local and foreign surveys on their level of happiness, confidence and optimism. So it was no surprise that Filipino consumers emerged as the most optimistic in the world in the second quarter of 2016. For the first time in more than a decade, the Philippines topped the latest Nielsen global survey on consumer confidence and spending intentions, beating perennial topnotcher India.

The surge in the confidence level of Filipino consumers also represented the biggest jump on a quarter-on-quarter basis among the 63 countries surveyed. Of the three confidence indicators measured in the survey, job optimism increased the most, rising 16 percentage points to 88 percent in the second quarter. Responses on immediate spending intentions rose 10 percentage points, while that on personal finances rose five percentage points.

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Nielsen Philippines managing director Stuart Jamieson observed that confidence in the Philippines was at an all-time high, and that the 6.9-percent GDP growth rate in the first quarter, one of the fastest in Asia, had a lot to do with it. The local economy relies heavily on consumption, and with sales of consumer goods growing at a 7.1-percent rate in the year ending May 2016, people were indeed happily spending their money.

An earlier Social Weather Stations survey showed that Filipinos’ personal optimism on the quality of life surged to a record high during the last quarter of 2015. A high 45 percent of Filipino adults expected their quality of life to improve in 2016—an election year—while only 5 percent said otherwise. This has been traced to the policies of the Aquino administration that led to improvements in education, healthcare and other social services, particularly the expansion of the CCT (conditional cash transfer) program, and expectations that those policies would continue in the next administration.

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The promise of change made during the recent presidential election, which took place during the Nielsen survey period, likely helped buoy positive consumer sentiment. An end to the menace of illegal drugs and criminality within six months, lower income tax rates for the working class, agricultural development to improve the farmers’ lot, projects and programs to finally ease the traffic gridlock in Metro Manila, cutting poverty by nearly half by the end of six years through job generation… Who wouldn’t want change for the better?

Also playing a big part in the survey results is the Filipino consumers’ general attitude in life—resilience in the face of adversity, a good sense of humor that at times seems silly, and the constant feeling that things will be better tomorrow. Experts only cite the fact that Filipinos always find a reason to celebrate—a pay increase, a class reunion, a friend’s birthday, a wedding or baptism, the arrival of a balikbayan relative, and so on.

It is the Filipinos’ resilience that has made them survive the most difficult of times. This was tested in the wake of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which devastated towns and farms and killed thousands in the Visayas, or similar disasters before it, like the Mount Pinatubo eruption or the landslides that buried towns in Ormoc, Leyte. All these failed to break the Filipino spirit. Religion also has a part in Filipinos’ optimistic nature. There is this belief in fate—that everything that happens in life is according to divine will, and that something better has been planned for everyone.

Back to the Nielsen survey: The only drawback in it was that it covered only those with internet access, which make up just a little more than a quarter of the population. Despite the Philippines being dubbed the “texting capital of the world,” only 26.9 percent of Filipino households had access to the internet, according to the 2015 edition of The State of Broadband report jointly undertaken by the International Telecommunications Union and Unesco, putting the Philippines at No. 59 among 133 countries covered. The same report showed that only 39.7 percent of individuals had access to the internet, putting the Philippines at No. 106 among 191 countries.

Still, there is no denying that Filipinos are generally a happy lot, no matter what the circumstances. And as every new regime promises a better life, this will probably be the case in the years to come.

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TAGS: Consumer issues, economy, opinion, Philippines
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