Monday, January 01, 2007

Wishful thinking amid jubilation

This is my column today, January 1, 2007, at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Euphoria was in the air at the Philippine Stock Exchange last Friday during the last trading day for 2006. Photos of exhilarated stockbrokers raising their hands in jubilation even made it to the papers over the weekend. Having spent almost 10 years in the local capital market, from 1997 to April of last year, I was witness to the daily bloodbath as local stocks invariably took a beating during that long period. Thus, I could empathize with the jubilation of the stockbrokers. It is really about time for a bull run at the stock market.

The Phisix hit 2,982.54, just a few points shy of breaching 2,990.96, the market’s best finish in 10 years attained way back in April 1997 when Fidel Ramos was still president. The local bourse is expected to breach 3,000 points very soon. This is definitely very good news. The stock market is one of the best indicators of investor confidence in the country.

The yearend economic reports yielded generally decent figures across all macro indicators. The peso is doing well. For the first time, the country has been able to pre-pay its foreign debts and it looks like the country will be out of the clutches of the World Bank pretty soon. Of course some of our neighbors performed better. Vietnam, for example, posted better results. But then again, except for Thailand which had to deal with a coup d’etat in 2006, our neighbors did not have the kind of political problems that we had. We could have done better had it not been for our penchant for shooting ourselves in the foot just when things start making a turn for the good.

Of course so many things still remains to be done. It’s a long way to go before the economic gains will trickle down to the masses. The main vector of the economy, which is Filipino workers overseas’ money, comes with a great social cost; we just have too many children growing up with absentee parents and we know that we will have to pay for this phenomenon dearly in the years to come. Unemployment remains high and we missed our targets in terms of job creation. Majority of the foreign investments coming into the country is in the form of portfolio investments (e.g., investments in the local stock market, which are highly mobile) instead of direct investments (e.g., factories) which are more desirable as these translate into jobs and stay in the country longer.

Still, one has to be a real spoilsport not to acknowledge that the economy is doing better particularly given the kind of aggravation that we had to contend with in 2006, most specifically those coming from the political front. So clearly, despite the rabble-rousing of traditional politicians who perennially make hay of the supposed shortcomings of the economy, our main problem in this country is not economic. It is political.

Put another way, Sirs and Madams at MalacaƱan Palace, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and of the local governments, you are this country’s main problem. I say main problem because I do acknowledge that there are many others who are also responsible for the mess we find ourselves today.

But there is a time for finding faults and searching for someone to blame; we’ve been indulging in that exercise for the longest time and look where that got us. It’s time to be a little more proactive and focus on solutions.

So today being the start of a New Year, allow me to share my hopes and wishes for the country and for our fellow Filipinos. I know that many of these qualify as wishful thinking and may in fact border on hallucination, but I hope that people can find it in their hearts to still believe in the power of possibilities.

I wish for the President to see the abundance of goodwill in the hearts of many Filipinos that is enough to allow her to steer the country to a better place. Despite the fact that her trust ratings continue to plunge, she continues to be President because there are still many Filipinos who persistently cling to the belief that despite her many political faux pas, she has the country’s best interest at heart. It is my fondest hope that the President realizes that the people’s patience has been worn threadbare and that the prospect of holding on to power beyond 2010 is very remote. But she may just be allowed to finish her term provided she puts a stop to the devious political machinations clearly meant more to fortify her stronghold on power. Instead, she can focus on more sincere efforts to build a better legacy of her presidency. I hope the President realizes that it is better leadership and good governance that will redeem herself in the eyes of the Filipinos and reward her with a better place in history.

I wish that the First Gentleman will fade into the woodwork this year and not do anything remotely deserving of the slightest media attention. I pray that he will call a press conference soon announcing that he has found it in his heart to forgive all the imagined wrongs that have been done to his honor and subsequently drop all the libel cases he has filed against journalists. These cases only clog up the justice system and reflect badly on the administration and on his character. It’s a lose-lose proposition for him and the sooner he realizes this the better for all.

I hope that our senators and congressmen spend the next few months doing what they should really be doing: legislating much needed laws. With elections in the offing, I hope that they all grow a conscience and wake up to realize that there are many pending laws that need to be passed and time is running out. I also hope they realize that better performance as a legislator is a more honorable way to get media attention and make a more lasting imprint in the public consciousness than rabble-rousing.

I wish for media people to take serious steps to reclaim what it has lost in the din and dynamics of the ratings war: responsibility and ethics. I wish that media learns to balance good news with the bad, stop confusing celebrity status with human interest, and in general, do away with glorifying violence and sleaze to attract an audience. At the same time, I wish media will stop abrogating too much power into itself, playing prosecutor, judge and chronicler all rolled into one.

I hope that all of us Filipinos will become more responsible citizens this year. Since it is elections year, I hope we will exercise our solemn duty as voters and choose candidates on the basis of merits rather than mere popularity.

I wish that extra-judicial killings will finally come to a halt and that violence and lawlessness will abate. I hope more Filipinos will find jobs this year and that more will have food at their tables. I wish everyone happiness and peace.

A happy and prosperous new year to all!

2 comments:

snglguy said...

Hi Bong!Just dropped by to wish you and your loved ones a Happy New year. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Bong,

I wish , your wishes comes true, so that we will have a better place to live in , there is still no place like home...omski