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Economic Lessons From 2011

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The Philippines slipped into another economic downturn in 2011. Adverse global trends are a factor with the world economy three years into what is going to be a protracted global depression. More significant however is the absence of bold domestic economic policy initiatives that tackle the country’s internal weaknesses and, in so doing, also reduce its vulnerability to external shocks.

The past year gives at least three insights to inform economic policy-making not just in 2012 but in the coming period of great challenges for Philippine growth and real development.

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As Good Times Continue, Economy Grows

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MANILA -- Expats, celebs and investors are all eyeing the Philippines as an unprecedented boom is promising fortunes for a nation once known as the poor-man of Southeast Asia.

Much of the success for the economic boom can be put down to President Benigno Aquino who has been on a tough road of cleaning up corruption, bringing down budget deficits and boosting spending on infrastructure.

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Two Companies Are Fined For Discrimination

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CHICAGO (jGLi) – The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has entered a consent decree with Leprino Foods, Inc. of Lemoore, California, which will pay $550,000 in back wages, interest and benefits to 253 minority workers, who were rejected for on-call laborer positions from 2005 to 2006 because of its use of pre-employment test called WorkKeys to select hires that discriminates against African-American job applicants and those of Asian and Hispanic descent.

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US Credit Troubles: Problems For The Philippine Economy

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The recent United States (US) credit rating downgrade is just the latest sign that the global crisis which erupted in 2008 has not been resolved and will continue for years to come. The Philippine government and its economic managers are unfortunately oblivious to this reality in their medium-term planning and budgeting for 2012 which undermines the country’s prospects for development.

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Latest OFW Remittances Show Double Digit Growth Rate

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MANILA—Nullifying earlier reports of declining OFW remittances, latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed remittances from overseas Filipino workers coursed through banks grew by a double-digit rate for the first time in August.

The BSP said that remittances reached $1.7 billion in August, or a year-on-year expansion of 11 percent, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. announced.

For the first eight months of the year, cumulative remittances rose by almost 7 percent to $13 billion, with remittances from land-based and sea-based workers growing by 5 percent and 14.4 percent, respectively.

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To Improve Food Security, Biotech Solutions Needed

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KAZAN, Russia – Climate change, increases in population particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, limited arable land and water scarcity pose challenges to meeting food security needs of the region, warned experts on Saturday ahead of the APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security later this week.

But recognition that the potential of biotechnology to contribute to food security and sustainability in the region was acknowledged by APEC officials after a presentation by Dr. Julian Adams who is with the Program for Biosafety Systems and at the University of Michigan.

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PHL, Qatar Sign MOU For Mutual Benefit

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PHLMANILA -- The Philippines and Qatar on Tuesday, April 10, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for mutual benefit in the areas of tourism, legal and justice, agriculture and fishery, investments as well as the establishment of a joint business council between the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Qatari Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Kalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar witnessed the signing of the MOU in Malacanang.

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Cha-cha ‘Fixation’: Lawmakers Fail To Learn From Economy’s Experience

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MANILA -- The proposal to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to lessen restrictions for foreign investments shows that lawmakers still insist on an economic strategy that has clearly failed to develop the economy.

The newest push for Charter change (Cha-cha) supposedly seeks to revise the 1987 Constitution to give way for economic liberalization and attract more foreign investments. However according to research group IBON, foreign direct investment (FDI) has already been pouring into the Philippines over the last decades but with little to show in terms of overall economic development. This is because the fixation on attracting foreign investment has led to foregoing any long-term gains for the domestic economy.

The Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations have given liberal privileges and generous incentives to FDI over the last two decades. The net result is that foreign investors have been able to make their profits but the supposed gains for economy and the people in terms of jobs, poverty reduction, industrialization and an advanced economy have not materialized.

In fact, increasing FDI has actually been accompanied by increasing unemployment, increasing labor export, falling real wages, shrinking domestic manufacturing and more volatile growth. The share of manufacturing in the economy has been steadily falling and, at 22.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 8.3% of employment in 2010, is already as small as in the 1950s or over half a century ago. There have also not been any real increases in domestic capital formation or in government revenues which have increasingly relied on regressive taxes on personal consumption.

The cumulative stock of FDI has increased twenty-seven-fold from US$914 million in 1980 to US$24.9 billion in 2010, increasing as a percentage of GDP from 2.8% to 13.2% over that same period. Annual inward FDI flows, in turn, increased from US$114 million in 1980 to US$1.71 billion in 2010. As a percentage of gross fixed capital formation, these flows rose from 1.3% in 1980 to a peak of 17.7% in 2006 before dropping to 8.3% in 2009 and further to 5.8% in 2010.

Foreign investments should supposedly help in building a strong productive economic base. However there is nothing to indicate that FDI has contributed to creating a strong domestic economy able to create jobs on a sustainable basis.

Changing the charter out of a fixation to attract foreign investment fails to learn lessons from the past and is going to be a step backward for Philippine development, IBON said.



The Mighty Pharmaceutical Industry

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MANILA (July 19) — Sen. Mar Roxas is raising hell about the alleged collusion between the Arroyo government and the pharmaceutical industry to delay if not derail the implementation of Republic Act 9502, or the “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008,” which was signed on June 6, 2008. Among the provisions the multinational pharmaceutical companies are reportedly blocking is the setting of the maximum retail price for 22 essential medicines. To sweeten the deal between the Arroyo government and pharmaceutical firms, Pfizer allegedly offered five million “sulit” discount cards to President Arroyo for distribution to indigent patients around the country. (Remember the distribution of PhilHealth cards in 2004?)

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