Send in the clowns

"Some show of humility would be nice-but don't hold your breath."



The big news last week was the local stock market roaring into the new year with an unprecedented upsurge that beat out almost all other markets globally.

The PSEI gained by about four points over three straight days of upticks to Friday, making it the world’s second-best performing index according to Bloomberg. BDO’s chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas expects the market to test the 8,000 level sometime the first half of the year, and “sooner rather than later.”

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Various reasons prompted this market optimism: better-than-expected GDP growth last quarter, double-digit improvement in corporate earnings last year, even spillover effects from the start of campaign-related spending.

But the biggest story of course was cooling inflation, with December inflation of 5.1 percent the weakest since May. This in turn relieves pressure on the central bank to continue raising interest rates and putting the brakes on economic growth.

The boys at the Department of Finance had been saying all along that the inflation spike last year would only be temporary—the product of one-off effects from excise tax hikes that would eventually be offset by higher disposable incomes after income tax rate cuts start to kick in.

What also happened—also as predicted—was the successful management of rice prices and supply—with the implementation of further rice import liberalization and tarifficatio—as well as the moderation of global oil prices, which will now allow government to again raise oil excise taxes as scheduled this year.

All of this prompts me to ask: Where are all those inflation hawks now? What happened to all those doomsayers who were roundly blaming last year’s inflation spike on the Duterte administration and its aggressive pursuit of tax reform and infrastructure spending?

Some show of humility would be nice—but don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

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Going into the first full week of the new year, it’s sadly apparent that the same clowns will continue to ride high and hog the local headlines.

For starters, I nearly fell off my seat after coming across an online statement from the teachers group, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), comparing recent police visits to campuses as “tokhang in schools”.

The group called these visits “grossly illegal” and “an unconstitutional attack” on their rights to free expression, organization, and privacy. They contend that “the PNP has no business meddling in the affairs of teachers organizations” and shouldn’t be allowed to just “step in and out of our schools.”

Well. It’s my first time to hear that our schools—all of them—are automatically exempt from the purview of law enforcement. I had always thought that this conceit was limited to the ivory-tower types in UP who like to style themselves the “Diliman republic.” Unfortunately, it looks like conceit is also infectious.

This kind of loony thinking would simply be laughable, were it not for the fact that ACT is a well-known affiliate of the National Democratic Front, whose job it is to give political and media cover to the violent NPA and the communist CPP. And so it’s evident that this statement from ACT is simply intended to allow them to continue to provide such cover, hiding under the glossy garb of “academic freedom.”

We can only expect the Left to spew out more of these rhetorical affronts to common sense, as government continues to cast its net wide to dredge up the armed and unarmed rebels who like to claim that they’re fish swimming in the waters of people’s revolution.

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Unfortunately, clowns can be found anywhere in the political spectrum, not just to the Left.

Over on the Right, we’re faced with the loony proposal from Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs and ICT, the redoubtable Ramon Jacinto, to allow only two companies to construct the additional cellsite towers needed by our grossly underserved telecoms industry and consumers.

A whopping 113 million cellular subscribers are serviced by only 16,300 towers from the telco duopoly, Globe and PLDT. Our tower density score of only 0.14 is the lowest in Asia, well behind the 1.43 of market leader China. We need to build at least another 50,000 towers just to match the norms for the region.

So shouldn’t we open the field to anyone and everyone who can bring in the money and technology to fill that gap? The more the merrier, right? But this straightforward logic totally escapes Mr. RJ, who can only mumble that the two dominant telcos can still build a needed tower if the tower company fails to respond positively within 30 days.

What in God’s name does that have to do with anything?

Luckily for us, the acting DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio—a former general whom I was lucky to recruit into the board of Bayantel during my stint there—is standing his ground on plain common sense. And I have no reason to doubt that his reported successor, outgoing Senator Greg Honasan, will behave any less reasonably.

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Mexico City—We’re on a quick break here from the still-chilly LA weather to check off another bucket-list item of ours—venerating Our Lady of Guadalupe at the minor basilica built in her honor.

She’s one of only three Marian apparitions fully approved by the Church, together with Lourdes and Fatima. Because of her intercession into history, some 10 Million pagans in the Americas were brought into the faith, earning her a rightful place as patroness of the Americas (including the US) as well as our own country.

After this weekend, we look forward to being back home in the blissfully warm climes of the motherland. What could be a better way to start off the new year than that?

Readers can write me at [email protected]

Topics: Jonathan Ravelas , Eliseo Rio , Rodrigo Duterte , Stock market , Department of Finance , Jonathan Ravelas
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