The president is now in Davos for the World Economic Forum, that annual gathering of politicians, businessmen, civil society leaders and academicians whose avowed purpose is to seek some form of consensus on approaching the many problems of the world economy.
Founded by Klaus Schwab, this forum of the elite is arguably described as the principal apostle of the gospel of globalization.
For five days in uber-expensive Davos perched at the “top of the world,” policy makers and country movers and shakers are able to interact and present their “best foot forward” and impress their global audience about their country’s business potentials.
In a press briefing at Malacanang the other day, DFA Undersecretary Carlos Sorreta told media the president wants to present or “soft launch” our HoR-approved Maharlika Wealth Fund to the elite global audience, and thereby promote the country as an investment destination through that MWF.
So that was why Maharlika had to be rushed before the Christmas recess of Congress?
Unfortunately, it was too complicated a legislative proposal that invited a lot of controversy, and only the HoR was cajoled into passing Maharlika “without reading.”
And whether the world’s big investors will be attracted to invest in our country because of the Fund is quite a dicey proposition.
First, after pension funds from GSIS and SSS were rightly excised from the Fund, initial capitalization has been pruned to roughly 1.5 billion dollars (75 billion pesos or US$ 1.3 B coming from the Landbank and DBP and the rest, contingent on BSP and Pagcor “profits”), a sum that is perhaps mind boggling to our hoi polloi but puny to the Davos crowd.
Why, that’s only about a 10th of the cumulative insertions in the 2023 GAA where congressional discretion in disbursements, otherwise known as pork barrel, is hidden.
Some lucky guy in remote, snow-swept Maine won 1.35 billion dollars last Friday in the US lottery.
Maybe GSIS President Wick Veloso, whose expertise in bonds and treasuries was well rewarded by HSBC, could inveigle this lucky Maine guy to invest in Maharlika?
Second, the world is awash not with cash but with debt and so many problems that even globalization is becoming passe, as more and more economies are looking inward, focusing on their own domestic crises, looking inward rather than outward.
Third, after many of the huge sovereign wealth funds lost hundreds of billions in the last two years, even more than a trillion collectively, our hastily-presented and yet un-legislated MWF will be “out-of-fashion” and therefore hardly noticed.
Premises considered, why would the president travel to uber-expensive Davos from yesterday till the weekend where, thankfully for his health, the temperature is not as cold this winter, if the main message he carries is the Maharlika?
One reason, I submit, is that the message is beamed towards our 24 senators.
Nasabi na ng mahal na pangulo sa buong mundo, before the world’s economic elite.
Pass it into law, otherwise, the Senate would embarrass the president, and, by inference, the country, before the world’s movers and shakers.
How each of our 24 “independent republics” participate in the committee hearings all the way to the plenary will now not only be a gauge of the president’s political clout, which at this time is a given (so expect Maharlika to pass into law), but will give political observers tea leaves with which to read the 2025 and 2028 political exercises.
Someone from media asked an irreverent question out of the blue from USec Sorreta when he discussed the “soft launch” of Maharlika and the president’s 8th foreign trip.
Would our president be flying to Davos to talk to Swiss bankers about other foreign deposits allegedly stashed away by the Ferdinand I presidency?
Sorreta, ever the diplomat, dodged the naughty question and refused to comment.
But one cannot stop the pinklawans and the speculation-driven chismosos from asking whether the MWF is a convenient vehicle to “wash” hidden wealth.
In which case, and if ever, wouldn’t it be good if those monies so water our investment-parched soil like manna from wherever, regardless of its provenance?
Beggars cannot choose. And as the saying ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian, when he wanted to tax lavatories stated, “pecunia non olet” or “money has no smell.”
Once upon a not-too-long time ago, huge gold-plated banks and financial institutions were investigated for “washing” billions of dollars from drug cartels.
But the banks still remain, and the sheen of their “other people’s gold” has regained its luster.
The rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “are different from you and me.”
Their secret lies in using OPM, or other people’s money to their optimum advantage, although in our benighted isles, the cronies and the oligarchs use OPM to their maximum advantage, not necessarily its optimum utility.
Ask the economic managers what the difference is.
Take that foul-smelling “king” of fruits, the highly prized and pricey durian.
The DA spokesperson, wanting perhaps to win “pogi” points with his boss, the secretary who also happens to be president, chimed that among the windfall benefits of the latest trip to Beijing was an agreement to import fruits worth 2 billion dollars annually from our country, including durian.
The optics was as if the 2 billion dollars was for durian, when in truth it was also for bananas (a slowly wilting Philippine export product because of the high incidence of “fusarium wilt,” a.k.a. the Panama disease) and pineapples.
Forthwith, our DA tells us they will go full blast on durian production, without saying that, first, current durian produce cannot even supply local demand, such that they have become very pricey; and, second, that it takes five years to coax the durian tree to bear fruits.
Export our current durian produce and you will have Davaoenos like PRRD and ES Medialdea crying foul.
And we’re not talking onions yet, a big bunch of which Isko Moreno, in his maiden Iskovery Night YouTube and Facebook show, gave Coco Martin as his grand prize for reading tongue twisting statements.
Maybe because his staff could not buy real onions at the time of the taping, Isko presented Coco with a kilo of shallots or sibuyas Tagalog.
Watch the newest Isko Moreno show, which is aired at 11 every Friday night, and of course thereafter through the socmed platforms.
Very entertaining and light hearted, balm for these stressful days of high inflation, high underemployment, and low incomes.