“As much as one would like to hope for a quick recovery from our economic ills, there are headwinds, both domestic and external, which do not give much reason for optimism”
We begin this article with an apology to our editors and readers. In last Monday’s column, I mentioned that there are three major political developments in the near horizon, one of which was the November elections in Taiwan when President Tsai’s term expires.
My bad. The mid-term elections this year will be for local officials, the mayors and city officials, principal of which are Taiwan’s largest: Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. Tsai’s term expires in 2024.
The electoral timetable in Taiwan is similar to the US, where presidents may be elected for two consecutive terms, and mid-way through these terms, elections are held for state, city and county officials as well as a set of legislators.
We used to have a similar system, where presidents, governors and mayors had a term of four years each, and senators were elected by a nationwide vote for a term of six years.
Presidents of the Third Republic had four-year terms, and limited to one re-election or a total of eight years. Senators had six-year terms with no term limits. Congressmen too, as well as local officials.
More on the political system will be written in this space in succeeding columns.
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As much as one would like to hope for a quick recovery from our economic ills, there are headwinds, both domestic and external, which do not give much reason for optimism.
The recently announced data about the July inflation rate, now at 6.4 percent, higher than June’s 6.1 percent, despite the easing of gasoline and diesel pump prices for the past 40 days, is depressing.
Following this are the second quarter 2022 GDP growth figures, which slowed down at 7.4 percent, below most estimates of the private sector and government itself.
NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan points to inflation as the culprit. Clearly, consumer spending has been affected by an avalanche of high prices, particularly of food and basic household necessities.
Depressing too but, expectedly, food production has been on the downtrend.
The Philippine Statistics Authority released data last Monday stating that agriculture and fisheries production shrank 0.6 percent year-on-year compared to last, and 0.3 percent compared to the first quarter of this year.
These agriculture figures may seem small, but, when put side-by-side with the annual decline over the past years, it is alarming.
Agriculture produces the food that feeds 110 million mouths in this benighted land.
The shocking imagery in April this year of Occidental Mindoro farmers burning their red onion harvests instead of selling these at a huge loss, tells us the sad, sad state of our agriculture.
Had government invested in cold storage facilities in San Jose City, using perhaps the largely empty NFA warehouses there as locus, the farmers need not have suffered such huge losses.
Now juxtapose this to the retail prices of the by-now rare white onions, most of which were imported in the first quarter of 2022. Reports put it as high as 400 pesos per kilo. And 80 to 100 for the red onions.
Three month ago we had onions our farmers could not sell except at a loss. Now we pay through the nose. So now, government’s reaction is to allow the importation of more onions to stabilize prices.
Sugar prices have reached all-time high, as much as 100 pesos per kilo of white sugar.
People should really switch to washed, or even brown sugar, which is cheaper by 20 to 25 pesos per kilo, and healthier.
White sugar is bleached with chemicals, a taste affliction we got from the Americans, whose discriminatory taste for food somehow reflects their skin color bias.
And I agree with Rep. Joey Salceda and others who say we must ban sugared drinks in our schools, particularly unhealthy soft drinks.
Meanwhile, we will import 300,000 tons of sugar to relieve the supply shortness. Oh well!
Thank the highest heavens that Thailand had a bumper harvest of rice, which tames the increase in world prices of our staple commodity which, again, we need to import.
Per USDA, we will likely buy 3 million tons from our Indo-Pacific neighbors this year.
Still, latest reports show that domestic rice prices have been inching up slowly, even as our farmers cry about the high cost of fertilizers.
Wait for our September-October harvest. I hope to God we will not weep again.
Short-sightedness and neglect are the hallmarks of government policies and programs on food production, across several administrations post FM Sr.
Nakakapagod na to keep writing about this.
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I have stated in this space months ago what I shall repeat now — we will experience stagflation. Which means we will continue to suffer high prices of basic commodities while our puny efforts at growing the economy will not catch up.
The Bangko Sentral keeps using monetary tools to combat the inflationary scourge. That is the usual financial approach, similar to what the US Federal Reserve Board is doing.
I am afraid this will not stem the tide enough.
With higher interest rates, over-all business expansion will grind to a halt, and foreign investments in an uncertain world will not be forthcoming as much as we can dream.
Think of all those skyscrapers being built — on loans — and cry once more.
The supply chain crisis affecting the entire world will linger, unless Putin suddenly goes to heaven, or hell … wherever. And as described in our last two columns, trouble brews in our region as well.
We heave sighs of relief each time oil prices are lowered at the pump. This is caused by the law of supply and demand. With bad economies, particularly China’s slowdown and America’s recession, demand for oil is going down.
But wait till winter, when the temperate countries need fuel for heating, or their population freezes after a terrible heat wave this summer. Then oil goes up once more.
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Then we are told that our “learning poverty” is among the worst in the world. The term, simply put, means the inability of our 10-year old kids to read and understand what they should already know.
We are lowest in our part of the world, with 9 out of 10 children unable to properly understand what they read.
As far back as the time of President GMA, I have been writing about the malnutrition of our teeming poor as cause for extreme worry.
Urban poor diets consisting of rice and instant noodles (flour laced with MSG) stunt the mental growth of children. In one extreme piece, I warned about our raising a “nation of morons.”
Now, even instant noodles are hardly affordable to the poorest of our poor. Neither canned sardines. Or daing. Or vegetables.
How I wish I could write about something good.