Pulse Asia’s pre-Christmas survey tells us that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos will be facing the New Year with hope.
As far back as I can remember, we all view the new year with hope. We are generally an optimistic people. There were times in the not too recent past when we were judged as being among the “happiest” people on earth, despite the penury of many.
“Virtually all Filipino adults (92 percent) will face the year ahead with hope, a sentiment echoed by 89 percent to 99 percent across geographic areas and by 86 percent to 94 percent in the various socio-economic classes,” Pulse Asia said.
And only 8 percent were ambivalent about next year’s prospects, with 1 percent feeling hopeless.
And yes, the holiday celebrations will be merrier this year. Droves of balikbayans have been coming home for Christmas, after two years of COVID lockdowns which prevented the usual family reunions.
For us, it seems, every break from the drudgery of life is occasion to celebrate, be it Holy Week when many go to the beaches, or Undas when we drink and dine before the tombs of our our dearly departed, or the grandest celebration of all—Christmas till New Year.
Not to forget the town fiestas, and birthdays.
I do not want to throw a wet blanket on our optimistic nature, but next year will not be better than 2022.
It could be worse; at best, the same economic problems will hound us in 2023, despite the promised future bonanza coming from the “maharlika” crowd in Congress.
Last Sunday, we had a small reunion of balikbayan friends in what used to be my house in Tagaytay, since bought by a couple who work successfully in China. It was his family’s first visit since 2019, and so were our balikbayan friends from Los Angeles.
Between good wine and the best all-meat barbecues grilled by our host, the conversation drifted to the state of the economy and prospects for 2023.
The executive who works in China with his Filipina wife said the prospects for China are not too good, with so many big companies, mostly in real estate going belly up.
The trade war with the US will continue to heat up, affecting Chinese exports. The supply chain and logistic problems will continue to be an upward push on manufacturing costs, he said.
Our balikbayan friends are not too optimistic about the US economy either. Housing costs are up; food prices likewise.
The retail sector looks likely to be in the doldrums after the holiday binge. Inflation has tapered a bit after successive Fed interest hikes, but that could trigger a recession.
But Filipinos, like that once-upon-a-time seasonal song “Whispering Hope” continue to hope for the best. Which is why depression is not as severe among us Filipinos than it is with other countries.
Another metric recently released by Martin Penaflor of Tangere tells us that one in two respondents were aware of the Maharlika Investment (formerly “Wealth”) Fund.
Thank the critics for that high level of awareness. If everyone kept as silent as the 98 percent of the “representatives of the people” who rushed to sign as co-authors of the controversial proposal after President Marcos Jr. himself certified it, that level of public awareness would be quite low.
Thank God for the awakened opposition. At least, our senators will be keenly watched.
Tangere tells us that 54.08 percent strongly support, and 32.24 percent somewhat support what most of our economic managers, Ben Diokno excepted, belatedly tell us is the key to prosperity.
21.34 percent have a neither here nor there opinion, while 24.58 percent oppose Maharlika.
But then again, what Marcos Jr. wants, Marcos Jr. gets. For now at least.
Okay, so let us all be hopeful, even if all the signs, internal and external, give us little reason to hope.
Let us wait for the report from the cash registers of our malls and supermarkets. From what I’ve been hearing, they are not as merrily jingling as businessmen expected them to be, despite revenge buying.
Japan is filled with the Filipino rich who can afford stratospheric airfare.
Hong Kong is slowly reviving with Chinoys eating the seasonal hairy crab and all the culinary delights only the former Crown Colony can offer to the max.
Bangkok and Singapore are booming with European and Korean tourists, and the Philippines, thankfully, gets a few foreign visitors after a three-year tourism desert.
Domestic travel is up, all part of the revenge travel syndrome after the sad lockdowns of almost three long years. And there are many balikbayans in town.
But what happens the morning after January 1?
Tighten up on the spending.
With inflation a supply side cost-push, there will be little respite, even if the Bangko Sentral pulls up the interest rates.
Assuming without conceding that the DA will perform well under the president mismo, and use its budget bonanza judiciously on the right priorities, there should be some improvement on food production.
The president’s recent extension of tariff reduction on food items like rice, pork, chicken, etc., while criticized by our farmers, is an act of quantum caution advised by our economic managers who seem unconvinced the DA will produce miracles.
The energy crisis, and by that I do not just mean higher electricity bills, but possible brown-outs shall begin to hound the economy next year.
As we said in a previous column, we cannot, and we should not, govern like it is business as usual. The headwinds are still howling.