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Bernardo M. Villegas

President Duterte is not socialist (Part I)

A few days before the last elections, I met Carlos (Sonny) Dominguez, currently Secretary of Finance, in a board meeting of a conglomerate in which both of us have been independent directors.  Half-seriously and half-jokingly, I told him that  I was about to give an economic briefing to some business people about the economic prospects of the Philippines after the May 9 elections and that it was difficult for me to be optimistic because the mostly likely to win,  his Presidential Candidate Rody Duterte,  just shocked members of the Makati Business Club with a rambling speech replete with expletives but with no content about the economic policy that he would follow if elected as President.  Sonny told me to tell my business people friends not to pay attention to what …

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Duterte administration and poverty reduction

One of the benefits of a president coming from the island of Mindanao will be the greater probability that poverty reduction will be given the highest priority by the Duterte administration.  Whereas the national average of poverty incidence is about 25 percent, in many regions of Mindanao (especially the Muslim Mindanao areas), poverty incidence can be as high as 60 percent.  There is enough evidence that decades of neglect by imperial Manila have led to the impoverishment of this potentially rich island that is well endowed with natural resources. From the early pronouncements of President Rody Duterte, even before he was elected, we can expect his government to break the cycle of poverty and economic isolation, not only of Mindanao, but in all the rural areas of the Philippines, where 75 …

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China’s slowdown and Philippine growth (Part II)

Another view that supports that China will not have a hard landing is presented by John Ross, senior fellow at Renmin University of China.   He points out that the hard landings in recent times of the US (after 2007), Japan (after 1990) and Russia (after the introduction of capitalism in 1999) were driven by precipitous declines in investments.  These investments were predominantly from the private sector.  In China, the state sector remains the dominant player, despite diverse forms of ownership.  The key role of the State was reaffirmed at the Third Plenum in 2013 and reiterated by Xi Jingping in 2016, while also emphasizing the side-by-side growth of the private sector.  According to Mr. Ross, the state sector can be used by the government to raise investment to prevent a …

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Thank you, President Noynoy Aquino

It is only just that the Filipino nation should thank outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III for having done his share in transforming the Philippines from the “sick man of Asia” to the new “Asian tiger,” as many outside analysts and observers have remarked unequivocally.  President Aquino, you have been humble enough to state that all the good things that have occurred during your watch should not be attributed to you alone.  In your words, “you are just standing on the shoulders of the leaders who came before you.”  By the same token, the presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte will inherit an economy at a higher level than at what you started in 2010 because of some significant decisions that you made as President of the Republic of the Philippines. First, it …

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China’s slowdown and Philippine growth (Part I)

Various economic sectors are worried that the ongoing slowdown of the Chinese economy may negatively impact on them.  Add to this dampener on global economic growth of the very low oil prices.  How will these global developments affect Philippine economic prospects as the Philippines moves to a new political era under the newly elected administration that will be in place by June 30, 2016? First, let us understand what is happening to the Chinese economy.  As explained by a top Spanish economist from the IESE Business School, Juan Jose Toribio, in the January 2016 International Economic Overview of IESE, the 2008-2009 global financial meltdown triggered a collapse in global demand and  a considerable contraction in the exports on which China’s spectacular economic development had grown to depend.  The reaction of the …

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The Romualdez clan of Leyte (Part II)

At the national level, this contrast between a highly responsible civil society and private sector and an apathetic national government explains the well-known fact that the Philippines ranks high in educational attainment in the Human Development Index (especially in the rate of literacy and average years of schooling) while having one of the lowest per capita incomes in the East Asian region.  Thanks to individuals like those of the Romualdez clan who have devoted much of their resources to improving the health and educational standards of Tacloban and their other hometowns (e.g. Tolosa, Tanuan, Olot, etc.), their region has been supplying the nation with high-quality personnel for the schools and hospitals of the entire nation.  In fact, before typhoon Yolanda wrought its physical destruction on Tacloban and the surrounding areas, …

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Love letter from Pope Francis (Part III)

Another enemy of peace and joy within the family (and in a business enterprise) is irritability and resentfulness.  This is a reaction of an interior indignation provoked by something from without.   Pope Francis writes; “It refers to a violent reaction within, a hidden irritation that sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they were troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided.  To nurture such interior hostility helps no one.  It only causes hurt and alienation.  Indignation is only healthy when it makes us react to a grave injustice; when it permeates our attitude towards others it is harmful.”  From his decades of pastoral care of married couples, Pope Francis gives a very practical advice about how to make peace in a family when it is threatened …

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Love letter from Pope Francis (Part II)

Then the Pope elaborates on the expression “Love is not jealous.”  This means that love has no room for feeling bad about another person’s good fortune.  Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s successes, a feeling that clearly shows that we are not concerned about the happiness of others but only with our own well-being.  As the Pope clarifies:  “Whereas love makes us rise above ourselves, envy closes us in on ourselves.  True love values the other person’s achievements.  It does not see him or her as a threat.  It frees us from the sour taste of envy.”  Peace within a family would be unsettled if the spouses — especially in these times of “professionalitis” — compete with one another for professional prestige.  The success of one could …

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The Romualdez clan of Leyte (Part I)

By DR. BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS I have always been convinced that professional economists can benefit intellectually from working with historians. I still remember that my favorite subjects in the doctoral program in economics that I took at Harvard University were those in history and not the ones replete with quantitative models and econometric analysis. I was especially fortunate to have studied under one of the most outstanding economic historians of the last century, American-Russian Alexander Gerschenkron, who filled in the gaps inherent in economic growth models with the human events that largely determined the ups and downs of national economies. I also benefited greatly from the writings of Joseph A. Schumpeter, who had been in the faculty of the Economics Department of Harvard University and who passed away just a few …

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Love letter from Pope Francis (Part I)

Prominent Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan hit the nail on the head when he called the recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Family of Pope Francis “a love letter to the world.”  Entitled in Latin Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Letter defines what love is, what the role of each person in the family should be and how the family should be in the world, and in the Church. As Moynihan writes: “In a time — our time — when the family seems under attack in so many ways,  when there are such temptations to break up families, this text is like a powerful medicine, a heart-felt appeal from Pope Francis, to each of us to  keep going, to keep together, to keep loving…”  After I read the most powerful …

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