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Bernardo M. Villegas

Agenda for helping the poor (Part 1)

Using the famous phrase from Yaya Dub “Sa Tamang Panahon” (at the proper time), we can say that candidates for the May elections have a most fitting time during the ongoing Jubilee Year of Mercy to make promises about addressing the serious poverty problem faced by more than 25 million Filipinos. The most important challenge that should be faced squarely by national and local government officials in the coming years is to achieve inclusive growth. Thanks to the political, economic and social reforms that previous leaders up to President Benigno S. Aquino III have instituted, the economy is almost on automatic pilot to grow at 6 percent or more for at least the next decade. The fly in the ointment is that this growth is not trickling down. The subsistence …

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The beam in your eyes

The third sign of the times is the increased financialization of the economy.  This term refers to the shift in the capitalist economy from production to finance. The revenue and profits of the financial sector have become an increasingly large proportion of the worldwide economy.  Just witness how both large and small economies rise and fall with changes in the interest rate resulting from decisions of the US Federal Reserve System.  Here again, there are both good and bad effects.  Financialization has given millions of people easier access to credit for  consumption and production; sought to spread risk through derivative instruments prudently utilized; created ways to leverage capital to make it more productive; and more.  The financial sector has also produced social or ethical funds allowing investors to apply their …

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Guiding children through the digital age

Children born in the first decades of the Third Millennium are instantly introduced to an interconnected world that was generally unknown to their parents and more so to their grandparents when they were growing up. As early as at the age of two, the millennials have ready access to the Internet, social networks, chats rooms, and video game consoles. They absorb digital technology by osmosis and their learning ability in this area advances at the same breakneck speed as the development of these new technologies. I can still remember my visit to the innovation center of Samsung in Seoul and was in awe with the products of the future: washing machines, cooking ranges, TVs, and all types of appliances all equipped with androids. I don’t think my guide was exaggerating …

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The beam in your eyes

It is easy for business people to be scandalized with the words and deeds of some politicians running for high positions in the next elections.  There are adulterers, alleged mass killers, plunderers, liars, etc. who are shamelessly asking the public to vote for them.  There is reason to be dismayed by the lack of morality that is being displayed even as a sign of toughness or “machismo.”  It may be useful, however, for the private sector to pause a while and ask ourselves if we are “seeing the mote in the eyes of our neighbor and ignoring the beam in our own,” as the biblical passage goes.  A very good guide for an examination of conscience for business leaders is a document issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and …

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Celebrating Aldubnomics

Using the tagline “Sa Tamang Panahon” (At The Right Time), one can celebrate with Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards (Aldub) the fortunate coincidence that they have been catapulted to the peak of Philippine entertainment and social networking at exactly the time when the Philippine economy is experiencing an unprecedented consumer boom. At no time in the past have we witnessed as many simultaneous endorsements for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) by a single pair of celebrities as the Aldub duo. Without the consumer boom that is ongoing, it would have been difficult for “My Bebe Love” to earn more than P60 million in the first day of showing in the Manila Film Festival, not to mention the more than P200 million for the first few days! These extraordinary figures are …

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Pope Francis to the youth

Exactly one year ago today, Pope Francis had an encounter with the youth at the campus of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).  He had a prepared speech but decided to deliver an impromptu homily in Spanish which was translated into English by Msgr. Mark Gerard Miles.  Thanks to Rappler.com, among others, we have a copy of the full transcript of the prepared speech whose content has a very timely relevance as our nation prepares to elect our national and local political leaders next May 9, 2016.  Unwittingly, the Pope gave very specific criteria to the youth about the qualities that they should look for in leaders, whether in the public or private sectors.  People of business who regularly read this column can be a very important channel to communicate …

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Jesus never lets us down

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down.” Those were part of the impromptu words uttered by Pope Francis to those of us, tens of thousands from all over the archipelago, who braved the strong rains and winds for hours on end just outside the Tacloban International Airport exactly one year ago. Just the day before, as the sun was shining bright, I joined some relatives and friends of the Romualdez clan to watch the final matches of a football tournament among streetchildren, a good number of them having lost parents and other relatives during the typhoon Yolanda. In the prepared text for the undelivered homily, the Pope referred to this natural disaster as “the strongest storm ever recorded on earth.” He pointed …

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Intangible export of the Philippines

When economists talk about exports, there is usually a distinction between “visible” exports, i.e. goods and “invisible receipts,” services.  Thanks to the insights accumulated over the last five years by a group of academics and business people, led by former Chilean Ambassador to the Philippines, Roberto Mayorga, we can now talk about  a third category of exports:  The intangible ones.  Last December 2, 2015, the book entitled “Calidad Humana” was launched at the Cultural Center.  This book can be considered as a manual on how we Filipinos can preserve our most valuable contribution to global peace and joy, especially through the more than 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) the majority of whom are the incarnation of the “calidad humana” perceived in Filipinos by Ambassador Mayorga from the very first …

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Lessons from the GMA administration

In the remaining months of the administration of President B. S. Aquino III, there will be enough opportunities for him and his officials to write about the many positive legacies he will leave for future generations. I think it is only fair that we pause for a while and look back at the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to identify the contributions that it made to the long-term progress of the Philippine economy. There can be important lessons that the next administration that will be in place in 2016 to 2022 can learn from those ten years of the presidency of President GMA, whatever the judgments will be concerning the accusations against her filed by the present government. I am glad that the former president was able to write as …

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Threat to number one engine

The number one engine of the consumer-led growth the Philippines has enjoyed for the last five years is, without doubt, the remittances of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) sent to their relatives at home.  My own estimate is that in 2015 the total remittances could be as high as $28 billion if we take into account the informal channels, although there has been a constant increase of flows into financial institutions as international banks, domestic banks and money remittance service providers have increased their cooperation over the last few years.  This happy state of affairs is being disrupted by a recent decision of international banks to literally “throw the baby with the bath water.”   Under the pretext of combatting money laundering and other criminal activities, international banks in countries like …

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