Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Refreshing whinny|Woes from a surging peso (19-20 March 2006 editorials for People's Journal)

Refreshing whinny

HOW refreshing, the whinny of a packhorse unloaded of everything!

Nearly 7 of every 10 Filipinos, a recent Pulse Asia survey found out, want the foremost Malacañang tenant to quit. The survey findings didn’t exactly say that three per 10 want her to stick it out, probably like the proverbial sore thumb.

Survey findings represent a prevailing mood, a sinking feeling, maybe a cross-eyed perspective of a cross-section of the Filipino populace— a mere 1,200 survey respondents out of a teeming 85 million. Malacañang can totally ignore or twit these surveys. Even throw out the counsel of that ancient war strategist Sima on what it takes to be a sound leader— “it’s about listening to a multitude of voices across the land.”

Maybe, just maybe, voices across the land can be sounded out through surveys. Palace denizens need not lend an ear to such a tumult. Why, after hearing an earful of the infamous “Hello Garci” chit-chat which isn’t admissible as court evidence, it has become fashionable in these parts to play deaf, or out and out duminante— ang dumi ng tenga. Yeah, we’ve also aped Jet Li with a quaintly local revision of his kung fu flick, Earless.

Then again, it might dawn on the Malacañang top dog that whatever an ex-AFP spokesman claimed has a tough kernel of truth to it— “We are one of the strong pillars holding the nation. If we break, the nation will collapse.”

Let’s see. More and more Filipinos want the Palace top tenant out—with a dangerous 6% professing their support for a coup d’etat to effect such ouster. The military isn’t exactly restive, has become infected with politics and may entertain thoughts that they can make or break the government. With such an apparent scheme of things setting in place, we’re now treading deadly ground.

The top Palace resident may give in to the voices that want her out.

She may walk out of her job. She may call for snap elections—and firmly decide she won’t run and have anything to do with it. After all, she doesn’t have a monopoly of statesmanship and good sense to ply out sound governance. Let ‘em able-bodied, sane-minded leaders come forward.

Something dramatic like that, something about self sacrifice, and walking away from lush multi-billion pork barrel, from a daily kilometer-long list of photo ops, and round-the-clock insult from the opposition and destabilizers.

How refreshing, the whinny of a packhorse unloaded of everything!

Woes from a surging peso

STACKING up muscle since October last year, the peso is about to hit P50 to the US dollar. Maybe soon.

That can mean a few more billions pruned off the government’s foreign debt obligations and a slack in dollar procurement costs for importers. A strong peso spells dollar savings that can be spent for, say, increases in public school teachers’ pittance pay or another P728-million fertilizer scam.

To many Filipinos, gains in peso strength is hardly a reason to feel relieved. Exporters are balking. Even the nation’s army of OFWs find no comfort in a surging peso. Overseas Filipinos plowed back home over $10 billion in 2005. Such record remittance, plus a strong demand for pesos from foreign investors have bolstered the local currency’s strength.

As reports have it, about five pesos shed from the dollar’s value can trim some P60 billion off OFW earnings sent to millions of families that depend on overseas breadwinners for sustenance.

The country has an army of nearly 9 million OFWs sending home their dollar earnings. That’s about 10% of the gross domestic product. However, gains in peso strength means automatic cuts in an OFW take home pay.

Exporters—and they contribute 40% of the country’s output-- are also ruing about a strong peso gnawing into their profits. They gripe that the improved peso has more than halved their profit margins.

In late 2005, many food exporters clinched six-month contracts with foreign buyers at around P55 a dollar. With the peso on a roll, these exporters have stopped taking these forward contracts, reports added.

Six months back, the peso started its climb from P56 per dollar. Over the weekend, the Philippine Dealing System closed at P51.04 to the dollar and should improve this week.

"The Philippines is a net importing country, we’re importing a lot of imported raw materials and in the event that the peso gained strength, it will make the importation of these raw materials cheaper and would mean lower prices of goods in the market," explains Malacañang.

With an improved peso, little brown brothers can buy cheaper apples. And Maling canned pork luncheon meat.

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