BIZ  COLUMN:  BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS OF BOOM!

MANILA, November 10, 2004 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - For the information of Secretary Bunye, it is no fun being a prophet of gloom. All that bad news gets to me too. My kids tell me I am getting to be a regular Shrek. Not only that, all that gloom can get pretty boring. Iím raring to break the monotony of bad news and write about nice and good things instead.

But Toting Bunyeís boss is not helping me. She has thus far, failed to be the leader we hoped she would be Ė strong, statesmanlike, inspiring. Since we will be stuck with her for six years, I am desperately trying to see why she will be good for us. Problem is, I am not a fiction writer. I have to be truthful too. My own credibility is at stake. I have to call it as I see it.

But I can understand why the Palace wants to talk up the economy. It is an old propaganda trick. Get the people to think black is white and provided enough people say so and often enough, there is a good chance people would think black is white. The problem is, it only takes one honest observer to say that black is black and not white and everything falls apart. Not only is the Emperor not wearing anything new, the Emperorís stark naked.

The other thing working against this positive thinking strategy is actual experience on the ground. You canít say our crisis has turned the corner when the rest of the population knows it hasnít. A good measure of objective conditions out there is consumer confidence. Are consumers confident enough to spend? Or are consumers so insecure that they hold back? Or worse, do consumers have something to spend at all?

Consumer confidence, already low in August, further weakened the following month and plunged to its lowest for the year, according to a survey conducted for BusinessWorld. They blamed that negative sentiment on rising oil prices and the lack of positive news from the government. Furthermore, they attribute this negative sentiment to the threat of an impending fiscal crisis. The survey was done Sept. 21-27 for BusinessWorld by NOP World Asia (formerly Roper ASW Asia Pacific), which interviewed 300 Metro Manila consumers.

In case they missed the story when BusinessWorld first reported it, may we take this opportunity to review the findings? The consumer confidence index (CCI), a composite measure of how consumers perceive their present circumstance and prospects six months down the line, plunged to its lowest for the year at 81.6 points, from 87.5 points in August.

Sen. Mar Roxas confirmed the findings of BusinessWorld survey in a public hearing this week. Retailers told the Senate committee on trade that economic difficulties appear to be forcing more Filipinos to buy less on impulse, apart from making fewer actual purchases in supermarkets and public markets. Federico Ples of the Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc. and Steven Cua of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association also told the Roxas panel that shoppers are making smaller average purchases nowadays.

The National Market Vendorsí Confederation of Cooperatives (NAMVESCCO) noted a 25-percent decline in sales of the public market system. "It used to be that a pork meat vendor, for instance, could sell the equivalent of five whole pigs a day. Now, that has dropped to three to four whole pigs," NAMVESCCO chair May Gonzales said. BusinessWorld quoted an economist who said "if we have a consumer confidence like that, it is not a good indicator because businesses thrive only when people are buying."

Why is consumer confidence low? The survey found out that one reason for low consumer confidence is their belief that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not doing a good job. The 52.2 percent in August who said the President was doing a good job declined substantially to 34.8 percent in September. More consumers (40.3 percent) perceived the economy would not prosper during her term. "It means that the State has become uninspiring to the people," the BusinessWorld economist said. Under such conditions, consumers brace themselves for hard times and thatís reflected in lower consumer activity.

As for the fiscal crisis, those who think the situation will worsen and those who think it will remain the same (which is, bad) are more than the positive thinkers of the Palace. Worse, the economist interviewed by BW observed a sense of foreboding among consumers when the fiscal crisis is discussed. "When people hear of a fiscal crisis, they immediately think of taxation. People are thinking how much more will be taken from their pockets."

Indeed, ordinary guys like you and me know higher taxes mean the good taxpayers (largely the fixed income earners) will have to surrender more of what we earn to the government because they canít touch the politicians, the big businessmen and the rich lawyers. In other words, we would have less to spend as consumers. No wonder consumer confidence is down.

Pessimism was likewise felt in the currency market as confidence in the peso weakened. Almost six out of 10 (58 percent) perceived that the peso would weaken in the next six months, while only 11 percent believed otherwise. The sad reality is, the peso is weakening against a weakening dollar.

This survey should make it clear that the Palace cannot make people believe the crisis is over when their experience in the real world tells them otherwise. I say, beware the false prophets of boom. Hopefully, they donít believe their own unrealistic propaganda. There is nothing worse than having the nationís leaders believing their own self-imposed delusions.

Battered husbands

I was talking with lawyer Kat Legarda some days ago and she said her new mission is to get equality between the sexes before the law. The problem, she said, is that current law discriminates against men. More specifically, the law that penalizes husbands who beat their wives has a gender bias. Wives who beat up their husbands can go scot-free. There may not be too many cases of that, but how do we really know?

Kat says she is handling three such cases now and she intends to question the constitutionality of the law. Kat has defended countless women from abusive husbands but she has also taken the cases of husbands abused by their wives. It is apparently, not as uncommon as we think.

Kat says the intention of the law in protecting battered women is good, but the law must also be free of gender bias. After all, all citizens must be given equal protection of the law.

So, how did Congress get to pass such a one sided law? I understand an amendment was added in the later stages of the lawís consideration and it passed unnoticed. Was this the fault of the other Legarda who was Senate majority leader? Now the Supreme Court would be asked to correct this failure of the legislature.

What else is new?

Hostile takeover

This oneís from Atty. Sonny Pulgar.

A man went into a pharmacy and asked to talk to a male pharmacist. The woman he was talking to said that she was the pharmacist and that she and her sister owned the store, so there were no males employed there.

She then asked if she could help the gentleman.

The man said that it was something that he would be much more comfortable discussing with a male pharmacist. The female pharmacist assured him that she was completely professional and whatever it was that he needed to discuss, he could be confident that she would treat him with the highest level of professionalism.

The man agreed and began by saying, "This is tough for me to discuss, but I have a permanent erection. It causes me a lot of problems and severe embarrassment. So I was wondering what you could give me for it."

The pharmacist said, "Just a minute, Iíll go talk to my sister."

When she returned, she said, "We discussed it at length and the absolute best we can do is, 1/3 ownership of the shop, a company car, and P10,000 a month living expenses."

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is philstar_chanco@yahoo.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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