ASIA'S  WEALTHY SURPASS EUROPE'S FOR FIRST TIME


SINGAPORE, JUNE 24
, 2010 (STAR) By AP - The wealth of rich Asians has surpassed Europe’s millionaires for the first time as the region’s stock and property prices rebounded from the global recession, a report showed yesterday.

The wealth of Asia’s high net worth individuals – those with liquid assets of at least $1 million – jumped 31 percent last year to $9.7 trillion, surpassing Europe’s $9.5 trillion, according to a report by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Capgemini. For the first time, the size of Asia’s rich population equaled that of Europe at three million. “The star performer was Asia-Pacific, the only region in which both macroeconomic and market drivers of wealth expanded significantly in 2009,” the report said.

Asian wealth was bolstered by a regional economy that expanded 4.5 percent in 2009 despite global GDP contracting 2 percent. Hong Kong, India and China led the wealth growth as property and stock markets in these countries surged last year after sharp falls in 2008.

North America is still the wealthiest region, with 3.1 million rich worth $10.7 trillion, the report said.

Globally, the wealth of the rich grew 19 percent last year to $39 trillion, with North American wealth increasing 18 percent while Europe was up 14 percent, the report said.

The wealth of Latin America’s rich rose 15 percent to $6.7 trillion, the Middle East increased 5.1 percent to $1.5 trillion and Africa gained 20 percent to $1 trillion.

BUSINESS COLUMN:

'Beating the odds' TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) Updated June 24, 2010 12:00 AM

The other day we were invited along with members of media, the diplomatic corps, academe and government officials to Malacañang on what could be one of the last functions of President Arroyo, who seemed like she was on a rather pensive mood. Two books were launched that day – the first book was written by Presidential spokesperson Ricardo Saludo with PIA chief Renato Velasco entitled “Beating the odds” while the second one was authored by Deputy Presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar and UP Economics professor Gonzalo Jurado with almost the same title, “Beat the odds.”

Both titles actually best summed up GMA’s beating the odds in surviving nine years in office rocked by scandals, several coup attempts and impeachment proceedings against her. As expected however, GMA critics have already found fault with the launching of the two books that detail the accomplishments of the Arroyo administration, particularly in keeping the economy afloat despite the numerous crises that have hit the country over the past several years – from terrorism to SARS to natural disasters – saying the legacy of presidents are normally written about long after they have left their office – not before.

The objectivity of the authors are also being questioned – but then again, the same can also be said about anti-Arroyo groups who seem unable to find anything positive about the current administration, and have even expressed doubts about the data presented in the tomes. Olivar seemed to be in a fighting mood during the launching, daring “the other camp” to present alternative figures to support their claims, and not just hypothesize or criticize without proof.

The books, the authors emphasized, are informative in nature and could be used by students and academicians as a reference material on governance and policy making. As the title themselves imply, the contents focus on the 10-point agenda encompassing target accomplishments – economic, political, social, educational, peace and order and other issues – which Mrs. Arroyo set when she first assumed office in 2001.

To be fair, a number of businessmen like ATR Kim Eng chairman Ramon Arnaiz who objectively looked at things purely from a business perspective said that the country’s economy consistently grew at a fairly substantial rate over the past six years including this election year. Ramon concludes that from a businessman’s point of view, she did fairly well as far as the economy is concerned.

From a political stand point, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile likewise commented that GMA, whom he described as probably one of the most hardworking presidents ever, did well in keeping the economy strong – but did very poorly politically and image wise with the bad advice on the scandals that rocked her administration, which ultimately burdened her, resulting in the steep decline in her popularity. Her relationship with media was also at its lowest.

Of course the biggest controversy that almost cost GMA the presidency was “Hello Garci,” which saw the president saying “I am sorry” on nationwide television for her “lapse in judgment.” Ironically, that was the worst advice ever: to issue a public apology, which reportedly came from GMA’s then-Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman. Dinky eventually led the infamous Hyatt 10 demanding the resignation of President Arroyo.

In any case, Professor Jurado admitted that he was just waiting for the right opportunity to put things in perspective regarding the accomplishments of his former student as the President of the Philippines, and the book provided the vehicle by which he could set the record straight and present a contrast to the often negative portrayal by what he described as the biased media regarding the gains of the Arroyo administration.

Like most leaders of the world, presidents will always want to have their legacy written about and embedded in the national consciousness for generations to come, especially for one whose term has been hounded by so many controversies. Richard Nixon was one great example of a leader who was able to rewrite history by writing several books about his leadership. His presidency could have been one of the most brilliant but was destroyed by the Watergate scandal. The relentless legal battle that ensued between the Executive Department and the US Congress and Supreme Court took its toll on Nixon, who was forced to resign as president – the first to ever do so in the history of the United States.

Nixon spent the remaining years of his life trying to salvage his damaged reputation, traveling a lot and eventually writing books including his autobiography “The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,” where he highlighted the numerous successes of his administration particularly on foreign diplomacy, including his 1972 visit to China – a first again – which helped formalize relations between the two countries.

Nixon’s memoirs – plus the other books he authored before he passed away in 1994 – were undoubtedly an attempt to set the record straight. And who else can do it better than the man himself, also considering that no one else wanted to do it judging from the continuing debate regarding the legacy of his presidency. This is perhaps the main motivation for most leaders including Mrs. Arroyo for having the two books written about her accomplishments to “set the record straight,” so to speak. In the case of President-elect Noynoy Aquino, he can perhaps consider himself very lucky. He chose his parents well. He has not yet even started his presidency and his legacy has already been half-written for him by his parents.

But when everything is said and done, the time will come when people will be able to look at the past with a much wider perspective and with more objectivity than current sentiments and biases may warrant. Like Richard Nixon who was embroiled in a controversy, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants history to be the final judge of her legacy. But as Richard Nixon also once pointed out, “the judgment of history depends on who writes it.”

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Email: babe_tcb@yahoo.com

 


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