BUSINESS HEADLINES THIS PAST WEEK...


THE BUSINESS OF PIZZA IS NOT JUST ABOUT COOKING AND SERVING 

PHOTO: Fred Salvador, master franchisor of Sbarro in the Philippines with David Karam, CEO of Sbarro MANILA, IANUARY 5, 2015 (PHILSTAR)  If there is one comfort food Filipinos seem to love apart from Nanay’s adobo, it would most likely be that staple of Italian cuisine – pizza. -----Today, Sbarro delights pizza-craving Pinoys through their 45 branches nationwide. The Salvador family continues to be at the helm, making sure that Sbarro Philippines remains true to Mama Sbarro’s legacy: “The commitment to good food, fresh ingredients, excellent service and great value for money.”  Jimmy Salvador’s son, Fred, president of Supersalute Foods Corp., master franchise of Sbarro Philippines, knows why the restaurant is such a big hit in the country. “I think it’s because it’s authentic,” he declares. “Some people claim to be from New York, some people claim to be Italian based but they’re not.”  READ FULL REPORT FROM BEGINNING...

ALSO: Old peso bills going out of circulation 

As the new year kicks in, the central bank will start phasing out all peso bills bearing old designs, regulators announced this week. Starting January 2015, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will begin the yearlong “demonitization” process for all old peso bills with denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. These include bills still accepted as legal tender but have been out of production for years such as the green Emilio Aguinaldo five-peso bill and the brown 10-peso bill that has Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini on it. Both bills were replaced with coins. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: US to power global growth in 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States is back, and ready to drive global economic growth in 2015. After long struggling to claw its way out of the Great Recession, the world’s biggest economy is on an extended win streak that is edging it closer to full health. But the new year doesn’t look quite so bright in other major countries. China is slowing as it transitions from investment to consumption. Japan has slid into a recession. Russia appears headed for one. Europe is barely growing. And the US? Six years after its financial system nearly sank and nearly that long since the recession ended, the United States is expected to grow in 2015 at its fastest pace in a decade. Its expansion from July through September – a five percent annual rate – was the swiftest for any quarter since 2003. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Why the US will power the world economy in 2015

Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, thinks Americans ages 25 to 34, stung by higher rents, will buy homes in greater numbers by the end of 2015. Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have relaxed their down payment requirements, which were a strain for younger would-be buyers. Humphries also thinks developers will build more lower-priced homes that millennials can afford. Some signs of hope overseas have emerged. Falling oil prices should benefit people in Europe, Japan and China, all of which import oil. And analysts expect the European Central Bank to ramp up its stimulus efforts, possibly by buying government bonds. That step would inject more cash into the economy to boost lending and keep rates low. DOUBTING JAPAN The global economy's biggest wild card next year might be Japan. It slid into recession last quarter after a sales tax hike hammered consumer spending. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has delayed a second increase to 2017. Japan's central bank is buying government bonds and other financial assets in a bid to boost inflation and stimulate growth. Yet so far, wages haven't risen in line with prices, thereby threatening consumer spending. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL: Our 2015 economic growth forecasts positive—despite Aquino’s crimes

PHOTO: Aquino is the worst performing President in terms of job creation. Adult unemployment under him, using SWS surveys, is averaging 26.8% compared to Arroyo’s 19.6%; Estrada’s 9.2%; and Ramos’s 10.3% (Photo from BusinessWorld/AFP) ---WE must thank God that despite the corruption and incompetence of the Aquino administration, most experts local and international still see our country posting high GDP growth rates in 2015. Just before Christmas Day, a Moody’s Investors Service analysis of the Philippine economy was released. It says that domestic growth is being hamstrung by the Aquino administration’s weak use of its budget. This veritably endorses our critical viewpoint that the Aquino administration is both incompetent and corrupt. Incompetence prevented officials from making use of the huge funds they have to keep projects running and jobless people employed. It is also corruption because the high officials who should have pushed for faster and more government spending, officials including President Aquino himself, precisely withheld the use of taxpayers’ money in 2014 so that they could use it to bankroll the 2016 election campaign in favor of the presidential, senatorial and congressional candidates of the ruling Aquino-Mar Roxas-Liberal Party. But Moody’s still says the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be high–by 6.5 percent in 2015. This is high compared to those of the other Asean countries. Moody’s says the government’s real GDP growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent for 2015 will be difficult to achieve if budget releases and use are not improved. READ FULL EDITORIAL ...

ALSO BLOGGED OPINION: Marketing Mr. Palengke

PHOTO: Mr. Aquino’s presumed choice for 2016, Mar Roxas’s (left) approval and presidential preference numbers have been falling compared to those of Grace Poe, a neophyte in Philippine politics. -- AFP  ---WEALTH and the lack of it have always been and will continue to be issues in Philippine politics, for as long as too many people are poor and have almost nothing while a handful of families have everything, including, so it seems, air-conditioned stables and pens for their horses and pigs. Whether one sleeps on the sidewalk, or has a choice of which of several condominiums to bed down in, of course depends on one’s income, assets and bank account. The bad news is that too many Filipinos are in the first category, despite the economic growth the Aquino administration has been crowing about. An article in the US Magazine Atlantic (Jillian Keenan, “The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines’ Economic Growth,” May 7, 2013) thus notes: READ FULL COMMENTARY...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

The business of pizza is not just about cooking and serving’


Fred Salvador, master franchisor of Sbarro in the Philippines with David Karam, CEO of Sbarro

MANILA, IANUARY 5, 2015 (PHILSTAR)  If there is one comfort food Filipinos seem to love apart from Nanay’s adobo, it would most likely be that staple of Italian cuisine – pizza.

There’s just something about that mélange of pepperoni, mushrooms, cheese, peppers, tomatoes, and virtually a whole range of meats and vegetables, all nestled on a bed of delectable sauce, and topped with even more cheese. Served piping hot, it’s like biting into a pillow of scrumptious sunshine. And when enjoyed in the company of family and friends, pizza becomes the great equalizer, as diners can’t help but stay silent while busily chewing on each slice.

Now, when it comes to pizza, discriminating Pinoys can be seen braving the long lines just to sink their teeth into a slice of Sbarro. And why not? After all, Sbarro serves authentic New York style Italian pizza, deep-dished and loaded with flavorful ingredients.

The restaurant was actually a spin-off of the salumeria, an Italian delicatessen, that Gennaro and Carmela Sbarro opened in Brooklyn in 1956 with their three sons Joseph, Mario, and Anthony. Immigrants from Naples, the Sbarro couple naturally shared their Italian culinary heritage with their newly adopted community in the US.

On the heels of this successful enterprise, Carmela “Mama” Sbarro opened the restaurant in 1967, highlighting pizza-making in an area where customers can enjoy watching its preparation.

Pampanga native Jaime “Jimmy” Salvador joined Sbarro in 1972, working alongside the original owners, imbibing their work ethic and business principles. Rising through the ranks, he eventually became Sbarro’s first area manager. In 1989, Salvador returned to the Philippines to establish the Sbarro brand, opening the first branch at the Annex in SM North Edsa by 1990.

Today, Sbarro delights pizza-craving Pinoys through their 45 branches nationwide. The Salvador family continues to be at the helm, making sure that Sbarro Philippines remains true to Mama Sbarro’s legacy: “The commitment to good food, fresh ingredients, excellent service and great value for money.”

Jimmy Salvador’s son, Fred, president of Supersalute Foods Corp., master franchise of Sbarro Philippines, knows why the restaurant is such a big hit in the country. “I think it’s because it’s authentic,” he declares. “Some people claim to be from New York, some people claim to be Italian based but they’re not.”

The man from New York knows whereof he speaks. He remembers how his father worked directly for the Sbarro family. In fact, their families were so close that Mr. and Mrs. Sbarro even wanted him to call them Grandpa and Grandma. Salvador adds: “And I would be ashamed if we let them down in this market, if we served a bad product. I’d really be disappointed. I think my Dad will come back and haunt me if we don’t try our best here.”

On his recent visit to the Philippines, Sbarro’s CEO and president J. David Karam spoke about the company’s pizza supremacy. He says: “Sbarro is the sixth largest pizza chain in the world, and so our focus is increasingly selling and communicating the superior quality of pizza to consumers in all of our members.”

Pizza picks

“At every one of our restaurants, we make the dough fresh every morning. We’re one of the only national restaurants with global pizza that uses 100 percent mozzarella cheese, the best cheese you can get, and shredded fresh every day. Nobody does that,” Karam says.

The local Pinoy market has embraced Sbarro’s pizzas with open arms, so much so that the Philippine franchise team was recognized as Franchise Partner of the Year at the recently concluded Sbarro franchise conference held in the US. This award was earned based upon “superior operational execution and a commitment to developing the brand with new stores and really penetrating the markets that they serve in.”

But not one to rest on his laurels, Salvador reveals: “So far this year, we’ve opened a record number of stores. We’ve opened 10 stores, and we plan to open five more before the end of the year. One of these will be a self-contained delivery unit which will be at the Sea Residences in Pasay (MOA).”

Rounding the bend

After experiencing a brief period beset by tough challenges, Sbarro emerges with a revitalized vision, a direction that hinges on passion and creative innovation. Looking at the glass half full, this short chapter in the company’s history paved the way for positive changes.

Karam details the progress that Sbarro is now experiencing after that momentary hiccup: “First, it has improved the balance sheet. The company has a very sound balance sheet and a very strong future, as it is now almost debt-free. Second, we increased the profitability dramatically by eliminating non-profitable stores. And third, by relocating our headquarters to Columbus, Ohio, which is rather a central hub for restaurant and retail companies, but with operational costs lower than the previous offices in New York, it allowed me to build a management team that has a lot of industry experience. And they can start to really put in place the strategies that will really position the brand for significant growth in the future.”

While this was happening in the US, Sbarro’s Filipino market was naturally concerned. But as the head office explained the situation properly, Salvador was able to address the issue. “A lot of guests would call the office,” he recalls. “But we assured them that this had nothing to do with us and that this will be over in a few months.”

“It was a tough chapter but we are glad we got through it quickly,” Karam reflects. “It was a very well planned filing and we are very fortunate that we have the support of our ownership, our franchise partners, as well as our vendors and landlords.”

Pizza with a passion

“Pizza is a very big category, nearly a 50 billion dollar category globally and the second biggest serving category in the industry,” Karam observes. “Sbarro has great credentials on pizza. We would like to tighten the focus a little bit and bring it to life. Think authentic New York style pizza and more.”

To accomplish this purpose and attract new generations of pizza lovers, Sbarro has developed a new logo design that is cleaner and more modern. The stores have also been reworked to be more open, allowing diners to watch how their pizza is made, and streamlining the flow of service. And of course, new products and flavors are in the pipeline, like the authentic Sicilian pizza, which is now available in the US, as well as the Philippines.

Karam reiterates: “We have a very broad menu, and it will not be reduced dramatically, but over time you will expect to see us continually emphasizing pizza. We also have great credibility in pasta and salad. In the US, we are not leaving the malls but we don’t want to be bound by the malls, so we’re developing off-mall stores and also delivery and carry-out business.”

The business of pizza is not just about cooking and serving. Success is anchored not only on food excellence, but also on the innate qualities of its people. Salvador emphasizes that, in this regard, Sbarro is about “developing people.” He says, “We hire them because we believe in them, we want them to succeed.”

Karam describes the Sbarro brand in three words: Passionate, quality, and pizza-focused. He elaborates: “Passionate because people who are part of this brand, no matter how long we’ve been there, we know that we have enormous satisfaction when we see customers lined up to eat our food. There is a sense of pride; we are all part of a team.”

Salvador agrees: “You have to find people who are passionate about what they’re doing. We try to instill in our managers that this is not a job but a career.”


FROM THE INQUIRER

Old peso bills going out of circulation Paolo G. Montecillo @paolomontecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:58 AM | Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–As the new year kicks in, the central bank will start phasing out all peso bills bearing old designs, regulators announced this week.

Starting January 2015, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will begin the yearlong “demonitization” process for all old peso bills with denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000.

These include bills still accepted as legal tender but have been out of production for years such as the green Emilio Aguinaldo five-peso bill and the brown 10-peso bill that has Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini on it. Both bills were replaced with coins.

Old peso bills, which are still called New Design Series (NDS) notes, will be replaced with New Generation Currency (NGC) banknotes that were released to the public in 2010.

NDS notes were introduced in 1985. Minor changes were made to the designs, but NDS notes have maintained the same look they had three decades after they were released.

By the end of 2015, NDS notes will cease to be legal tender, the BSP said. The public, however, may still have these old notes replaced with NGC notes until the end of 2016.

The move to replace all old peso bills with NGC currencies is part of the BSP’s efforts to ensure the integrity of physical money. NGC notes are manufactured with additional security features that make them less susceptible to counterfeiting. The new bills are also more durable. Lower denominations even have antibacterial properties that make them more resistant to wear and tear.

Local peso bills are still manufactured using paper and other natural fibers, despite the shift of other jurisdictions to plastic notes.

Plastic notes, the BSP said, are much more expensive to produce and fade easier. Plastic money also does not hold up well to being folded several times, making it unsuitable for countries like the Philippines where paper money is often crumpled and placed in pockets.


FROM PHILSTAR

US to power global growth in 2015 (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 31, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States is back, and ready to drive global economic growth in 2015.

After long struggling to claw its way out of the Great Recession, the world’s biggest economy is on an extended win streak that is edging it closer to full health. But the new year doesn’t look quite so bright in other major countries.

China is slowing as it transitions from investment to consumption. Japan has slid into a recession. Russia appears headed for one. Europe is barely growing.

And the US?

Six years after its financial system nearly sank and nearly that long since the recession ended, the United States is expected to grow in 2015 at its fastest pace in a decade. Its expansion from July through September – a five percent annual rate – was the swiftest for any quarter since 2003.

That pace will likely ease a bit. Still, the economy is expected to expand 3.1 percent next year, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics. It would be the first year of three percent growth since 2005.

The acceleration of US growth is a key reason the global economy is also expected to grow faster, at about three percent, up from 2.5 percent in 2014, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase and IHS Global Insight.

Plunging oil prices are a big reason for the optimism. Prices have been cut roughly in half since summer. In some areas of the country, gasoline prices have slipped below $2 a gallon. The drop, along with more fuel-efficient cars, will save the average US household $550 on gas next year, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That means consumers have more to spend on items like cars, furniture and appliances.

What’s more, Americans’ finances are in firmer shape. Job growth is accelerating. Businesses are investing in buildings and software, and home building is expected to pick up.

Lower oil prices will also help Europe and Japan, and the global economy should expand faster than it did this year, economists say. But the divergence between the United States and most of the rest of the world is striking and carries some risks. Big exporters, from China to Germany to Japan, will depend heavily on a recovering US to boost their economies.

A pickup in global growth “is highly dependent on the assumption that the US economy continues to improve,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. “If that doesn’t play out, there’s not much left for the global economy to fall back on.

Even if the US economy does strengthen further, the rest of the world could struggle. For one thing, faster growth will likely lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in 2015, which could draw more investment from overseas. The inflow of capital would raise the dollar’s value and potentially cause destabilizing drops in other currencies. Governments and businesses overseas that borrowed in dollars would find it harder to repay those debts.

The hot economies of the last decade – the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China collectively known as the “BRICs” – will likely grow in 2015 at their slowest pace in six years, according to Oxford Economics, a forecasting firm. Falling oil and commodity prices have smacked Brazil and Russia particularly hard.


FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Why the US will power the world economy in 2015 By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is back, and ready to drive global growth in 2015.

After long struggling to claw its way out of the Great Recession, the world's biggest economy is on an extended win streak that is edging it closer to full health. But the new year doesn't look quite so bright in other major countries.

China is slowing as it transitions from investment to consumption. Japan has slid into a recession. Russia appears headed for one. Europe is barely growing.

And the U.S.?

Six years after its financial system nearly sank and nearly that long since the recession ended, the United States is expected to grow in 2015 at its fastest pace in a decade. Its expansion from July through September - a 5 percent annual rate - was the swiftest for any quarter since 2003.

That pace will likely ease a bit. Still, the economy is expected to expand 3.1 percent next year, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics. It would be the first year of 3 percent growth since 2005.

The acceleration of U.S. growth is a key reason the global economy is also expected to grow faster, at about 3 percent, up from 2.5 percent in 2014, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase and IHS Global Insight.

CHEERING CHEAPER OIL

Plunging oil prices are a big reason for the optimism. Prices have been cut roughly in half since summer. In some areas of the country, gasoline prices have slipped below $2 a gallon. The drop, along with more fuel-efficient cars, will save the average U.S. household $550 on gas next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That means consumers have more to spend on items like cars, furniture and appliances.

What's more, Americans' finances are in firmer shape. Job growth is accelerating. Businesses are investing in buildings and software, and home building is expected to pick up.

Lower oil prices will also help Europe and Japan, and the global economy should expand faster than it did this year, economists say. But the divergence between the United States and most of the rest of the world is striking and carries some risks. Big exporters, from China to Germany to Japan, will depend heavily on a recovering U.S. to boost their economies.

A pickup in global growth "is highly dependent on the assumption that the U.S. economy continues to improve," said Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. "If that doesn't play out, there's not much left for the global economy to fall back on.

SWIRLING GLOBAL HEADWINDS

Even if the U.S. economy does strengthen further, the rest of the world could struggle. For one thing, faster growth will likely lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in 2015, which could draw more investment from overseas. The inflow of capital would raise the dollar's value and potentially cause destabilizing drops in other currencies. Governments and businesses overseas that borrowed in dollars would find it harder to repay those debts.

The hot economies of the last decade - the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China collectively known as the "BRICs" - will likely grow in 2015 at their slowest pace in six years, according to Oxford Economics, a forecasting firm. Falling oil and commodity prices have smacked Brazil and Russia particularly hard.

China may expand 6.5 percent or more. Yet that's a far cry from the nearly double-digit growth it enjoyed for decades. Europe and Japan will be lucky to expand even 1 percent.

The gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world reflects a fundamental trait of the U.S. economy: It's more insulated from the rest of the world's ups and downs than other major economies are. Exports account for just 14 percent of U.S. output, the smallest share among the 34 mostly rich members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

One U.S. company largely protected from overseas trends is Globe Specialty Metals, a Miami-based producer of silicon metals that draws 90 percent of its revenue from North America. Its silicon is added to aluminum and rubber parts used in cars, and robust auto sales have boosted the company's revenue.

CEO Jeff Bradley says he's optimistic about 2015. As gas prices have sunk, Americans have been buying more SUVs and pickups, which use more aluminum. Demand for solar power panels is also lifting sales.

"Things are lining up for next year to be one of the best years in the history of our company," Bradley said.

POWERING US CONSUMERS

In the United States, consumers are the main drivers of growth. And fortunes are looking up for more households. Employers are on track to add the most jobs in 15 years in 2014. As a percentage of income, Americans' debt has dropped to 2002 levels.

In some ways, the U.S. economy actually benefits from slower growth abroad. Investors in search of safety have plowed money into Treasurys, thereby helping hold down inflation and U.S loan rates, including for mortgages. Lower rates, in turn, could fuel more home sales and construction next year.

Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, thinks Americans ages 25 to 34, stung by higher rents, will buy homes in greater numbers by the end of 2015. Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have relaxed their down payment requirements, which were a strain for younger would-be buyers. Humphries also thinks developers will build more lower-priced homes that millennials can afford.

Some signs of hope overseas have emerged. Falling oil prices should benefit people in Europe, Japan and China, all of which import oil. And analysts expect the European Central Bank to ramp up its stimulus efforts, possibly by buying government bonds. That step would inject more cash into the economy to boost lending and keep rates low.

DOUBTING JAPAN

The global economy's biggest wild card next year might be Japan. It slid into recession last quarter after a sales tax hike hammered consumer spending. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has delayed a second increase to 2017.

Japan's central bank is buying government bonds and other financial assets in a bid to boost inflation and stimulate growth. Yet so far, wages haven't risen in line with prices, thereby threatening consumer spending.

Masaaki Ogawa, a third-generation vegetable shop owner on Tokyo's downtown Sugamo shopping street, is among many who feel frustrated.

"The older people have money, but they don't want to spend it," Ogawa said. "The younger people want to spend, but they don't have any money."


MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL

Our 2015 economic growth forecasts positive—despite Aquino’s crimes December 30, 2014 10:48 pm


PHOTO: Aquino is the worst performing President in terms of job creation. Adult unemployment under him, using SWS surveys, is averaging 26.8% compared to Arroyo’s 19.6%; Estrada’s 9.2%; and Ramos’s 10.3% (Photo from BusinessWorld/AFP) --

WE must thank God that despite the corruption and incompetence of the Aquino administration, most experts local and international still see our country posting high GDP growth rates in 2015.

Just before Christmas Day, a Moody’s Investors Service analysis of the Philippine economy was released. It says that domestic growth is being hamstrung by the Aquino administration’s weak use of its budget.

This veritably endorses our critical viewpoint that the Aquino administration is both incompetent and corrupt. Incompetence prevented officials from making use of the huge funds they have to keep projects running and jobless people employed.

It is also corruption because the high officials who should have pushed for faster and more government spending, officials including President Aquino himself, precisely withheld the use of taxpayers’ money in 2014 so that they could use it to bankroll the 2016 election campaign in favor of the presidential, senatorial and congressional candidates of the ruling Aquino-Mar Roxas-Liberal Party.

But Moody’s still says the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be high–by 6.5 percent in 2015. This is high compared to those of the other Asean countries.

Moody’s says the government’s real GDP growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent for 2015 will be difficult to achieve if budget releases and use are not improved.

Other economists, like the Barcelona-based FocusEconomics panelists, see growth but slightly lower—6.2%—in 2015

Compared to us, our “twin economy” fellow Asean co-founder, Thailand, is forecast to suffer a decline.

Here is the forecast for Thailand written earlier in December by the US Council on Foreign Relations’ Joshua Kurlantzick, the CFR senior fellow for Southeast Asia, who writes most of the Asia Unbound articles.

“Thailand’s 2015 growth rate will fall below 4 percent

“The World Bank currently predicts that Thailand will grow by 4.5 percent in 2015, year-on-year. Even this rate of growth would be among the slowest in Southeast Asia—the Bank predicts the Philippines will grow by nearly 7 percent, Indonesia will grow by 5.6 percent, and Vietnam will grow by 5.5 percent. But I am doubtful that Thailand will even reach 4 percent growth for 2015.

Continuing political uncertainty will weigh heavily on Thai consumers, seriously depressing domestic consumer spending. In addition, political uncertainty—and the high-profile international coverage of several recent murders of foreign tourists in Thailand—will hurt tourism badly. Tourism revenues account for between six and seven percent of Thailand’s total annual GDP.

Finally, Japanese companies, the most important investors in Thailand, will continue to slowly move some of their investments to Vietnam and other countries in the region, worried about Thailand’s political instability and the long-term competitiveness of Thai labor.”

We hope Thailand emerges in much better shape soon and the military regime there decides to restore democracy.

And we pray that President Aquino soon realizes that he and his key associates have committed many crimes against our nation, our Republic and our people—and that he should gracefully resign.


BLOGGED

Opinion ---Posted on December 19, 2014 12:05:00 AM  12 0 Google +0 0

Marketing Mr. Palengke Vantage Point By Luis V. Teodoro


Mr. Aquino’s presumed choice for 2016, Mar Roxas’s (left) approval and presidential preference numbers have been falling compared to those of Grace Poe, a neophyte in Philippine politics. -- AFP

WEALTH and the lack of it have always been and will continue to be issues in Philippine politics, for as long as too many people are poor and have almost nothing while a handful of families have everything, including, so it seems, air-conditioned stables and pens for their horses and pigs.

Whether one sleeps on the sidewalk, or has a choice of which of several condominiums to bed down in, of course depends on one’s income, assets and bank account. The bad news is that too many Filipinos are in the first category, despite the economic growth the Aquino administration has been crowing about.

An article in the US Magazine Atlantic (Jillian Keenan, “The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines’ Economic Growth,” May 7, 2013) thus notes:

“In 2012, Forbes Asia announced that the collective wealth of the 40 richest Filipino families grew $13 billion during the 2010-2011 year, to $47.4 billion -- an increase of 37.9%.

“Filipino economist Cielito Habito calculated that the increased wealth of those families was equivalent in value to a staggering 76.5% of the country’s overall increase in GDP at the time. This disparity was the highest in Asia: Habito found that the income of Thailand’s 40 richest families increased by only 25% of the national income growth during that period, while that ratio was even lower in Malaysia and Japan, at 3.7% and 2.8%, respectively.

“Even relative to its regional neighbors, the Philippines’ income inequality and unbalanced concentrations of wealth are extreme.”

Wealth of course comes in many forms and from many sources, although one can perhaps make an exception in the Philippines, where, in most instances, it’s usually either inherited, made with great difficulty, or stolen.

As far as sources go, the Atlantic article was referring to wealth that’s always been in the hands of a “handful of families,” which, because of that advantage, are in a position to be even wealthier.

But wealth in these isles can also be described as “ill-gotten.” That phrase has morphed in Philippine political and media discourse into a veritable cliché, suggesting in the process how common a source corruption and the plunder of public funds have become. The more cynically inclined can always say, however, that all wealth in this country is ill-gotten, in that it is usually amassed at someone else’s expense, whether the taxpayers’ or that of one’s workers.

As for the “old wealth” in the hands of the “old rich,” its source, it can similarly be argued, goes back to colonial days, when the color of one’s skin decided one’s access to land and other resources. The encomiendas after all were the progenitors of the crippling tenancy system that’s at the bottom of Philippine poverty.

As a consequence of the vast disparity in incomes in this country, poverty’s a perennial issue in Philippine politics, primarily in terms of how it can be ended. But because the poor among the voters are legion, politicians have also been pretending at poverty for decades.

The politician as “man of the masses,” like crocodiles and hyenas, has always been a standard exhibit in the political zoo, from Ramon Magsaysay to Joseph Estrada. The assumption is that identification with the poor would resonate enough among the majority to result in being elected to a coveted post.

No wonder the latest communiqué from the political front has the Liberal Party’s Congressman Neptali Gonzales II weighing in with some advice to Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas III.

Roxas, said Gonzales, should stop trying to impress the poor by pretending to be one of them; there’s nothing wrong, he said, with being rich.

Roxas has been having a hard time of it in the surveys, his low 13% popularity as a candidate for President having fallen to an even lower 6%. How to account for it? Gonzales says it’s precisely because he’s been trying the same tactic many politicians have used and are still using, and that’s doing things and talking like how they think poor people act and think.

Roxas’s latest stunt was to take a motorcycle to the town of Dolores, where typhoon Ruby made landfall on Dec. 5, presumably because many Filipinos go around in motorcycles. (Like many Filipinos in motorbikes, Roxas himself got into an accident, while not wearing the regulation helmet.)

Others have done the same thing -- that is, pretending to be poor while actually being rich. Then Senator Manuel Villar did it during the presidential campaign in 2010, while ousted President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has been doing it for years. The difference is that Villar was found out, while Estrada has so far evaded the same kind of pro-Aquino publicists’ attention that destroyed Villar’s chances in 2010.

Roxas himself has been trying the man of the masses routine since he entered politics, at one point marketing himself as “Mr. Palengke” in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of housewives and fishmongers. He was stopped in his tracks by Benigno Aquino III’s candidacy. Mr. Aquino’s presumed choice for 2016, Roxas’ approval and presidential preference numbers have been falling compared to those of Grace Poe, a neophyte in Philippine politics.

It’s not so much because he’s been trying to identify with the poor, but because that attempt, and whatever else he does, often comes off as insincere.

That motorcycle stunt, like his directing traffic in Tacloban last year, most people dismissed as one more attempt on his part to curry favor with the voters by getting some media mileage, rather than as a real effort to get to Dolores town as soon as possible so he can help (how could he have helped anyone by just getting there on time by himself, without the relief goods the typhoon victims needed?), or, in Tacloban, to impose some order in the impassable streets of the totally devastated city.

Roxas needs to review his marketing strategy. And speaking of the media, he and his advisers need to sit down to address one of his media problems. Its name is Korina.

But we do agree, though only partly, with Gonzales. There’s nothing wrong with being rich -- but only if it’s not at the expense of someone else. But there’s everything wrong with being poor, especially in a country where so much is in the hands of so few.


Luis V. Teodoro is the deputy director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

lvteodoro@up.edu.ph 

lteodoro2003@yahoo.com 

www.cmfr-phil.org 

Twitter: @luisteodoro


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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