Friday, June 22, 2007

Philippines has become a normal country with the usual problems

Gone are the days when journalists do really exciting work here in the Philippines. In the 80s until the 90s, foreign wires, international magazines, CNN, BBC and major American newspapers like New York Times had huge presence here. Foreign journalists were happy because they had coup attempts, mass demonstrations, raging insurgency, Sparrow units (communist assasins), and our general helplessness to feast on. Even local broadcast and print reporters were strutting around like rock stars. Yes, like rock stars and many of them (Noli de Castro, Loren Legarda) became senators of the republic.

Not anymore. We no longer get much attention from global media anymore, unless a landslide that buried thousands has occurred. But even in that department, we have to compete for the world’s attention from the wildfires in California, the drought in Sydney, flooding in Indonesia, etcetera and we don’t always win. There are super typhoons occasionally it’s not an exclusive spectacle because these freaks of nature either go to Taiwan or Vietnam after devastating some areas in the Philippines.

The Philippines has become a boring country—and that’s good. Has anybody noticed the huge difference?

That’s because we have become a normal country with very normal problems (to borrow a line from the South Africans). And that’s great!

In the last 4-5 years, we have been growing 5-6 percent in terms of GDP. In the first quarter this year, we grew by 6.9 percent. These are decent growth figures. But the world has not noticed that because it’s a normal thing. The not-so-normal thing is either a miserable 3 percent or an extremely high figure of 7-11 percent being experienced by Vietnam, India and China. We have occasional bombings and kidnappings but the world no longer cares because there are bigger, bloodier, and nastier bombings in Iraq and occasionally India, Indonesia or Pakistan. We just had a funny mid-term election but it was not exciting enough compared to the continuing drama that followed the ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand.

Yeah, the Philippines has just too boring for the global media—and that’s good for the Philippines. Low inflation, strong peso, the rise of outsourcing and electronics, real estate boom, stable industry sector—ho hum!

And that’s great for all of us.


Resty Odon said...

haha. funny, but hopefully it's true.

cvj said...

I can't believe how much mileage that 6.9% (year on year) growth for the first quarter is getting. Didn't we do that before in the first and second quarter of 2004 with 7.15% and 7.10% respectively?

Dave Llorito said...

the 6.9 percent is the highest in the last 17 years. yeah, that kind of growth level is not enough to magically lift us out of poverty. but if you sustain that for ten years, that would really make a difference. that's how the tiger economies did it. china has been growing 10-11 percent in the last ten years, and it has lifted millions of chinese out of poverty but still the rural-urban divide is still great. but they have the momentum. and they will get there.

the point is, if a country really has to start addressing poverty, we should have higher growth rate and we should sustain it for years.

cvj said...

I don't disagree with what you said, but my concern is about the data. The 6.9% growth is not the highest we achieved in 17 years, since we had higher in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2004. This can clearly be seen from the NCSB statistics:
...or am i missing something?

Dave Llorito said...

the second quarter GDP growth rate in 2004 was 6.2 percent.

Dave Llorito said...

first quarter GDP growth rate in 2004 was 6.4 percent.

cvj said...

Thanks for the clarification. Those figures seem to be based on the original data as reported by the NSCB. However, the NSCB time series table contain different values for GDP for those quarters which i suppose are revisions that were made after the original publication of the data. Is it normal practice to still use the originally published data for comparison purposes even after these have been superseded by revised data?