Economy is Getting Better

To unexpected circumstances, the economy grew at 7.1 percent this Philippines third quarter, compared with 3.2 percent slack in 2011.

Reported by the National Statistics Coordination Board that economic growth is caused by the implemented ‘service sector’ like ‘robust performance’ of transport, storage and communication, financial intermediation, real estate, Renting and business activities and agriculture.

The palace of Malacañang is pleased to this news that beats economy on the other countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia which recorded a 6.2 percent said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Malaysia with only 5.2 percent, Vietnam with 4.7 percent, with 3 percent Thailand and Singapore with 0.3 percent.

“We were very pleased with the news that was relayed to us by NEDA director general Arsi (Arsenio) Balisacan and certainly it was beyond our expectations. We knew that it was going to be a good number,” said the presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda also assured of not only the entrepreneurs benefit from the growth of our GDP but also felt by ordinary people across the country.

In this regard, said the progressive legislators in the Lower House of Congress to hint that the Aquino government to the Filipino people of the country’s economic growth by providing employment and reducing poverty in the country.

Investors’ Attention – To The Philippines

A 24-year-old graduate in hotel and restaurant management left the Philippine capital for Singapore two months ago and now sends over half her monthly pay – about S$500 ($394) – back home. Eileen Alcala, cashier in the Upper Crust sandwich shop in Singapore, is one reason the Philippines is suddenly looking like a rare investment bright spot after years as one of Asia’s persistent workers. Numbers like these highlight steady growth in remittances from the Philippine dispersion – and help explain why, last week, Standard & Poor’s became the latest rating agency to upgrade the Philippines, to BB+. That is the country’s highest grade for nine years and one notch below investment grade.

The move reflected the Philippines’ strengthening external position, with remittances and an expanding service export sector continuing to drive current account surpluses”, S&P said.

Foreign reserves of $76bn as of May exceed the country’s external debt of $63bn. Inflation is below 3.5 percent and gross domestic product growth, driven by robust electronic exports, is forecast by the government at 5-6 percent this year.

At a time when many economies are struggling, the Philippines is among only 10 sovereigns in the world with positive outlooks, notes Barclays. Indeed, since January foreign investors have pumped $1.8bn into the market, according to Bloomberg, a 265 per cent increase on the same month a year ago. Investors are taking note. Philippine share prices are up a quarter since the start of the year, making Manila the world’s fourth-best performing equities market on expectations that the country will win investment-grade credit status by next year.

A “public-private partnership programme” launched six months ago to overcome infrastructure bottlenecks has not only attracted foreign interest but is boosting the shares of companies seen likely to benefit from government contracts, such as Ayala and Metro Pacific Investment. According to Prakriti Sofat, regional economist at Barclays in Singapore “the government is very focused on accelerating the PPP programme”. Laggards on the exchange have been companies with broader exposure to the economy, such as Philippine Airlines and Manila Electric. Still, constituents in the stock market index are trading on an average price/earnings multiple of 18 times. That compares with 20 times for the Jakarta index and 15.6 times for the Kuala Lumpur index.

Hans Sicat, chief executive of the Philippine Stock Exchange, predicts funds raised through company listings and secondary activity will hit 107bn pesos ($2.6bn) this year. Yet investors may be glossing over the risk that the two-year-old administration of president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino may take time to deliver.

“Investors are so bullish, they are forgiving many of the country’s structural sins,” says Luz Lorenzo, economist at Maybank ATR Kim Eng group.

The Aquino administration’s gains in lowering the budget deficit were achieved mainly through lower government spending, which fell as a proportion of GDP to 16 per cent last year, from 17.7 per cent in 2009.

Suppression on tax evasion has resulted in the filing of scores of complaints against suspected tax evaders. Yet, actual tax collection as a proportion of GDP has barely moved, up from 12.1 per cent in 2010 to 12.3 per cent last year, according to the central bank. The government’s tax take is being eroded by a series of exemptions approved by the former president but Mr Aquino does get credit for a planned new tax on cigarettes and liquor – so-called “sin taxes”. Rogier van den Brink, a World Bank economist, says: “They are closing the net on tax collection.”

Poor implementation has overwhelmed previous reform efforts, and analysts warn this is still an issue. “I remind [clients] how it went with power privatization. The law was passed in 2001 but the first assets were sold in 2004, and it was only in 2007 that the process really took off,” Ms Lorenzo said.

A rule forcing listed companies to have a minimum 10 per cent float by the end of this year has prompted a flurry of secondary market activity. That has spurred foreign participation, which accounts for 38 per cent of the market, says Mr Sicat. “What we’re seeing is a very strong local bid, which is helping improve confidence for anyone who is coming in from the outside.”

Investing has become easier after exchange trading hours were extended in January from a previous lunchtime close to 3.30pm.

Investment-Grade Rating Is Seen Getting By The Philippines In 2 years

According to DBS Group, The Philippines could achieve investment-grade credit rating within a year or two if reforms that have so far yielded positive results are kept up. The financial services provider issued the statement following last week’s move by Standard and Poor’s to raise the Philippines’ international debt rating to one notch below investment grade, mainly due to the government’s stronger financial position. “Notably, this puts the Philippines in the same rating as Indonesia,” DBS said in a new research note. “This does not come as a surprise as we have been highlighting that the Philippines has a significantly stronger fiscal and debt profile compared to just a few years ago,” it added.

Last month, the Bureau of Treasury reported a budget deficit of P22.8 billion in the five months to May, which was just one-fifth of the P109.34 billion that the government intends to spend on top of national budget for the first semester.

DBS notes that, in comparison, the average five-month deficit in the past five years was P67.3 billion. The Singapore-based group said that “The government still ran a primary surplus [the budget profile without interest expenses] amounting to P108 billion as of May.”

DBS said that with a gross domestic product growth of 6.4 percent year on year recorded in the first quarter, and “even after accounting for a slowdown in the second semester, the government’s growth target of 5 percent to 6 percent appears to be realistic.”

he group’s own forecast for full-year GDP growth is currently nailed at 5.3 percent—an upgrade from its previous forecast of 4.2 percent. Further, DBS maintains its expectations for the Philippines to post a current account surplus of $6.2 billion in 2012, down from $7.1 billion in 2011. The current account refers to the balance of the inflow and outflow of goods, services, and other funds such as income, donations and debt payments. It is a main component of a country’s balance of payment, which is a record of all monetary transactions between itself and the rest of the world.

“Remittances growth, although slowing, have proven to be resilient, while services exports (especially through business process outsourcing) have been expanding strongly,” DBS said. They also added that “an investment-grade rating within the next one to two years is a definite possibility if the reform pace is maintained.”

Singapore: The Merlion that Invaded Asia

By: Kathleen Yu

I admit, the first time I saw the Singaporean Merlion, my exact thoughts were, “What on earth is that?!?” It seemed a grotesque sort of animal, and looked a lot like a Pokemon. So much for a national emblem, huh? My mom brought me back a merlion key chain when she first came from Singapore, a shiny little thing that I stuck to the back of my backpack and broke less than a week later. I guess I wasn’t too impressed with the Merlion. It wasn’t even a real animal, after all. Just a weird hybrid of a fish-lion. According to the guidebook, some dude named Fraser Brunner had designed the merlion as an aquarium souvenir, and it ended up becoming the Singaporean national emblem. Imagine that. They must have been out of ideas.

But I guess that in a way, Singapore is a lot like the Merlion. From being a third-rate country, it rose to become one of the most progressive republics in Asia, all in less than ten years. (Thanks in part to an idol of mine, the venerable statesman Lee Kuan Yew) Just the thought of it makes me wonder, what can other developing nations such as the Philippines accomplish if they put their minds to it?

Singapore is like a city, and a country at the same time. It’s similar in size to the Vatican City, but everything around you is more than progressive–it’s ultra progressive. Even just chewing gum is enough to warrant an arrest for “destroying the overall cleanliness of the country”, so to speak.

Despite the fact that it’s a relatively small country, there’s plenty of sights to be seen in Singapore. You just have to know where to look…

Jurong Bird Park
The Jurong Bird Park is the largest bird park in the world. There’s all kinds of birds to be seen there, from those fluffy pink flamingos to the more common run-of-the-mill parrots. You won’t find those in the Philippines, that’s for sure. The exhibits are some of the most beautiful to be seen; there’s all kinds of color everywhere and it all looks pretty natural, like a real wildlife setting. There’s this African Waterfall Aviary that looks like something out of the Amazon Rain forest. It’s hard to imagine finding something like that in a bustling city like Singapore.

Night Safari
If you’re not much of a morning person (vampire, werewolf, or some other nocturnal creature), there’s always the night safari. I’d recommend not bringing a camera, since you’re not allowed to take pictures anyway. The lion is especially fierce, but I thought he seemed kind of cute, like Simba in the Lion King. Then there’s all those innocent looking deer-they’re pretty boring. I almost hoped the lion would come in and run after them, so there would be something interesting for a change. But the night safari was pretty cool, almost like those shows on National Geographic, where some vest-wearing wild life guide traverses the Savannah at night, in search of wild animals to capture on camera…except with the Night Safari, everything is in real time.

Old Singapore
If you’re a history buff and enjoy leafing through guidebooks of unimportant facts (since they don’t concern you any), then Old Singapore is the place for you. Everything in there is pretty old, which makes it “historically significant”. There’s even an old little India inside, if you’re interested in a different scene. There’s an old parliament, an old Hong Kong tea house, an old fire station, not to mention some really old people. If you’re into antiques, explore the place a bit. You never know what you might find in a place like Old Singapore.

Merlion Park
By far my favorite place in the whole of Singapore, and, yes, it’s only because of the giant Merlion in the middle of the park, spouting off water like a cute Pokemon. The place is like a tourist attraction in Singapore, probably because, well -duh- the Merlion is the most adorable, cute little thing…okay, maybe not that much. But it’s a pretty fine statue. And the park is a good place to walk around in, especially if you’re a nature-lover, or a Merlion-lover. Fact of the matter is, you can’t go wrong at Merlion Park. Growwwl.

Yes, I know it’s not a real tourist attraction-but you should try it. It’s really fun. You get to see all sorts of different places, and then get lost in the process. And when you’re finding your way back, there’s always a chance of meeting new, and interesting people. Just make sure you bring enough for the commute, so you won’t have to get off and walk the rest of the way.

Shopaholic or not, Singapore offers a wide array of shopping choices. They have at least ten malls in the place, all of them selling different kinds of merchandise. My mom, a well-known foodie, brought home a whole bunch of strange-looking Chinese food when she came back. Needless to say, we haven’t touched any of it. The food is probably rotting in a pantry somewhere.

To tell you the truth, Singapore is a very interesting place to explore. There’s so much to see, hear, smell, taste, touch…and to top it all, bring home to your friends and family! I’m thinking I might bring back a live Merlion one day, to live in our aquarium…if I can find one. The Merlion that invaded Asia, that’s definitely Singapore. And a formidable Merlion at that. So the next time you consider visiting an Asian country, think Singapore. It’s a totally worthwhile place to play tourist in. Promise. Cross my heart and hope to…ummm…see you in Singapore soon!

Remittances up 13% to $16b in 2008

Foreign exchange remittances from Filipino expatriates surged in 2008 despite the global economic crisis.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that remittances through banks and other official channels reached $16.43 billion last year, up 13.7 percent from $14.45 billion in 2007, when they grew 13.2 percent from the 2006 level.

The major sources of remittances in 2008 were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, UK, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In December, remittances scaled to $1.40 billion, compared with $1.30 billion in November and with $1.397 billion in December 2007. [Read full article...]

Ex-OFW Sarah Balabagan sings in fight vs abuse

Sentenced to death for killing an employer she accused of trying to rape her, 14-year-old Sarah Balabagan became the public face of poor Filipino migrant workers who regularly suffer abuses abroad.

That was 13 years ago. Her execution by firing squad in the Middle East commuted, she is now a budding singer and TV host who uses her songs and story as weapons against labor abuses.

“They should not be afraid to talk and to fight, that’s the message in my songs,” said Balabagan, who has recorded two CDs focusing on her campaign and newfound Christian faith.

She has sold several thousand copies, mostly to Filipino migrant workers during concert tours, where she preaches the lessons of her near-death ordeal. In October, she visited Malaysia and Singapore, frequent destinations for Filipino maids.

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