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Feb 01

Neri being naughty!

Scuttlebutt update 4:51 PM:

Easing out of Executive Secretary Ermita moved forward to March but timeframe is still up to May. Ermita angling to be PAGCOR Chairman but remains to be seen if the President would risk easing out Genuino in exchange. More likely scenario is a face-saving but politically non-threatening ambassadorship for Ermita.

Winston Garcia said to be slated to be the next Chairman of the Commission on Audit.

The Speaker supposedly threatened a one-hour privilege speech that would get the President in hot water if he’s toppled from the Speakership. President backed off if JDV3 backs off; leaks about this apparently sourced from the Ermita and Bunye camps in the Palace. Congressmen (whether true or not or to drive up their market value) speaking of 1 billion Peso topple-the-Speaker fund at 2 million Pesos per congressman’s signature. But another view is that the President’s sons are just making noise about continuing the toppling efforts to save face.

The President is said to have to intimated that the time has come to put in place the system that ought to have been instituted in the Marcos years: a French style parliamentary system.

***

A likely story! I’m not hiding, says Neri who turns 58 on Friday. Of course the law-and-order types are silent in the face of Neri’s dodging a lawful warrant of arrest.

Other news: ) Corruption concerns block more US aid to Philippines. The transcript of the press briefing is available online at the US Department of Sate website. Here are the relevant portions on the Philippines:

QUESTION: My name is Jennie Ilustre from Malaya, Philippines Daily. My question is — I was reading this report — the Philippines is still under a threshold program.

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there any good news when it will qualify?

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: We have an excellent threshold program with the Philippines. As you know, it’s a $20 million program. Frankly, it’s all the more robust because the Philippine Government upon receiving the $20 million of our MCC threshold activity, pledged and participated with an equal amount of money — $20 million — to support this program. It’s working well. It’s been successful. It’s going forward. We want to see further results. We’re continuing to look at the Philippines as a positive example of cooperation with the MCC.

I had the pleasure of meeting with President Arroyo and her cabinet in New York in September to discuss the ongoing —

QUESTION: What year, sir?

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: This — 2007.

QUESTION: Okay.

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: At the United Nations General Assembly when she was there for those meetings. We met for about half an hour and discussed the MCC threshold program and the continuing efforts of her government to perform well on the indicators. We will be meeting the delegation from the Philippine Government next week here in Washington. I believe it’s Mr. Teves who is coming, who we’re going to be meeting with. He and his team and the MCC team will meet together to discuss further continuation of the program. And we hope eventually that the compact eligibility will continue and that they will be rewarded a compact in due course.

QUESTION: Who will be on the U.S. side when you meet?

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: It will be our MCC team here in Washington.

Thank you. Yes.

And-

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Ambassador. Bing Branigan from Manila Mail newspaper. When exactly next week Philippine Finance Secretary Teves is coming?

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Secretary Teves — I think the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

QUESTION: Tuesday.

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Yeah. I’m not sure about that but I think it’s Tuesday.

QUESTION: What’s keeping the Philippines from getting the – into the full MCC — what’s the requirements they have not passed yet.

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Sure. We discussed this with President Arroyo and with her ministers when we were together in New York in September. And although the Philippines technically is eligible for a compact, there has been in the last assessment, indicator assessment some serious declines with regards to corruption and some other matters with their performance on the indicators. This causes us some concern because the drop in performance in fact was very dramatic. And we want to understand more clearly why that dramatic drop has occurred, understand what circumstances caused that to happen, so we can have some clarity as to whether or not this precipitous drop is going to continue or if there was some indicator irregularity or if there are further strong reforms which the Philippine Government needs to take in this regard to make sure that at the next period of assessment this summer, the indicator shows an upward trend. The drop was from the 70th percentile down to the 50th percentile. I think the figure – don’t hold me on this, but it was something like a drop from 76 down to 54 or something of that nature. So it was fairly significant. Even though they were still above the median. So that is, in fact, the very reason for the meetings next week. We’re going to discuss this and see. We are going forward. We’re continuing our dialogue. We’re open to discussion with the Philippines.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, (inaudible) corruption (inaudible) is this part of it?

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Well, part of it to the extent that, yes, it’s part of the democratic and – political and democratic assessments that we do in our country – do with our countries.

QUESTION: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR DANILOVICH: Yeah. Thank you.

Yesterday, the buzz in political circles mainly concerned whether the Speaker of the House would still be Jose de Venecia, Jr. by Monday or not. Basically, the President’s husband from overseas, and his two sons as the rallying symbols of the faithful, were relentless in pursuing the destruction of the Speaker: Kampi, Arroyo sons vote to oust De Venecia. Each new news item, for example 134 sign ‘no confidence’ paper vs Speaker–Villafuerte– would create a spike in the chatter. The message was, JDV urged to step down to save face but of course, Bluffing on numbers is House game. Everyone got in on the act: De Venecia-Nograles showdown inevitable–NPC. In the end, it became a question of who could shout they had the Mandate of Heaven: De Venecia: ‘I have Arroyo’s all-out support’.

Scuttlebutt was that the Palace’s preferred “win-win” solution was to appoint de Venecia ambassador to Washington this weekend, which would remove the need for a potentially messy showdown in the House. The problem with that proposal was that it was too insulting to be accepted by de Venecia -from No. 4 in the national hierarchy to a mere presidential appointee?- and would have put Lakas-CMD in too obviously a subordinate position vis-a-vis Kampi much too soon. In the end, the President apparently told her sons to back off on condition the Speaker did the same thing with his son: De Venecia buys time: Son’s silence for Arroyo support.

Also yesterday, during the investiture ceremony for Adel Abbas Tamano as President of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, I had the opportunity to talk to Liling Briones, former Treasurer of the Philippines. She said that the unwritten story (picked up, as far as I can see, only by the Business Mirror where she writes a column) is how Congress has spent two years coming to grips with the budget process and allowing greater participation by the citizenry in its formulation. She said that Rep. Edcel Lagman in the House and Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano went above and beyond the call of duty in bringing the public into the budgeting process. After last year’s efforts to bring legislators and the public together foundered, for the present budget, members of the public got their act together as early as May, when the first call for submissions came. In that manner, they were in synch with the legislators who discovered that the public was willing to follow their process, and had done their homework.

The 1.2 trillion stated by the President remained the grand total for the budget, but members of Congress were able to realign different appropriations under the framework of the millenium development goals: for example spending on public health was increased by something like 50%. The problem now is that the President has taken a dim view when it comes to some of these realignments and has apparently threatened a veto. She also argued that the power of the president to veto is a limited one, subject to stringent criteria, but personally I tend to disagree with that assertion, in the past, anyway, presidential vetoes have been based on constitutionality and legality questions but also in the basis of presidential policy. For more on this point, see Budget ‘warriors’ warn against veto.

A further complication is the proposed stimulus package.

I asked for her views on the proposed stimulus package. She replied that the institutional stimulus package is the national budget and for that reason, she opposed a special stimulus package. A national budget mandates spending, she said, and not only that, because it specifies what is to be spent where, it assists transparency in the spending of public monies. In contrast a stimulus package still has to be debated and then won’t be channeled with as much oversight as takes place with the budget: apparently, for example, the various government departments would have to craft the systems to track such spending if approved, unlike the budget.

She also pointed out that the stimulus package and the national budget will be competing for the same resources: the government assets to be sold to fund the stimulus package, she said, are those already identified as the sources to fund the government budget. This seems to have been addressed: Stimulus plan sourced from 2008 budget.

Also, she said greater public scrutiny is required, whether of existing budgetary items or proposed stimulus programs. A case in point is the proposed 6 billion peso feeding program for school kids. She said that government policy at present is hand sacks of rice to kids, which leads to a whole set of problems: kids staggering home with big sacks of rice, or kids being told they’re receiving 5 kilos, say, but actually being sent home with less, and then of families that sell the rice gift or who then divvy it up among elder members so the kids don’t benefit from the rice. An entirely different situation is that there are appropriations for feeding school kids, but the rice is handed out during the summertime, when the kids and the teacher’s aren’t in school! The point being that enough research and practical experience exists, she says, to prove that effective feeding programs for kids involve feeding kids in school, during class hours.

Concerning Gov’t bares 7.3% 2007 GDP growth With robust 7.4% recorded in fourth quarter: Gov’t bares 7.3% 2007 GDP growth, strongest since 1976, a minor caveat.

Gdpchart
You will see on the chart above, which comes from a presentation of Dr. Michael Alba, that the line showing the country’s GDP is broken at one point. I asked him what that meant. He said, it represents a change made in the manner GDP is computed, which makes all previous data and all subsequent data not precisely comparable to each other.

In the blogosphere, the NYT blog The Caucus liveblogs the Democratic debate.

Writer’s Block compares the Philippines to Czarist Russia.

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169 comments

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  1. UP n student

    And if you think that’s funny, 😉 things can get really hilarious when a monkey talks with a monkey using the language of elephants because they want to compete over a goat. 🙄

  2. nash

    @UP n,

    these aren’t technically investors are they? 😀 They are creditors. or if you want a euphemism “philanthropist banks” 😀

    what i want to know, just to satiate my curiosity, is for justice scalia to illuminate me about companies, that are not money marketeers, that make direct investments by looking at the GDP to make decisions.

    cheers

  3. Silent Waters

    I think there seems to be some misconception about what people are saying about GDP/GNP figures. I do believe that investors will initially look at these figures as a sort of filter to weed out the countries they don’t even want to consider as in investment site. It is after this weeding out that they look at other metrics to further refine their elimination process.

    So each side is actually correct. Scalia is saying that investors look at the GNP/GDP as an initial basis and the others are right in saying that they do look at other factors in making their decisions. 😉

  4. TonGuE-tWisTeD

    Investors will no longer look at the story behind the figures, just at the figures themselves.

    Whatever happened to “extreme due diligence”? Now we know why America is in recession. We’ve explained in one thread what Wall Street cannot, in the past weeks. Amazing, how brilliant we Filipinos are!

  5. anthony scalia

    nash,

    “Because I can say that the Electronics and Semiconductor industry doesn’t. When Texas Instruments decided to put up a new plant in Clark, they did not go about comparing the GDPs of Vietnam, Pelepens, and China…”

    Its because a good number of them are already here for decades!

    As for Texas Instruments, the latest billion dollar investment was for expansion, not a first time investment. The guys at TI already have a feel of the investment climate here, that they’re no longer swayed by the usual gloom and doom news from the opposition and those itching to migrate to first world countries

  6. anthony scalia

    nash,

    “(Pero wishful thinking lang yan. We all know is not possible dahil basta pinoy, sweet lover)”

    oks lang ang mag-wish

  7. cvj

    An example of Scalia-type investors.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ_qK4g6ntM

  8. anthony scalia

    cvj,

    wow, your ‘lechon-manok’ comments sure speak volumes:

    1. the great cvj, concluding that lechon-manok businessmen are basing their investing decisions on GDP/GNP! oh my! what a way to make a conclusion!? oh but thats part of freedom of expression, kaya i must let you say that.

    2. it shows a disdain for a majority of Pinoys, who for the moment, can only afford to start one ‘lechon manok’ stand or a cart or other similar modest businesses

    3. its just for starters, just to get the ball rolling

    4. one profitable stand/cart can increase to 5, 10, 15 profitable stands/carts – sufficient not to be an OFW in Singapore or elsewhere anymore

    5. and so what if my acquaintances are ‘lechon-manok businessmen’? They are the business owners, the job creators. They had the guts to put up hard-earned money for investment and cast their lot here, and not go for the easy way out of migrating to first world countries or be an OFW.

    in case you haven’t noticed yet, you are the elitist!

  9. anthony scalia

    UP n student,

    great observation.

    But im using GDP in one sense, then here comes another using another metric for an obviously different area.

    I never ever said that the 7.3 makes the country poverty-free, or an economic tiger, or all OFWS can go back home already

    In short, in the discussion i started, I am not using GDP as basis in measuring general welfare! As you said, im using it to gauge economic activity! And since investors the world over, rightly or wrongly, use GDP in making investment decisions, we have no choice but to use also GDP in wooing them to invest here.

    Jobs are highly dependent on economic activities. Since job creation is one of the highest priorities, anything that stimulates much economic activities must be encouraged. And how do we measure if job creation efforts are bearing fruit – GDP. (There could be others) To repeat, im not talking about equity, welfare.

    It must be stressed that the inventor of GDP said that it cannot adequately measure a nation’s WELFARE (sorry i don’t know how to make a word in italics)

    Thats why i mentioned mb’s use of ‘Hello Garci’ lens – he, and the rest of the anti-gloria school, undermines the GDP figure as a way to discredit gloria. Because the 7.3 is a huge ‘pa-pogi points’ for gloria.

    They don’t know that they are dragging the country down in their overzeal to attack gloria.

    Ill state it for the record – i dont give gloria credit for the 7.3. Kung baga sa golf, par lang yang 7.3. Trabaho nya yan.

    Parang yung sinabi ni Tita Cory in 1997 or 1998 in an anti-cha cha rally to FVR – “you said you improved the economy (because FVR was insinuating that he’s entitled to an extension due to his ‘good performance’). Fine. You’re just doing your job”

  10. anthony scalia

    UP n student,

    I don’t pretend to know how GDP and other similar measurements should be computed. So ill better ask you na lang some questions:

    1. GDP can mean thousands of previously jobless people are getting employed, right? hence, even though family income may not increase, the fact that households with incomes have increased (due to rise in employment) is an improvement in itself.

    2. i still can’t fathom the reason for devaluing the peso – the guys at UPSE say it will attract more foreign investments as foreign investors can stretch their dollars here.

    i’ve been hearing that argument since the peso was still P23 to the US dollar. The peso has gone up to 55 then down to 40-41. Yet im still hearing that familiar refrain today.

  11. anthony scalia

    Tongue-Twisted,

    “Whatever happened to “extreme due diligence”? Now we know why America is in recession. We’ve explained in one thread what Wall Street cannot, in the past weeks. Amazing, how brilliant we Filipinos are!”

    the objects of ‘extreme due diligence’ are all in the US. judging from the subprime mess in the US, its either ‘extreme due diligence’ wasn’t done or ‘extreme due diligence’ wasn’t good enough. It can also mean that ‘extreme due diligence’ cannot predict the future.

    when i talk about investors using GDP, im talking about the making of foreign direct investments (FDI) not ‘hot money’ (investments in stocks, IOUs etc)

    What is primarily affected by the crisis in the US is our stock market, as ‘hot money’ had to monetize their gains here to compensate for losses in the US.

    (sorry but whats the thread you mentioned about Wall Street cannot…)

  12. cvj

    anthony, you’re the one who said that your businessmen friends “no longer look at the story behind the figures, just at the figures themselves“. That’s treating GDP as another form of superstition. As to my [lucky guess] that your acquaintances are lechon-manok businessmen, i did not make any normative judgment as to their livelihoods one way or the other. You just read too much into my comment, perhaps reflecting your own latent attitudes.

  13. anthony scalia

    cvj,

    FDIs, not ‘hot money’.

    FDIs produce the jobs. ‘Hot money’ just enriches the owners of PSE members.

    For all you know, Temasek could be holders of those glorified IOUs in the US subprime mess

  14. inodoro ni emilie

    And how do we measure if job creation efforts are bearing fruit – GDP.

    the downside to this is when the gdp begins to heat up, the foreign investors will be the first to pack up as labour cost is perceived to rise also in temperature.

    we shouldn’t be overly reliant on foreign investments but rather on the sustainability of our own productive activities, providinf us with greater incentives to compete on our own merits globally.

  15. anthony scalia

    cvj,

    here’s what i said:

    “Investors will no longer look at the story behind the figures, just at the figures themselves”

    did i limit ‘investors’ to ‘lechon-manok businessmen?’

    And my mention of ‘businessmen friends’ is on showing increased business activity, which include some people investing in modest businesses such as lechon manok and food carts.

    yes, thats the reality – that many people are still basing investment decisions on GDP/GNP. superstition or not, right or wrong, many people still cling to GDP figures.

    since you’re no longer bound by ‘superstition’ lets see you convince investors such as Temasek to put a billion dollars in FDI here without looking at GDP figures, and persuade them that GDP isn’t a good measurement of the investment climate here. best wishes. if you’re able to do so, you’ve proven your point, i salute you (you might as well do the same to other deep-pocketed investors)

    maybe you’ve met a Pinoy lechon-manok businessman who told you he’s dependent on GDP figures in making decisions. such sophisticated businessman!

    my goodness, can’t you make the distinction? I am not saying that GDP is a great measurement, but i have to put myself in the shoes of those investors who do!

    “i did not make any normative judgment as to their livelihoods one way or the other.”

    ah no sir, you just did. why single out ‘lechon-manok businessmen’?

    “You just read too much into my comment,”

    wrong again sir. the text of your comment is plain and simple and readily understood, no need to construe it. again, why use ‘lechon-manok businessmen’?

    why do you have to say i associate with ‘lechon-manok businessmen’ and other businessmen in similar modest businesses? so what!? do you have their same guts to invest hard-earned money here?

    and you’re the one who read too much into my use of ‘investor’ in my comment “Investors will no longer look at the story behind the figures, just at the figures themselves”

    “…perhaps reflecting your own latent attitudes.”

    in a manner of speaking, yes its a reflection of my own latent attitude –

    – in appreciating the capacity of the Filipino to uplift himself without migrating to a first world country or becoming an OFW

    – in appreciating any legal and modest means of livelihood

    – in appreciating the fact that the Filipino has finally realized that ‘patalsikin na now na’ does not create jobs

    Well what you wrote just shows you just let a lot of Singapore in you already

  16. cvj

    Anthony, lechon manok happens to be one of the things i miss here in Singapore so i only have the highest regard for those who sell it. You can tell them to keep up the good work.

  17. anthony scalia

    cvj,

    makakarating!

  18. nash

    o siya, may bagong post, lipat tayo doon at ng tuloy-tuloy ang ating prayer meeting and sharing…

  19. hawaiianguy

    Nash, hindi pa tapos si Neri, the naughty guy. Si Garfield, ayos na.

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