Since some readers follow the market and are knowledgeable about it, here’s a bit of scuttlebutt to make sense of which whichever way you will:
Meralco share prices are in play. Started last week. They will try to push it to mid 80s range before unloading.
Who, exactly, wants to unload, is a mystery, but whoever they are seem to be in “loading mode.”
Anyway, let’s see how this turns out.
The President rushed off to Washington, trumpeting her invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast, where she failed to get as much as a photo opportunity with the new American president. The problem was that the Palace itsel was trying to hype-up the President’s Washington visit.
Eventually, the President tried to make the most of a perfunctory, courtesy conference at the State Department, which was remarkable for Hillary Clinton’s focus on domestic politics.
There was an effort to hype-up the visit as resulting in a commitment for Clinton’s visiting Manila but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
The best picture of where the administration’s at, however, might actually be this one:
In power, but going around in circles.
An administration in perpetual survival mode actually surviving, but reduced to going through the motions of governance without actually resolving anything. Meanwhile, everyone is a little more tired, a little more cynical, a little more out of ideas, and running out of options. The President has taken to trying to sound oracular:
“When we were abroad we were hearing strange, huge numbers that just depress the people, but really are very far from what the situation really is,” said Arroyo, who returned Sunday from a weeklong swing through Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United States.
Things ain’t so bad? For whom?
Her foes have been kept at bay, but there is little triumph in survival, and endurance only serves to prop up more speculation that her luck is finally running out. Which is more likely than not, wishful thinking. But still…
The administration has managed to consolidate its power to the extent that when things go wrong, it has no one to blame for its problems but itself. It has to keep several balls up in the air; this takes energy, and attention; it also makes for frayed nerves. It’s quite a juggling act, but the longer it’s kept up, the more that everyone expects one of the balls to fall.
That is highly ironic reward for political longevity.
Take two examples.
The first is a gut issue: fuel and food.
Recently, Uniffors blogged about hearings on the LPG supply problem:
So who or what is behind the shortage?
Arnel TY, president of LPG Marketers Association, said the problem started last December when the Big Three- Shell, Chevron, and Petron- started buying LPG from Liquigaz instead of relying on their own supplies.
The Big Three said they were caught flatfooted by the sudden increase in demand.
Didn’t they have any projections?
Well, they said it was difficult to make an accurate prediction because the independent refillers and dealers buy on the spot market.
Petron said, “We are continually selling to allied refillers; They are assured of their regular volume because they follow the rules of the industry. But the demand of independent refillers is hard to project.”
In other words, there would be no shortage if everyone signed up with the Big Three. That’s the golden rule. They wish.
And so what Ty said with regards to hoarding – that it was easier for the Big Three to connive to withhold LPG from the market, to control the supply as it were, than it is for thousands of independent refillers and dealers to do so – makes sense.
And Reyes is blaming the independents, accusing them of hoarding.
In her blog, Marichu Lambino points out that the best that Angelo Reyes can do is to keep reiterating his desire for a departmental army, for emergency powers:
What the Energy Secretary probably meant when he asked for police power is what most people think of when they refer to what police officers do when they make arrests, searches, seizures. That’s not police power. It’s called law enforcement. You don’t need more legislative enactment for that, all the references you need are the Rules of Court and criminal statutes.
The Energy Secretary can on conditions of a valid search, conduct raids of all LPG dealers or the oil cartel in order to arrest the artificial shortage, he can strike fear in the hearts of the greedy and the hoarders in order to avert a full-blown crisis. All he has to do is ask his lawyers how to go about it (i will not give the procedure here); he has to do it as a campaign, not piecemeal; he has to have all the legal bases covered; he has to be swift and discreet.
It’s called: Doing your job. But in this government, no one is doing their job, no one is enforcing the laws, it’s a field day for crooks, fixers, the greedy and the incompetent.
Besides the ongoing problem of the LPG shortage, people are reporting that the price of NFA rice has started to go up again (with stocks apparently fairly healthy; so officialdom now has to look busy: see Agri chief inspects prices of rice at Pasig public market).
The second is the problem of everyone having to tighten their belts while more and more of officialdom gets caught with their snouts in the trough. Yesterday, the Inquirer editorial, Exposed, examined the ambiguous feelings of the public, when it comes to whistleblowers and their revelations -and what ends might truly be served by their exposes. This ambiguity -or unwillingness to take risks- served the purposes of the administration and helped foil the ambitions of its enemies. But having been so thoroughly and consistently whipped, the administration still keeps getting into hot water, and it’s running out of conspiracy theories with which to deflect serious scrutiny.
And what seems to be the growing ability of the public to separate posturing from real action. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who is of course casting a moist eye on re-election in 2010, has taken to appearing so hot-headed as to be an “unreliable” ally for the President.
But is she? Every time she throws a fit, the story centers on her, and whatever peppery thing she has to say; but it detracts from connecting the dots (to the foot-dragging of the Ombudsman, for example) and relentlessly focusing on what the Senate has shown and which the House tried to whitewash -that allegations of conspiring contractors won’t go away and leads pretty high up, indeed.
Add to this the ongoing mess involving the failure of rural banks, a connected pre-need company, and the sort of cozy collusion that had congressmen trying to exonerate contractors put on the hot seat by the World Bank.
You can see where this is all going: officialdom going around in circles, tripping itself up as everyone gets exposed as being hand-in-glove with other racketeers.
As more discouraging news appears (see Motorola lays off workers in the Philippines), news like this –Outsourcing Gets Crimped by Recession: Discretionary IT projects are getting the ax as companies review costs, hurting sales and growth for outsourcing providers– compounds the sense of doom and gloom -and of being adrift.
Here at home, I have to agree with Bong Austero’s view that there seems to be too much self-defeating doom and gloom while not enough focus is being made on what opportunities have arisen or what, really, the big picture is, concerning jobs:
The People Management Association of the Philippines conducted a study in the second and third week of January to get a quick pulse of the employment situation in the country. PMAP is the national association of human resource managers – the people in charge of hiring and firing. The sample of the study was limited, with only 177 companies participating, but it was statistically valid. The study pointed out that – although information from member companies in the electronic and export sectors confirm news reports of heavy layoffs, the survey showed that for the companies represented in the survey, layoffs are limited to 10 percent of respondents. In short, the layoffs and downsizing do not comprise a general trend.
In fact, 60 percent of the respondents of the study revealed that their companies may increase headcount this year. Of this, 43 percent said the increase in manpower would be due to growth in business while 39 percent said it would be due to more aggressive business strategies. Unfortunately, the dark cloud cast by our prophets of doom seemed to have spooked most business organizations. Actual hiring is being done cautiously, with 48 percent of total respondents saying they are only doing replacement hiring for critical positions and a further 10 percent freezing hiring for regular positions.
According to the study, the most optimistic sector seems to be business process outsourcing, with 10 of the 13 company respondents saying they may increase headcount in 2009 due to business expansion. However, four companies out of the 13 respondents say they are also only hiring for critical positions at present. A proportionally bigger number of outsourcing companies among the respondents are also giving lower salary increases this year, compared to 2008 (6 out of the 13).
Fifty-two percent of respondents say projected salary increases for this year is 6-10 percent. This proportion of respondents is lower than the 64 percent last year who reported giving actual increases of 6-10 percent. About 30 percent say that they are currently giving lower salary rate increases to respond to more difficult times. Employees in about 25 percent of respondent companies in manufacturing, 30 percent in outsourcing and 17 percent in services are also not being asked to render overtime work. Less than 10 percent of respondent companies (8 percent in manufacturing and 6 percent in services) have resorted to shortened work hours.
To sum up, there a number of companies directly affected by the global recession but this is a minority – more of an exception at this point rather than the trend. Second, majority of business organizations in this country are on an expansion mode due to business growth and aggressive business strategies. However, and this is the sad thing, most companies are being cautious and are deliberately holding off their expansion programs and consequently, their hiring programs, thanks to the prophets of doom in this country.
But then, what is the official response? Something that can be boiled down into a slogan: “Let us intensify overseas deployment!”
Take a look at this lavish two full-page ad spread, in today’s newspaper, courtesy of the Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Besides the doom and gloom Austero objects to:
There ought to be some sort way to keep government ads from being exercises in amateurishness. Including official sloganeering:
“Filipinos are the Wonder Workers of the World (Wow-Wows)” says Secretary Tito Boboy Syjuco.
Blogger Smoke does a fine job shredding this ad.
TESDA is, ideally, a very important government agency; in visionary hands, it could help jump-start competitiveness and be a force for social mobility.
But instead, it’s turning into a patronage vehicle for “titoboboy.com.ph” and whatever campaign he has in mind for 2010.
But then TESDA isn’t alone in merely politicking instead of problem-solving; or put another way, the only problem it’s trying to fix is whether or not Syjuco can win election in 2010.
I do believe that we’re pretty much adrift, because our whole system of keeping track of economic activity in any but the haziest of ways, has broken down. So everyone’s a blind man describing the elephant. The merry-go-round whirs around, but it’s all a blur.
Observers on the outside, though, seem to think it’s all lunacy.
Nick Nichols (who recently penned a fascinating look at the potential pros and cons of electricity generation policies in the Visayas) pointed out this graph: