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Save the economy

Our economic managers had done a fairly good job until the pandemic struck. Although economic reforms towards improving the business climate and attracting foreign capital have been few and far between, they nonetheless managed to eke-out GDP growth of 6.4%, on average, in the last four years. Inflation was tamed, debt levels were controlled and poverty rates were declining.

Government’s digital migration

I recently met Andrés Ortola, the general manager of Microsoft Philippines. Over lunch, we spoke about how he is adjusting to life in the country and his plans for Microsoft. The Philippines is an important market for the software giant given the size of our population and the country’s rapid pace of economic development. Although Microsoft Philippines has an annual turnover that is slightly lower than its Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts, the prospects for growth are higher here given the wave of digital migrations that is underway in government.

Why investors prefer Vietnam over the Philippines

Something that Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and lately, Vietnam, have in common is that they all adopted the tried and proven Asian formula for economic development. Each pursued rapid industrialization by attracting foreign capital, by building their manufacturing competencies, and by exporting their way to prosperity. Within a generation, these countries have become high or upper-middle income economies.

Where did the Philippines go wrong? What did Vietnam do right?

Last month, the International Monetary Fund announced that Vietnam will surpass the Philippines in terms of per capita income by the end of this year. This comes on the back of Vietnam’s decisive anti-virus response which significantly insulated it from the pandemic’s economic blowback. Vietnam’s economy is poised to grow by 3% in 2020 while the Philippine economy will likely contract by a massive 9%.

On health and physicality

Like many professionals, the seven months in quarantine pushed me to reassess my values. I realized that the accumulation of wealth and the consolidation of power does not define success — neither does recognition nor fame. In the end, it is our relationships, our health, and our wellbeing that matters. I realize that this may read like a cliché, but it does not make it less true.

Lessons learned in innovation and intrapreneurship

Businesses were so complacent in the pre-COVID days that innovation was something done only when absolutely necessary. Most companies resisted innovation as it usually entailed large investments and required management to step out of their comfort zones. Innovation is always expensive and hard.

Political maneuvering threatens NAIA’s rehabilitation

Anyone who has recently landed or departed from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) will attest that it is both an architectural and operational triumph. MCIA represents redemption for the Philippines after having had the infamy of operating the worst airport in the world in previous years.

Good news in the fight against red tape

Red tape and over-regulation have been the perennial problems in doing business in the Philippines. For local businesses, it is a source of stress and an unnecessary obstacle that erodes productivity. For foreign investors, it is reason enough for them to invest in Singapore and Malaysia rather than the Philippines. So severe is our red tape that for the year 2019 (evaluation period 2018), the World Bank ranked the Philippines 124th out of 190 countries in terms of ease in doing business. Within ASEAN, the Philippines was only better than Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos.

The timing is perfect for a free trade agreement with Canada

In August 2016, the economic ministers of Canada and the ASEAN agreed to co-sponsor a study to determine the economic outcomes should an ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Area (FTA) be put into effect.

Trends in the e-commerce marketplace

As I write this, thousands of companies are under pressure to re-invent their businesses to adapt to the new normal. Products must be re-engineered to better suit home consumption, distribution channels must shift to direct deliveries, and brick and mortar retail outlets must morph into online stores. All these must be done in a matter of months or for as long as cash  runways lasts.

Understanding post-COVID consumer trends

In the pre-COVID world, eating out, shopping, and weekend getaways generally characterized the way of life of middle to upper income Filipinos. For the affluent few, investments in cars, art, and properties were par for the course.

The economic impact of the pandemic, in numbers

All around us, businesses are closing, millions are losing their jobs, and for the first time in decades, swaths of our population are entering poverty, not escaping it. The Wuhan virus has caused havoc to our economy and around the world. But how bad is the situation exactly? Through numbers, this piece describes the severity of the situation here and abroad.

Stories of Filipino frontliners in the US

Cecilia Yap-Banago was a registered nurse at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City. The 69-year-old mother migrated to the United States in 1970 and dedicated her life serving as a healthcare professional.

Seizing business opportunities during crisis

The pandemic is not exclusively a story of business failures. Many companies are doing exceedingly well during this period of crisis. Those whose businesses relate to sanitary products, healthcare products, drugstores, supermarkets, and e-commerce continue to enjoy unprecedented profits despite the economic downturn. Some enterprises are hardly affected. Those engaged in manufacturing, importation and trading as well producers of basic food products remain stable. For them, it is business as usual.

A tribute to Filipino frontliners in the US

President Duterte may be enamored by China and may make overtures towards Russia, but there is no denying, the trust and confidence of the Filipino people belong to the United States. This was validated in a recent survey conducted by the Social Weather Station which showed that Filipinos’ trust quotient towards China was at an abysmal -33 points while the US enjoyed a +72 point rating.

The way forward to recover and rebuild

With infection rates growing by a multiple of 2.2 times a month, it’s safe to say that our battle with the Wuhan virus will be long and painful. Its economic impact has so far been disastrous. With second quarter economic contraction plunging to an all time low of 16.5%, think-tanks agree that the economy will contract by at least 8% this year and joblessness will rise to 9 million.

The state of e-commerce in the Philippines

The Philippines has a consumer-driven economy where 72% of economic output is attributed to private consumption. For decades, Filipino entrepreneurs have benefitted from brick and mortar stores. But all that changed when the Wuhan virus struck. Overnight, bustling restaurants, crowded malls and busy stores were empty. Retailers today only realize 15% of their pre-COVID sales, on average.

The full economic impact of the virus

The full economic impact of the Wuhan pandemic is still unravelling. As we go from month to month, we are discovering that the ramifications are worse than we thought.

Is the Philippines getting its share of FDIs from China?

In the early days of the ECQ, the Department of Finance (DoF) announced that the economy could still eke out growth of .08%. A month later, it adjusted its forecast and predicted a contraction of -3.4. Last week, Moody’s Analytics said that the economy will likely contract more acutely at -4.5%. Meanwhile, 7.6 million Filipinos are now unemployed, five million more than in the beginning of the year. All these are happening amid the backdrop of a budget deficit which could reach 8.5% of GDP.

The winners and losers of working from home

Had it not been for the work from home (WFH) arrangement, government’s quarantine measures would not have been sustainable. Corporations and citizens would have insisted on going back to work to survive — and this would have caused a spike in infection rates. Without WFH, the economy would have collapsed in a matter of months. Thus, it could be said that the WFH arrangement saved the economy while acting as an important tool in combating the Wuhan virus.

What now for Philippine tourism?

The tourism industry is among the strong drivers of the economy. Before the onset of the Wuhan virus, tourism accounted for 12.7% of gross national product (GDP) or roughly $46.5 million worth of goods and services. Its hefty contribution to the economy was achieved on the back of 8.2 million foreign visitors and more than 120 million domestic travelers.

Entitled politicians are saboteurs

I was happy and rather optimistic when the Department of Transportation (DoTr) announced that it had rationalized bus routes and would establish dedicated bus lanes along the interior of EDSA.

Why the IATF’s strategy did more harm than good

British banking giant HSBC recently published its forecast for the Philippine economy and the outlook is bleak. After clocking-in a 0.2% contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, the bank forecasts a deep contraction of 7% in the second quarter, another contraction of 4.3% in the third quarter, and yet another shrinkage of 3.9% for the fourth quarter. This will bring the full year contraction rate to 3.85%. The last time the Philippines posted negative growth was in 1998.

The pandemic’s silver lining

Despite the damaging effects of the Wuhan virus on public health, the economy and private enterprises, it does come with a silver lining.

An appeal to Congress to pass CREATE

Thirty one leading business groups including the prestigious Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), GoNegosyo, and the Chambers of Commerce from the Americas and Europe recently signed a manifesto expressing their support for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act or the CREATE Law.

A republic made stronger by crisis

The prognosis for the economy is becoming progressively worse. Last month, our economic managers were hopeful that 2020’s gross domestic product (GDP) would expand by 2.5% on the premise that we are able to catch up on the second semester. Two weeks ago, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) adjusted its forecast, saying that the economy could no longer post positive growth and that we are now looking at a contraction of 2% to 3.4%.

The changing face of retail

THE RETAIL TRADE is among the hardest hit industries in this COVID crisis. The bloodbath has cut across all sectors -- from clothing to food, appliances to motor vehicles, electronics to gasoline. No sector is spared except for those relating to health, sanitation, and wellness.

A time to reboot the economy

Despite our fervent hopes for gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the four to five percent range, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) announced last Thursday that it actually contracted by 0.02% in the first quarter. This was due to the combined effects of Taal Volcano’s eruption in January, the tourist travel ban in February, and the enforcement of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March. This is the first time the economy contracted in 22 years.

We will survive

Last Wednesday, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez announced a $29.4-billion stimulus package to fight the negative effects of the coronavirus on the economy.

What constitutes ‘the new normal’?

Everyone is talking about “the new normal.” But what exactly is the new normal?

Breaking the vicious cycle of economic stoppage

Governments around the world have a conundrum. Should they order longer quarantine periods to flatten the pandemic curve even if it would mean a longer and deeper recession? Or should they shorten their quarantine periods at the risk of instigating a second spike in infections?

Consumer habits permanently changed

Two things are certain. First, the COVID-19 crisis will eventually come to an end. Second, humanity will forever be changed by this pandemic. Nowhere will this be more evident than in the way people consume goods and services.

The need to invest in soft power

This is alternative reading for those who need a break from corona virus-related news.

Of pandemics past and COVID-19’s economic impact

As mass hysteria over COVID-19 reaches its peak, it would be interesting to look at the history of pandemics and how much havoc they have wrought throughout the ages.

In retail, evolve or die

In the early 2000s, the rise of fast-fashion brands like Zara, Mango, H&M, and Topshop caused a bloodbath among traditional fashion retailers. Unable to compete in price, style turnover, and vastness of selections, brands like Nine West, Diesel, and The Limited either filed for bankruptcy or were absorbed by bigger firms. Years later, when fast fashion brands hit the Philippines, local clothing retailers such as Regatta, Tab, Monakiki, Tyler and many others were either bought-out or closed.

The winners and losers in POGO’s Demise

The crackdown on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) has begun. Last week, China announced that it would cancel the passports of Chinese nationals working in the POGO industry for crimes relating to telecommunication fraud.

What next for the Maynilad and Manila Water Company?

Contrary to what many believe, the concession agreement between the government and the two water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water Company (MWC), will not be amended despite threats from Malacañang to do so. It will stay the way it is until its expiration in 2022, said Emmanuel Salamat, the Administrator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). For the water consumers of Metro Manila, this means no significant changes in water services or rates for at least two years.

An unfair society

The Research Institute of Credit Suisse paints a grim picture of wealth distribution in the Philippines. According its latest Global Wealth Report, the Philippines...

The events that led to Al Vitangcol’s conviction

Last week, the Sandiganbayan convicted Al Vitangcol III, former general manager of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3, of graft and for violating government procurement laws. Among the incorporators of PH Trams was Arturo Soriano, Vitangol’s uncle-in-law.

The Philippine’ Golden Age of Tourism

After decades of lethargic growth, the Philippine tourism industry is finally riding on strong tailwinds. From January to November last year, foreign tourist arrivals topped 7.46 million, which translates to 15.58% year-on-year growth. This is nearly four times the average global growth rate and 2.5 times more than the Asian average. Although whole year statistics have not yet been consolidated, it is almost certain that the country surpassed its 8.2 million foreign visitor target.

Why pick on Ayala and Metro Pacific?

In an official statement two weeks ago, the Department of Budget and Management declared that government had enough funds to respond to Taal Volcano’s eruption. Upon further inspection, I found that this is not the case.

Italian woes

Last month, my wife and I treated ourselves to a trip to Italy to watch Placido Domingo at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. Accompanied by another couple, we looked forward to immersing ourselves in the city’s old world grandeur for which the Opera is an integral part.

Hosting the 2030 Asian Games

Following the Philippines’ successful hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Olympic Committee announced its intention to bid for the 2030 Asian Games. Other countries vying for the hosting rights are Qatar, India, Thailand, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan. If successful, this would be the second time the Philippines would host the Asiad -- the first time being in 1954.

How the Philippines can emulate South Korea’s success

On Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender following its invasions of countries in the Asia Pacific region. Its colony in Korea was divided into two spheres, with the south administered by the United States and the north by Russia. The two Koreas existed with tension between them and this culminated in June 1950 when the North invaded the South. The two Koreas have been at war ever since.

Philippine tourism positioned for take off

The year 2019 will be a banner year for Philippine tourism. If we are to go by the trends from January to September, the Philippines is poised to surpass its 8.2 million visitor target, clocking in a growth rate of 14.37%. At this pace, we are likely to supersede the 12.5 million arrival target by 2022.