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Coal, gas, renewables, and growth

Recently it was reported that the growth rate of Germany, Europe’s largest economy and the world’s fourth largest, fell to only 0.6% in 2019. This caught my attention because it is a significant drop from 1.5% in 2018 and 2.2% average for 2014-2017. The UK and France managed to grow 1.4% in Q1-Q3 2019 so far, while Italy has crawled to only 0.1% growth.

Asian universities and UP Diliman chancellorship

Philippine universities do not seem to fare well even compared to many of their ASEAN neighbors. The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world university ranking is a good annual report, its scoring is based on six indicators: Academic peer review, 40%; Faculty/Student ratio; 20%, Citations per faculty; 20%, Employer reputation; 10%, and International student ratio and International staff ratio, 5% each.

Smoking, vaping and the nanny state

“To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.” -- Friedrich Hayek, “The Pretence of Knowledge” -- Nobel Prize lecture Dec. 11, 1974

Taal, Cadiz City and Tapaz, Capiz

Volcanic areas are among the most beautiful places to see in the country -- Mayon, Pinatubo lake, Bulusan lake, Taal lake, etc. They are beautiful when the volcanoes are at rest, but when they rumble and erupt, they are among the worst places in the planet to be due to the many dangers they pose. Among the most active, most violent volcanoes in the Philippines and their explosions since 1600 are listed in Table 1.

Inflation, transportation, and production

Regional and global inflation has been generally rising over the last two months of 2019. The Philippines reached its lowest inflation since around 2016 of only 0.8% last October, then a quick uptick to 2.5% by December (see Table 1).

Top 10 energy news stories of 2019

Here is my modest list of important global and national stories in the energy sector.

Top 10 economic news stories of 2019

Here is my modest list of the major economic events this year, from international, to regional, to national news.

Culion in Christmas

Imagine these four cases of emotional hardships and social stigma in one island in the Philippines in the late 1930s.

Thank you Maynilad, Manila Water

After President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the two water companies that hold concession agreements (CA) with the government via the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) on Dec. 3, the stock prices of Manila Water (owned by Ayala) and companies that own Maynilad Water (MPIC, DMCI, a Japanese firm) suffered significant declines starting Dec. 4 (see Table 1).

Price control, fare control and tax decontrol

“If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” -- Ronald Reagan, former US President

Culion the movie and SMB

Leprosy or Hansen’s disease, ketong in Tagalog and aro in Ilongo, was a dreaded disease. People with the disease, or even just suspected of having it, were avoided, even ridiculed and ostracized. And the Culion leper colony in Palawan became the national dumping ground of people with leprosy, even those without the disease but who were victims of witch hunts by some politicians or envious neighbors.

Water politics and power price control

“Adam Smith said people who intend only to seek their own benefit are ‘led by an invisible hand to serve a public interest which was no part of their intention. I say that there is a reverse invisible hand: People who intend to serve only the public interest are led by an invisible hand to serve private interests which was no part of their intention.” -- Milton Friedman, “Why Government is the Problem”, Essays in Public Policy, no. 39. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1993.

Employment and e-cig ment

The good news in the country’s labor force survey reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is that unemployment rate has significantly declined, from 6% in October 2014 to only 4.5% in October 2019. The underemployment rate has also declined to only 13%.

Business bureaucracies and regulations

“There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.” -- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), Book V, Chapter II, Part II

COP 25 and fossil fuels

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) 25th Conference of Parties (COP 25) is held in Madrid starting this week, Dec, 2-13. In a press release dated Nov, 29, “COP25 to Be the Launchpad for Significantly more Climate Ambition,” it reiterated the target of annual climate money: “We will continue to urge developed nations to fulfill their pledge of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020. We also must see overall global finance flows... away from carbon-heavy investment and towards more sustainable and resilient growth. Drops in the bucket are not enough: we need a sea change.”

Vape control and brand control

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” -- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859), Ch. 1 Introduction

Tourism, taxation and competition

The Philippines with 7,600+ islands and islets and 108 million population still has difficulty reaching $10 billion in tourism revenues, something that many of our neighbors in the region had attained nearly a decade ago.

TAPP paper on power

“Power is a key component of any nation’s growth. Ensuring a balanced and reliable generation portfolio and a robust and responsive transmission and distribution network should be a key priority of our public and private sectors.” -- Emmanuel de Dios, CEO of GE Philippines, and former DOE UnderSecretary

Agribusiness and corporate farming

The good news about Philippines agriculture is that the average yield per hectare of many crops keeps rising, thanks to technological modernization. The bad news is that there is continuing land conversion from forest to agriculture -- and residential, industrial, commercial -- uses.

Exports, manufacturing, and electricity

“Under a system of perfectly free commerce, each country naturally devotes its capital and labor to such employments as are most beneficial to each. This pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole.” -- David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1821), Chapter VII, “On Foreign Trade”

John Gokongwei and Q3 GDP

“Choose to be an entrepreneur because then you create value. Choose to be an entrepreneur because the products, services, and jobs you create then become the lifeblood of our nation.” -- John Gokongwei, Jr.

Inflation and electricity prices

The good news about Philippines inflation is that we have declining rates, only 0.9% in September and 0.8% in October 2019. The bad news is that after being the inflation valedictorian in 2018, taking the gold medal at 5.2% (silver was Vietnam, bronze Indonesia), the country still has the third highest inflation rate year to date (ytd), January to September/October 2019.

Bureaucracy control and drug price control

Among the recent good news in the Philippines in terms of improving economic competitiveness is the big jump in its global ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) report, from No. 124 in DB 2019 to No. 95 in DB 2020 reports, a jump of 29 notches.

Energy matters ASEP, CELLS, INIR

Upon the invitation of the Ateneo School of Government, I attended the project launch of the Access to Sustainable Energy Program-Clean Energy Living Laboratories (ASEP-CELLs) in Xavier University (XU), Cagayan de Oro City on Oct. 28. It is an EU-funded project that targets to achieve 100% rural electrification through renewable energy (RE).

Airports, tourism and traffic: KL, Singapore, Jakarta, and Manila

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) published its annual Tourism Highlights and the good news about the Philippines is that international arrivals have reached more than 7 million in 2018. The bad news is that this is still small compared to what many of our neighbors in the region get: less than one-half of Vietnam’s, less than one-third of Malaysia’s, less than one-fifth of Thailand’s, and Cambodia might even overtake us in a few years.

Prosperity and demography in Asia

“The man of system... is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.”

-- Adam Smith,
Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Part VI,
Section II, Chap. II.

Energy security and fast growth

KUALA LUMPUR -- I came to the capital city of Malaysia to speak at the Liberalism Conference of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) last Saturday, along with the launching of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 by the Property Rights Alliance.

IPRI 2019 and banning brand

“Man... had still in himself the great foundation of property... when invention and arts had improved the conveniences of life, was perfectly his own, and did not belong in common to others.” -- John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (1690)

Property rights and transportation bureaucracy

“In all countries where there is tolerable security, every man with common understanding will endeavour to employ whatever stock he can command, in procuring either present enjoyment or future profit.” -- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), Book II, Chapter 1, “Of the division of stock”

Coal use and GDP growth correlation

Among the tricks used by the anti-fossil fuel, anti-coal groups is to never recognize growth and economic modernization of countries that have relied on cheap, stable and reliable energy source. So for this paper, I scoured through actual numbers of coal consumption in million tons oil equivalent (mtoe) from 1965-2018, and GDP growth 1965-2018. Data source for the former is the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2019, and for the later, the WB, World Development Indicators database, August 2019.

Property rights and agrarian lefts

“CARP has instead effected a massive de-formalization of agriculture! Time to allow agriculture to march out of the informal into the formal sector. It is time, in other words, to stop redistributing poverty!” -- Dr. Raul Fabella, “CARP: Time to Let Go,” UPSE Discussion Paper 2014
February 02, 2014

The DoH budget and drug price control

The Philippines’ public health sector is not a “deprived” sector in terms of annual budget to fulfill various agencies’ functions and mandates. There are three reasons why.

CITIRA, IPR and investments

Among the contentious bills in Congress now is the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), formerly the TRABAHO bill. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has a good proposal for this.

Energy leftism will plunge the Philippines into darkness

The continuing anti-coal paranoia of many leftist political groups and greenie environmentalists is largely based on emotion and alarmism, far away from reason and energy realism. And based on watermelon activism -- green on the outside, red on the inside.

Reform agenda for IPR in the ASEAN

Today, Sept. 24, a new report -- “The importance of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in progress: reform agenda for ASEAN countries” -- will be launched at Holiday Inn Makati. It will be jointly sponsored by the Geneva Network (GN, UK) and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT). The keynote speech will be given by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, and the discussion of the report will be given by Philip Stevens, Executive Director of GN and yours truly as head of MGT.

Universal healthcare via lower medicine taxes and tariffs

Among the ironies of government health policies regardless of administration is their cry for “cheaper medicines” -- and then they impose various tariff and taxes on medicines that make these products more expensive.

Copyright and trademark in the ASEAN

“A power ‘to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.’... The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors. The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals.” -- James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 43, 1788.

More politics will worsen the Philippines’ power deficiency

It is pathetic that people often politicize many things, whether food or medicines or electricity. Like creating a new energy company by legislation instead of the normal ERC-SEC process, or getting the Supreme Court to stop implementation of certain provisions of the EPIRA law of 2001 (RA 9136) such as the retail competition and open access (RCOA).

FIRe, innovation and stealing of innovation

“All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner... In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood naked, and knowledgeless, upon it... Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions...”

‘Social cost’ of carbon and trash to jetfuel

Among the topics discussed during the Heartland Institute’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-13) that I attended on July 25 in Washington, DC, USA, was the social cost of carbon (SCC) vs social benefit of carbon (SBC).

FIRe, Innovation and rising income

Next week, on Sept. 9, the BusinessWorld Industry 4.0 Summit with the theme “Winning Together in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (FIRe) will be held at the Shangri-La at The Fort, BGC, Taguig City. This big event is a partnership of BusinessWorld, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO).

Brief analysis of Budget 2018-2022

The Duterte government’s fiscal and expenditure program can be briefly summarized and characterized as one of over-spending and over-borrowings. Four proofs in three tables below will show why.

IPR protection in the ASEAN

The fastest-growing sub-sector in the Philippine economy over the past 5-1/2 years -- 2014 to the first half of 2019 -- is intellectual property products, under Capital Formation (or private investments). It was growing at 28% per year, with capital formation growing at 14% and GDP at 6.3%.

More expensive electricity via climate tax

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary” -- H. L. Mencken, December 1921

PCC, LTFRB, MMDA and transportation woes

There is more proof that Metro Manila traffic is among the worst in the world. Numbeo has quantified a “traffic index” for major cities around the world, shown in the table below. For brevity, I removed two columns -- Time expended index and CO2 emission index.