Posted tagged ‘growth’

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

January 21, 2014

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

 

ASEAN’s planned economic integration next year is getting too near for comfort. Excitement from diverse quarters concerning the unification in ASEAN and across the globe is growing, so let me share a note on the subject by focusing on its middle class.

 

Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN comprises a total population approaching 670 million as of end of 2013. Of that total, approximately 160 million belong to the Middle Income classification. Since the middle income families comprise the consumer base of a developing country, it is normally extendable to an entire region such as ASEAN to evaluate whether that region possesses the demand base for a truly prosperous and economically powerful region.

 

Middle Income classification for developing countries or DCs is pegged at U.S. $6,000-$30,000 annual family income. Earning beyond the $30,000 annual income in a DC is considered a fortune, qualifying the family thus for a ‘wealthy family’ status. While this middle income bracket is lower than those in the OECD countries, it is crucial for testing the future waters and catapulting a region to an economic power.

 

The approximate middle income composition of each member country of ASEAN is as follows:

 

Country                      Middle Income Persons (In Millions)

Singapore                                  5

Thailand                                     35

Malaysia                                    20

Philippines                                  20

Indonesia                                   60

Brunei                                       0.7

Vietnam                                     12

Myanmar/Burma                         5

Kampuchea                                1

Laos                                          0.5

TOTAL:                                      159.2 Million      

 

That total of 159.2 million is just rough, conservative estimate, based on my stock knowledge of previous reports about the region from the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and thinktanks. Let’s round off the figure to 160 million for simplification.

 

The totality can actually easily move to 165 million with updated data on the subject. The 160 million alone suffices ASEAN’s middle class to be numerically at par with the USA’s middle class that stood at 160 million when the last presidential electoral campaign raged there.

 

The big challenges for the ASEAN and its member nations are (1) to increase the per capita or per family income of the middle income persons, and (2) to increase the number of middle income persons and/or families across the coming years, until at least half of the region’s population turns Middle Class. 

 

160 million is indeed large enough already as an aggregation of all the 10-member nations’ prosperous middle income earners. However, that is merely 1 out of every 4 ASEANian persons. Which means there are still vast numbers of families and persons down the income pyramid, hundreds of millions in the D & E classes in particular.

 

The good news is that ASEAN comprises of 1 Dragon Economy (Singapore), 1 Tiger Economy (Malaysia), and 4 Emerging Markets (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam). Such dynamic economies more than offset the laggards in the region, namely Myanmar, Laos, and Kampuchea. Brunei is a special class that belongs to the wealthy Petro-dollar economies, with almost its entire people sufficiently provided for by the ruling dynasty.

 

Meeting the target of the Millenium Development Goal or MDG for poverty alleviation is indubitably the most urgent thing to accomplish. The neighboring countries can compare notes and share experiences on how to redistribute wealth equitably in vast quantities to the poor, a departure from the ‘trickle down’ approach that breeds more paradoxes of mass poverty amidst prospering economies.  

 

I will not hazard a recommendation such as adoption of Philippine’s Cash Transfer Program in the region. Such a strategy worked well in Brazil which now has over 50% of its families above the middle income threshold, but whether it will indeed work for the ASEAN poor is another thing.

 

Meantime, what is less risky a forecast is that the 160 million middle class will be a sustained base for consumption in the region. Sustained consumption at this juncture equates to Big Opportunity for any market interest group or person to surf the ‘economic sea’ here.

 

Direct Foreign Investments from all over the globe can surely be poured now in even colossal amounts with lesser risk and surefire gains. The ASEAN’s high levels of foreign exchange, banking & finance resources, and big middle class altogether comprise a formidable fortress that can easily hedge against volatilities in the North & West that cause capital flight from short-term capital, which should all the more magnetize investors from elsewhere.

 

[Manila, 20 January 2014]

EMERGING MARKETS: GLOBAL GROWTH DRIVERS, FIREWALL ECONOMIES

January 8, 2014

EMERGING MARKETS: GLOBAL GROWTH DRIVERS, FIREWALL ECONOMIES

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Global economic growth has shown a sputtering pattern over the last couples of years. The EU-USA-Japan 1st World corridor has particularly been the lackluster topguns, mired as they are in vicious cycles of recession, near zero growth, and ‘virtual economy’ strategies that only deepened their entrapment in the cul de sac they’re in.

 

Salving the global economic health since the opening yet of the new millennium are the Emerging Markets. Learning the lessons from the 1st World’s mistakes, the Emerging Markets instituted regulatory measures and related strategies that enabled them to build ‘firewall’ economies.

 

A ‘firewall’ economy is sealed from the global economic turmoils emanating from the 1st World countries. Remaining unaffected as such, they are able to sustain growth patterns that are impeccable manifestations of their trajectories of ‘virtuous circle’ of growth & development. Growing in unison, though at variance in total aggregate growth, they altogether keep the global economy afloat, thus saving many workers in the developing world from the devastating blows of market conflagrations which the 1st World countries are tragically situated.

 

Emerging Markets are largely 2nd World or Middle Income economies, a fact that many blind simpletons in their own backyards and the 1st World fail to see nor understand. Once an economy breaches the U.S. $1,000 per capita, it qualifies as 2nd World economy. Another criterion is the population composition: over half are in services and industries. Industrialization is, of course, rapid.

 

Emerging Markets are unique in that (a) each one of them has large populations and (b) very significantly large percentage of Middle Income earners among their people (i.e. family earning $6,000-$30,000). Large populations fulfill their labor needs at all times, and the total aggregate values of goods produced by such large populations make total national income consistently large, assuming sustained significant-to-high-level growth.

 

Top qualifiers that are recognized as ‘lead countries’ of the Emerging Markets are the BRIC:

  • Brazil
  • Russia
  • India
  • China

 

Following closely behind the BRIC are the Next 11, namely:

  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

 

South Korea is the only odd one out, as it’s economy is already 1st World or ‘overdeveloped’ in stage. It is one of the Dragon Economies of East Asia that includes, to recall, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. It’s close ties to the Developing Countries or DCs, from which it came from, remains though, as exhibited by trade and cultural interactions with the DCs.

 

Other DCs that are smaller in populations, though nonetheless part of the developing world and contributors to global growth, are the Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile. Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore are engaged members of ASEAN that will unify into a common market next year, which will make the entire region a gigantic growth corridor that is indubitably among the world’s topguns.

 

To sum up the broad strategies of the Emerging Markets + Tiger & Dragon Economies that enabled ‘firewall’ against global turbulence, these are:

  • Putting breaks on predatory finance via monetary and capital controls.
  • Consistent, persistent, yet resilient reliance on the ‘physical economy’ as basis for wealth production—agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, transport & communications, science & technology—that are their domestic economic drivers.
  • Shoring up their Foreign Exchange Reserves at levels sufficient to effect elasticity against global turmoils and buy several months worth of imports.

 

Needless to say, the Emerging Markets will be graduating to 1st World economy status one by one across the coming decades. By 2030, their collective wealth put together will more than surpass the combined wealth of the EU-USA-Japan. Enabled to aid other developing countries move up the ladder of success, they are exemplars of ‘inclusive growth’ that hopefully will eradicate poverty across the globe well before 2050.

 

Contrast that to the ‘exclusive growth’ of the North 1st World (EU-USA-Japan) powers that industrialized and enriched themselves at the expense of the developing countries or DCs that the former encumbered via investments, trade, and aid. The Northern powers in particular have histories of destroying nations and populations via two (2) world wars and many more conflicts, or using coercive instruments disguised as “soft power” or maintaining “peace”.

 

As the Emerging Markets have been showing the way, new models of development are now available for the poorer DCs which the West/North just can’t destroy any longer via IMF austerity programs (IMF is a stooge institution of predatory financiers). Rest assured there will be wider breathing spaces for comfort & prosperity in the long run by the working peoples of both Emerging Markets (& DC allies) and those of the 1st World as well who seems to have been excluded from prosperity by their own greedy politicians and elites.

 

[Manila, 08 January 2014]

POWER SHIFT FROM WEST TO EAST NOW COMPLETE

January 2, 2014

POWER SHIFT FROM WEST TO EAST NOW COMPLETE

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Gracious Day to you fellow global citizens!

 

“Young Man, Go East!” was John Naisbitt’s challenging call unto the youth of the west who are eager to search for opportunities in life. In the late 90s yet, he released his social forecast book Megatrends Asia, which sums up macro- trends happening in Asia that all point out to the compass of economic and cultural growth of the 21st millennium: East will be center of global development.

 

Futurologists or social forecasters from the West, beginning with Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee a century ago, forewarned the West of the eventual decline in the future. Toynbee used a cyclical wave model to show that a civilization or ‘high culture’ lasts only for 2,000 years, after which it will decline rapidly.

 

Indo-European ‘high cultures’ were nearing the end of that 2000-year cycle in the early 1900s, which prompted futurologists to write daring forecasts of what’s in store for the West in general. Though accordingly the West will sustain the momentum towards high levels of technological development, the overall civilizational maturity has been reached as was nearing the terminal end phase.

 

The American sociologist Daniel Bell followed up on the social forecasts in his brilliant discourses on the Post-Industrial society. Writing in the 1950s yet, upon seeing some Asian economies jettison their amazing industrial growth, predicted that the end of the Western prominence, both techno-economically and culturally, is already at hand. He daringly registered that the year 2013 will be the precise year of the civilizational shift.

 

It took yet younger social forecasters, notably Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt, to follow up on the emerging global developments and observe the amazing rise of Asian ‘dragons’ and ‘tigers’. By the 1990s, both thinkers held the convergent opinion that Asia will be the trend-setter techno-economically and culturally in the forthcoming 21st century.

  

To complete the picture of global rise to prominence of Asia, Immanuel Wallerstein, then president of the American Sociological Society, explained in the late 1990s that civilization was actually moving towards the East by the 16th century yet. Tragically, the Western powers intervened to undercut that process, colonized the East via imperious methods of encumbrances, and ended what could have been a gargantuan awesome experience of East-led global development.

 

As Western imperialism, colonialism, and hegemonism considerably declined by the latter part of the 20th century, so was the momentum of techno-economic, political, and cultural development propelled in the East.  By the latter years of the 1990s, there was no more doubting the predictions made by social forecasters that indeed the compass of civilization will soon move to the East.

 

Upon the catastrophic entrapment of the economies of Europe, USA, and Japan in short recessions that congealed into a Great Recession in 2007, the momentum was finally lost on the West. Japan was only partly saved due to its Asian location and trade positioning strategies, though its economy was flat since 1994 yet. By early 2008, Western global observers released their consensual evaluation that Asia already overtook the West in cutting edge technologies by the end of 2007.

 

By global observers I mean those coming from international magazines, thinktanks, and academe. The economic analysts of the Time Magazine, Far Eastern Economic Review, The Guardian, and Newsweek, for instance, came up with that very upbeat observation, as Asia was growing while the West was stagnating technologically and crashing down economically.

 

It’s now 2014 and many developments that boggle the mind did happen since 2007. As far as wealth production from the ‘physical economy’ is concerned, Asia is leading and showing the way towards keeping the global economy afloat. The West, on the other hand, is mired in ‘bubble economy’ or ‘virtual economy’ cul de sac, which promises only short-cycle growths that can burst again in the near future.

 

The power shift is now complete, though the shift doesn’t mean that the East will supplant the West in global importance. The Eastern mind thinks in terms of inclusive development, in contradistinction from the Western mind that is binary/dichotomous, zero-sum in practice, and pursues development at the expense of the small nations of East and South.

 

Western peoples better accustom themselves to the emerging reality and cease to be bellicose and hostile towards the Eastern peoples whom they pejoratively condescended upon for centuries as “monkeys” or “halfway between man and ape.” Civilization’s root word is ‘civility’, and that means if some nations become prosperous, so must all nations be some day, all marching together in a global ethos of goodwill and cooperation rather than destroying the weaker ones.

 

[Manila, 01 January, 2014]

PHILIPPINE ECONOMY TOPS ASIAN GROWTH, FIREWALL AMIDST POLITICAL TURMOILS

November 2, 2013

PHILIPPINE ECONOMY TOPS ASIAN GROWTH, FIREWALL AMIDST POLITICAL TURMOILS

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

For this particular note, I will go back to my reflections on the Philippine economy, while I look forward to expand to ASEAN concerns as ASEAN integration nears by 2015. Philippine economic growth tops ASEAN, which makes it the leading ‘tiger’ of the region today.

 

For a recall, Philippine economic performance showed past 7% growth for the last four (4) quarters already. As of middle of 2013, PH growth was at par with China’s which seems to show some sputtering after past two (2) decades of double digit growth. China’s very own growth pattern may decline even more in the years ahead, thus permitting the PH economy to be on top if it shows a sustained trend over the next couples of years.

 

Economic performance can only be as good as the economy players themselves. While economic policy environment, which is the terrain of politicians and bureaucrats, plays a very vital role in stimulating economic development, in the last instance it is the performance of economic players that counts most.

 

As a matter of fact, it is on the side of the state—with poor expenditures for infrastructures during the first two years of the Aquino administration—that produced a lackluster economic growth. Bad governance stalks the Philippine state, which ends in an overall Weak State, though governance reforms are in order.

 

Incidentally, across the decades, the Philippine economy built a ‘firewall’ that protects it from political caldrons here and abroad. Along with other Asian economies, the Philippines also built a ‘firewall’ against turmoils in the global economy that are caused by the economic weaknesses of the North (Japan, USA, EU).

 

As economists put it, the Philippine economy just entered a ‘virtual cycle’ of growth, thus ending a long arduous history of ‘boom & bust’ cycle. Much of the growth comes largely from the domestic demand itself, showing the great purchasing power of domestic institutions, households, and individuals when combined. Income from international trade plays only a secondary role in the country, which enables it to outsmart the vagaries of the unstable global economy.

 

In the past decades, so much of ‘organization re-engineering’ and corporate governance were infused into the Philippine business structures and processes. Business culture was also properly addressed by internal stakeholders, chambers of commerce, and management professional societies. The result, of course, is better adaptive capacity thru better competitiveness and higher productivity.

 

The trend in Philippine manufacturing had so far shown a consistent generation of high value-added by its labor force, followed by services. The two sectors have shown dynamism so far, thus making them the big drivers of the domestic economy. Agriculture is very sluggish in this respect, which challenges food producers to make up and move up their labor force’s value-added capacities.

 

Note also the trend of consistently high Net Factor Income from Abroad, which will continue to grow in absolute terms over the next decades. Remittances from overseas Filipinos (workers/professionals) continue to grow, contributing past $20 billions annually to the national income. Furthermore, overseas Filipino investments are growing by the year, in highly diversified concerns, so let’s anticipate the repatriations of profits from such business concerns to surpass remittances from overseas workers in the foreseeable future.

 

So far the credit standing of the Philippine economy has been moving up. Fitch’s, Moody’s, Standard & Poors’, and other institutions have been optimistic about the Philippine economic performance and good governance measures, which made them shore up the credit ratings nearer and nearer to the triple A mark.

 

The Philippine economy is still a Middle Income economy as of this moment. It if grows consistently at 7% per annum for succeeding years, then it can double its size in every 6 years. By 2025, PH economy will be 4 times its present size. At the end of that year, PH economy will have entered a ‘mature’ developed economy, and joins the club of 1st world nations.

 

[Manila, 28 October 2013]

PH BALANCE OF PAYMENTS SURPLUS DOING GOOD!

June 3, 2011

PH BALANCE OF PAYMENTS SURPLUS DOING GOOD!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

Another great news from Asia’s emerging market Philippines has been ringing across economic sectors of late. This pertains to the end of April report of a net BOP (balance of payments) surplus of over $1 Billion.

The situation of a BOP surplus has been consistent since the begging of 2011 yet, thus rendering total BOP surplus at over $4 Billions. Add this BOP surplus to the strong peso, high foreign exchange reserves of $67.8 Billions, positive growth of over 5% for the 1st quarter, manageable debt burden (good fiscal health), and one can see a relatively good performing economy as far as macro-indicators are concerned.

The BOP surplus has been largely accounted for by the continuous inflows of foreign remittances by overseas Filipinos and the portfolio capital inflows. This hasn’t translated yet into transforming PH credit standing to A+ high credit grade, but so far so good. The credit standing has already been elevated to a notch in fact.

BOP measures the balance between inflows and outflows of capital, currency, and trade receipts. In the past, BOP deficits have been used by creditor institutions notably the IMF to bamboozle the country into submitting to harsh conditionalities. Now that BOP and other indices have been doing appreciably, the reason for creditors and investors to be stingy or cruel on the country has been reduced.

Since the country has been registering BOP surpluses for some time now, there is no more reason to be lackadaisical about reducing poverty and increasing the numbers of middle income earners. The graduation of around 32% poorer families in the CDE classes to middle income status (U.S. $5,000-$30,000 per annum) will make the country into a true economic powerhouse as an emerging market.

Today, merely 19% of our families fall within the middle income yardstick, and it had stagnated there for years now. Adding 32% to 19% yields 51% of total families at middle income, a status that Brazil attained during the noble Lula’s presidency yet. How much can the private sector can do what it can towards that end, using the gains of BOP surpluses and others, is the big challenge facing the market stakeholders.

[Philippines, 21 May 2011]
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CLOSE DOWN THE IMF, IT’S A PREDATOR BANK!

June 3, 2011

CLOSE DOWN THE IMF, IT’S A PREDATOR BANK!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The world watches as the director of the International Monetary Fund or IMF, Strauss-Kahn, was arrested for rape case. As the case proceeds, talks have been circulating concerning the reform of the IMF, with the option of enlarging the voting powers of the developing countries in it.

Reforming the IMF for this long-time development worker and analyst isn’t the option. Knowing the IMF as a harbinger of cruel austerity measures on debt-burdened member countries, the option for me is the closure of this inutile bank.

IMF conditionalities, imposed upon member countries that are on IMF programs via ‘letters of intent’, have resulted to appalling pauperism on the debt-burdened countries themselves. Studies done in the 1980s and 90s have shown that many countries put under the IMF programs declined in incomes to as low as half of their previous GDPs or gross domestic products.

The same studies have also shown that wherever the IMF made its presence so strong, more people slide down below the poverty line. Often than not, these were struggling developing countries or DCs such as the Philippines that have been under IMF programs for many decades. Today European countries such as Greece are among the IMF guinea pigs for austerity, and already wages were slashed by 30% as part of the austerity measures.

The IMF, in reality, is an ensurer for the stakes of global financiers whose have installed their puppet technocrats to the echelon of the bank. That it is always headed by a European, notably French, is testimony to the nature of the IMF as a criminal bank that legitimizes the lootings by European financier oligarchs of currencies and assets, legitimized via enforced liberalization, privatization, and deregulation policies.

It used to be the sole definer as to whether a DC can qualify for new rounds of IOUs from western creditors. The latter, acting as a syndicated group, would then compel debtors to pay the loans at unreasonably usurious rates, which alone guarantees that the same DC debtors will be so burdened with debts their fiscal health will falter for a long time to come.

Low fiscal health, high debts, and low foreign exchange reserves are then used as yardsticks by investors to decide against investing in the affected DCs. Those foreign companies that are already inside the DCs concerned, may decide against diversifying investments or even pull out their investments altogether.

Knowing the dire impacts of IMF programs on my own country, and likewise knowledgeable about IMF’s thuggish reversals of development trends in other countries, I can only but fume with contempt every time I think of this criminal organization. Not only should the IMF be foreclosed, its leaders should be criminalized and punished, while its assets be redistributed back to the member countries.

There is no room for this predatory bank in the new multipolar global economy emerging. Close it down before its too late that more countries will experience grinding poverty among its masses due to the predator’s policies.

[Philippines, 18 May 2011]
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$67.8 BILLION FOREIGN EXCHANGE BY PH STILL RISING

May 24, 2011

$67.8 BILLION FOREIGN EXCHANGE BY PH STILL RISING

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A truly good news, making PH as an endeared country for investments by both domestic and foreign stakeholders. $67.8 Billions—end of Apri 2011 Forex—is equivalent to nearly 14 months of imports, a fact that should make Filipinos happy a bit, more so that the forex reserves is coupled with a strong peso that is among the darling currencies of Asia.

The forex reserves is still rising by the way, and is following the general trend in East Asia. There is no better choice for PH to go then to continue to shore up its forex reserves, as the level of international trade, which surpassed the $100 Billion mark couples of years back, will breach the $200 Billion level of two-way trade (imports & exports) by 2015.

PH good performance in forex is for me a cause for celebration, amid the cacophonies of bad political news circulating on a daily basis. Economics had already sealed itself off from bad politics through a firewall, and so no matter what political fires there are, the economy will continue to grow and prosper. The ancient malaise of poverty hopefully would benefit from the sustained growth going on.

PH came from a very long history of lackluster performance as far as the forex level is concerned. Always short of the foreign monies, the International Monetary Fund found every reason to discourage foreign financiers, bankers, and investors from getting into the country. Low forex reserves also became part of the rationale for imposing austerity measures on PH, the effects of which are still felt today even if the country already graduated from the IMF program.

Low forex reserves also went hand in hand with Balance of Payments or BOP deficits. And may we add to the downgrading list the lingering low current accounts deficits. Add to the list the high level of public debts, which at one time threatened to bring back the economy to the stone age.

Those list of ailments have been addressed, thanks to the critique raised by patriotic economists on the present monetary and fiscal policies. The Bangko Sentral (central bank) also continued to strengthen its institutional capacities and regulatory grid, thus ensuring better inflows and reserves of foreign exchange.

By and large, exports comprise the biggest chunk of forex, at past $50 Billions per annum. Overseas remittances (workers & business profits), tourism, foreign investments (FDIs & portfolios), new money from external loans comprise, and ODA comprise the other gross sources. Minus the payments for imports, loans/credit, FDI repatriation of remittances to mother countries, and that gives you the net balance at any given time.

Converting the impressive forex reserves to loan-ready credit is a problem of the Bangko Sentral. The availability of low-interest credit for the poor folks, through micro-finance and cottage industries, is a challenge. Fat purses shouldn’t be made idle for long, as that would mean the high forex reserves is contributing to mass poverty which is a gloomy paradox if that will indeed happen.

[Philippines, 16 May 2011]

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