Thursday, December 27, 2007

Economy year ender

Unlike in politics or even business, it is difficult to identify distinct "events" in an economy and say, "that's important, should be in the list of top ten stories." The economy after all is a system of billions of interacting parts, with each transaction in itself trivial, but adding up to an incomprehensible whole. Hence, for instance, GDP going up is not literally a single "event". But for convenience I'll just point to some top "developments" in the economy and business, which I think will have a widespread and lasting impact on the economic system. Three are external, and the rest internal; some are distinct political events which I think are portents of deep economic change.

  1. Collapse of the Doha round - again: The Doha development round stalls, over as usual over OECD farm subsidies and market access. The US, EU, India, and Brazil remain at loggerheads. But I betcha the rest are just hiding behind the behemoths , waiting to throw up dust again whenever a settlement approaches.
  2. Climate change and what the world is doing about it - the UN IFCC confirms a scientific consensus linking global warming to greenhouse gash emissions and, with Al Gore, wins a Nobel Prize; the world gathers in Bali to talk about solutions, as the Kyoto protocol approaches its end in 2012.
  3. The US economy flounders on the subprime crisis - the exposure of bad debts in the subprime mortgage sector and the related drop in housing prices was financial debacle, eventually sending the US dollar reeling worldwide. The US economy itself teeters on the edge of fiscal and current account imbalances; and Greenspan talks of even odds of recession.
  4. The Philippine peso surges - in a spectacular run, the peso gains 19% against the dollar, making it unusually strong even in a year of the declining dollar. Some gainers, some losers; I think mostly losers.
  5. Favorable macro figures sustained - inflation remains low, even unemployment drops, and GDP surges to dragon territory at 7.1%, continuing its steady rise from 2000. Is the boom-bust over? Let's see. Oh, and the fiscal balance was kept (as foreign debt payments dropped, thanks to #4); the Bangko Sentral continues monetary easing over the year. Not bad, not bad at all, but not all good.
  6. The country joins the biofuels bandwagon - on January 12, the government legislated the Biofuels Act, which requires mandatory blending of gasoline and diesel with biofuels and incentives for biofuels investment. All without the superfluous luxuries of a feasibility study. Meanwhile to dig a hole in the ground you need an Environmental Impact Assessment. Go figure.
  7. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program enters its last year - after the Sumilao drama, hope we don't forget, the CARP is about to end. (Or rather, the mandatory appropriation from the Agrarian Reform Fund is. But let's not split hairs.) Already lawmakers are filing their bills , consultants are submitting their studies, and buzzards are circling their prey.
  8. Decentralization at the forefront in Pampanga - the historic upset win of priest-on-leave Ed Panilio is heartening; his political will to finally collect resource rent (in this case, the quarry fees) sets a precedent for a cowardly national government; and his loud whistle blowing against venal politics is rousing. Hip hip!
  9. The ODA scams - ah yes, corruption. Anomalous deals taint the NBN, the CyberEd, even the World Bank roads project. I elevate this above the others, because of its international scope - it can't be just the Filipinos who are being flip with the law. Remember the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant? Expect tightening up of accountability on both sides after this.
  10. Estrada pardon - institutions are now entering empirical analysis of economic growth. The Estrada pardon (after a 7 year plunder trial and conviction) !!! is one remarkable approach to the rule of law. You don't need a storm to tear down a house - letting the termites in will do the job equally well.

1 comment:

Amadeo said...

The US economy flounders on the subprime crisis. . .

I beg to disagree with the analysis above. Lumbering? Maybe. GDP growth in 3Q was still in 4’s, though granting the 4Q figure may be in the 1’s. Fortunately, the broader economy is not beset with other critical weaknesses apart from real estate/housing, notwithstanding the continual slide of the dollar, thus it is still able to deal with it. Vocal economists are also saying that the dollar is holding strong with other currencies that count, save the euro and those constantly in the news, like the Philippine peso. They even foresee more adjustments in the exchange rates.

And recession? Again many vocal economists do think it may be averted given the ample regulatory tools that may be put in play to prevent it, in consonance with other mitigating factors in the economy. The Fed is expected to cut rates again in early January.

Lastly, the slide of the dollar worldwide definitely started way before this housing slump.