Food, jobs, investments

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

These are the three gravest problems of the Philippines.

These problems are aggravated by two equally ponderous problems – graft and red tape.

The food shortage is 25 percent of demand. Since food is 50 percent of the consumer basket or price index, a food shortage means high inflation. High inflation means high interest rates. High interest rates mean business and economic slowdown.

Economic slowdown means fewer basic goods and services available for the masses. And job shortages. Combine high inflation and high unemployment and you have what is called misery.

The job shortage is 1.5 million jobs yearly. The job shortage is so severe the Philippines has exported 12 million humans to over 100 countries in search of jobs and economic security. These 12 million expats are among the best of brain and brawn of the Philippines, nearly all gone for good. It is manpower the Philippines needs badly to make every Filipino a middle income earner.

In 2021, the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) estimated the jobs shortages by 2025, for the skills that count today: 13,964 in the life sciences, 569,903 in engineering, 9,698 in the physical sciences and 13,285 in math and statistics.

The World Bank’s solution to the Philippines’ severe jobs problem? Let more Filipinos migrate, but in an orderly manner. (See WB February 2023 paper, “Philippine Jobs Report, Shaping a Better Future for the Filipino Workforce.”)

The Philippines receives the smallest foreign direct investments (FDI) among the six major ASEAN countries, only $9.2 billion in 2022, down from $12 billion in 2021. Singapore got $141.2-billion FDI, Indonesia $22 billion, Vietnam $17.9 billion, Malaysia $17.1 billion and Thailand $9.9 billion.

To grow at the level of Vietnam, the Philippines needs annually $18 billion in FDI; we get only half that. Over the next ten years, the Philippines easily needs P107 trillion ($1.8 trillion) in domestic and foreign investments for its GDP to grow at 10 percent per year (the minimum growth required for the country to catch up with its more prosperous neighbors).

At the same time, gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), as a percentage of GDP, has fallen, from 27 percent of GDP in 2018 to 23 percent in 2023. Fixed capital formation is investments in factories, machinery, equipment, infra – things you need to spend on, to create jobs and modernize. Normally, GFCF should grow, not decline. A 5 percentage fall, assuming a P25-trillion GDP, is P1.25 trillion. To create one job costs P2 million; a P1.25-trillion loss means 625,000 jobs not created at all.

Our problem is not China (territorial disputes take thousands of years or an outright invasion to resolve). It is not that lying ex-PDEA agent trying to link Bongbong Marcos to drugs (in 2012 who remembers things?).

Nor is our problem that AI-designed Bamban mayor of dubious provenance (first time I heard of a girl, without formal schooling and without capital, build multi-billion enterprises, legal and illegal, from scratch to become one of the richest local billionaires below 40).

Mayor Alice Guo certainly beats the exploits of Alexander the Great, the most famous and greatest home-schooled kid in history (he was taught by Aristotle, about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic and art). In Ms. Guo’s case, her dad taught her Chinese (probably, including magic).

About 25 percent of Filipinos’ food needs cannot be met, by local production nor even by imports. The 25 percent shortage includes nearly all kinds of food – rice, corn, fish, chicken, meat and vegetables.

That is why EVERY day, 95 Filipino kids die from malnutrition. That’s 34,675 kids dying needlessly EVERY year. That’s genocide. That’s more victims than the number of people supposed to have been killed in SIX years during the illegal drugs war of president Digong Duterte.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is running after Duterte for having killed from 6,000 to 30,000 in six years, but not certain officials, for neglect, resulting in the killing of 34,000 kids yearly from malnutrition.

Malnutrition is not just deadly. It also causes mass stupidity.

Filipinos eat on average 136 kilos of rice a year. There are 118 million Filipinos, so you need 16 billion kilos or 16 million tons of rice yearly to feed them. We don’t have those 16 million tons, government claims to the contrary notwithstanding (rice output was said to be 20 million tons in 2023).

Since brain power, assuming one is born with it, is eating the right food in the right volume, malnutrition breeds mass stupidity.

In 2022, in tests given to 15-year-olds of the world, Filipinos came out third from last in Science (after Cambodia and Uzbekistan), sixth from last in Reading (after Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Jordan and Kosovo) and sixth from last in Math (after Cambodia, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala). If you gather the Ten Most Stupid Teeners on Earth, Filipinos will be among them.

Since one of every five Filipino voters is below 24, naturally Filipinos make bad choices during elections. The most incompetent, the most corrupt and the most rapacious get choice positions. And of course, people the likes of Mayor Guo.

These elected people then devise the most labyrinthine rules Filipinos must undergo to get the right documentation and to start a business.

The last time the World Bank ranked 190 countries in Ease of Doing Business, in 2019, the Philippines ranked No. 95.

Manila ranked 115th out of 180 countries with a score of 34 in the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), up one spot from 116th in 2022 and up two spots from its worst-ever showing, 117th place in 2021

Among 100 countries with a population of eight million or more (Switzerland is 100th largest in population, with 8.4 million), the Philippines is rated the most corrupt.

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