Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lim, Trillanes: Our hope in these crisis times

Gloria Arroyo goes off to New York after rumblings in the military caused her to postpone her earlier scheduled trip. While there, she consults with Citibank and other investment top brass on the financial crisis spawned by the “Subprime Collapse” of Wall Street. Others, meanwhile, suspect she’s just updating herself on the damage to her own and FG Mike’s nest eggs in these failed funds.

But whatever her reasons are, she might as well call in one of the top members of her original “Board of Economic Advisers,” Maurice “Hank” Greenberg -- godfather of the now bankrupt AIG -- to ask for more advice on how to wriggle out of this one as the Philippines will be among the hardest hit by the financial tsunami now swiftly gaining inexorable momentum across the Pacific.

Already, Gloria’s business cronies are disavowing her denials of the staggering economic damage this US financial collapse will do to our country.

Here are excerpts from Irma Isip on reports by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Philippine Exporters Federation Inc. (PEFI): “Edgardo Lacson and Donald Dee, president and chairman emeritus of the PCCI said they are more concerned now on how the crisis in the US and the subsequent slowdown in the demand of Americans for consumer products would impact on Philippine exports… As it is, Dee said, the electronics and semiconductors industry is already bracing for a zero growth. The electronics industry accounts for 70 percent of the country’s total exports…”

In the housing and construction sector, Sergio Luis-Ortiz said, “…overseas Filipino workers in the US , the biggest buyers of condo units and single-detached homes, might be behind payments or choose not to buy at all… Prince Cruz… of the Global Property Guide said based on the feedback of real estate developers the share of foreign-based buyers to total home purchases has been declining. He said that last year, some developers are reporting that 70 to 80 percent of their buyers are foreign based, some as high as 9 out of 10. Now the share has dropped to about 30 percent...”

And as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) chief Armando Tetangco says there are no takers for BSP emergency loans, Lacson (of PCCI) said, “…providing cash relief to those hit by the collapse…has had a calming effect on consumers.”

So why does Tetangco lie?

In the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the US was hit with a 30 percent unemployment rate. But the Philippines back then was not as integrated to the US financial sector as it is today.

So as Filipino banks get severely hit, there arises an issue of financial ethics and philosophy attached to these bank investments abroad: Is it moral and pragmatic to invest outside such huge money profited from the Philippines , and in such speculative “casino” investments, instead of lending to “hard industries” in the home country to build up the productive economic infrastructure?

With their little less than $400 million in Lehman, it is certain that Filipino banks have also placed more in other troubled US financial institutions. Yet, come to think of it, these billions could have funded a lot of domestic oil, gas, and geothermal energy development!

There is a certain naivet√© among Philippine officials, going to as high up as Gloria and her finance managers, to those at the helm of Philippine banks, that expects the US and the West to profit in a clean-cut way from their financial system. This is why an understanding of the history of financial booms and busts in the US and Western countries is in order, which will clearly show the manipulation of the “markets” by their core power elite.

In the last twenty years, there have been 3 trillion dollars worth of financial meltdowns in the US -- from the “Junk Bonds” and the “Savings and Loans Crisis” in the 1980’s, to the “Dot.com Bubble” at the turn of the millennium, to today’s “Subprime Mortgage Collapse.”

Add to these the 1997 “Asian Financial Crisis,” which was engineered by George Soros who “shorted” the Thai Baht just before Western banks pulled out their loans and “hot money” simultaneously.

By traditional standards, these “junk bonds,” dot.com start ups and subprime mortgage scams are by their very names already shaky and considered garbage assets -- which is why these are prohibited by law from being traded by banks or declared as assets.

However, “Reaganomics” changed all that through deregulation, which gave banks free rein to use such “funds” as assets for leveraging, and to buy and sell these amongst themselves to bloat values and create bandwagons to entice the public -- thereby “pyramiding” them -- until the impending collapse.

Even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has played this game. Just the other day, Ding Lichauco discovered a very small report on the BSP’s investment of $10 billion in JP Morgan and $4 billion in Deutsch Bank in 2007, which he expects to have increased to $20 billion by now -- a figure which he believes the BSP is concealing to cover up its actual loss.

In another small item, the GSIS said it is holding foreign stock investments like its $1 billion early this year. Although claiming it has not invested in Lehman’s, it cannot also deny it had invested in other funds. Since we know that all Western financial institutions have lost tremendous amounts, how much have the GSIS investments lost?

Again, the same moral and practical questions arise: Why invest outside? For kickbacks’ sake?

By and large, Filipino “leaders,” the BSP, and the banks have all been willing victims of the Western financial frauds and scams. For this reason alone, this nation cannot entrust its money and its future to these people, counterparts of whom Franklin D. Roosevelt called “self-seeking” and “without vision” in his own country.

Truly, the Philippines ’ collapsing socio-economic condition is there for all to see. Aside from the standard poverty and hunger statistics, Gabriela’s recent report on Philippine child prostitution already moves the Philippines up to No. 4 in the world amid the backdrop of domestic prostitution now being the fourth largest contributor to our GNP.

Given these staggering realities, plus the truth that no one in the political establishment offers hope, it is timely to recall the nationalist and self-sacrificing leaders incarcerated for exposing corruption and calling for social change: General Danilo Lim, whom we should launch into public office, and Senator Trillanes who continues to expose transgressions by the Arroyo government, i.e. Executive Secretary Ermita’s chairing of the Senate Baseline Committee meetings that mocks the separation of powers and advances the sellout of Philippine territory vis-√†-vis Miriam Santiago’s bill.

Without doubt, only the Bagong Katipuneros, President Estrada (who sacrificed seven years in jail), and our nationalist economists and social activists offer real hope to our land in these difficult times.